on amazon.

This photo was taken last month, during a sunny Saturday spent hiking in the fields. Around 100 cows and sheep, accompanied by their shepherd, paused to nibble on the leaves from nearby shrubs, the jingle-jangle of their cowbells creating a melodic dissonance.

Jingle Bells.

The sun still shines, often and intensely. At night, the city lights up like a circus, post-work crowds dashing about in pursuit of holiday gifts or a Yuletide feeling.

What do you think about Amazon? Do you have strong feelings for or against it? I did some of my Christmas shopping on there. While waiting for the package to arrive, I began seeing some front-page articles advocating shopping elsewhere. This year, I completed orders for three items on Amazon: a lovely book on creativity, some shoelaces, and aforementioned gift. Had the shopkeeper given me a precise restock date for the latter, I would have bought it in the physical, nearby store where I had first seen it. I also placed three orders on Amazon in 2017, and two in 2016.

From this scant record, I think I am not a prime Amazon user, and that subscription to Prime would be lost on me. Although a writer of one of the articles started off with two or three Amazon orders a year, he noted that he had made 119 orders so far in 2018, his third year as a Prime user.

Here are some of the benefits of Amazon that I see. Amazon is a good one-stop aggregator of products, backed by a strong search engine. More often than not, you will find what you’re looking for on there, with the range of styles and prices presented to you in a no-frills, one-page format. For those who like Netflix and movies on demand, Amazon is now a strong player in that sphere, too. With Prime, shipping is cheaper, or free. As an aside, last year, when I introduced free global shipping to our own operations, it was in keeping with the New Way Amazon has introduced to e-commerce. It is now reasonable to hold the expectation of free shipping. Amazon is reliable. Items also seldom remain listed if they are out of stock. Returns processing follows a reliable and straightforward process. For new products, a date-specific pre-order option is usually available. A responder to one of the articles noted how much easier it made her life, as a person with a disability.

For those on the sidelines, especially those in e-commerce, it is good to note some of these characteristics, and to note which ones are worthy of emulation.

If something about the ethos of a company, etc, bothers you, research it to learn more about how that ethos affects you as a consumer or patron. If you can’t live with it, find alternatives. Or go without that good or service, entirely. It has been nice to read articles on why people are thinking of ending their Prime subscription. So if you have a platform, I think it’s a good idea to use it to express your views, and in the process, educate others (like me) on the pros and cons of continued patronage.

Update: I felt it necessary to include this update on Amazon Prime members’ recent reservations about the service, namely, that Prime 2-day shipping is now too often 5-7 day shipping. Also, that even with Prime membership, not all items are eligible for 2-day shipping, leading Prime members to comb through product listings to find the ones that are Prime-eligible. Here is a Fast Company article (19 Dec. 2018) that details these reservations, along with links to other users with the same issues, on Reddit and Quora.

On the Amazon logistics side, the challenge lies in the reality that human beings are still the ones doing much of the order fulfilment in Amazon warehouses, driving the delivery trucks, etc. One Redditor noted that the slowdown was more noticeable once AMZL, which I think is Amazon’s fulfilment arm to rival USPS, DHL, etc, was launched. And the quandary of people wanting their items delivered fast, sigh, particularly when they pay $119 a year for shipping.

One thing the article highlighted is the importance of stating when the 2-day count begins for shipping. Does it include processing times, or is processing time an 8-day add-on? Customers like to know this, and it is within their rights to. I hadn’t thought I would find logistics interesting, but it is such a vital part of customer satisfaction that I find myself giving it more and more of a thought as my company, Minku, advances.

Winter.

Winter is a temporal desertland, its enjoyment expanded only by the warmth of communality: air molecules suffused with the aura of hearty food, the heat of others’ being, and the resonating sound of percussion and woodwind.

Winter is when the externalized activity and rush of prior months is internalized as plans, new ideas and, should one be lucky, change.

In the heat of June, an hour gone by in the quest for a good picture, we happened on a desertland with overgrown shrubbery and drunken graffiti. Dystopian, its setting of blue house, green foliage, and gold russet parched grass framed the textured reds of the abandoned casing in the foreground.

Soon another set designed by nature and circumstance will be sought, this time in the cold light and excess of fallen leaves of that listless limbo between Thanksgiving and Yuletide. Fingers numbly cold against the indifferent plastic casing of my film camera, I will frame a shot. Click.

Should we be even half lucky, the smiles and breath and glances of those who make our lives more beautiful will recur in the summers and winters of our cyclical existence, tinting each day with shades of their idiosyncratic beauty.

El Celler de Can Roca – all the food that’s fit to eat

“Did we really just eat for four hours?” I asked, as we polished off the last of four dessert dishes, an arrangement of distinctly-flavored chocolate strips leading to a neat heap of crispy chocolate crumble.

An eruption of giggles. It was a giggly experience. From the amuse-bouches that kept coming four courses in — “our bouches are duly amused,” one of us observed; to the waitress who began to say with a giggly, giddy urgency, how hot the soup bowl she had started to serve us from, was. Helped by her colleague, she hurriedly found the side-table on which to place the soup bowl, but the theatrics of it all, combined with the fun of dressing up for the dinner, still had us in giggles for a full minute after.

Three brothers: one specialized in breads (the wine bread was my favorite, suave in taste in fine contrast to the indulgent flavors of our sixth-of-a-day long epicurean experience) but also in sweets and confectionery, served from a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-style candy cart that rolled towards us as the waiters rounded up the last of our plates. The second brother a sommelier, and the third, head chef.

Office of the Roca brothers. Squint to see a photo of them on the left. Mexican sake ‘Nami’, to the right.

Psychedelic. Magic mountains of white asparagus heads emerged vertically from a lake of asparagus-loaded garum sauce, dotted with pickled, yes, asparagus. A smack in the mouth with all the ways asparagus could be, beyond your wildest dreams. All served on the same plate.

In an earlier course, miniature bonsai trees required that we picked olives off them to eat: the green ‘olives’, cold and sweet, were olive-flavored ice-cream; the brown ones, hot and savory, were a black-olive tempura-shelled tapenade (!) It was like Alice in Wonderland, with the scale a bit off (olive trees that fit on dinner tables), cutlery irregularly curled, and the paradox of choice – black olive hot; green olive cold, both options consumed in the end.

Excerpt from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865)

The most surreal experience of all was our repeated underestimation of the capacities of our bellies. Each time we thought we couldn’t possibly fit any more food, our dishes would be cleared, next wine introduced and served, plates and cutlery placed, introductory spiel to new dish given, and there we would be, relishing it like it was the first course of the evening. This was the case particularly with the desserts.

Our worlds collided. At least four of us at our table of eight were fans of the 90s Jim Henson show, The Dinosaurs, and a dessert of liquefied cucumber, cardamom, apple, fennel, and eucalyptus came accompanied with dinosaur-stemmed silverware. The silverware broke all rules of usability, but only if your understanding of silverware is simply ‘tools to eat with’. For us, they contributed to some of the most resonant giggles of the evening. Not only did we find a home for them on the strategically placed rocks that served as table centerpieces, but our dinosaurs formed partnerships and communities, traveling across the table and along their partners’ backs, before being picked up by their chubby sculpted stems to tackle our desserts. “I don’t use my juicy salif to juice lemons,” star designer Philippe Starck once quipped of his lemon juicer design, “I use it to start conversations.”

What one wouldn’t give to be a fly on the tablecloth during a dinner at Celler de Can Roca, a gastronomic experience designed to maximize delight, hearty mealtime conversation, and giggles.

crouching tiger; hidden dragon. Or maybe just dinosaurs.

Thanks to Anna for the pictures of the food. So busy was I eating that I forgot to document some of my favorite dishes. Like the magic asparagus mountains that ensure I’ll never look at asparagus the same way again.

Back to the ease of film

If I asked you how you tell a good photo, or a professionally-taken photo, it’s likely you would answer that it must be sharp and with the right areas in focus, and if you were a bit artsy you might like some ‘bokeh’, and that the composition should be on point.

Minku has had quite the photographic journey in the last seven years, a journey during which I unwittingly became a photographer, with a specialty in mostly product and portraiture.

Besides needing quick turnaround times for product photos to be used for the e-store and social media pages, I also ran into some scheduling challenges with the photographer I usually work with, who is based in California. The most recent round of challenges motivated me to both find photographers to work with locally, and refine my own photography abilities further.

For product shots, I’m still on board the dslr train, but for social media captures, I’ve started the transition to film. Film is more organic, the light is more like how I see the world, the edges don’t look so HDR, the smiles are softer, the wrinkles are more forgiven (yes, see what I did there), the hair is softer, the reds are pinker. Film is what my earliest memories were captured in; it is how I grew up seeing the world.

