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Africa Fashion Week London – my thoughts (uncensored) #AFWL

It’s that time of year again… Africa Fashion Week London…2014

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It was the time of year again where designers, fashion enthusiasts and Africa’s culture collectives come together to celebrate Africa Fashion Week London. I’ve been attending Africa Fashion Week London since its inception four years ago, and this year, as promised, was a colourful assortment of fashion and design from in and around the continent.

I met up with Caitlin Leslie (@AperitifCaitlin), marketing mogul from Farfetch.com, Emma Amoafo, founder/designer of Friday Born Designs and bloggers Maryam Bitege, owner of Creativ Junkie ; and Mary Desola Adeniyi, founder of  popgoesfashion.com to indulge in the latest developments from some of Africa’s most sought after artists, and catch a glimpse of what we can expect to see in the way of design from the African diaspora.

Firstly, let’s be honest, AFWL isn’t really a Fashion Week is it?

As a whole, African Fashion Week London doesn’t give me the same level of excitement as it used to, and regrettably this isn’t so much down to the fashion itself, as much as the quality and execution of the event. Hosted in London’s Kensington Olympia’s main hall, the event was a runway show, in the middle of a poor selection of African cuisine, a less than satisfactory VIP section, and predictable selection of African market stalls (with the exception of Kiyana Wraps!).

Tickets for Africa Fashion Week London retail to the general public at £20 for unreserved standard tickets, whilst a ticket to all shows (and entry to the VIP section which offers a limited supply of apple/orange juice and whack snacks) was available at the steep price of £50. Most people I know were given complimentary tickets, so I can’t help but feel anyone who sincerely bought tickets for AFWL must have felt hard done by.

There were over two hour interval between shows, with little or nothing for visitors to do in between, and repeat performances by Afrobeats pop singer Valentine, and his shirtless entourage, which was so incredibly cringe. The silver lining was, that as unforgiving as this post must sound so far, Africa Fashion Week London 2014 was significantly more palatable than the previous year.

Thankfully, I didn’t come for the frills, I came for the fashion.

I was most excited to see Sylvia Owori, KassKouture, RAAH, Fyyfe and of course Adama Paris; all of whom showcased collections that were very impressive and inspirational.

Sylvia Owori

I’ll start by congratulating my fellow Ugandan (whoop) Sylvia Owori, a leading fashion powerhouse, publisher and entrepreneur, who I admire greatly for championing global environmental change through her designs. Her prints are purely African with fabrics are tailored from her workshop in Mukono.

This year Sylvia debuted a tropical and electric collection comprising of mainly silk jumpsuits and dresses that although had a contemporary palette, had a vintage 1960’s style. Striking and exciting!

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RAAH Designs 

Next on my love list for the night was the ready-to-wear fashion brand RAAH designs, owned by Rahima Mohamed, who debuting her collection “Fly/Fly High”. RAAH designs, was the collections of all collections that given the chance, I would have bought there and then. I found myself repeatedly saying “OMG,  I love/need/want that”.

The designs were sophisticated and edgy, bold and yet still approachable. Rightly so, the collection received praise from the New African Woman Editor-in-Chief, Jane Jere and AFWL Founder Ronke Ademiluyi among others on the success of the showcase.

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Adama Paris 

The collection I endured the day for was by Senegalese designer, Adama Paris. I met and sat on a panel with Adama earlier this year at Cambridge University (read more here), where we discussed the future of African fashion. Adama Paris, is the real thing. She is the unstoppable force behind Black Fashion Week in Prague, Czech Republic, Bahia, Brazil, and this year for the first time in Toronto Canada.

With the lights down low, her models appeared on stage in a multi-coloured ocean of chiffon dresses, flooding the stage like beautifully spilt paint. It was truly mesmerising and worth the wait. Surprisingly, Adama seemed uncomfortable in receiving praise for her collection and hurried off the stage, with a look of what I would guess was dissatisfaction?!

