Content creator and top male influencer Brian Kimanzi is a man of many talents and an eye for fashionable clothing. This November issue, the Nomad team chats with him about his creativity, style and what really goes on behind the glamour.
Brian Kimanzi is always trending on social media, dressed in smart outfits and marketing for various brands. His Instagram handle, @kimanzi, has over 20,000 followers which places him among the top male influencers in Kenya.
Kimanzi’s fashion style can be described as a mix of sharp suits, street casual and contemporary African. His keen sense of dress, he says, comes effortlessly although his mother played a role in nurturing his taste. “In family pictures I noticed that my mum always used to always dress me in a smart way.”
“But now, this is how I always dress without thinking of it as fashionable or stylish. Then people tell me, ‘you look nice.’” Most of his clothes are custom-made by his tailor and he also has a ‘plug’ who sources unique outfits for him.
Despite the popularity, Kimanzi has an unpretentious, easy-going and humorous personality, and he often incorporates these elements into his entertaining video clips. “Humour has been part of my life since childhood and I find it relates well with everyone around me,” he said.
From the outside Kimanzi seems to lead a glamorous life of fun, fancy clothes and trips to bucket list places. But behind the scenes an enormous amount of work takes place before viewers see the final product. Kimanzi is involved in every stage, from ideas and concept creation, to script writing, shooting and editing.
Initially he did all the content creation by himself but now works with others to film, edit and produce. “I am a firm believer that you can’t do everything,” said Kimanzi. “Having someone else also brings in a third eye and different perspective.”
Kimanzi describes himself as a free spirit, eager to learn and very experimental. Born in Othaya county of central Kenya, he spent most of his childhood in Machakos county before moving to Nairobi.
Prior to entering into the creative space he worked in different fields, a testament to his exploratory nature. He studied law at university and even made court appearances to present legal briefs. Later, he worked for the United Nations then moved into broadcasting before becoming a copywriter and content developer in advertising, an industry he is still part of. “Sometimes circumstances took me there and sometimes it was trial and error,” he said.
Around 2013, he started putting occasional content onto Twitter, usually around funny experiences. At the time video content was not as popular as it is today. Nevertheless, his explorations helped him to “learn the craft, perfect it to what I feel is working better.”
As one of the early birds in content creation Kimanzi says it was tricky trying to balance between working full-time and creating material in his freetime. Over time he switched to Instagram which has proved a better platform for expressing his craft.
Then came the Covid-19 pandemic and movement restrictions which were an unexpected bonus as it gave him time to work on some long-envisioned ideas.
Being a pioneer in the digital content creation means Kimanzi has not needed to pitch for commercial partnerships. He has partnered with renowned brands such as Jambojet airline, Coca Cola, East African Breweries, Mastercard Foundation, and Instagram for Africa Day in May 2022, a collaboration with influencer Patricia Kihoro.
However, his original digital material is eye-catching and engaging. He has evolved from comedic styles into more thoughtful clips with narrative elements and fancy picture work.
Though Kenya, and Africa in general, are viewed in the West as less creative regions that are constrained by lower budgets, Kimanzi is confident about the capability of local creatives and influencers. “We don’t need to look at the west for our inspiration when we can get it from our own people,” he said.
Kimanzi’s advice to upcoming influencers and creatives looking for paid collaborations is to take time in crafting proposals. “Brands are expecting these proposals and it is easier to sell your brand when you have a proof of concept or a portfolio,” he says. He also cautions against becoming too comfortable with one’s achievements. “I always say, ‘my last work is my pitch for the next work.’”
Though he has achieved critical success as a content creator and influencer he does not rule out career changes down the road. “I’m a one-step-at-a-time kind of person and I go with the tide,” said Kimanzi. “If this is something that can last for a long time, well and good.”