For every film photo I’ve kept in my recent rediscovery of the medium, I’ve discarded one. Still, that’s ok. I’m still learning my camera, and it’s not a complex one. I realize, too, that the complexity of the heavier, electronic cameras didn’t hold the solution to the organicness I sought. Photography is just my means of expressing myself, and with film, I realize I’m skipping the editing because the colors and textures, two things with which I hold an irrational preoccupation, are coming out perfectly. With electronic cameras,the hue was always too blue, the textures too sharp, the definition too high.

I am Goldilocks. With film, it’s just right.

Optimizing for empathy in design – Part II

In the previous post, I wrote about the different ways I optimize for empathy in design. It was easy to apply these, seeing as I was designing for someone I know. What about when designing for someone I have never met, and had only interacted with over the internet?

As if to test my pontificating, such a scenario presented itself over the holidays. I received an order for a bag I had made, and mailed it. I imagined it was a gift for a guy, as

  1. The order had been placed through a male name
  2. I had just created a ‘For men’ section and was eager to convince myself it was already taking off
  3. The bag was a unisex design.

I received a gracious email saying that the writer’s dear husband had purchased her the bag as a Christmas gift, but that the strap was too short for her.

I think that one of the advantages of making bags is that unlike shoes, they are often one size fits all. For everything else, a strap adjuster is usually a good solution. The thing is that

  1. Sometimes, from an aesthetic point of view, a strap adjuster introduces at least two additional metal components, that can sometimes remove from the aesthetics I had in mind.
  2. A shoulder bag is usually fine. However, I had listed this as a cross-body bag, and for fuller-bodied people, what this means is that the bag strap has to be long enough to cover some of the width of their shoulders, lateral rib-cage, and chest/bust. So it almost becomes like clothing, where bust measurements, shoulder measurements, etc come into play. I hadn’t thought of this as I placed the listing under the cross-body category. I am now more careful to only place bags with ample-length and an adjustable strap in this category.

I thought that this would be a good opportunity to put some empathic design into play. It was after the holidays and I could make out time to create a bag that the client would be happy to wear. Also, unlike scenarios where the client places an order and I mail it in and communicate thanks via email, I had had a bit more communication with this client. Many of the people who order from Minku have this warmth about them. Sometimes I have to send customer care emails for situations like when someone is personalizing a gift, or when items would take longer to mail out, because I need x number of days to make their custom order. I receive the warmest and most patient of email responses. It makes this job really fulfilling, partly because I know I can relax and do a good job. I also work very well under pressure, but I try to avoid it, as I am lucky enough to be the person I report to.

For step one of making a bag that the client would like, I asked her if she wouldn’t mind sending me a picture of some of the bags she owned, just maybe two or three of them placed together. I told her this would give me an idea of her bag taste, and help me come up with something for her. At first I received no response, and I thought this was expected, because who really wants to get that intimate with someone she doesn’t really know? There might be an element of it that seems to say show me your style and I’ll judge you and make you something I think suits you, and I had to be proper with the wording, to remove the slightest misread sense of judgement. However, I found it important to request this information, because I needed more than a blank slate to work with.

When the returned bag arrived, we had the touchpoint of conversing again, and I asked again, just in a no-fuss way: if you can send me a photo of two or three bags, then I’ll get an idea and can work with more direction. If you don’t feel comfortable sending it, this is totally fine, and I’ll make a bag with the strap of the length we already discussed, and mail it by x date to avoid delaying this.

She sent me the photo the same day, explaining that the challenge had been deciding which of the bags to send me a photo of. It was really cool to receive the photo, because I knew almost immediately which of the styles I had been ruminating over, to make for her. I hadn’t tried padded quilting before, but I really wanted to. Even though none of the bags in the photo she sent to me had padded quilting, I felt that this was my chance to  give it a try, to achieve the more structured style of bag she seemed to lean towards. Also, leather quilting is really pretty, and I wanted the challenge.

I sent her a photo of the bag, and I received the best email, saying how much she loved it. I have to say that I feel I also got lucky, because it is not like I am suddenly a mind reader or a photo reader. It is a combination of having a gracious client and working to understand people’s taste and translate it into something that, though different, they will still like.

The bag arrived about a week earlier than I had expected, and I got the best email from her.

First, spirit animal – whenever I’m stoked about something, I think that I would cry. And sometimes, when I am telling someone that their gesture/gift/words made me want to cry, I can see the look on their faces like, “no, that’s not what I was going for” but I still use the expression anyway because it’s how I feel :) So it was nice to see the client use the same expression. I totally understood the feeling she was trying to convey.

So I felt like it was a successful interaction. The thing about this work is that the emphasis has to be that I want to make bags that people want to wear. On average, people have tens of bags, so it would be unrealistic to think that wearing one bag every day for two years will be a mark of success. However, the thought of switching to the bag should delight them, like yay I can’t wait to switch my things into this Minku bag, with its glorious aso-oke interior and how the contents of my bag hit the light differently; its comfortable strap, the artisan details, the form of the bag, and all the compliments I will get.

For me, that is the dream. And it made this unplanned empathic design experience 100% worth it.

Love,
Minku

Optimizing for empathy in design

There are a few things that are important for optimizing one’s design work. First, it’s important to know what I optimize for

  • I optimize for the usefulness of what I am making. I want the user to find it necessary and sufficient, but not over-the-top for what he/she needs.
  • I optimize to use as little of the material as possible, unless absolutely necessary. Leather, the vegetable-tanned type I favor these days, is usually expensive, and also quite heavy/dense, which is a disadvantage for some objects like bags that are to be carried around.
  • Speaking of which, I optimize for lightness. I buy the lightest-weight leathers I can find, that still retain all the other properties of the heavier leather that I love. I cut away excesses after sewing, keep designs simplified. Anything to end up with something just a bit lighter.
  • I optimize for the lifestyle of the end-user. If someone lives in a small space, I don’t want to make them something they can’t fold away or tuck away and forget it’s there. If they like certain finishes or shades to their furnishings or leather, I want my design choices for them to align with that. Dark wood finishes like the interior of an Irish or English pub, vs. light woods like pine or oak. Aligning small aesthetic details with the intended end-user’s life can greatly affect how often they want that object around their lifespace/workspace/playspace.
  • I optimize for delight. I generally am drawn to happy things: joyous, if minimalist art; open, airy and sun-flooded spaces, patterns on clothing. There’s another type of design, and it’s also fun, I’m sure because I sometimes explore it (like that time I made flagellators), though I have to consciously place myself in that mind-space. But generally, I just want to make things where the owner sees them and is a tad bit happier. Sometimes it’s in how I combine the threads for a stitch in an unexpected way. Other times, it’s how a design is evocative of something the user grew up familiar with, but never gave a conscious thought to until now.

Now, for the considerations.

