“If I could choose between being trendy and stylish, I’d rather have style.”
Who: Shingai Shoniwa
She’s a Household Name In: London
She’s On Our Radar Because: Seeing what Shingai Shoniwa will wear when she performs with her band The Noisettes is as exciting as listening to them. A London native of Zimbabwean descent, her name means “be strong” in the Shona language—and her fashion statements are undeniably that.
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Onstage, Shoniwa favors over-the-top architectural dress-sculptures and extravagant headpieces, like the yellow car-shaped one by Manish Arora she once wore while singing in Paris. Topshop has also dressed her for performances where, as Rolling Stone put it, she is “a living, breathing manifestation of the rock 'n' roll spirit, with a voice that is equal parts Iggy Pop and Billie Holiday.”
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That’s not to say her offstage looks blend in with the crowd any more. Her traffic-stopping style is self-described as “Afro-centric, which is expressed through color and a willingness to go for bold shapes,” as she told The Outnet. Her African-inspired fashion roots (her grandmother was the only woman in her village in Malawi with a sewing machine) shine through in her headwraps and dizzying pattern and color choices. In an interview with The Huffington Post, she claims “YSL's afro inspired period post 84" and up-and-coming African designers Beatrice K Newman, Maki Oh and Duro Olowu as style influences, along with Manish Arora, whose “pieces make me feel like I'm in an Indian market." The statuesque beauty with supermodel cheekbones speaks about escaping from reality as a theme for her musical creative process, and that kind of eccentric departure from the drab shapes her fantastical style.
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Creative headgear is a must for Shoniwa—when it’s not her own whorls of braids or awesomely-asymmetric wedge of ‘fro (which have landed her the role of the first celebrity face of the haircare line Mizani), she covers her head in fascinators of fur and feathers. Fashion Week—at which she is a front row, if not yet a paparazzi, favorite—inspires her musically, though she says she’s more excited about seeing what designers are up to in off-the-beaten-path locations like Lagos, Nigeria than the usual Fashion Week destinations. She described her Fashion Week ethos to the Daily Mail: “You’ll often go to five shows in the day and it’s seen as a bit rude if you just wear the same thing. So if you’re going to go to a Jean-Charles de Castelbajac show you might want to wear a little piece of his as a homage. And if you’ve just come from a Vanessa Bruno show, you’ll have to do a bit of mix and match.” A bit of mix and match is a perfect way to describe her signature style, which looks something like an imperial queen returning from a journey to the colonies, decked out in trinkets picked up on safari — with a bit of Anna Dello Russo, Daphne Guiness and Lady Gaga thrown in. When it comes to trends and style comparisons, though, Shoniwa defies them.