Whatever the reason, her collection was as astonishing as I expected.

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It isn’t the first time I’ve expressed my confusion with African Fashion Week London, as I feel the event as a whole doesn’t give credit to the fashion itself. It’s a showcase, yes, but it is not a ‘Fashion Week’, and falls so way below any other international fashion week I’ve been witness to. It lacks the exclusivity, presentation and value (especially to paying visitors), and as an African, in London, who knows a bit about fashion, the perceived connotations of the  title are slightly misleading and that makes me quite uncomfortable.

Nevertheless, despite my objections, it is a stage for African designers, up-coming talent and visual inspiration; and for that I am thankful.

Follow me on nstagram @afroblush

Music I Love: JUNGLE – Easy Earnin’

This week I’ve been wrapped up in this the soul infused, self entitled album by UK duo ‘JUNGLE’.

The Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield inspired melodies, bring back sultry, melancholic and funk like qualities that are so effortless to listen to; especially on a Sunday afternoon such as this.

Only a few people I’ve spoken to know about the two behind the band (Josh and Tom), and I like that. As artists they’ve kept it more about the music than anything else. My favourite track of the album is Lemonade Lake, followed by Easy Earnin’.

Enjoy.

If you had one Last supper to enjoy, what would it be? (don’t say chips) @yourlastsupper

If tonight was your last night, and you could enjoy any meal to savor your last edible moment, what would it be?

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Granted this is a deep question, and I had to think quite long and hard about it to.

My top of mind thought was spaghetti bolognese, but I’m too proud to have such an elementary dish as my last, so I will opt for: the ultimate steak with roast potatoes, doused in vinegar, and eager to swim in some fancy premium tomato ketchup. For desert, I can settle for a passion fruit cheesecake, followed by nicely roasted Kenyan (Fairtrade obvs) coffee.

Anyways, the reason I’m having this foodie conversation (apparently with myself) about my last supper, comes from a very cool concept I had the pleasure of being a part of called The Last Secret Supper Super Club; founded by photographer Lauren McClean and food stylist Lottie Covell.

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(me in between The Last Secret Supper Super Club Founders Lauren McClean Lottie Covell)

The Last Secret Supper Super Club is hosted in the Palour, the home of cosy British Cuisine by top London Chef Jesse Dunford Wood, and is an evening of edible surprises. Guests pre-submit their ideal last supper, which includes a drink, starters, mains and desert; and Jesse Dunford Wood, one of London’s top London chefs prepares three courses selected from the submitted Last Supper submissions.

 

The concept was fun and the atmosphere was super casual, I loved it, and the theme of the event is interesting enough that you can’t help but spark up a conversation with the person next to you.

I was guilty of shouting across the table asking “Who is Danny Kahoe?? I need to meet you, because this passion fruit martini is tha bomb”.

I should note that at that point, Danny was equally enthused and we high-fived very ceremoniously; and no, I don’t use the term “tha bomb” in my day to day vernacular. It was the Martini speaking.

The evening is pre-book and pay (£35), which includes the submission of your last super, and covers a drink on arrival, starters, a main meal and desert; and if your Last Supper course is served, you get £10 off your meal!

It’s loads of fun and a refreshing change from just going out to dinner, check it out.

http://lastsecretsupperclub.com/

 

 

Out with the old, in with the Ko:Kou- @KoKouElectrical #afrohair #naturalhair

I was overjoyed to receive an email from Ko Kou; who had listened to my woes on twitter about the lack of quality hair dryers for afro hair types.

They decided to take a proactive approach in introducing me to their Professional Pro Pik hairdryer, which is refreshingly contemporary in design and technology, and suitable for afro hair textures; supplemented with its anti-frizz tourmaline feature.

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I put the Pro Pik for a live test on Instagram, whilst I went through my natural hair revive session; and truthfully, it’s the Maserati of afro blow dryers, powerful, sleek and attractive. It’s a relief not to be be subject to ugly, out of date, overpriced and under performing blow dryers.