  1. Time: designing takes time. I don’t really sketch; I do it all in my head. Though I do know that the more complex my problem-solving becomes, the more I’d need to sketch parts. Yesterday as I walked to El Corte Ingles and back, I had Bonobo playing through my earplugs and was just playing about with ideas in my mind. Should I make a roll-up tool storage bag? No, because so far I don’t know what all the future tools will be, number and sizes. Ok, so a toolbag for one chisel, then. No, that’s a waste of leather. It’ll need to have a long closure flap. I don’t want to make a thoughtful Christmas present; I want to make a useful one. Ok, so what’s the need? To keep the chisel edges from blunting or contact when not in use. Possibly to hang the chisel in a toolshed. What about the plastic cover for my awl that covers just the metal part of the awl? Could I make something like that, in leather? Yes. Will it hang off a hook if hung, or will the chisel fall out from the weight? I’ll try to make it fit snug so it hangs. Ok, that’s good. I can also picture it being used without much fuss. A toolbag seems like it’s for people like carpenters who travel with their tools a lot. This is just for protecting a tool when not in use, in the home-space. Now that the ‘what’ has been solved, how can I design such a cover? That will be the subject of the next line of thinking.
  2. Empathy: In his book Emotional Design, Donald Norman alludes to how objects with sensual appeal seem more useful. I’m a big believer in this. Make minor design decisions that favor the person or group that you’re designing for, and watch them never let the finished product leave their side. One day, a vegetable-tanned fuchsia bag I’d made for a friend, Z, got stained with splashes of wine. After telling her how to rub them off gently with a cloth dampened with distilled water, I suggested a few weeks later that if that didn’t work, I could take the bag and dye its leather black. “Dye it black, she says,” mocked Z, “that would kill the whole essence of it.” For her, the color was the thing.The empathic design aspect of design thinking is much more than seemingly-superficial considerations like color preference. It involves astronomical levels of empathy for the user’s lifestyle, income, how they weigh things that are important to them e.g money or experiences; family time or solitary travel; proximity to city life or affordable accommodation, and not necessarily as binaries. Also, their physical living/working/play space, how they commute to work, whether they are religious, whether the like sunlight or prefer dark spaces, preferred climate, whether they consciously put on music when they’re in a shared or isolated space, what kind of music and how loud, their eating habits, whether they’re partial to wood/metal/plastic/paper, and so on. I’m painting in broad strokes, but the specific considerations to note in empathic design will depend on what problem you’re solving in the person’s lifestyle. Still, it’s not to be underestimated how much seemingly unrelated factors can end up being the ones that most inform each other in designing for a person or group.
  3. Communication: It’s nice to know someone or a group of people enough to be able to divine their preferences. In the case of making the tool covers, it’s what I’ve had to do, since this is a Christmas present. I also know I have it right because 1. we have the same aesthetic taste 2. I am good at listening for preference details 3. I can make associations between design styles. E.g. if someone has an Eastern-style saw with bamboo handle, that’s crying for some natural/untanned leather accessories, maybe black, but not mahogany-colored leather and not really bold primary colors like red or yellow unless that’s an on-going preference the person has going on. For instance, I like all the gold, shiny things, he he, and if someone got me a gold, shiny leather case for my tools, I’d just be amazed and amused and delighted, regardless of my other aesthetic preferences or what matches my tools.This to say that for the things you don’t know, it’s better to ask. And you need to remember the most mundane of details – jot down if you must.

I will be back to update this post with pictures of the items that I made; I can’t post them right now because it’s not Christmas yet.

Well, if you have some comments about empathic design or other factors that are key to your work, whether as a designer/architect/craftsperson/landscape architect/interior designer, post them below. It’s just such a cool approach to design, compared with throwing everything at the wall and hoping some of it sticks. Of course it gets more complex when you’re designing for a group of people e.g. building a well in a village. But if you’re designing for one person: a client who has placed a  personalized order, or your mum or partner or sibling or child, then the more of their observed behavior and preferences you can factor into the design, the more likely they are to find delight in the finished product.

How I learned computing Part I

When I was 7, my mum enrolled my sister and me in a computer programming course (sister was 9 or had just turned 10). I was below the minimum age for the class, but I was also at that tag-along stage where I just go with my sister where she goes so mum has some hours to not be driving us somewhere, and can focus on her work, or having a summer (this was Lagos, where December is almost as hot as June, but work with me).

Well, so we learned a language called BASIC, Beginner’s All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code. I loved counting in tens, which I had to do for each line of code, and I loved for statements and GO TO commands, and drawing flow diagrams, gosh did I love drawing flow diagrams! We had a class test and I remember scoring 7 or 7-and-a-half out of 10 and the teacher praising me to high heavens because everyone had assumed I had just come there to play Pacman and Prince of Persia and Space Invaders while I waited for my sister to learn stuff. Yet there I was, learning.

So that was my first experience with programming, well, besides playing around with some punch cards my dad had lying around the house for whatever reason. Fast forward to when I was 14 or 15, and my dad, who along with my mum likes to buy us all the best things, got us an iMac G3 for the house. The mini living room at the top of the stairs suddenly became the place to be in our house — whether to watch my sisters be Ryu and E. Honda at a very early version of Street Fighter, or to try my hands at yet another web site design using FrontPage. Our internet connection was still choppy at best, you’d literally read two pages of a novel while waiting for one light page to load. But it was the late 1990s and there was this beautiful new world of motion and interactivity, and beyond Solitaire and Microsoft Word’s Marching Ants text effect, we were a real part of it.

2001, I was taking a gap year at home before university. Our good family friend asked what I would like him to bring me from the States. At that specific time in history, Manolo Blahnik X Timberland heeled boots were new and in, and every Nigerian high-school girl wanted a pair. As did I. Yet I said I wanted a programming book. Let’s pause here to absorb the painful asceticism inherent in this decision. I had it in mind to study computer science at university, and I had been learning JavaScript at Aptech, a local computing school, but still. Disciplina pura y sencilla.

First year of University, I moved countries. I was also learning assembly language, which was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. When I was 7, I had read in my sister’s France Afrique textbook, a short story of a girl who goes to Paris, and I had decided to myself then that I wanted to learn French, possibly with dreams of going to Paris. Learning a core computing language was like preparing to go to the Paris of computers; I just didn’t know then how long and fulfilling a journey I was embarking on.

“The car was grippy” and other F1 comments

Formula 1 is amazing and I’m so happy the season has kicked off. I was watching the driver comments at the end of today’s Sochi GP Q3 (qualifying round 3) and it’s just so cool to see what relationship each has with their car, their team, their teammmate, and with winning/victory.

Oh, and I’ve watched Esteban Ocon of Force India race for all the seasons he’s been in F1, only to realise via watching this interview clip that he has a face beneath the helmet! Same thing McLaren’s Vandoorne, though this is only his first or his second season. We’ll probably see more of Force India’s drivers; besides having just an amazingly pink livery, their car also seems to be delivering its drivers into the points quite a few times this season.

Kvyat sounds like he should have auditioned for the role of Elliot Alderson in Mr. Robot – so robotic is the sputnikified quality of his commentary on his performance.

My fave commentary was Alonso’s. No one is still hyping the McLaren-Honda collab as something that will prove magical a la Ayrton Senna days (of McLaren-Honda), and that is a relief because the whole heritage thing seemed kind of forced without a strong car to back up the hype. But it seems the guy who says things like “it was like driving a truck” seems to like his car’s performance this weekend. He said the car was “grippy” – an anglicization similar to “trippy” (hallucinative)? I’m at a loss for words. Ok, he meant it felt balanced and grounded including in corners, and that the tyres had good grip and the car didn’t vibrate more than is usual for an F1 car. But still, seeing him come up with his own vocab is pretty fun. Also, he said “my performance right now is quite ok and I feel very competitive.” I just really like the quite ok bit :)

Vandoorne said we’ll try to do our best from the back tomorrow, I think, you know, we can only do better from there…” You don’t say. I do wish McLaren Honda the best.

When Vettel is happy, he’s just bursting with it, can’t hide it. It’s exciting that Ferrari is challenging Mercedes, and look at all that visibility that Kaspersky is getting…

Valterri Bottas is still getting the hang of this whole interview and visibility shindig. Like, what, I have to stand and answer questions about my performance and the car and how easy/hard it was to qualify third? Ok, well. I guess. I’m not in Kansas (Williams, where you can go season-in-season-out without ever seeing an interviewer’s microphone) anymore.

Lewis gives the best interviews in my opinion. When he does well, he thanks and acknowledges the team publicly. When his performance isn’t great, he splits the blame between himself and the car. Today in the interview it was mostly blame for himself. I hope he’s in top tip shape tomorrow.

All in all, I’m pretty hyped for Sochi GP. I think despite the fewer chances for overtaking that the Sochi circuit presents, this could be a good race.

A different photo shoot than the ones I usually do.

This has been a pretty amazing week, with trips to get fabric for work, attendance of social media week lagos events, and a photo shoot that I had been conceiving in my mind’s eye for months.

It’s hard to know how everything would come together: this top, those pants, that hairstyle, those ad-hoc aso-oke earrings, that backdrop, this camera lens versus that one… until you’re there, on set, just click-click-clicking.


Akor, the model brought it. This was a different photo shoot than the ones I usually do, because it was as much about the clothes as the bags. A Minku bag and clothing collection. I can’t wait to present the full lookbook. These are some grainy shots of the camera viewer, because I couldn’t really wait to say, “here, dear Minku loyalist, is a sneak peek before everyone else gets to know, of what you can expect to see on the Minku social media pages, web site, and hopefully some press, in the time to come.” So I hope you’re liking it all as much as I am.

Model: Akor
Photographer: Kunmi

Listening to the Cut the Rope mobile game soundtrack.


Getting some much-deserved yoghurt (Akor) and vanilla ice-cream (me) on our return from the photo shoot site. When I was a kid, the best part of church was after-church when my parents would buy my siblings and I these ice-creams from the ice-cream bicycle man. It was always a bummer when our favorite flavor was sold out. Still is.

 

Out on a disorderly artistic limb

For my most recent birthday, some of my friends presciently gave me a sketchpad.

