— (via thebullfighters)
Africa Fashion Week London 2014 was a melting pot of fashionistas with a penchant for vibrant colours and bold fabrics. Everywhere you looked women were interpreting print in their own unique way and giving the leggy models a run for their money. This demanding crowd yearned for a fresh interpretation of the familiar patterns and prints; the designers who stood out were those who were able to bring something different to the catwalk.
(Picture Credit: Kayode Fashola Photography)
In my eyes, the catwalk collection that rose above the rest was Njema Helena. Her sophisticated pieces encapsulated the spirit of the modern African woman. With its clean lines, bold colour and attention to detail, Njema Helena’s collection would be a worth addition to any wardrobe. Not only is the collection attractive from a commercial retail point of view, it is versatile and instantly wearable. I would happily wear each and every item in this collection and it is the sort of collection that can take you from work to a wedding.
Hot on the heels of Njema Helena was Sylvia Owori. The Ugandan designer’s collection resonated with the crowd. All around the FROW were little bursts of ‘aaah’ and ‘uuuu’ not to mention the enthusiastic ‘J-E-S-U-S’ from the West African gentleman seated behind me. This collection underlined Sylvia’s reputation as a fashion veteran. A collection with two or three robust ideas is always a winner in my book and Sylvia Owori’s slashes of primary colour ensconced in a delicate but hardy fabric won me over.
RAAAH London made a valiant attempt with her collection. There was still some distance for her travel her collection varied from the outstanding to the misplaced. In a nutshell, Rahima Mohammed is well on her way to finding her voice, but she is not quite there yet. That said, her collection was instantly wearable; at least three of her pieces could go straight from the catwalk to the wardrobe. She also had my favourite dress- on the last day of AFWL2014 I left dreaming of the breezy teal dress…
Off the catwalk there were notable winners for me. I was entranced by Charity Kiarie, the brains behind Boutique Mahali. The Kenyan designer has such a clear vision for her brand; she knows who her clients and muses are, she is unafraid to venture in a different direction (for example she retired one of her jumpsuits because it was too popular and she wanted to shift her clientele into new territory- impressive!). One of her assistants modelled the reversible waterfall jacket (below)- unique details such as these catch the eye in an ocean of same-y prints and fabrics.
Other winners in my book were Gnostic Jungle. The moment I posted a picture of their print trainers, I had my (cool) friends from overseas rushing to their website to work out how they could get their hands on those shoes! Also interesting was Annaliese Dayes collection of funky socks or ‘frills’. In the winter, a pair of studded socks would add an interesting twist to a pair of heels.
When it comes to the ‘Most Valuable Award’ of the day, there is one clear winner. Kiyana Wraps was buzzing with feminine energy as women of every shape, colour, age queued to receive tutorials on how to tie their statement head-wraps. Their dynamic skills brought to the fore their living, breathing artistic skills. Everywhere you looked there were pieces of art on women’s heads.
In many ways, Kiyana Wraps plugged the gap for what I thought was a major omission at AFWL 2014. I will start with the sweet and sugary before I go for the jugular.
I cannot fault the catwalk shows, which were fantastic and ran to schedule. There were screens with the name of the designer (although they could have gone further with hashtags and twitter/instagram handles- wasted opportunity in my eyes), the catwalk allowed as many people as possible to have a good view and the lighting was great. A lot more could have been done to make the venue look beautiful and to make the venue more ‘three-dimensional’ rather than stalls, chairs, space and a catwalk.
Also, the sessions between the catwalks were poorly planned. There was a missed opportunity for workshops and seminars that would keep the crowds occupied in between shows and save the crowd from the agony of hanging about after having looked at the stalls five times over. I am bursting with examples of what we could have had between shows:
- Natural Hair Workshops: AFWL 2014 was a playground for the natural hair movement. A workshop on hair-care, natural products one can make at home etc would have been fantastic. Yes, Motions was present but they are a business and are there to make money. What was needed was a serious of objective workshops that women could participate in and use that opportunity to learn new hair and beauty tricks.
- Speed Networking: A huge number of the attendees have business interests and are well positioned. A properly run speed-networking event between shows would harness some of the energy that was buzzing throughout the show and would bring people together and foster those networks and add value to the price of the ticket.
