Mercy Mwende Kabui is a stylist from Nairobi, Kenya. She is currently working in Phil-It Production as a costume designer for various characters in a number of films. She has dressed characters in Sumu La Penzi, Majaribu, Sue and Johnny, Maempress, AndaKava, Jane and Abel, and Hullabaloo during her career. Mercy has received two nominations in the years 2020 and 2021. She has two certificates; Best Costume Designer of the Year 2020 and 2021, and Best Stylist and Best Employee of the Year 2016. She is the founder of the brand Mercy Styles. Mercy’s inspiring journey has been featured in People’s Daily.
People Mercy Mwende Has Styled.
1. Her Childhood.
When she was a little girl, the runway did something to her or rather for her. Mercy felt a pull, a formidable connection between her and the extravagant path that had the honor of holding up beautiful individuals full of color and elegance. She would sit at the edge of their couch, mouth slightly ajar, and take in the mind-numbing appeal of modeling. When she was not watching them on the television, she would be combing through magazine eyes gleaming with approval when she saw a photo of a well-dressed model. While other children played hide-and-seek and chobo, Mercy stood in front of a camera, striking poses, enjoying the flash that radiated her smile. When she was not in front of a camera, she was slapping her feet against a make-shift runway, swinging her tiny frame and flipping her gorgeous curls. Mercy’s mother was her stylist then, and she never failed to awe the audience with the clothes she picked out for her daughter-the model.
The modeling dream was derailed with time as Mercy discovered her true love. It began with her deep interest in other people’s clothes. She would grunt and shake her head, agitated that someone would match a certain fabric with another. It frustrated her that people would pick clothes without much thought of how their outfit told their story. It was then that the seed of styling was sowed. The little girl from Machakos, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Kabui Munene, lay awake in her bed at night dreaming of the day she would become a world-known stylist.
2. The Beginning of Her Career.
After school, Mercy began working at an exhibition store (what we now call Malls). Her passion for clothes was apparent as she advised clients on what to wear and which outfits would complement their skin tones and body shapes. Through this, she gained knowledge on how to select clothes for different people.
Unfortunately, this did not last long and Mercy found herself at home without a job. This was frustrating and overwhelming, not being able to earn money or pursue her career. In 2014/2015, a ray of light appeared in her bleak life. Ruth Maingi, a childhood friend and mentor, offered her an opportunity to work as an Intern at Spielworks Production. This kicked off her styling career in the film industry.
After working as an intern at Spielworks for three months, Mercy was absorbed by the company as an assistant. In this role, she styled characters from Sumu La Penzi. She was tasked with finding the appropriate outfits to match the different personalities of the film’s characters. Back then, she was still learning about the character bible, and for a while, she felt as if she was winging it. But with the help of her mentor and friend, Ruth, Mercy garnered substantial knowledge in this industry and began to formulate a good idea of what it entailed. Soon after she got the assistant job, Ruth left Spielworks to pursue another project leaving pending projects in the able hands of Mercy. Before long, Mercy took on the role of heading the costume designing department in Spielworks. Her biggest project while in this role was the hit show, Jane and Abel.
Mercy’s experiences at Spielworks made her realize how much she loved costume designing.
3. Her Success Story.
After leaving Spielworks, Mercy joined Story Lab, where she took on several film projects, i.e., Majaribu, Wrath, etc. She poured her soul into these films, conjuring unique ideas to bring the character’s personalities to life. Unfortunately, her contract ended, and once again, she found herself at home, without a job.
Joining the Phil-It production crew was unexpected and thrilling. Mercy’s passion, skills, and grit were swiftly noticed by Philip Karanja, the CEO of the production company. Philip and the rest of the crew applauded her talents, a factor that significantly contributed to her self-confidence when it came to styling characters. One time, Philip announced that she was going to head the costume designing for their new project Maempress. This meant that Mercy was going to work closely with renowned actors like Naomi Ng’ang’a, Kate Actress, Brenda Mwai, and Brian Ogola. It was a big project, and at first, she was unsure as to whether she would be able to take on the role that was being given to her. The truth was, this role was what she had worked for all her life. With the help of her mentors, friends, and family, Mercy took the reins of designing costumes for the characters in Maempress. Yes, she is the reason we ogle at our TVs each time the show is on.
Mercy can still recall how flustered she was when she was informed that she would be dressing characters for the Maempress photoshoot the following day. The news was announced at midday, and she remembers how she was in Eastleigh at 6:00 am in the morning, waiting for stores to open so that she could dress shop for the show’s cast members. She was thrown at the deep end, and she swam because she chose to believe in herself and her gift. Besides, she had a team of cheerleaders screeching for her to win at the end of the swimming pool. Mercy will forever be indebted to Philip Karanja, who believed in her when she did not believe in herself.
4. What She Does.
Being a stylist means that you have the ability to choose an outfit that will reflect a person’s character. It means that without uttering a word, an individual can tell you their whole story.
