It’s a chilly, gloomy Friday morning as we ascend to the well lit & kitted Crossboundary offices to meet Gab for the #7MenswearSeries Photoshoot. In classical British fashion, he offers us coffee & tea (no Britania though, lol) to take away the morning chill.
With our JBL portable speaker on hand and iTunes on queue we got into the vibe by playing “Akanamali” by Sun-El Musician. That’s when it emerged that he’s a natural in front of the camera.
Gabriel is the Head of Energy Access at CrossBoundary, a frontier market investment firm. He oversees two initiatives: the Mini-Grid Innovation Lab – Africa’s first research and development (R&D) program for testing innovations in the mini-grid business model, and CrossBoundary’s Energy Access, Africa’s first project finance facility for mini-grids.
We had a chat with him recently, here’s what emerged.
7. Tell us a bit about yourself and your career, how it has influenced your style and the way you dress: “
I’m from the UK and have been living in Nairobi for two and half years. I’ve been interested in energy ever since I thought I’d invented a perpetual motion machine when I was 10.
I’ve seen how career choice can affects people’s style first hand from my parents – they both made big career changes a few years ago and you can see it in what they wear. My dad was a management consultant and now produces educational videos on the Israel-Palestine conflict, my mum was a journalist and now writes short stories and novels. They now dress completely differently and you can see how comfortable they are in their own skins. My mum wears these amazing colourful long coats whenever she does a reading, and my dad likes strongly coloured corduroy trousers, shirts, and socks. I love what I do, but it’s mainly been in government or finance which are both big on the suit. So I’m lucky to have met Genteel for their excellent tailoring! The only thing I’d change is to bring ties back.
6. What is the one thing that you are most passionate about, besides your job?
The rock climbing and camping you can do around Nairobi at the weekends is amazing. During the week, me and my two housemates usually do a ‘stranger danger’ dinner on Thursdays where the aim is to each invite as many people the others don’t know. We usually end up with 10 of our friends and 2 strangers, but I’ve still met some great new people through doing it. Every time you think you know everyone in Nairobi, you discover a whole new circle of excellent people.
Do you travel, what do you enjoy most about this?
I love travelling and adapting how you dress to a place, but I also like how clothes are from a place. Sometime you can bring them back, but often you can’t. They belong to the place they were made for – the climate, the city, what you do there, etc. It’s like how music or food sounds and tastes so much better when you’re in the place they’re from.
5. What do you read in your spare time and what impact has it made on you and your career? Has it had any impact on the way you dress?
I love reading and will read pretty much everything. When I was younger I read a lot of adventure – both real life and fiction. I think this is why I love boots – you feel like you’re ready to go anywhere. There is a limit though – I recently walked into a swimming pool during the rainy season here when it had a cover on because I walked right over it while on the phone.
4. Tell us more about this, walking on water incident, lol. What were you wearing?
Grenson boots, black jeans, and a grey Uniqlo sweater. I almost got away with it because they just looked a bit darker. But the dripping water raised suspicions.
3. Well, at least now you have rich memories of your stay in Nairobi, anything else about the city you particularly like?
My favourite thing in Nairobi are all the pools that don’t have covers on. After that it’s the people and energy of the city. I came for 4 days two and half years ago, and by the flight back knew I had find a way to move here.
My favourite thing in Nairobi are all the pools that don’t have covers on. After that it’s the people and energy of the city.
2. What was the highest moment in your life and what were you wearing? If you were to relive that moment, what would you rather wear?
The first clothing highlight I had in my life was when I persuaded my parents to buy me an Adidas shell suit at age 11. I combined it with a hair-gelled ski jump quiff and my friend’s Adidas trainers. My mum hated the look so much I never saw the Adidas track suit again, and she took me to the barbers to shave off my quiff. I’ve seen photos and she did a good thing.
What advice would you give someone who would want to freshen up his wardrobe and look more stylish?
No one should ever take fashion advice from me. But the best fashion advice I’ve been given is to spend your money on the things that are practical and that you wear all the time. For me that’s boots, suits, and coats/jackets. I also hate shopping so I like to buy one or two things that I wear all the time. After a while they become part of you. Like the Genteel suits – I wear one of the three I have 5 days a week!
Gab has written about the off-grid energy sector for the Financial Times’ ‘This is Africa’, the Brookings Institution, Quartz, Greentech Media, and NextBillion, and has been interviewed in Nature’s Energy Journal and on CNBC Africa. He holds an MA in Physics and Philosophy from the University of Oxford.
Gabriel Davies was dressed and styled by Genteel. Book a suiting appointment with us today here. Let’s interact and get Energetic down on the comment’s section below. Let us know what you think about his style.