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Going natural doesn’t always mean I get to enjoy my afro the way I would like to.

Which is why protective styling techniques have since been my go-between place when trying to navigate between having healthy hair in a country with sporadic climate, hard water and a busy job that doesn’t stop.

So every six weeks, I prepare to take my hair out of whatever protective style I’ve wrapped it up in and acquire a new look, along with the replenishment of any hair products and accessories I need.

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Thanks to London’s diverse population, Harlesden and Brixton alone host enough afro hair shops to protectively style myself into the next millennium. Which is great for acquiring hair products, but not necessarily hair hardware. It’s very rare that I find a technologically advanced hair blow dryer in an afro hair shop, with the exception of the overpriced options by WAHL.

Most models look like they’ve been on the shop shelf since 1994, with sales assistants who are of the opinion that if the hair dryer has an afro pick at the end, what else do I expect?

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In contrast, the range of products for European based hair available from retailers like Boots, Debenhams and Superdrug and that offer hairdryers with fancy features like “superior nanoe technology”; whilst our budget hairdryers available across our local and very much separated hair care distributors offer below basic functionality, causing frequent overheating and harsh exposure to sensitive afro textured hair.

Having put the Ko: Kou Pro Pik through the works, I was impressed by its performance, and my wish is for products such as these to be given more accessible distribution channels to reach the wider market.

An all around great product. 

Ko: Kou Pro Pick Professional Hair Dryer: http://www.kokou.co.uk/home/products.php

  • 2000W Max Power
  • Ionic technology
  • 3 Temprature settings
  • 2 Speed Settings
  • Cool shot switch, low noise

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Samira Wiley for @Refinery29 “Hollywood’s New Power Players” #OiTNB

I am so excited for the new season of Orange is The New Black, for both the season and recognition it’s giving to new talent and women of colour! #winning

Don’t we just love Samira Wiley’s photoshoot for Refinery29?!Shot by Olivia Malone, styled by Tara Williams and make-up by Tankia McConnel.

BUNDELELE!! This video makes me feel so happy, @EzinneCeo covers @AwiloLongomba feat/ @ceodancers

I met Ezinne Asinugo and the rest of the CEO Dance group a couple of weeks back for a private African street event; they are gorgeous and so talented it’s crazy. Bringing so much energy on to the stage, they made us think the rest of us could dance! (so glad no one captured me on camera, the shame!).

This video, shot in London’s Oxford Circus, starring Ezinne Asinugo, is such a feel good video.

Loooove it!

BAR POLSKI. A vodka shot straight to my heart <3

 Bar Polski is a cosy hideaway in High Holborn, nicely tucked between Fitness First and a Thai Restaurant, and despite its location constantly reminding me that I’m not at the gym, it’s grown to be one of my favourite, and yet, relatively unknown places in London.

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Modest in its interiors, it doesn’t have the pizzazz of All Bar One, but unlike its trendy and mediocre competitors, Bar Polski stocks a host of delicious and characteristic drinks and nibbles.

With over 50 vodkas to choose from, I’ve been responsible enough not to make an attempt in trying them all; but for £3 a shot, I know many of you might! I wish you luck.

To chase the chaser, avoid the draught options and go for a Polish brew from the well-stocked fridge (Zubr, Zywiec, Tatra or Lech, perhaps). Hearty bigos stew, pierogi and amazingly satisfying combination of sausage, fries, pickles and dips.

Overall, Bar Polski, is small and unpretentious; cosy and yet never claustrophobic. It’s suitable for  W1’s inhabitants running away from ballsy bankers and lurid lawyers drunk of their own testosterone.

Head not to the likes of SWAY but to Bar Polski, and take refuge my friends, this is where the rest of us will be.

