Not many people know about image consulting — which, according to Malawi’s first youthful image consultant Allidah Namame— is a professional field aimed at improving one’s image personally or professionally.
She said this is done by improving appearance and character such as dressing or beauty, behaviour and communication; and it combines psychology, marketing and fashion.
Allidah added that image consultants also help their clients to build strong visual and personal brands through a customised impression management strategy.
She explains: “There are various facets of this industry, including personal styling, corporate image and impression management. It’s more than just teaching one how to dress for their body shape and type, but also how they can use this to their advantage. We call this power dressing. It’s an absolutely powerful concept.”
She founded Your Image by A.D. Henson (Yiah) in 2016 to help people reach their full potential.
Many international celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey, Steve Harvey, Bonang Matheba, Vusi Thembakwayo and others, have worked with image consultants to assist them in building brands that would best portray their image.
The idea behind Yiah was borne from Allidah’s own experience after moving to New York in 2013 when she started questioning her confidence.
“I was exposed to all kinds of people and for the first time, I questioned the way I looked, the way I thought and what others thought about me. I realised I had some insecurities that needed addressing.
“As I went through a period of self reflection and figuring out how I could be the best version of myself, I stumbled upon the concept of image consulting. I knew I did not want to be the conventional counseling therapist, so this made a lot of sense to me,” she explained.
As Allidah researched more, she came across the term fashion psychology — the study and treatment of how colour, beauty, style, image and shape affect human behaviour while addressing cultural sensitivities and norms.
This helped her understand herself a lot better, but deep down she thought: “If I am going through this, surely many others do when faced with similar challenges, but never know what to do.”
However, she observed that with image consulting as a relatively new concept in the country, the public’s response has been slower than anticipated.
But not all is lost for the young woman as people are beginning to understand the industry and realising the need for image consulting.
“With the rise of virtual meetings and more social media usage, more Malawians have been exposed to what our friends in other countries are doing, including the importance of a well represented image,” says the certified image consultant.
Allidah is also a psychologist, actress, disc jockey (DJ) and social entrepreneur.
Her work in image consulting has seen her become the head stylist at the Mzuzu Fashion Week three years in a roll from 2016.
She styles gospel singer Shyreen and other local artists; working with some women in leading corporate positions.
The stylist has been a judge at auditions and a counselor post auditions for Miss Blantyre 2016, among others.
The apex of her work, she said, is to witness the smiles on her clients’ faces during sessions.
“This is the most gratifying feeling and enough for me to keep pursuing this career,” says the young woman.
Allidah spent most of her childhood in Botswana where her family moved when she was six years old.
One of her past clients, Wezi Mzumara of Kwanza Public Relations Company agrees that Allidah played an integral role in the development of Mzuzu Fashion Week.
“I must say, she is one of the pioneers in styling and image consultancy in Malawi. She has been amazing at both providing key wardrobe advice, as well as personal image branding. Her services have the client at heart and she’s happy to work with ideas brought to the table,” she says.
But being a pioneer of image consulting in the country has been tough, with the biggest challenge being the obvious misunderstanding of what Yiah does.
“Differentiating myself from being a make-up artist or a designer is a challenge. Image consultants work with make-up artists, but are also trained to do makeup. We work with designers to ensure the client gets the best final product.
“And we work with personal shoppers and boutique owners even though we are trained personal shoppers, to help our clients get the best deals of purchase for their wardrobe rebuilding,” she explains.
In addition, the DJ said that there are times when people are hesitant to pay for her services because some feel the need for a middleperson.
Without the middleperson, some beleive the work becomes sub-standard.
Nonetheless, considering that challenges are important parts of life that provide experiences, she is optimistic for a brighter future.
“We are launching our website on November 1 2021. I am excited to see its impact, especially for our corporate clients. We are also opening a studio office space where we will be operating from soon.
“I believe that the more clients we gain, the bigger our difference we make in people’s lives. And that alone leaves enough footprints to convince the Malawian market that indeed this is a need,” Allidah says.
One of Yiah’s missions is to create job opportunities and train other stylists and consultants from next year.
Currently, she is at the end of her image consultancy certification, which will permit her to train other image consultants.
She calls on those who are trying to make things happen, but are struggling to make the transition, to consider image consulting.
“People out there are struggling to make things happen—it could be switching from one career to another, a woman trying to get back into her game after maternity, a student or recent graduate trying to figure out the next step or even struggling with preparing for job interviews. All these require mental, emotional and physical attention to be executed successfully and; hence, we are here,” she said.
Allidah graduated from the University of Namibia in 2013, with an honours double major degree in clinical psychology and drama.
By the end of that year, she moved to New York where she was introduced to the concept of image consulting, leading to her establishing Yiah.
She later went back to Namibia for her post graduate studies in Business Administration, graduating from Namibia Business School in 2015.
Thereafter she decided to move back to Malawi in 2016 to establish her business. This was after getting her image consultancy certification from Shaw Academy.
Born as one of two sisters in her family, Allidah loves music, dance, sport, fashion and beauty.
But above all, she loves helping people. Her love for music and the media drove her to work as a radio presenter at Capital FM.
She was also trained as a music DJ and this is what she does when she is not styling or counselling clients.