New York Fashion Week attendees may recognize Mangue Banzima by the moments he captures. Typically tucked behind a camera, Banzima photographs street style—on fashion leaders like Steven Kolb, Fern Mallis, Anna Wintour, Eva Chen, Lauren Santo Domingo, Linda Fargo, Grace Coddington, and Dapper Dan—and posts them to his @quistyle Instagram account. Thereafter, the photographs are rapidly reposted. As his low-profile approach floods high-fashion feeds, Banzima shows the style and its trends to the world as they’re unfolding from the big apple.
Banzima is also a fashion consultant, with over 20 years of experience in the industry. Renowned for his work in an array of cutting-edge and behind-the scene sectors—like technology, styling, creative direction, editorial photography, content development, marketing, strategic partnerships, and management—he’s a trusted liaison for start-ups and VIPs alike. In addition to his many private clients, the multi-versed creator was notably attributed as André Leon Talley’s stylist for his 2012 Rizzoli publication, Little Black Dress, and was the stylist and editor for Numero magazine, Russia in 2013.
Today, Banzima oversees accounts for several brands and retailers and is implementing their PLM/PIM/DAM solutions at Lectra—a premium fashion software company. Additionally, he mentors young creatives and is a very involved father to his and Isolde Brielmaier’s daughter Farrah. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, he’s also been driving around New York City to photograph healthcare workers and shed light on their crucial work.
Whitewall spoke with Banzima to hear how he’s staying creative in isolation and why the future is inspiring him to dream bigger.
WHITEWALL: How are you doing?
MANGUE BANZIMA: I’m doing very well. I’ve been taking care of myself. But reality kicks in from time to time, and I have to face it. I do believe in one thing, though. For every difficulty, there is relief. This virus is infectious, and for many, it’s been lethal. However, I have hope that this too shall pass. Optimism always wins.
Everything happens for a reason, and this a time for us to be responsible and take good care of ourselves, our children, our neighbors, our friends, and our families. We have to make sure we love and protect them all while protecting ourselves.
I miss jumping, screaming, dancing, and drinking my coffee on the sideline during my daughter Farrah’s soccer games. I miss catching up with other parents and their kids. I miss those long drives to tournaments to play against opposing teams. But we are not able to do any of that at this moment in time, so we’ve adapted, and began to embrace the virtual world as a way to stay present in her usual activities and tag-teaming to help her with her e-learning assignments.
I don’t like the term “social distancing.” It’s not accurate to me. I believe the correct term is “physical distancing.” We are trying our best to help Farrah understand the reasoning behind this so-called “social distancing” through teaching her to protect herself by continually washing her hands, wiping surfaces, and cleaning her toys.
We are positively using this moment to help our beautiful daughter adapt to different facets and challenges of life. We want her to be kind and respectful, and to show compassion and love to others. These are all tremendous value-added lessons for this moment in time. I refuse to succumb to panic, anxiety, and fear. I’ve decided to turn this into an opportunity for growth.
All of this is a beautiful thing. I am thankful that I’m alive to experience this moment. I realize that other things in life are far more important and that we shouldn’t take anything for granted in life.
WW: What are you listening to?
MB: Being isolated makes my mind travel back to Africa a bit, so I been listening to Papa Wemba from Zaïre and Youssouf N’dour from Senegal.
Let’s face it, DJ D-Nice nailed it two weeks ago with his virtual global party. It sounds like anything is possible and reasonable under these new normal circumstances. If so, I think D-Nice should run for President of the United States. What a brilliant talent! His ability to equalize us and get all 100,000 of us to tune into his Instagram Live was a powerful move. You know, if I was able to go back in time, I’d listen to those Bobby Brown hits and so much more.
Playing a mix of old school and new school was very effective. But I also wanted to give credit to other DJs out there—like my friend @mick, who also kept it raw and relaxed with his hip-hop tunes while sipping on his drink. Again, our invisible enemy is disrupting our usual listening behaviors by giving Spotify or iTunes a run for their money.
We tend to listen to those platforms on the train, on our way to work, and in our cars, but while we’re all quarantined, these virtual DJs have become our saving graces. So, I’m thankful for those thinking outside the box to create these incremental revenue streams for some people, while others are figuring out their next moves—including myself.
WW: Reading anything of note?
MB: Incroyable mais vrais. It’s hard to focus after staring at my computers for 8 hours while working from home; reading emails to my clients and from my friends and family from around the globe. I used to read the news on my phone and computer a lot, but now, I am sick of that too because our leaders are continually misleading us.