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Address:11 Little Turnstile, London, WC1V 7DX

Opening hours:Open 4-11pm Mon; 12.30-11pm Tue-Thur; 12.30-11.30pm Fri; 6-11pm Sat

Food served 4-10pm Mon; 12.30-10pm Tue-Fri; 6-10pm Sat

Transport:Tube: Holborn tube

Meeting Beverley Knight, the new star of hit musical MEMPHIS @memphismusical

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Beverley Knight, is a musical sensation with God given vocals that raise the roof and touch your heart. I had the pleasure of catching up with Beverley and Killian Donnelly at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz club to talk about their upcoming role in the hit musical MEMPHIS, set to hit the stage at London’s Shaftsbury Theatre London, this October.

(You can take a sneak peek at more photos and video’s on my instagram page @afroblush)

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Labelled as one of Britain’s greatest soul singers, the sound of Beverley Knight brings back memories of my early teens, where I made countless attempts to make my voice shake to her hit single ‘Made in Back’ in the way that only 90’s RnB artists can. So it also didn’t take me by surprise earlier this year when she brought Baroness Doreen Lawrence to tears as she performed on the Women’s Hour Takeover on the in May.

Beverley took over the role of Rachel Marron (originally performed by Whitney Houston) from performer Heather Headley in The Bodyguard the musical in September 2013; and unsurprisingly, she was nominated for Best Takeover in a Role.

So yesterday, in the cool ambiance of the famous Jazz Club Ronnie Scott, I had hearty one-on-one with Beverly about the transition from her role as Rachel Marron in The Bodyguard, and her journey transitioning from Rachel, to  Felicia Farrell in the Musical MEMPHIS; inspired by true events from the underground dance clubs of 1950’s Memphis, Tennessee.

Read more

How to make a daisy chain. Suitable for children over the age of 25 years

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How to make a daisy chain for adults who are young at heart

Evidently, making a daisy chain can keep children over the age of 25 occupied for quite some time. It’s a good idea to start with them, then leave them to continue without you for a while. This project is best for late spring or early summer, and for adult children with not much else to do.

What you will need

  1. Lots of daisies
  2. A fairly long thumbnail
  3. Friends to help

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Step-by-step guide

  1. Take your adult to a place where there are lots of daisies.
  2. Ask them to pick a few – ensure they pick ones with good long stalks.
  3. Tell them they need to use their thumbnail to split the stalk about halfway down its length. Nail bitters will NOT be able to take part. Sorry.
  4. Ask them to thread the stalk of another daisy through this hole, then to make a hole in this daisy’s stalk with their thumbnail and thread another daisy through it.
  5. They can keep going until they have a really long daisy chain.

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Tips and advice

Adult children can make a daisy chain using all the daisies they can see, or a daisy chain to go all around the kitchen table, lawn or path. Or perhaps they could have a competition with someone else to see who can make the longer one and then place it on their head (see above).

Check that you have a long enough thumbnail to make the hole in the stalk. You can dry your daisy under your office air conditioning system or let it frizzle up and disintegrate on our journey home on the tube.

The strongest daisy chains are made before the consumption of alcohol; the most creative are made thereafter.

Blogger Carmen Alexandra #styleinspiration #streetstyle @sherecyclesfashion

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Blogger Carmen Alexandra

http://www.sherecyclesfashion.com/

@sherecyclesfashion

Celebrating #AfricaDay with the heroes of our generation @CamAfricaDay

Last Sunday (May, 25th) was Africa Day, also known as African Liberation Day; a celebration and Pan African movement that aims to raise political awareness about Africa and its communities around the world. This year I was delighted to commemorate Africa Day with Cambridge University at their ‘Africa Together’ event, organised by the Cambridge African Society.

www.africatogether.org.uk

The event ‘Africa Together’ wasn’t only an event about show-casing the best of Africa, but also gave speakers a platform to share their achievements, inspiring stories, and journeys, in addition to raising and discussing topical local and global issues impacting the continent.