As a costume designer, Mercy thoroughly studies the character bible of a film, learns the characters’ personalities, and begins putting together fabric that would reflect the personas of these different casts. While doing this, she has to work with the director of the film to ensure that her clothes selection is at per with the story the director wants to tell. Costumes are one of the major tools directors use to share their narratives. Afterward, she will purchase/hire outfits for the cast members.
Apart from styling people on set, Mercy acts as a personal stylist to individuals who want to switch wardrobes or pick clothes for specific events. She helps individuals find their voice through their clothes.
Currently, Phil-It production has just wrapped up a new film, Grand Little Lie, which Mercy was a part of. When the film premiers, make sure to mumble appreciation to the costume designer who helped bring characters to life.
5. Her Son.
Mercy is a single mother to a lovely young man who is always rooting for her. Her son, Maxwell Mutua, has been her never drying well of inspiration. She strives for success because she cannot bear the thought of her son having less.
When her son was twelve years old, he made a peculiar request. Maxwell wanted to accompany his mother to work. This would mark the beginning of his journey as a cinematographer. Mercy introduced her son to Philip after noticing his igniting romance with the camera and the idea of being a director. He was, however, away for a time, so Mercy directed her son to Maempress’ director, Kenji. The director told Maxwell that in order to be a director, he needed to know something about a camera. This led Maxwell to meet Phil-It’s director of photography, Forty Four, who guided the young boy into solidifying his love for the camera. He first taught him about slating, a skill that Maxwell mastered in two days. In fact, he became so good that he was the one who was slated for the production crew of Marmpress. And so it began, his frequent visits on set each time he was on holiday.
Currently, the fourteen-year-old can singlehandedly shoot and direct a film. His mother encourages his talents, as she believes that it is her responsibility to see her son’s dream materialize. She appreciates how the Phi-It crew has helped carve her son’s career path.
Mercy applauds all single mothers. She recognizes the challenges present down this road. She and Maxwell have a close-knit relationship filled with humor, candidness, and support. Maxwell honestly believes that their life should be turned into a reality show on YouTube. Yes, their life is that interesting.
6. Her Cheering Squad.
Mercy’s son is her biggest supporter, and he cannot wait to see his mother on TV. Her mother, Susan Nduku Musyoka, who gave her the styling mantle, is an avid member of Mercy’s cheering squad.
Mercy credits a large part of her success to Ruth Maingi, Philip Karanja, Denise Kibisu, Abel Mutua, Kate Actress, Naomi Ng’ang’a, Bob Murithii, and Agnes Kola. In fact, the Phil It production crew are hell-bent on seeing Mercy Styles flourish so much so that they helped her shoot a short clip about what her brand does. Abel Mutua wrote the script, and Spikes edited the short clip, which shows firsthand how Mercy Styles can change your life. To have people choose to help you, tell the world how great you are, and show them why they should believe in you.
Mercy loves how her friends and family are always in her corner rooting for her to win. They clap when she wins and give her a hand when she fails. Mercy believes that she is where she is because of her vast support system of loved ones.
7. Challenges in Her Industry.
There is no easy job in the world. Even if you are doing what you love, you are bound to face a plethora of hurdles along the way. The biggest challenge in Mercy’s industry is the lack of jobs once a contract ends. One can tarmac for months without landing another gig. Her advice for this particular challenge is to network. The more aware people are of what you do and how good you are at what you do, the more chances you have of landing more opportunities in your field.
A challenge that many stylists face in the film industry is the lack of availability when it comes to certain costumes. A cast member can have a single costume that poses a challenge when it happens to be damaged before a follow-up shooting. A day’s work can lag as the costume and design team rushes to fix a costume.
Mercy’s dream is to expand the brand Mercy Styles into a company. She wants to create job opportunities for young and fervent stylists who do not know how to kick start their careers. She wants to kill the hustle of finding costumes for particular films. Mercy wants to do this by creating a costume outlet where production houses can own outfits such as police uniforms, hospital clothes, school uniforms, judge outfits, etc.
Mercy wants to achieve her childhood dream and become a world-known stylist.
8. Her Achievements.
Mercy was nominated by Agnes Kola for the 2020 Women’s and Film Awards. She was shortlisted in the top five, a fact that delighted her family and friends. She still recalls how Naomi Ng’ang’a woke her up with congratulations in the Maempress Whatsapp group. This was a big moment for her because it meant that people were noticing and appreciating her talents.
Mercy’s hard work has been acknowledged over the years. In 2016 she was awarded a certificate for Best Stylist and Best Employee from Spiceworks. Last year and this year, she received a certificate for the Best Costume Designer. Mercy’s story was featured in People’s Daily, and she believes that this is only but the beginning of her journey.
It is no secret that Mercy Styles is going places.
9. Where can you find Her?
You can find (or stalk) Mercy on Instagram using the handle
@mercy_thestylist. On Facebook, she is known as mercymwende or Mercy styles.