Although I thought nothing of it at the time, I recently took a break from bag making to return to my first love: art. In the new year, I hope to develop my own illustrative style, and I’m glad that stylistically, illustration seems to give me a broad space in which to explore. I hope to stay in this space and explore it a bit longer.

img_2518 img_2526

There will still be bags, not to worry.

Happy new year!

Minku

Listening to Lead Belly’s Christmas is A-Coming.

MMXVI: The Year of Verstappen

2016 is the Year of Max Verstappen.

He’s the man whose headstrong defensive drives we grew to dislike, yet whose aggressive overtakes had us singing his praises… all in the span of five races.

He won’t let you overtake him; yet he won’t let you not let him overtake you.

Fearless at 300km/hr (not cool, bro) as he is on a dripping wet circuit (dude, he’s like Hamilton… or Senna!), he’s at his best when he’s aggressor trying to overtake, not so much as rookie karter vacillating on the track to ensure you don’t get past him.

The FIA rules on changing direction under braking were changed only last month thanks to Verstappen and his defensive maneuvering, and definitely to cheers from other drivers. Yet guess who got caught in the FIA’s net the very next race after the rule change? You’ll be forgiven for thinking it was Max if you can’t tell your Vettels from your Verstappens.

This guy’s drives, man. After yesterday’s race, you saw him smile. It was that full-faced smize, the likes of which I haven’t seen since Vettel took second place in Canada, you know, the race where he (Vettel) had swerved to avoid the suicidal seagulls and all. Not one to jump, faux-levitate, fist-pump, DAB, or do a Tebow like one of the other nimbler-limbed drivers, Verstappen wears his mood 95% in his face and 5% in his intonation. Often this season, his expression was smug, sullen, tightened, unwelcoming. After the Brazilian GP on the Interlagos Circuit yesterday, that is to say, after he out-strategized Perez, Sainz, an increasingly whiny Vettel… and even Rosberg in that brief moment before his team called over the radio to piss on his parade — often by overtaking around the outside of the track, a part F1 drivers would normally avoid for its wetness and low grip but which Verstappen was bold enough to exploit successfully thanks to negative wheel camber keeping it dryer and with better grip than other drivers dared to imagine — he had that full-faced, I-woke-up-like-this, daddy-Jos-can-you-see-how-I’m-making-you-proud? smile. And this time, the world was full-on smiling with him.

There’s an episode of Mad Men where Don Draper says, “If you don’t like what they’re saying about you, change the conversation.” Verstappen is the best manager of his own image, and the way he has made us go from hating his driving style to admiring his gut, sheer force of will, and gosh, amazing driving talent, all in the span of the 2016 Formula 1 Championship season, is something that should make it to the case study blurbs of business texts for years to come.

NOTES:

  • Apparently I need to watch more karting because Verstappen, the straight-from-karting-to-F1 kid, is pulling some hot karting overtaking moves that us who like F1 would do well to get schooled on.
  • Hamilton, man. I’m so used to his amazing drives that what he did in leading this utterly wet-track race from start to finish (at times up to 8 full seconds ahead of the driver behind him) might not be getting all the laudatory glory it truly deserves.
  • Still on Hamilton, his first win in Brazil, Si Señor! And his 52nd F1 win, now sandwiching him between Schumacher and Alain Prost as the driver with the second most F1 wins of all time :-D Proud gal shimmy.
  • RED BULL. Guys, time and again, your pit stop strategy sucks. Who are the strategists for Ricciardo and Verstappen? How does anyone really think that when a Red Bull successfully comes between the two Mercedes is a good time to pit for sissy things like a tyre switch from wets to intermediates? Especially on a wet track with a high likelihood that some aquaplaning car or the other would have the safety car rolling out sooner or later (and you can capitalize on a free pit stop)? Also, was a simple weather forecast for more rain not available to these guys? It’s becoming laughable how often they deprive their drivers of a good fighting chance for a higher podium finish; and in the process, deprive us viewers of what could be some seat-edge racing in a season monopolized by Mercedes 1-2’s.
  • A three-and-a-half hour race, God, I must love F1.
  • Red Bull gives you wings.

Mastering Mobile

It’s 3:30am. The team  I’m a member of, The Blue Shakamakas, just won a quiz. I came up with the Shakamakas part of the name: it reminded me of when I was eight or nine, and my younger siblings and I would invent random tunes, infuse them with meaningless words, then belt them out like rockstars using a stick or a doll for a microphone and jumping on dining furniture for rockstar effect.

So yeah, Shakamakas.

We really felt like champs tonight, a productive winning energy that I channeled into tackling the challenge of getting minku.com to look good on mobile (you should know, I’m the Minku web designer and developer). It so happened that I broke the code a while ago while trying to achieve this very goal. Not prepared to upgrade my desktop design knowledge with some responsive web design skills, I switched back to the safe desktop version, something that resulted in a dreadful user experience for mobile: expanding text; dealing with increased cognitive load; horizontal scrolling!!!

I know, I know, I apologize.

At university, I learned several programming languages. Still, we were more likely to do a project in Prolog (to understand the structure of artificial intelligence programming languages) than we were to build a site. The latter was something you did in your spare time, or learned at a technical institute.

I had a lot of self-developed web development experience, because I was drawn to the immediate rewards it offered vis-a-vis, say, C++. So I had picked it up on my own in the late 90s… it also helped that we had a computer at home as early as 1998/1999, an Apple iMac G3 — one of those green, curved and translucent-backed beauties.

One thing that caught us millennial programmers by surprise was the advent of web for mobile. I remember even Facebook struggling with a mobile strategy as late as 2014 [article]. All my programming to date has been for desktop. Yes, the company I worked for as early as 2009 was already starting to develop mobile-friendly sites for our clients, but those were the cool kids brandishing the fine steel of their cutting-edge government projects, while most of us did conventional desktop web enhancement and expansion.

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I don’t approach things thinking they are hard. Well, except reading maps, a task that’s easy to delegate, and at which I’m even getting better. So I knew I would upgrade my webdev skills; I just hadn’t dedicated time to it yet.

Coding always takes time: you do, you undo, you save versions, you redo, you keep trying until it’s how you want it. Now the mobile version of minku.com is up and running. I still need to make some tweaks, which you will notice when you visit the site. Nonetheless, @media query is fast becoming my bff, and the site on a mobile device is fast looking how I want it. Thanks for your patience, and I hope you like the mobile-friendly site :-)

Verstappen and other quirks at F1’s Spa-Francorchamps

Where does one start in reviewing a race that felt like those season premieres that give you two episodes of your favorite show in one sitting? Belgian GP, with its two starts including one brought on by an epic (safe) crash that triggered a red flag, a safety car, and a 17-minute mid-race recess to repair a guardrail, was just that.

I’ll back-pat myself for calling that Alonso and Hamilton’s teams would take advantage of their back-of-grid starts, to place them on medium tyres for the start of the race. Track temperatures were 40 degrees celsius, afterall, and since they didn’t qualify in top ten at Saturday’s Q2, they could choose their starting tyres for Sunday’s race.

TyrePredictionsBelgianGP

So 2pm and the race starts — start 1 of 2, though we don’t know this by then. Don’t know what opening-lap strategy Vettel was pulling off in the starting seconds, but it somehow put his Ferrari teammate Kimi in Verstappen’s way early in the race, something I’ll rather not see happen at all because, well, Kimi is a nice guy. After Kubica, he was racing’s best poker face. And I don’t like to see him angry, but Verstappen seems to bring it out in him all the time. He was so angry during this race that the swear-filter was too slow to catch the stream of expletives he directed at li’l Max via team radio. I saw a commenter refer to Max as Vercrashen, by the way. I’m trying to be nice, but he needs to be schooled on F1 racing etiquette. However I don’t expect Red Bull to take the bull by the horns, unfortunately. Let’s hold that thought…

SAINZ BUILDZ BRITZ
In the 90s we had cable TV and thus it was that I got a catchy Heinz baked beans ad stuck in my head, one that ended with “Heinz Buildz Britz.” Sainz had one of the best race starts of his F1 career today, but his car began to disintegrate following a puncture… tyre, then rear wing, till he had to retire. Jenson Button had to retire too. So did Wehrlein of Manor Racing, a driver whose style I’ve started to warm up to. F1 is like a TV series in yet another way: gradual character development. You start the season just seeing the new drivers’ names and teams; and admiring their cars’ livery. Especially drivers of cars that usually don’t finish in the points. Then as the season progresses, you catch a rare interview, see the driver walk disappointedly to the pits after a crash or celebrate an uncharacteristic podium win, and suddenly there’s a personality beneath the helmet and livery. Wehrlein will still have some great races ahead of him despite today’s disappointment, I’m sure. It sucks that he took out Button’s McLaren too.