I was honoured to be invited to speak alongside one of Africa’s leading fashion designers and icons Adama Paris on “Modern African Culture and Fashion: Reshaping an Industry”, and receive an award at the event for vision and insight into Africa’s role in global trends and popular culture.

One of my most treasured books is ‘The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey: Africa for the Africans’, which I first read in my late teens, and at a specific point in my life where I began to reflect and formulate my opinions about myself, my country and the future of my continent.

Garvey relates that though ‘the pen is mightier than the sword, the tongue is mightier than them both put together'; and with that, the recognition from Cambridge for my written work gives me great pride, whilst the position to speak on a panel alongside the heroes of our generation was a great honour, and responsibility I don’t take lightly.

In the words of the recently passed and forever cherished Maya Angelou: 

“For Africa to me… is more than a glamorous fact. It is a historical truth. No man can know where he is going unless he knows exactly where he has been and exactly how he arrived at his present place”

A little history for you…

African Freedom Day was founded during the first Conference of Independent African States, which attracted African leaders and political activists from various African countries, in Ghana on April 15, 1958. Government representatives from eight independent African states attended the conference, which was the first Pan-African conference in the continent.

The purpose of the day was to annually mark the liberation movement’s progress and to symbolise the determination of the people of Africa to free themselves from foreign domination and exploitation.

Between 1958 and 1963 the nation/class struggle grew bigger in Africa and around the world. During this period, 17 countries in Africa won their independence and 1960 was proclaimed the Year of Africa. On May 25, 1963, 31 African leaders convened a summit meeting to found the Organization of African Unity (OAU). They renamed Africa Freedom Day as “African Liberation Day” and changed its date to May 25.

 

Nigerian designer, Emmy Collins ‘‘Never in Vogue, Never out of Vogue”

The Exclusive Emmy Collins Style Weekend took place at the Miliki Private Members Club VI, Lagos on the 27th of April 2014.

This was an opportunity for the label to showcase its latest collection tagged “timeless” to a discerning audience. In the words of the creative director of the label, Emmy:

“Whenever I venture into designing any garment, what stays paramount in my mind besides quality, and innovation of the design, is that purchasing a fashion item is and should be an investment that should stand the test of time”.

‘Never in Vogue, Never out of Vogue’

is Emmy Collin’s slogan. He explained that he constantly corrects people whenever they label his pieces as trendy as they aren`t trendy 95% of the time, but rather timelessly stylish.

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Only pieces from the “original line” were displayed at the event to the enjoyment of selected guests which included Chris Ubosi,Francis Mbadiwe, Greg Mbadiwe, Waje,Ezinne Chinkata,Uru Eke,Korede Roberts,Bola Balogun,Jenika Mukore, Kehinde Dacosta-Lawrence,Noble Igwe,Audu Moukori Maikori of Chocolate City, Banke Meshida,Azu of Phenomenom boutique ,Saeed Sulaiman and many more style aficionados.

The new collection will go live on www.emmycollinsshop.com

Njideka Akunyili | The Beautiful Ones [the alternative take] #culture #AfricanArt

“It was a layering of multiple interests. Obviously my love for Nigeria where I was born, my love for my life here, my love for my husband.. and just try to figure out a way the two kinda exist in a harmonious way.”

“I think of my work as capturing the very ordinary. Just normal.. everyday stuff. I think there is something beautiful and powerful in the things that happen daily. Intimate situations.. sensual situations.. these [situations] people don’t get to see. I think there is a beauty in that I’m very attracted to.. that I try to get out.”

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@ Studio Museum’s Artists-in-Residence talk on youtube.

Don’t forget to visit her website for more.

Rochelle Brock is FATLEOPARD #photography

Rochelle Brock is a 19 year old Life style & Fashion Photographer Currently Residing in brooklyn NYC. Creator and Owner of Fatleopard Photography http://fatleopard.tumblr.com/

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Style Inspiration: Roze Traore, photo by Pavel D @RozeWasHere

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