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Sensational Sonal On Fronting Kenya’s Luxury Blogging Scene

Sensational Sonal On Fronting Kenya’s Luxury Blogging Scene

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Report by: RAVNEET SEHMI . COVER/PHOTOS COURTESY SM TEAM

A designer’s muse.
A painter’s fantasy.
A dreamer’s vision.
Sonal Maherali is all that and more…
Meet the pioneer of Kenya’s luxury and fashion blogger.
A stunner.
A real head turner.
She knows it, but she doesn’t let it get to her. Because there is a lot to do on the luxury blogging and vlogging front, and Sonal Maherali is raring to showcase her passion for fashion via the online media. In the last seven years, Sonal has soared the scene, not just showcasing her envious collection every so often, but also meeting the who’s who in her industry. Read on…

 

For those who may not know you, who is Sonal Maherali?

I am the first Kenyan Asian luxury and fashion blogger as well as a luxury and lifestyle YouTuber from Nairobi, Kenya. I am a mother of four, with a passion for fashion and an obsession for shoes.

Congratulations on winning the title of Stylish Personality Female at The Asian Weekly Achievers Awards (TAWAA) in February! How has the award impacted you and future endeavours?

Winning this award means a lot to me. It shows me just how many people around the world appreciate my work and the content I share with them. This immense support has only encouraged me to dream bigger and aim higher. I am truly humbled.

The award must feel particularly special; given it has not been an easy journey for you thus far. How was life growing up?

Yes, it is very special to me. It gives me a sense of pride and joy that as a mother of four, I am capable of achieving recognition through hard work and my own identity. Life has been hard growing up, even tougher since we were five siblings and grew up with a single parent. Fashion, for me, was a dream as a child; today, it is a reality I am blessed to have embraced.

You are among the pioneers of luxury blogging. What is all that craze about?

The luxury market is supposed to grow every year by 3% to 7% worldwide. This means that it is an industry with a strong appeal to people. There is an ongoing appetite for luxury news around the world and the younger generations are ultra-connected, super-informed and crave luxury brands. Let us admit that everyone loves luxury more than they would want to admit.

I found my passion and niche in luxury blogging. It is not just blogging about any luxurious products out there; luxury is a feeling, it is an experience. In an educative approach, I share with my audience that which I truly enjoy doing.

You have in the past said you hope to put Kenya on the map via luxury blogging. How has that been met by the population since you first began seven years ago?

Indeed, that is my aim. Kenya itself is a luxury destination. Our golden beaches on the coastline are just an example. We already have luxury make-up brands slowly penetrating into the market. Blogging about luxury fashion houses has been received well and is more in-demand now more than ever before. The growth in a year speaks for itself. We have an audience of 32,000 viewers on YouTube who tune in and stay glued for hauls and any luxury content I share, twice a week.

That’s a lot of content. Vlogging has grown beyond just a hobby. It is now a blossoming business that earns you a good income. Would you advocate it as a career path for others to follow?

YouTubers can fund their own online careers through their content. There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes. YouTubers can work from home and support their entire livelihood by creating content. Often, when you make content for a living, people assume you’re not supporting yourself, which is wildly untrue. Monetising my content generates income by running ads. Sponsored content is also another way to go. The majority of money made is however by views per video – the more the views, the better the income. Content creation is a real job.

What was the tipping point that turned your online activity from a hobby to a business opportunity? 

Luxury, fashion and lifestyle blogging began six years ago when I started my own blog, writing and sharing my thoughts on fashion. I am a stay-at-home mother and I did this purely as a hobby. It was only recently that I turned that passion into creating a brand.

Through your continuous social media tales, you have paraded style and glamour. One of the opportunities arising from this was being invited by renowned designer, Christian Louboutin, for a shoe-signing in London… 

That has to be my most treasured moment in the world of luxury. It is no secret that I have an unhealthy obsession for Louboutin shoes and Christian himself. When I was invited for the private event at the Mount Street store, I couldn’t believe it. I was the happiest person ever. In less than 48 hours, I sat next to the man I have only dreamt of meeting! He recognised my love for shoes and even had a look at pictures of my closet. It was the most magical experience, now etched in my heart and in a frame, placed in my shoe closet.

What other doors have opened up for you through social media?

I have opened many; every day, my team receives hundreds of emails for collaborations, sponsorships, fan mail and brand creation. I am extremely picky in who I work with and only share what I truly love with my audience. There is a fine line between selling a product online and lying to your audience. I am open to work with luxury houses and brands I love. That is why it is also important to not jump into every door that opens.

Were it not for social media – which has made you an influencer – how do you think you would have trumpeted your love for the ‘finer things’ in life, like you once said?

I have been writing an online blog for the past six years. That was the beginning. It took time to get the blog post out there especially in Nairobi, where many saw it as a bored housewife’s need for attention.

Social media is the new help when it comes to getting out there, as maintaining an audience is no easy task. However, I think the reason I have a cutting edge is mainly because I am relatable to my audience. I create content that is not staged or choreographed. My audience love the natural setup I have and that I share luxury content without fear. I am bold and honest, which keeps them glued.

You recently released a video, candidly speaking about your journey, love, relationship and rise to fame, thereby connecting with your audiences on another level altogether. Tell us more about opening up to your fans.

Yes, I shared my life story on my channel with the world. It was time. For so long, many assumed my life and parts of it as glamorous and anything they wanted to label it to be. I candidly shared everything in my life, my journey on this platform for keeping it real is the only way I can be.

Unfolding, raw and real…It’s those priceless, unexplainable moments that matter most, even when we don’t understand why they happened. I share many moments on my channel on Sonal Says as well, in the hope that I can encourage, inspire and even empower others who may be feeling stuck in this thing we call life.

For years now, Kenyan fashion has been on the rise. You have also modelled for some local designs. How far are the local fashion ensembles from high-end luxury fashion?  

I wouldn’t compare them. Local talent is emerging fast and also seen on some major global fashion runways. I would not dismiss local talent, but also not discourage the love and appreciation for international fashion houses and their amazing work.

Sonal, your large followership witnesses your larger-than-life lifestyle, with some openly admitting to aspiring to lead a life similar to yours. Do you get backlash for your online activities?

Anyone doing something great will get backlash. If you do not, then you are not yet doing it great. I have learnt very fast that until you can overcome ignorance and negativity, you are not ready for success.

What have you found to be most rewarding about working in social media platforms? 

The positive feedback; that would be the most rewarding.

How about the most challenging?

Keeping up with international luxury bloggers, I would say. The pace is fast and content style growing. Having my own approach and continuing to create quality content can get challenging.

Among the most popular items you vlog about are purses and shoes. Just how big a collection do you have?

To be honest, I lost count a long time ago.

What is the most expensive luxury item you own?

My wedding ring.

What is your most prized luxury possession?

My signed shoes and bag by Christian

Louboutin.

Finally, aside from a luxury blogger, as a wife and mother, how do you keep up with the responsibilities, given your lifestyle also sees you travel a lot? 

I’m a mother-on-the-go as I like to refer to myself. I manage a household, the kids and my career, with the support of a very loving family and partner. My first priority is always my family and I use my time wisely, scheduling everything I do in-between that. I have always believed that even whilst being a full-time mother, homemaker and traveller, if you really love something, you will find the time to do it. Where there is a will, there is always a way.

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