Kenyan singer Chemutai Sage is not only known to be a prolific singer, songwriter and instrumentalist, but also a trendsetter when it comes to her onstage fashionable presence. The multi-talented musician has made her name for herself both locally and internationally, with her music having a footprint in countries such as Cameroon, Tanzania, Ghana and Holland.
Her hallmark was being part of Coke Studio Africa season 1, where she did a duet with famed Nigerian legend King Sunny Ade. Her other previous collaborators include Octopizzo, Didge, Smallz Lethal and Blinky Bill. Arguably, her most successful song to date is “So Alive”, which marked a turning point in her career.
The jazz girl, who regularly switches from genre to genre – showcasing her enviable aptitude – is keen on pushing the I Wear African agenda. Whether on stage or in a TV interview, you will see her in an African fashion accessory, ankara headwrap or even makeup. I had a conversation with her on all things African fashion and she had interesting stuff to say.
I Wear Africa: I’ve seen you perform in African print shorts, tops, dresses…why African print?
Chemutai Sage: African print is vibrant and attractive. Great for stage performances and for show stopping outfits because it is eye catching. It also suits my dark skin so well.
IWA: Who’s your fashion icon?
Sage: I actually have a couple. For a long time it was mainly Solange Knowles but now I love Urban Bush Babes, Bonang Matheba and Rihanna. They are provocateurs. I love a good experiment and especially when it goes right. I think they inspire me to live on the wild side a little. They make provocative fashion feminine, which is another plus.
IWA: Amazing. How has fashion influenced the way you think, present yourself and maybe behave on stage?
Sage: Fashion definitely influences the persona that goes on stage during a performance. It drives the overall energy which is transferred to the crowd. I find that soft and gentle performances require different outfits from loud festivals or pop shows. They also pretty much solidify your stage identity.
IWA: what would you wear for your first Grammy?
Sage: I am not sure. Although it will either be something very classy and elegant or all the way LOUD. My friend and Kenyan designer Ingrid Donet (Creative Director, FatashaGridd) comes to mind when I think of a designer I would work with.
I think in either direction I would need a thigh high slit on my left side to show off my legs. I also love a good puffy shoulder.
IWA: For upcoming artists, what can they do to look good on budget?
Sage: Definitely Toi Market/Adam’s. Some Instagram thrift stores are good. However, I would recommend getting signature pieces from Kenyan designers, like a good neck piece, unique jewelry. Also invest in good stage shoes.
IWA: Ever had a fashion fail moment? Which was your worst? How did you deal with it?
Sage: There was this one where I even ended up on the paper. I looked bad and I just accepted it, laughed at myself. It was a teachable moment. We can’t take ourselves too seriously. Sometimes what you think is great at the moment is just not it. We never speak of it. However it involved me wrapping a badly colored scarf round my waist.
IWA: So let us say you were to act in a superhero movie and your costume had African designs…
Sage: I love green. However red, black or yellow would do as well. Yellow for the melanin. Green for me represents life. I have always loved the color green.
IWA: What’s the one outfit that makes you feel sexiest and womanly?
Sage: Sundresses. Knee-high sundresses make me feel very feminine. And heels…oh, I love heels. I rarely wear either though.
IWA: Any other fashion designer you would want to work with in the near future? African…
Sage: Ann Mcreath for sure.
IWA: Why would you recommend the Big Orange And Navy Blue Dangle Earrings on the I Wear African Marketplace?
Sage: The vibrant colors. The playful shapes. It would be a nice statement piece for an African outfit or to jazz up a plain colored outfit.
IWA: What’s the best style lesson you have ever gotten from someone close to you?
Sage: Best style lesson? Always have a nude pair of heels.
IWA: What have you always wanted to try out at the right time?
Sage: Rihanna’s whole closet. And if I look like a fool so be it.