- Styling Workshops: I would happily sign up to give one next year if I was asked to do this. The audience who attend events such as these are interested in all forms of fashion… what to wear to work? How to integrate bold African prints in conservative work environments etc… Again another missed opportunity to work with an eager crowd
- Skincare Workshops: Hands up to those of you who would attend an objective, not-trying-to-sell-you-anything skin-care workshop between catwalks…. Bloggers would be a great source of such information as they sample a huge range of products and can disseminate their knowledge before a willing audience.
Grumbles not withstanding, AFWL 2014 was a great event and I look forward to an improved version of the same next year. The clothes are excellent, the catwalk shows are great, all that is needed are the finishing touches to place this event firmly on the fashion map.
Ps: Look out for catwalk videos throughout the week…
With the Africa Summit underway in Washington DC this week, my #WCW this week is a no brainer. I am devoted to Chantal Biya, the First Lady of Cameroon, who is uncompromising when it comes to harnessing her fabulousness.
Chantal will WEAR and HAIR exactly what she wants. Her refusal to mute her unique sense of style in order to pander to society’s perceptions of how a First Lady should look is the reason I adore her.
(Kevin Winters/Getty Images)
Everywhere Chantal goes she steals the show, she is not afraid to push boundaries. When is the last time you saw a First Lady outshining Paris Hilton? Paris Hilton was soundly defeated by that bold monochrome combo, resplendent with spotless white Chanel handbag. Chantal dominates, whether she is mingling with Presidents or carrying multiple babies (and handbag!) for her charity foundation.
Perhaps you thought that Paris Hilton is small fry compared to the Pope right? His Holiness stood no chance in the face of Her Fabulousness Chantal Biya. Just one look at that fantastic hat with crucifixes is all you need to conclude that it was over for the Pope even before it started. My blogger friends Andrea Bohnstedt and Karanja Nzisa captured the emotion inspired by this hat: "…one look at that hat is enough to make your head explode…"
(Photo: Alessandro Bianci/Reuters)
Chantal Biya is the opposite of boring. Quite simply, anyone who has the guts to wear an orange weave to a meeting with the First Lady of the United State of America cannot be a boring person. Furthermore, there are hints that she is a woman’s woman. Just look at her picture below with Carla Bruni-Sarkozy having a gossip and a giggle. Think how wonderful it would be to spend time in the presence of Her Fabulousness.
(Stan Hoda/AFP Getty Images) .
(Eric Feferberg/AFP/Getty)- picture from Chantal Biya Hair Tumblr
Smiles aside, Chantal has a steely disposition when the situation demands it. Us mere mortals have been practising and failing at side-eye for decades. However, Madame Biya’s gentlest look of disapproval is fiercer than your most fiercest side eye. Awesomely Luvvie called it when she said that Chantal Biya is a hybrid of Tina Turner, Chaka Khan, and Tina Knowles. Long may she live.
Picture from: Chantal Biya Hair Tumblr
I know little about her or her husband’s politics or what they represent from that perspective. However, whether or not you agree with her bold look, Madame Biya undoubtedly represents the notion that women should be entitled to wear whatever they want whenever they want and should wear and do whatever makes them happy. In my mind I see Chantal celebrating and whooping when her shipping container of rainbow-coloured Chanel handbags arrives at the Presidential Palace. Her bold and bright look is 100% authentic and she has made it her own. That is my kind of girl, and an inspiration to women everywhere to live the truest version of themselves.
Ps: If you cannot get enough of her, there is more of her on this Tumblr page dedicated to her hair.
Mercy Ogole, founder of MERCI ME London, is the stuff girl crushes are made of.
Mercy is the type of person you meet and want to her friend instantly. After I met her, I unashamedly friended her on every form of social media. The moment I tagged her photo on Facebook, another friend declared her instantaneous girlcrushness on this perfect stranger. Mercy Ogole has that effect.
In my books, a true girlcrush should possess talent, intelligence, style, depth and a generous spirit. Here are five reasons why Mercy Ogole is the perfect culmination of style and substance:
Talent: Mercy is bursting with talent. Mercy is a fashion designer and founder of MERCI ME London, a bespoke and ready to wear bespoke label. I met her at the press launch of her first fashion show in Soho a few weeks ago. I was simply blown away by her talent, her guts, the concept and her designs.