On the sixth lap, Magnussen’s Renault spun from 180mph to a smoky high-impact halt in a tyre barrier. Besides being a long circuit (4.35 miles; most of the season’s other circuits are a bit under three miles), Spa is also a hilly circuit, undulating in places and giving less-experienced drivers a run for their Petrobras fuel.  It was in one such spot, by Eau Rouge corner, that Kevin’s yellow R.S. 2016 rammed dramatically into a tyre barrier, sealing how the Renault team would be spending the half-fortnight before Monza GP: rebuilding his chassis. Formula 1 is such a beautiful sport in how safe it is today. Kevin immediately moved to signal that he was conscious, and then nimbly jumped out of his cockpit, as he was approached by race stewards coming to check the extent of the damage. I recently tried to watch clips of some road cycling championships and if Formula 1 is a thriller to watch these days, road cycling is a horror movie.

Guardrail repair followed on lap 10, with teams taking advantage of the 17-minute recess to get their cars in tip-top shape. Hamilton, whose mediums had served him so well in his ascent from back-of-grid to fifth place, now switched to softs as track temperatures cooled. Verstappen was having a bad day, having started on supersofts (teammate Ricciardo got the lucky softs in this split-choice tyre strategy), and having picked up some front-wing damage in that opening sandwich in which he was preventable top bread (what this time, Max, your brakes didn’t work? or you need a tutorial on how to time their use?). He’d be a cantankerous old man, but chap’s only nineteen. Either way, an angry Max on the track is to be avoided, for the whimsical damage he might do to your  rear wing or tyres or self esteem.

Am I player hatin’ on Verstappen too much? Ok, I’ll stop. See, I was screaming into my screen circa 2009 when Schumacher, on his comeback to F1, squeezed Rubens Barrichello into a wall before backing off. Damon Hill can tell you a few stories too, though their rivalry was before I became an F1-er. The teams and maybe even the FIA are saying nothing, possibly because rivalry is “good for the sport.” Rivalry, yes, but not reckless racing, which is what Verstappen is building his young brand to be known for.

All in all, with its two race starts, red flag, scenic setting, and the temperature at Spa throwing in an unknown variable that meant the guys in the back who were smart enough to see it got some little starting advantage, this was a beautiful race. Why do I love F1? Let me count the ways. Listed near the top will be the 2016 Belgian Grand Prix at the Circuit of Spa-Francorchamps.

Winners:
3rd place: Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes
2nd place: Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull Racing
1st place: Nico Rosberg of Mercedes

F1 Racing’s Driver of the Day: Lewis Hamilton

A race in the wet

Trust the Silverstone circuit to deliver a race in the wet. It wasn’t actively raining, so most drivers switched from wets to intermediate tyres early in the race, and as the track dried, to mediums. All the same, the wet track reminded me of one of my favourite quotes in the 2010 movie Senna: “Then his favourite thing happened. It began to rain.”

The most exciting thing about this race was the tussle between Nico Rosberg and Max Verstappen. And if you’d been following these two since their Ferrari days, Massa (now driving for Williams) and Alonso (now at McLaren Honda) were interesting to watch midgrid as well.

As a driver who has had 15 race wins, 11 pole starts and who finished 2nd in the 2008 Drivers’ Championship, Massa is one of the really good drivers out there right now. The way he fended off Alonso’s overtake attempts during Sunday’s British GP only served to reinforce this idea.

Sunday was a day of back-to-back sports watching: F1, and then the Wimbledon men’s finals (congratulations Andy Murray and of course SERENA WILLIAMS :-D), and at night, the UEFA Euro Championship finals. What a great day.

Best part of the British GP: Hamilton’s crowdsurf at the end. You earned it, mate.

Confetti tyres and detach-y front wings

If you wanted a clue about the unpredictability with which the 2016 Austrian GP was about to unfold, you needed to look no further than the array of tyres on which the different teams started their drivers. What would normally be an even split between, say, softs and supersofts, or intermediates and wets, was a colorful mix of softs, supersofts, and the newly-introduced ultrasofts in the Pirelli F1 range.

RACE DAY – The race started off decently enough, with no surprises (Rosberg quickly overtaking his way up to 4th place from 7th; the uncharacteristically front-of-grid Force India of Hulkenberg going down some places in the first few laps). So let’s fast forward to where all the excitement happened: Lap 71/71! It was like watching a football match where an equalizer and a winning goal happen in the 89th minute. I was already writing off the race, saying in my head that it would be another Mercedes 1-2, with a happy (very happy) Verstappen as third. Vettel, who had been in third place until about the 26th lap, had seen his right rear tyre ceremoniously explode and shear, leaving huge marbles and rubber debris scattered on the racetrack (and stuck under Rosberg’s chassis!); and his SF16-T immobilized until the safety car was deployed and the car towed away. He retains third place in the championship, so this DNF hopefully doesn’t affect his championship placement much.

What it did affect, however, was the tyre strategy confidence of the other teams. Their radios were suddenly abuzz, and those whose race plan had entailed seeing how far those ultrasofts could take them, were now second-guessing, in part to benefit from a deployed safety car. Whether it is the tyre manufacturer or the team’s strategy that is to blame, it is not very sexy to see the live and then replayed footage of your team’s car bouncing about the track, its tyre unfurling like a roll of confetti or a party whistle, its driver’s gloved hands conveying the frustrated futility of trying to steer a car on three wheels. Ferrari may have the most recognizable livery in F1, but after it happened to them, no other team wanted an encore with its car. So it was pitstop after pitstop, changing the race strategy of many drivers (including Hamilton; when he changed his tyres around lap 21, it was with the intent of having them last the whole race, knowing that his teammate would still lose time pitting. But then he had a tyre change again around lap 50). Hamilton’s pit stops, though. They were long and clumsy. I had thought that Nico’s would be long because the  Sky commentator had said he still had debris from Seb’s car stuck under his chassis. Yet it was art.

Well, the good thing that came out of Lewis’ late tyre change (to softs, against Nico’s faster-wearing yet better-grip supersofts, as we would see in much-replayed footage of their final-lap tussle, later), was that it emboldened him to take on Nico later. Luckily for him, the Red Bull Ring seems to have ample opportunities for overtaking. It’s also a short track (2.3mi), so if you miss this chance to overtake at Turn 2, say, well, in a minute or so (assuming ~200 miles per hour), the chance would present itself again.

Still, man, what a bold move. These two Mercedes drivers are not beyond taking each other out, as they showed in Barcelona. So it was clear that were Hamilton to make a move to turn that 1-2 around in his favor, the chance of a DNF-DNF would be real. But no one could have predicted a 1-4. Especially not in Hamilton’s favor.


Toto Wolff said something about team orders, but I think the best way to enforce driver behavior will be to work on the drivers’ own rational minds. There is such a split-second of time for decision making when overtaking, that it won’t help to have your team barking or even cajoling orders at you simultaneously. I want to watch a race where the drivers aren’t ruthless but are rational even if it will cost them a place or two. Overtaking is fair game, and is indeed the whole point of motorsports. Blocking the driver’s car from returning to the track after an unsuccessful overtake attempt, doesn’t seem to be.

In the end, Rosberg’s front wing was stuck under his car, leading him to slow down to a lucky fourth place (lucky because had there been two laps left, all the other cars would have overtaken his). It reminded me of Verstappen’s front wing, lost during Friday’s practice. Kyvat’s, too. Nine races into the season, the drivers all seem to understand the capabilities and limitations of their respective engines. That their front wings are delicately attached and their tyres rapidly expendable, however, it seems they are still wrapping their heads around.

Do you know what week it is?

It’s Formula 1 week. Which happens every two weeks during Formula 1 season, except in August when the drivers have, gasp, the month off!

Formula 1 week means I have Formula 1 to look forward to on the weekend. Sometimes I study the circuit and learn a bit about it – the corners, presence or absence of hairpins, the descriptive terms the drivers use for it, and since F1 is so heavy on history and heritage, past notable events on that circuit.

Two weekends ago, we went to Belushi’s to see the first race ever to be held in Azerbaijan. During qualifying, I kid you not, a cat made its way onto the circuit. Yes, way to get squashed by cars doing 200mph. The cat was safe, but at first I thought the picture (it appeared on @F1’s instagram feed) was photoshopped. It wasn’t.