Fashion is in my DNA. So, for work, I spend a lot of time reading about the style and apparel industry and the future the business of fashion. It’s ironic because fashion brands are becoming medical supply companies, so it’s vital that I keep an eye on them. I need to protect my job for the future. There’s an endless amount of material to be read and I think we have a lot of times on our hands. So, I’m trying to wrap my head around a good book. If anyone has any recommendations, please send them my way
WW: Watching anything out of the ordinary?
MB: The days are becoming longer than our average days before this isolation. I feel we are working around the clock, seven days a week, non-stop. That said, it’s hard to keep my eyes open after 9 p.m. But I must say, Contagion and The Climb on Netflix have been keeping me up on the weekends. When the nights are young, sometimes I get to watch some kids’ shows with Farrah. I never know who the actors are, but it’s entertaining, nonetheless.
WW: What are you cooking?
MB: I tend to be creative when it comes to cooking. But by minimizing those supermarket visits, everything is simplified to the basics. I’m eating healthy—lots of vegetables, fruits, salads, and less red meat, of course. I think this is an opportunity for me to lose some weight to fit in my suits and jeans. As much as I am trying to stay healthy and fit, I still enjoy my baguette with cheese. I like to whip out a good pesto pasta by merely adding some salmon in there, or some mozzarella cheese. Simple but tasteful.
WW: How are you staying connected?
MB: I’ve always been a face-to-face type of person because I love humanity. I can’t live in cyberspace, so it’s been hard for me and my family.
Seeing the whole world stop, and tables turn in a matter of seconds, reminds us all to be good and fair. I miss running into people I know on the streets of NYC, and occasionally on subway platforms. Often times those quick chats are reminders of our existence as humans.
The virtual space can be very amusing. Scrolling through feeds of people dancing in their kitchens, comedians cracking jokes, the memes, you name it. I still prefer a physical connection. The virtual world can be misleading, and as a content creator, photographer, and businessman, I am aware things can be manipulative, so I try to go beyond social posts by calling to check in on my friends and family and make sure they answer their calls.
I keep hearing these horror stories about people not being able to accompany their loved ones in emergency rooms. Let’s pray for each other and continue to call and text each other. There are endless ways to connect. Video conferencing has also been a lifesaver—assuring us that we are not alone.
Lastly, I want to continue to help those in need of food or general advice. I am becoming a better listener and vigilant about the challenges we all go through—our neighbors and friends. This is not the time to hide. It’s the time to stay connected.
WW: How are you staying creative? Are you able to work at this time?
MB: That’s good question. My creativity is both internal and external, so in my mind, I’m still creating because I’m able to go into my archives and select a photograph I took a few years ago and post on my Instagram. I have the ability to sit back and look at my portfolio and post shots taken during fashion week from many seasons ago, or captured on the streets of New York City from five years ago.
I was supposed to be part of a group show this fall, which was canceled because of this uncertainty we are all facing today. While I explore other projects for the future, I have been busy drawing some inspiration from being exposed to creative students. Before this mandatory physical distancing, I was selected to mentor Fashion Marketing and Photography students at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). I did that long before COVID-19 and it was very, very inspiring.
Thankfully, two weeks ago, I was asked by SCAD to continue my commitment to virtually mentor the students. I am looking forward to the virtual mentorship and sharing my knowledge with students. I’m open and willing to learn from the amazingly creative talents of young scholars. During this isolation, I get calls from creatives throughout the day, asking for help. They are eager to pick my brain on what to do with their next move. The questions I keep hearing are, “How can I make money when this is all over?” and “How can I recreate myself after this?”
As a creative and as a business entrepreneur, my first advice is to recreate yourself, be true to yourself, and always keep creating. I’ve been reminding artists to apply for the government grants and loans available to them. I’m grateful to be able to share my knowledge to help others during this financial crisis.
WW: Where are you finding hope or continued inspiration?
MB: The future inspires me—for the simple fact that we are challenged to be stronger together, and we’ve given ourselves the strength to believe and dream of being greater activists. I believe the future is going to be hopeful, and it’s up to us to move forward and to not give up.
It’s up to us to liberate our minds to create again. It’s up to us to collaborate with others to bring our collective skill sets to the table. Lastly, it’s up to us to select our leaders. I have hope. America today is a new America. We are all in this together.