File this under: Learning in Design

A while ago I started to make some bags that were smaller. To me, that they were smaller meant that the thick aso-oke lining I usually use was doing them a bit of a disservice. Because the fabric is about 3x the thickness/width of standard fare cotton fabric, using it to line smaller bags results in a dense bag and maybe less width space for storing things.

For a while, I had myself convinced that this was the way to go. On receiving an order, I would send the lining options: aso-oke for the larger bag designs; imported printed cotton for the smaller ones.

Then last month, I received an order, and did something different. After the client had selected from the imported cotton linings, I sent the other file containing the aso-oke* ones. I could almost hear her sigh of relief and excitement in the email. And so I learned something important: Keep the excitement alive. Don’t take it out because it’s too thick or too expensive or you’re scared you’ll run out of that exciting thing, or the added weight of all that excitement will reflect in the international shipping costs.

Just keep the excitement alive.

asookesample

Aso-oke is exciting because it is different, and because the types I use for Minku look like they have been through a whole lot and are ready to go through a whole lot more. Heirlooms are made of these. And if the bags are so pretty and so durable, that is, if I’ve put so much work into the bags, then why default-select a lining for the client that is ordinary? I know that ordinary in my book is still very special, but still…

So that is what I learned about design. I will continue to provide the two sets of fabric options to clients, to let them choose. I’ve done it a few more times since then, and the aso-oke won, every time.

Thank you, ancestors.

*aso-oke is a dense fabric hand-loomed in the Yoruba region of Nigeria and used for traditional ceremonial dress. At Minku, we repurpose it for the linings of our bags. Patterns, usually stripes — though sometimes you’ll get something funky — are woven into the fabric pattern. There’s a lot of metallic thread incorporated too. We Yorubas like shiny stuff and one look at the e-store will show you that I am no exception.

Listening to: Love Buzz – Nirvana, 1989

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 the 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 just 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 nest 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’s mood is expressed 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, an 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 stop 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)? And 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, and he that watched it with me without being much of an F1 fan must love me (or beer. Or the excitement of seeing me cuss so much. I don’t know).
  • Red Bull gives you wings.

Mastering Mobile

It’s 3:30am. We won the pub quiz, all six of us, The Blue Shakamakas. I came up with the Shakamaka part of the name: it reminded me of when I was eight or nine, and my younger siblings and I would come up with random tunes and 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, and I channeled that productive energy into tackling the challenge of getting minku.com to look good on mobile (you should know, I’m the Minku web designer). 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. It was something you did in your spare time, or learned at a technical institute.

I had a lot of self-developed web design experience, because I was drawn to the immediate rewards web design offered vis-a-vis, say, C++. So I had picked it up on my own in the late 90s… we also had a computer at home, an Apple iMac.

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.

minkuonmobile2016

I don’t approach things thinking they are hard. Well, except reading maps; and that’s easy to delegate, and I’m even getting better. So I knew I would upgrade my 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, but @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

The music/maker connection

I’ve been having to ask myself a lot lately, what role music plays in my creative process. It used to be something that just happened, me listening to music, me dancing a lot, me karaokeing in front of my laptop at 3am in French or English or Yoruba till I wore my vocal cords out. Lately, I’ve been asked about what inspires my work. In 2011, it was the sea and the freedom its vastness imbued (freedom to travel, to stare into infinity, etc).

Now, I’m not really inspired by the sea anymore, at least not consciously. I’m always inspired by the feel I have for the texture and color and general properties of each piece of leather I bring in. So, those are tangible inspirations, where the relationship to the end result is easier for me to explain. But music. It’s there in the work. I don’t know how, but it’s there.

Sometimes I listen to music while I create, but most times it’s just fucking silence and the sound of cars and motorcycles outside the balcony. Most times the heavy music-listening happens outside my active doing hours. So it’s not a relationship as simple as the tempo/lyrics/attitude of music inspiring my creative process while I work. I listen to music off-hours like I eat off-hours, but I won’t really say eating fine cuisine or cooking inspires my work in any tangible way.

There is an attitude in music that I am becoming better and better at identifying and sussing out, thanks to spending time around the skinny kid that writes for the skinny and dances like humankind’s very existence depends on it. Like, I’ll listen to something and want to absorb its New York sass and nonchalant badassity, or another day it’s something from the west coast with a chilled beat that in some sick (read: cool) way reminds me of go-go, the (much-maligned at the time paint bucket-base percussion) sound of my adopted Washington DC hood. I remember my freshman roommate from Gary, Indiana and how we’d invite our two suite-mates to our party of two and dance till wee hours to no-chill sounds from the deep Midwest, like Cajmere’s house classic “It’s Time for Da Percolator,” that we’d groove to like it was jungle.  The songs we’d listen to were often big on repetition, e.g. Gary Indiana. It’s one of the most repetitive city-tribute songs you’ll ever hear, in the league of the Osbourne brothers’ Rocky Top Tennessee.

