Mano Blvck : “I don’t really believe in any fashion rules”
Published Thursday, August 4 2022 | Mano Blvck by the-System *
Can a simple image provide deep, existential meaning to its owner? Can the creative process by which that image came into being, too, be a pathway toward self-discovery for its maker? For much of his adult life, Mano Blvck has behaved as if it might.
In an exclusive interview with the-System * , Mano Blvck shared his fashion evolution and thoughts on his process so far below!
Can you tell us a little about yourself? and How and when did you initially get into fashion and who are your greatest inspirations or influences ?
My names are Fidel Mano Otieno Yang alias Mano Blvck basically that’s how most guys know me out here. I am a model, stylist , creative director and photographer. I’m a 27 year old artist based in Nairobi. I’ve been in the creative industry for a couple of years…i started as a photographer in 2014 .. and was just intrigued in growing as a creative…Fashion was a bigger part of my childhood…growing up i’d see my pops(father) dress up and he had this mad taste be in it in his suits or on his casual dressing..Basically id say my fashion was influenced by my dad…but as I grow up i came to find my niche with lots of exploration through music videos, movies and magazines..I’m a huge fan of Shabba Ranks and his style seemed so unique to me…Also Lingala and Rhumba played a big role in evolving my style…Seeing the likes of guys like Koffi Olomide, Pepe Kale..and others…later in life i came to learn about androgyny. I realized that there’s no limit in fashion or dressing… Also one of my other influences are Luca Sabbat and Denis Rodman.
Wow that’s beautiful how you’ve come up through that process of influence, so tell me How does fashion play a role in self-expression for you personally?
I don’t really believe in any fashion rules..I can wear what I want anyhow I want it and it wouldn’t change who i am as a person.its just something that you can do to bring yourself up. We already have so many worries. We already have to deal with all this stuff that’s going on in the world. And individual problems with school, work, family, and stuff like that. If you’re going to go through all that, you might as well walk past the mirror and appreciate how you look. It’s one less worry in your mind.
Earlier on you pointed on Lingala, Are you familiar with the Les Sapeurs of Congo movement ,has it influenced you in any way?
Yes i’m very familiar with Les Sapeurs…The Dandies of Congo…I rarely do wear suits but how they work their color schemes and jewelry really intrigues me ..I have watched their documentaries and all and come to think of it…I sometime back had an idea of documenting something sort of what Les Sapeaurs do in the streets of Kinshasa here in Nairobi.
Well that’s interesting we’d like to see your version of it so by the way How did you get the name Mano Blvck ?
I knew you’d ask me this.. hmm so Mano is my real name short form of Emmanuel…..Blvck just came from a friend who thought it would sound cool…later came to realize that Mano Blvck in Luo Dialect means “thats Black” and I am black.
Well that couldn’t be more interesting. So You’ve mentioned Denis Rodman and Koffi Olomide as icons in your sort of mood board of influences and one can definitely see the Denis Rodman in the way you adorn yourself, this men are particularly polarizing figures in their respective fields and outside the ring, is that fearlessness or finesse the main thing that makes them so fascinating to you, do they sort of reaffirm your vibe?
I feel like its both…I like the fearlessness they embody in expressing themselves through and not fear breaking the stereotype in the norms of dressing… So they sort reaffirm my vibe.
How did you transition into styling and modelling from photography and what does your creative directing entail holistically?
Back then I used to be so shy and adamant to be in front of the camera…I had this thing of feeling unworthy…But practicing photography back was kind of challenging because I would plan for shoots and basically most models I would call ended up not coming through so my best friend who i’d work with partially as photographer decided to use me as a model for one of our many flopped shoots and walaah the rest was history….I remember that day we created mad magic… For style i feel like it was more of mob mentality from guys loving my vibe from dressing… and constantly asking me to come through for them in dressing them for videos and going out for events.
What do you think about social media in 2022 and how do you like the local fashion community on the platforms? how is it shaping our collective culture today?
Its really growing….I love how everyone is embracing social media as a form of marketing and that the new creatives and artists try to put their work on the map through social media.. Local fashion is growing big by the day..its finally being appreciated with brands like Metamorphosis, Akiba 1V1 garments , Vazi maridady the list is endless…
Its also shaping our culture because guys are embracing wearing Kenyan brands.
Do you think style is subjective or objective do you feel like people really have the freedom to just put on what they want or does the pressure to look up to date overshadow the true self? is it a pressure you confront a lot?
Yes, definitely it is subjective. I cannot generalize style. It represents individuality, it helps me stand out in the crowd. Fashion shapes my personality, it portrays who I’m. So breaking the so called’rules of fashion will make me one of all .
Can you tell us about your creative process when it comes to planning for shoots scouting and settings how do you prep ?
Basically I think of a concept. First determine a concept for my shoot. What story you I want to tell? If the shoot is for myself, whether for fun or for my portfolio, the sky is usually the limit here lol
I identify a photographer to work with, Come up with mood board, Identify a location, Do the styling Then shoot.
What do you enjoy most of the modeling and musing?
I feel so confident most of the time i’m usually shooting that means a lot to considering i’m generally a shy person in real life. I also do enjoy modelling because it shows my beauty as a person..especially as black person…I get to show guys that your beautiful in every way.
Who are some of your favorite photographers to work with and and who do you aspire to work with in the future local or international?
Wouldn’t actually say that i have a favorite photographer because they all are different and have ways of delivering magic on their sets..But i’m a huge fan of Cedrick Nzaka(Everydaypeoplestories), Mutua Matheka , ArmstrongTo, Tinsteh , Photoman , Ojwook , Sammy Keter and WayneShmurda.
In the international scene i aspire to work with Joshua Kissi…i love his work.
Locally i’d work with any photographer that fits to create a vibe and mood with me i’m not choosy when it comes to my art.
What changes are you seeing taking place in the industry today?
The industry is changing because we having new creatives by the day with crazy ideas who are working to revolutionize the industry..Pushing our craft to the western world and being appreciated…We find more creatives are now getting Vogue features and all.
Guys are more appreciative to wearing Made in Kenya brands even in styling of videos. We are not there yet but i feel like being a creative is respected nowadays and guys do actually make good money out of it.
Finally what is next in store for you? Got any new things coming up or have planned for?
Its been a while since i did though..Been having a creative block but i have a couple of projects that I’m yet to release…and looking forward to doing collabs in the near future and work with brands.
Also soon will be dropping some of my customized crocs that would be up for sale.
Basically so much should be expected from me and as always i wont disappoint.