Did anyone see the interview with Hamilton after Canada? Vettel, super excited to have come in second, bombed Hamilton’s victor interview, saying in a very jovial manner that the reason he came second was that he’d slowed down for two suicidal seagulls that were on the race track and that didn’t budge as he approached. But that Hamilton hadn’t, lol. This resulted in search for the footage of the seagulls (I think it was on Sky Sports, not sure), but each time, Vettel was like, nope, not there, not that. And finally, there they were, two white specks on the track as his Ferrari sped towards them!

So, yeah, F1 is hilarious at times. And it’s great to see the drivers smiling and having a good time at it. There have been many good drivers joining in the past few seasons, like Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kyvat, or Red Bull’s Max Verstappen (who effectively blocked Rosberg from achieving any podium aspirations at Gilles-Villeneuve (Montreal GP), and was voted driver of the day for that race).

Oh, Toro Rosso means Red Bull in Italian by the way, go figure. Two teams sponsored by the same company — they also have some of the most beautiful livery I’ve seen. What is the car with the orange and blue livery? It is a very bold statement that happens in the middle to back of the track, and it’s quite beautiful to see.

I also wanted to mention that it was cool to see Force India’s Sergio Perez on podium in Baku. He was so happy, he couldn’t even hide it. In a sport dominated by European drivers and the occasional Brazilian, Perez was just too happy to be flying Mexico’s flag.

Love and chicanes,

Minku

Minku Fifth Anniversary Pop-up event in Lagos – pictures

Here are the pictures from the pop-up event held in Lagos on April 9, 2016. It was at Stranger, our stockist in Lagos. There isn’t much to say besides thank you to all the amazing people who came, saw, and interacted with the products. It felt like hosting a day-long interactive museum (see the pictures to understand what I mean), and as someone whose thesis work was the exploration of meaning-making via an interactive installation, that couldn’t make me any happier.MinkuPopUp5 MinkuPopUp4 MinkuPopUp3 MinkuPopUp2

Kayode (not pictured), Tunde (above), and I did the set up in the morning, while Kachi photographed us at work. She also created an 8-second video collage of the space (new window), that lets you get a 360 degree feel of it. I had this whole idea of hanging some bags from the ceiling, but in the end I was lazy and didn’t feel like climbing and reaching. I still did, but it was easier to hang bags off the wall than it was to hang them from the ceiling. I really wanted to incorporate the chairs, and Kayode and I finally devised a way to do so that fit with the flow of the rest of the exhibit, while beautifully showcasing our bracelets and notebooks.

MinkuPopUp8MinkuPopUp14Tunde could immediately see the essence of each bag, and devise how best to showcase that. By essence, I might simply mean interior. He knew that a black backpack is a black backpack until you flip it inside out, turn it upside down, and hang it by its straps like S&M gear, so people can see, feel, and interact with all the love that went into making it. Even something as little as flipping a buckle strap so people could see its aso-oke flip-side, made all the difference to how the work was communicated, and the exhibition enjoyed.

MinkuPopUp1 MinkuPopUp10 MinkuPopUp9aMinkuPopUp38 MinkuPopUp37 MinkuPopUp36If I had known that Simi was asking which notebook was my favourite one so she could buy it, I would have thrown her off the scent, he he :-)

MinkuPopUp35 MinkuPopUp34 MinkuPopUp33 MinkuPopUp32 MinkuPopUp31 MinkuPopUp30 MinkuPopUp29 MinkuPopUp28 MinkuPopUp27 MinkuPopUp26 MinkuPopUp25 MinkuPopUp24Here (center) is the amazing person that co-runs Stranger, the space that has been our stockist for a while now. He is wearing red instead of black because he knows that on show day, the designer wears black :-) Or maybe just a case of late laundry. But, really, he seldom wears colour.

MinkuPopUp23The MVP (most valuable product, winning product, star interactivity player…) may have been our notebooks. Prior to show day, we had them wrapped up in the store, with details on their inspiration and design on an information card that you can see if you squint at the bottom of the picture above. Unwrapping them on show day really helped get people to interact with the vegetable tanned leather, banana paper, bamboo, wood bark, and in some cases aso-oke that went into making each one. Needless to say, Stranger now stocks them unwrapped. We still wrap them upwhen we mail to you via our online store, but only because they make such great gifts.

MinkuPopUp22 MinkuPopUp21Each guest left with a box containing a cupcake (or two) that said Minku at five. They got to choose from three cupcake flavours, including red velvet and chocolate. A fun souvenir that showed up on more than a few Instagram feeds that evening.

MinkuPopUp20 MinkuPopUp19Uche and I are always entertaining eachother. A livelier friend, I think it is not possible to find :-) And she has a bag line now that is simply amazing.

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Our new catalogs were an integral part of the exhibit, and in some pictures, you can see guests flipping through them. There’s a flipshow of it on our instagram (new window). Still, feeling the evanescence of the decomposing leaf-collage exterior in your hands is the only way to truly experience it, and the cool news is that we mail one to our clients with each order.

MinkuPopUp40 Shop Minku online at minku.com. Some pictures made it to our instagram, but aren’t on here. I hope you check them out too.

The 6 best luxury shopping sites for men and women

There is a joy in seeing very pretty things showcased together, and a thrill in knowing you can choose to own any of them at the click of a button. Natalie Massenet’s Net-A-Porter showed us we didn’t have to go to a Dolce and Gabbana store window or the Prado Museum to feel that high — it could be delivered, via high-resolution images, multiple-angle shots, and smart copy, with a click of a button or the swipe of a finger. With the new-era Net-A-Porter seeming to focus on scale and lose a bit of its indie charm, here are six of the freshest curated luxury sites to visit now.

  1. Totokaelo: if the name hasn’t already convinced you that this Seattle-based e-commerce and bricks-and-mortar retailer is Japanese in its philosophy, the sparseness of its design will. Rachel Comey, Yohji Yamamoto, and Maison Martin Margiela aren’t big accounts that are stocked everywhere, but therein lies Totokaelo’s finesse. Influence: Japan.
  2. Matches Fashion: I love the matches. You love the matches. Everybody loves the matches. Lanvin, Loewe, Oscar de la Renta, Matches’ selections each season are the creme of the crop of some of the most artisanal designers, of which there aren’t many left. Influence: Western and Southern Europe.
  3. Minku: Speaking of artisanal designers, Minku has a small, artisanal e-commerce presence with a handmade feel. Were there a slow-food movement equivalent for clothing and accessories, Minku would be a firm member. Erring on the side of having too few merchandise items, what this Nigerian brand does have — leather bags, luggage, leather-bound journals, glass-bead bracelets, and densely-woven cotton clothing — awakens desire through attention to detail in both creation and presentation. Influence: Nigeria and the sub-Sahara.
  4. Browns Fashion: How such a small London boutique managed to catch the eye at Net-A-Porter/Colette levels is still a mystery. One guess is that it is down to the fearlessness of their buyers. It’s the brands you know, like Del Pozo, Balenciaga, Olympia Le-Tan and Dolce & Gabbana, but some of their most desirable pieces. Browns Fashion is currently owned by FarFetch, a fashion e-commerce site that aggregates third-party boutiques/brands to sell on its site so seamlessly, it would have made this list were its zero-inventory ‘marketplace’ model not so different from the other e-tailers on the list. Influence: UK, Southern Europe.
  5. Luisa Via Roma: The name is long, but if you remember the order of all its vowels, it delivers a pretty selection of items. Like with Net-A-Porter, you may have to filter through quite some stuff to get to the heartwarming items (case in point: 1,682 items in the Fashion Jewelry category alone), but they are there. Brands: Dolce and Gabbana, Jimmy Choo, Chloe, Saint Laurent, Dries Van Noten, Bottega Veneta. Influence: Western Europe.
  6. Kuznetsky Most-20: Named for its address in Moscow’s upscale Kuznetsky Most (Blacksmith’s Bridge) street, this online destination stocks all the cool-kid brands from the USA and Europe, as well as some of Russia’s finest casual wear designers. The selection includes Ashish, Off-White, Heron Preston, Gosha Rubchinskiy, Cav Emt, and Yeezy. Hip hop culture is alive and thriving beautifully in Moscow. Influence: USA, Russia.

Have we missed some of your favorite inspirations for a wine o’clock merch browse? Include them in the comments!

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Addressing the Commonwealth’s Virtual Currencies Working Group

Last week, I visited London to address the Virtual Currencies Working Group of the Commonwealth on bitcoin and other digital currencies.