Sometimes I feel like I should know and like new music, but it’s the oldest music and the music from the weirdest corners of the youtube discovery hazemaze that stay with me the most. I don’t decry the death of music — I know that’s not true. Great music is being made everyday, and you just have to have more patience to find and hone in on styles you like. I like Lorde, I love when Rihanna collaborates with Drake, and Beyonce’s 7/11 is just so cool, I know I’ll never be that cool. Kendrick is relatable. In all the music I like, I see that the music video plays a big part too.

I was reading about Russian composer extraordinaire Lera Auerbach and I listened to some of her music and of course watched vids of her performing and she was like this tortured soul. I think that’s what stayed with me the most, not so much the music itself, but the idiosyncrasy of crazy fucking composer female slightly overweight overly shy in person and just badass at the piano. Well, then I looked at her art and it was tortured as well, in a more literal way. It was sick (not in the cool sense this time, just the kind of stuff that gets you sent to guidance counselling if you try it out in artistic self-expression class in high school).

It’s unusual for me to find a composer that is also somewhat-publicly a sculptor/painter, but getting the chance to see this embodied in one person made me think that perhaps what I am looking out for in music is a sound that embodies what I am communicating, or sadder still, what I want to communicate, through my design. Sadder because it would be cool if I was born with the New York urgent swag and Cali chillax that I desire to have run through my work, but I have to in a way extract it from the music I listen to. I’m sure I have Lagos cockiness and swag in there somewhere too (as Chimamanda Adichie says in her Lunch with the FT,,”we in Nigeria have an unearned and funny sense of superiority. Nigerians are the Americans of Africa…” and as much as I dislike that she put it that way, it has some truth to it), and the result of this mishmash is what you see in each biannual collection — me refining my thoughts and my being through music and a honing of leatherwork technique and skill.

 

We got the funk

I’m excited that it’s Friday. We’re about to go and watch a funk band (the guy loves funk :-)) and I’m happy to put away work and go and have a weekend. Or at least a Friday night. I’ve been working on a few things, including the FW2017 collection. Yes, time flies.

When I was in university, I used to count time in semesters. Now I count it in fashion seasons. Here is one of the most recent things I’ve been working on:

MinkuWosanBucketBag_Main WosanBucketBag_interiorDetail_b

It’s called the Wosan bag. One of the ideas I’ve been toying with for the new collection is the idea of love, and what we do for those we love. So perhaps we are excited to see them laugh, so we try to make jokes to make them laugh (palerin), or we nurse them to health when they’re ill (wosan) or we forgive them when they forget something important to us (dariji) or we sing to them or with them (korin), or support them when they’re rooting for their favourite football team (tilehin). It’s been a bit of a shift working with verbs instead of nouns for the names of the bags, but that’s just what I’m feeling at the moment.

Ok, so we saw the Hungarian GP on Sunday. I was quite unexcited to see the race, because something interesting had happened at qualifying the day before, but my <3 was like well, I think Hamilton will win the race, and he did! His fifth win at Hungaroring. And with this, he now leads the championship points table. German GP this Sunday before August break (pardon my error in the previous post, where I thought Hungaroring was the last race before the break).

Well it’s sweltering hot and funk is good for working up a sweat, so off we go. Are you liking the Wosan bag? Which colours of bags would you like to see more of this season? I personally can’t get enough of that pink…

Love,

Minku

Work, play, and dreaming of the weekend

I worked all of yesterday. Today, too. I am simultaneously working on four bags. You can see one I completed on Monday, here, and also below.

OkinBag_back2

The extra lovely weekend prepped me for such a busy week. On Sunday afternoon, we hung out in plazas watching castellers and drinking canned juice. Then we met up with friends for tacos. On Monday evening, we went to an outdoor cinema where we lay on the grass with maybe 800 other people and saw a movie we had both seen before, and both love. Tuesday came and I started prepping for work and then Wednesday came and I woke up early and started to work and then today too, though I let myself sleep in a bit longer.

I’m making progress, and it is all looking good. You can’t rush this work, though. For two of the current projects, I’m designing as I make, and you can’t rush design. It’s a series of decisions that need you to be well-fed and well-rested and just chill. So yeah, I’ve been having some Zen days of creating, but when it’s all done and mailed, I’ll also just have some Zen days of serious resting.

This heat is not helping things. I don’t know what it is called, but the air here has been stagnant since yesterday. As in, you open the balcony door, but no breeze. Please, summer, have some chill :-)

Speaking of chill, well on Saturday, we will go to a friend’s birthday party. I’m pretty excited — maybe just the thought of taking a break, seeing this friend again, meeting the new people that will be at the party, and exploring a neighborhood with them after tapas. It’s Formula 1 on Sunday :-D :-D :-D, Hungraroingaroing in Hungary. Ok, the circuit is actually called Hungaroring; still, it reminds me of Antananarivo, where I have to consciously learn how many times to repeat the middle syllables. After Sunday’s race, the drivers are going on… August break, he he. ‘August break’ is funny to me because it is the name of a poem we had to read in Junior Secondary 1 (like 7th grade), regarding the rainy season in Nigeria, which runs from April to October, with a break in August. When I start cheesing at my own jokes, it’s time for bed (just kidding, it’s something I always do). I hope you’ve been having a fulfilling week.