Mercy draws her inspiration from strong women; she wants her clothes to have a visual impact. She makes clothes that aim to make women feel better about themselves; clothes that encourage them to know themselves, embrace their sensuality and approach life in a bold way. The collection was a healthy mix of strong and delicate; stiff fabrics combined with flowery ruffles and vibrant colours. The collection was tremendously wearable and any one of those dresses could have gone straight from the catwalk to the wardrobe. With Adonica Simmons, Annaliese Dayes and Kui Bodes at the MERCI ME Launch
The fashion launch was an incredible achievement for a first time fashion designer. Of course, there were some delays and one or two misplaced items but I cannot berate Mercy for that. All in all, Mercy produced a fabulous show; if you would like to see a snapshot of it you can watch it here. I should mention that had I not sat next to the lovely Petronille Ekindi at a women’s event by The Fold, perhaps I would not have discovered MERCI ME when I did- a very huge thank you indeed!
Depth: Mercy generously chatted with me at a time when everyone wanted a piece of her (i.e. just after her successful fashion show). I was touched by her softness and wistfulness when she spoke about her late sister, Eunice Aceng Ogole, to whom the ACENG collection is dedicated. In this collection you can sense Aceng’s positive and energetic spirit. Aceng would be very proud indeed of her little sister.
Generosity: To top it all off, it turns out that Mercy is a volunteer at Smart Works, a charity that helps women get into employment by providing them with clothing, interview training and mentorship.
I asked Mercy how her collection would translate to those women who are simply looking for something to wear to work. Isn’t this collection too edgy for your average professional women? Mercy took me back to one of her favourite designs- her Rose Jacket. In black it would be the perfect finishing touch in combination with a sleek pair of trousers and I was inclined to agree.
Left to Right: Mercy with Alicja Sobczak (an amazing jewellery designer who I hope to feature soon!)
Style: Mercy oozes style. Her Instagram feed is a stream of fashion consciousness and every time she posts a picture on Facebook I want to run home and change what I am wearing. Added to her innate sense of style, you have modelesque looks and a well-refined edginess.
Girl crushes of the world, watch out!
Photo Credits: A big thanks goes out to Kayode Fashola for the photos
It might as well be Christmas.
My brain exploded when I read that we will soon be able to wear some of Olivia Pope’s clothes. Not the actual clothes of course, us mere mortals will have to settle for The Limited Scandal Collection, which (I hope) will be a genius three-way collaboration between Kerry Washington (Olivia Pope), Lyn Paolo (Costume Designer, Scandal) and The Limited (Fashion Retailer). The line is coming out in September and all fashionistas who know their stuff will be sharpening their elbows to get their hands on the goodies.
Scandal is an American political thriller series starring Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope. Olivia is a fixer, sorter-outer and all round gladiator. Every woman who watches the show admires some of the more positive attributes of Olivia Pope; there is nothing more thrilling than a woman who is at the top of her professional game with a stunning wardrobe to boot. Olivia Pope truly embodies ‘The Power of Style at Work’
The idea that we can all own a little piece of Olivia Pope and fire up our work wardrobes is thrilling. Not only is the concept brilliant, but the pricing strategy is cleverly targeted at the right market; namely the gladiators who might occasionally treat themselves to a designer pair of shoes but often shop at HnM or Target.
A couple of sketches have been released and I cannot wait to see the entire collection. I will be interested to see whether they successfully execute designer-like-items at high-street-like prices. The sketches got me thinking about my favourite Olivia Pope looks and I would love to see some of these recreated at a price I can afford.
Olivia’s coats are always off the chain and I had all sorts of lusty thoughts about the Ferragamo coat on the right. While we are on the subject of coats, this Dior Coat made me want to sell my kidney…
What about Olivia’s magnificent arm candy? She has more Prada handbags than anyone is legally allowed to own. I particularly love this grey Prada bag which would work with everything in my wardrobe and would accommodate my iPad, keyboard and the kitchen sink.
What are your favourite Olivia Pope looks? What would you like to see in the collection? Post your links below…