Digital currencies are interesting to me because they are new and infused with potential. Here you can see a press release issued by the Commonwealth Secretariat on this meeting and its outcomes. I was quoted in the concluding paragraphs, and a picture of me hand-stitching the finishing of an Afefe bag was used as the cover photo for the story. There was much more going on at the three-day meetings than a handful of startups and companies declaring the awesomeness of digital currencies and the blockchain; the working group was convened to form legislative guidelines for digital currencies to gain legitimacy in the many Commonwealth countries that are still on the fence/mute on the topic.

CommonwealthBitcoinNews

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Saffiano leather – yay or nay?

I love leather. The smell, the lustre, the suppleness of it, the irregular way it absorbs dye. Most of all, the way it feels to the touch.

As someone dedicated to the crafting of leather bags, the decision of why leather X over leather Y is one I make as often as a painter mixes pigments. Generally, those decisions have been guided by the above: leather feel, suppleness, smell, and look.

Which brings us to types of leather commonly used for bag making.

  1. Vegetable-tanned leather, tanned/dyed using plant-based dyes, can be expected to darken over time where it is touched the most, and generally just show use in an organic ‘aging’ manner that many of us associate with heirloom leather pieces. It is also usually the most expensive, because vegetable tanning is so time-intensive. The straps of some bags (Louis Vuitton’s Neverfull, etc) are made using vegetable-tanned leather.
  2. Chrome-tanned leather is tanned using chromium sulphate and some other chrome-based salts. It doesn’t discolor to the touch as easily as vegetable-tanned leather. Chrome tanning can be done relatively faster and in larger batches.
  3. Saffiano leather. Then there is Saffiano. It is leather that is not dyed, but coated over (in purple, blue, tan, or whatever color your bag comes in), with an opaque resin layer with a cross-hatch textured finish. So, even if the underlying leather is a pale cream color, you don’t see it unless the coating scratches off over time, which it tends to do on the corners that brush against hard surfaces. While Saffiano may have a synthetic-looking finish, it has the advantage of making the bag durable against elements like water, skin contact, and the sun (vegetable-tanned leather darkens gradually with exposure to these; chrome-tanned leather, much less so).

Saffiano doesn’t care about what tanning process is used, because you don’t get to see the leather — you only see the opaque cross-hatch coating applied over it.

Exclusively used by Prada for years, it has recently been used by other bag makers:  Michael Kors, DKNY, Tory Burch, and Coach. Longchamp is another bag maker increasingly using Saffiano for the leather bags in their line.

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A bag made using Saffiano leather

Saffiano leather preserves its look for a long time, due to its coated surface. Still, it doesn’t give much of the joy of owning something that is leather — yes, along with the care that goes into making it last.

The most similar thing to Saffiano leather in terms of its finish is patent leather. I made a bag using patent leather in Minku‘s early days. I couldn’t justify using it for a leather brand if 4 out of 5 people were going to ask me if it was real leather or plastic/vinyl (patent leather is coated in a glossy lacquer). Whether for Saffiano or patent leather, the coating has the side-effect of masking leather’s identifying properties like its soft smell and natural surface texture.

Many ladies have a combination of leather bags in their collection: from Saffiano to lusher feel-me-smell-me leathers. Unless the bag style is an incredibly unique must-have, I would not advise spending a lot on a Saffiano bag because unlike other leather finishes, you must imagine that the leather is there without seeing it, interacting with it, or smelling it.

 

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The Third Minku Pop-Up Store and Fashion Show

The pictures from the third Minku pop-up store, held in Lekki Phase I on November 2, 2014 had to come in monochrome because there was such a flurry of movement, print, and smiles. Yes, smiles are more vivid in black-and-white.

This was an amazing evening filled with music, food, drink, friends and family, creativity, and appreciation. The pop-up stores are becoming one way for me to reconnect with friends, family and readers that I might not see or meet otherwise.

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Thanks to everyone for coming! We’ll do this again, and then again, and then again, and again….

(P.S. Pictures from the first Minku Pop-up store can be seen in this post.)

Love,
Minku

Fadaka bags

In Yoruba class in secondary school, there were certain topics on the annual syllabus. There was phonology, where we were taught which parts of our mouths and vocal cords moved and touched to make the different sounds in the Yoruba language. There was history, where we learned things like the 7 sons of Oduduwa, father of the Yoruba language. I still have the memory-aid song I composed to remember Name – Town – Gift of each son, in my head. You could always be sure this would be on the exam fill-in-the-blanks style, so I made up a song to remember it, and taught it to many of my classmates: Olowu – Owu – aso; Alaketu – Ketu – ade; Oba – Benin – owo; Orangun – Ila – iyawo; Onipopo – Popo – ileke; Onifade – Fade – eran; Oranmiyan – Oyo – Ile. There were also orikis and proverbs.

Ahhh, proverbs. For the longest time while I lived in the States away from my folks, my mum’s voice would remind me of proverns in my head. Proverbs about hard work, about honesty, and about life in general.

I have a huge smile on my face just typing all this. I also want to share one basic Yoruba proverb with you: ‘Oruko rere san ju wura ati fadaka lo.’ This one came to mind because I was working on names for new bags, and I was thinking precious metals. Wura is gold and fadaka is silver. I am getting the names of more precious metals. In the meantime, I am happy to share with you, the Minku Fadaka bags:

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Anyone who has seen me in the past month would have seen me rocking my Fadaka bag — the one at the bottom. I enjoy carrying it. It’s a deep and practical holdall, and people love touching it and commenting on how soft the leather is, and playing with the fringes.

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Call this a pre-collection or a resort collection if you like; I thought it would be cool to keep on working and to keep on sharing with you what I am working on, instead of waiting for two seminal collections to land in your laps twice a year.

Not all of them have their straps sewn on yet. I am still working on that; it is not very interesting to sew straps :-) But if you would like one of the bags above, contact me with your preference and I can customize the strap: (a) a single adjustable strap so you can wear it as a shoulder bag or a cross-body bag; or (b) double straps so you can carry it as a tote bag. Otherwise, I would just start putting the straps on next week, however I see fit.

The special things about the Fadaka bags are: their shape, their versatility, their colours, the variety of interior linings (they also have a zipped inner pocket), their ease, and those sexy fringes. I can also tell you from handling mine for a month that they are super durable.

I would love to hear your favourites, and what you think of the bags. Look out for Part II of this post for the adventures of the all-new Minku Fadaka bags :-)

Love,

Minku

Walls

Once I took a course in high school or university where we did an exercise in word associations. Teacher says a word, students discuss what associations come to mind on hearing the word.

Today´s word is Walls. Ahh, there´s Walls ice cream, ´the dream of ice creams´ if a TV ad that ran in Nigeria in the early 90s is to be believed (Wall’s Ice Cream – refreshing and creamy/ Wall’s Ice Cream such fun to eat/ Wall’s Ice Cream is good for you/ Wall’s Ice Cream the dream of ice creams). There are walls we put up when enough is enough. Then there´s the association I am forming between ´walls´and the city of Berlin.

A large part of Berlin´s identity is inextricably tied to the Berlin Wall, whose dismantling in 1989 was perhaps the most tangible sign of the fall of the ´Iron Curtain´. Visitors to Berlin are immersed in an intensive crash course on communism and what it meant to the Berliners who only had access to Trabant cars not BMWs, and for whom wiretapped homes were a sad normalcy.

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You can buy a piece of the Berlin Wall in any self-respecting souvenir shop in Berlin, from 2,50euros for a small piece. The shops I saw, like Berlin Story, were along Unter Den Linden, leading up to Brandenburger Tor.

Around the city, walls are put to interesting use. Perhaps I only notice it because I am now forming the associations in my mind as I write this article, but where other cities have an abundance of free-standing sculptures adorning public places, for example,  in Berlin, much of the self-expression and public art is on walls. Mosaics, relief sculptures, good-ole´grafitti.

Germany´s most-visited museum is the Pergamon Museum on Museumsinel in Mitte, a neighbourhood in Berlin. The highlights are, you guessed it, walls — excavated from Babylon, Iraq (Ishtar Gate, built circa 575BC by order of King Nebuchadnezzar II) and from Miletus in Turkey (The Market Gate of Miletus, likely built about 120 – 130 AD).

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Walls, erected and dismantled, abound in the Berlin physical space, but that is where the association between walls and Berlin ends. I found it to be an open and friendly city, whose inhabitants let their personal walls down to let other ideas, and people, in.

love
Minku

Festa Major de Gracia 2014

With Babita on calle Verdi (which was transformed to the Amazon forest), on the first day of Festa Major de Gracia:

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This was a fun night, on which a lot happened. For example, while going to see Travessera de Sant Antoni, a street whose theme was India/Bollywood and which had a giant (papier mache?) statue of the Hindu god, Ganesha, in the middle of the street, it began to rain and we ended up taking refuge in a… church. There was the lady who makes  dreamy wooden toys, the art exhibition opening where by chance a girl I know was one of the exhibiting artists, batucada bands, and swing dancing in Placa del Diamant.

Festa Major de Gracia is about seeing where the evening takes you. There’s still a lot to explore there, and the festivities are on until the 21st. Viva la fiesta.

love,
Minku

Yeah Mr. White, Science!

Years ago when I first got my camera and was contemplating what lenses to buy for this new toy, I stumbled on a post about home-made macro lens.

I finally tried it out today, after a discouraging trip to three camera stores to look at some macros.

Lens are so cool. I did dozens of experiments with them in Physics lab in high school, but today’s home experiment with my dslr and a steady hand totally had me channeling Jesse from Breaking Bad:

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The easiest explanation is that in reversing the lens’ direction, you reverse its effect. If it was giving you Sagrada Familia in a 2″ screen before, now it gives you ~1:1 close-up of the beads in your new men’s bracelet collection:

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It reminded me of when I was about 7 years old and, guided by the Basic Science book series my mum bought us (or maybe my sister Tosin’s science text book at the time), said sister and I made some homemade pinhole cameras. That was just one of our several home science experiments, where I was willing Jesse to her cerebral Mr. White. Even at that age, I was lucky enough to be surrounded by people who believed in experimentation as the best way to learn, and a smart way to get results.

I’ve been experimenting with Nigerian-made powdered-glass beads. This was a result of months of pondering what to do with the beads, made by local craftspeople in Nigeria. The picture above is a preview but I look forward to sharing the full collection with you and hearing your favourites.

Love,
Minku

A Cornucopia of References at Manuel Bolaño’s SS2015 Show

This season, Bolaño regaled us with a tale of cardinal reds, blush pinks and terra cottas, which, like his AW2013 show four seasons ago, was combined primarily with black or white to form each look.

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Some sportswear pieces dominated the collection, and these were beautifully executed. But alongside the stripes ‘n’ sneakers that usually signify sportswear, throw in some broadbrim hats and crowns of thorns (or, technically, tourmaline) and it is safe to say that Manuel lost me a bit on the reference or look he was going for with his collection this season.

Hair and makeup form a major part of Manuel Bolaño’s storytelling each season. It is, afterall, he who gave us the sweet Lolita guys and gals with their air pollution masks and pin-straight hair from SS2014; and models with elaborate Mayan tattoos from his AW2013-14 show. This season, his girls came down the catwalk with pinched brows (which seemed to age them) and bruised knees (which bestowed a sense of playground youth).

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There was quite a lot going on with the silhouettes, sometimes it was sportswear, other times, like an assymmetric floral appliqué dress which was rendered in red and in black, it was breezy-romantic. Two consistent elements were the ragdoll teddy, which has followed Manuel through many seasons, and the insect motif, which was immaculately rendered on the gauze of some of the sportswear.

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In all, I think Bolaño’s ideas for this season’s collection, or the looks that resulted from it, could have benefited from a bit of editing. It didn’t seem to know if it wanted to be a sportswear collection, or goth, or romantic, or Wild Wild West. It is a challenge for even the most experienced of designers to try to pull off a seamless combination of four references in one collection.

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What I did like were the insect references (including an iridescent men’s jacket that seemed to emulate the colouring of a fly’s wings), and Bolaño’s quick-as-bolt bow at the end (I see he’s keeping up the red facial hair!).

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Please note: You can now find us on Instagram, where I document some more of our fashion week adventure in pictures. And if you missed our general review of our experience at the fashion week this season, you can read it here.

love,
Minku

Minku at 080 Barcelona Fashion Week – July 2014

Here are some highlights from Barcelona Fashion Week, which we took part in from June 30 to July 4, 2014.

As always, it was a lovely chance to unveil and share what I’ve been working on. For the Spring/Summer 2015 collection, N U D E has been the name of the game. Beiges, pale pinks, pastel shades, sweet-almond pinks, and some greys thrown in for good measure.

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This season, the Moba bag also gets reimagined in fresh summer pastels: a peach-hued python-patterned skin, highlighted on the sides with peach sheepskin panels. The bag is sophistication (not shown is its lining, done in a complementary damask that has a lovely family story to go with it). Sitting on the showcase table, the Moba bag already revealed its regal beauty. But then model Cristina struck a pose with me and the bag, and totally brought the bag to life:

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Minku is now on Instagram and on there, you can see some pictures that I didn’t include above. I would also try to get into the Insta-groove the best I can, so please follow so as not to miss out on updates via that avenue.

Love,
Minku

Sold out

They have sold out of our bags in the LaOrange shop. We delivered the bags a month ago.

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I am now working on the shop’s order for more, and taking into consideration the colours their customers particularly like. For example, one of their customers wants the light peach version (second, third and fourth pictured above) to wear to a wedding coming up in a couple of weeks. This is the colour that will match their outfit, so I am including it in the current batch of bags I’m making.

This has been the first time at Minku that we’ve had a shop place an order (not consignment). I am happy it is working well. I didn’t want to write this post because it seemed like #humblebrag but I think it is good to share also when things are going well.

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I am also squeezing out time to work on the SS2015 collection and all I can tell you is that I am excited about it. They might be a few bags, but I am placing a lot of care into the (1) design and (2) construction of each. What you can expect: Odd shapes that you have probably never seen before in a bag, and that will remind you of organic forms. Colour combinations that will make you drool. Aso-oke linings that will get your heart beating a little faster. Confident hand-stitching. Backpacks, heck yeah. And something in the men’s bag sphere too.

Here is a picture of the Minku + LaOrange official collaboration poster. Their stores are in San Sebastian and in Tolosa.

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Hoping you are having a good week, and that all your projects bring you satisfaction.

Love,
Minku

How we spent our allowance

A bit over two years ago, after scribbling close to two hundred names on several little sheets of paper, I settled on the name Minku. It represented my brand without saying my name, and it had a geo-independent ring to it: Is it Asian? African? European? It was also just two syllables, easy to write and pronounce, and without silent letters and such.

There was only one problem.

The domain www.minku.com was taken.

Taken, betrothed, promised to another, another in far away Eurasia, who wasn’t even using it (I have come to see them as gatekeepers of the name until I needed it) and, gasp, wanted money for it.

I called bullshit, at the solitude of my work desk, where no one could hear me. Some people innovate on the net, give us exciting new possibilities to look forward to. Others hoard those innovations, demanding exponential sums as ‘recommended minimum bid’ for things that should be close-to-free. I had a new business that, like a baby, was guzzling euros by the second. I wasn’t ready, or able, to purchase the domain.

Fast-forward to early February. Minkudesign.com was becoming clumsy for where I wanted the brand to be. We were even starting to be taken seriously by the good people at Forbes, Tech Cabal, Venture Burn (South Africa), and earlier, the Barcelona Fashion Week site. I was starting to wince a bit each time I saw the burdensome ‘design’ appended to the name of the brand, not by my choice, but because I couldn’t get my first choice.

But maybe I could.

There are all these American Dream stories about the goal that seems so unattainable. But where, over years of working step-by-step towards one’s enlightenment, that goal begins to seem like the logical next step. In this case, I am not talking about being drafted to the NBA or Lupita-like propulsions to stardom. I am talking about getting the domain.

After a while, having the site at http://www.minku.com just seemed like the next logical step.

Now, several hundreds of euros later, my next logical steps include actions like emailing the writers of some articles of the past few years to see if they can update their links. And updating DNS records, which I never really paid attention to in school (so far, no major breaks, but I have to wait days for different changes to propagate around the web, so only time tells). And thanking you guys profusely for not losing your patience when I say “please, update your bookmarks.”

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A new era is here. Thanks to the good domain-name gatekeepers in faraway Eurasia, I could get the name I desired (that is how I choose to look at the situation).

Thank you for your support always.

Minku

PS: The original artwork above was done by artist Rithika, to commemorate Valentine’s day at Minku in 2012.

Forbes

Today, we’re in Forbes.

 

Three years ago, I figured that the secret of aso-oke fabric was too beautiful to keep just within our culture, and that it had to be shared with others. Others who may never get to wear traditional Yoruba dress around their heads or waists, but who carry that most universal of fashion needs – bags.

The journey since then has been remarkable on a personal and professional level. It is encouraging to be acknowledged for this work.

Thank you to you reading this for following me on this journey so far and helping me make Minku become a reality.