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.

Happy New Year 2014

The past week has been amazing and interesting.

I am currently doing some production work. I went to work with a tailor today to sew some linings for the bags and it was an interesting experience. I was a bit sad to tell the truth, the guy was restless and kept throwing me ideas without listening to what I wanted to do. And just the way he was careless with the materials, throwing the thread, not caring that the oil he used to oil his machine stained the leather, the state of his fingernails… it was clear we might not be a happy working couple. It’s not that hard though, to just do a neat job. Is it? Or to instill confidence in people who come to your shop, by just approaching the work in a relaxed manner?

Today we’re on Tech Cabal, Venture Beat and Founders Grid. And yesterday I gave a talk to employees at Jobberman at their Speaker Series. I am very grateful for all these opportunities and beautiful things.

Ahhh I am working a lot though. But hearing me talk about how much work I am doing is not why you visit this blog, right? Ah well, too bad, and too late :-)

Love to you guys, thank you for your support and love always, and if you are in Barcelona next week, please come to El Born because we will be there at the pop-up stores in Barcelona Fashion Week.

Minku

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It’s the last day of 2013. I hope that as you reflect on the year, you find yourself finding reasons to be happy and to think it was a good year, but also that you have reasons to look forward to 2014.

Last weekend, my uncle came to visit. I have just one uncle from my dad’s side, and he and I have always been close. We watched me (meeee!!!!) doing an interview on Silverbird TV’s breakfast show (my uncle recorded the whole thing on his phone), and then my siblings and I headed to the beach with him, his wife, and my cousins.

My mum packed us some food, and when we got to the beach (at about 10 in the morning), we rented a bamboo hut for the day. We went horseback riding, ate, and napped. I taught my cousins how to use the digital SLR camera and they took some of the most fabulous of the picture selection below. We also danced; there’s always music on the beach in Lagos, and all my fave musicians now were covered: Olamide, Wande Coal, Wizkid…

It’s nice going to the beach in Nigeria because those huts are so convenient and help you stay out of the sun!

Happy New Year everyone.

love,
Minku


Eight years old and heading to school with a yellow plastic box with a red handle and red slide-closures. I may have looked like I was at the height of school-girl fashion but my bullying classmates (both grown into nice young men now) didn’t think so. For some reason there wasn’t enough space for the box beside or beneath my desk, so it was somehow decided that it should go behind me, on my chair. Yes, leaving only about two-thirds the space of the chair to sit on.

It was like a gift to the bullies, who always made sure to get the seat behind me during extension class. While the teacher taught on about the difference between an adverb and an adjective, a raucous thud would distract her mid-sentence. The bullies had slid my box – books, stationery, empty lunch bag, and all – to the floor. For some reason, I always got the glare from the teacher when it was obvious these troublemakers were behind it all, literally speaking…

It was when they graduated to running after my younger sisters until they fell that said siblings and I devised The Plot to beat them up, one that is still talked about in our household years later…

Parents, now  you know. I think school boxes are out of fashion by now, but if you were considering one, may I suggest an alternative? The Scalloped Love Minku bag won’t make a sound if it was dropped to the floor during class by mischief-seeking classmates. Its secure metal zipper would ensure that all content stays inside it even if it’s dropped. And its unique, artsy style is perfect for a young girl who would like, as we all do at that age, to stand out from the crowd!


Viernes is Bag Day IX: Menswear!

Today I courageously ventured into menswear again. My previous attempts had been, on first try, NSFM. Not suitable for men. Cue too-narrow chest area, too-skinny pants, too-tight neckhole.

Ah well what the heck, I adjusted those in time for the pending photoshoot each time (thanks for your patience, Fra!), and now, with all my menswear mistakes behind me (:-P), I decided to give it another try.

I like menswear because little innovations mean a big deal. Womenswear, you have to choose whether you want to be master of cut, or master of detail, or embellishment maestro, or knitwear mistress. But menswear? Just do some asymmetric magic and you are Man of Kingswear King of Menswear. I am sure I am wrong, but what do I know?

I figured out that my dimensions (which I use to make most of the clothes in the limited Minku womenswear line) don’t quite work for men. Broader shoulders, they have. And longer arms. Narrower hips. Lower waists.

Today I made a long-sleeved hoodie. It’s extra-long long-sleeved. I used some lamé fabric for the drawstring. And some black stretch fabric left over from a dress I made before, for the hoodie lining.

It’s looking spiffy.

I tried it on at many points during its construction. It’s super-freaking-baggy.

Like it should be.

MinkuHoodie

I like comfortwear, but I won’t have guessed that I would make a baggy hoodie — which starts to venture into streetwear even. Streetwear with a sweet edge. I love polka dots, and shine.

This Minku thing is a journey and I look forward to continuing to surprise myself.

Minku hoodie made from jersey polka dot fabric (cotton, polyester and elastane mix) with lamé detailing and extra-long sleeves.

Sweet Lolita, Lolita Sweet

Manuel Bolano’s Spring/Summer 2014 collection took the kawaii (cute) subculture of Japanese youth and gave it a thoroughly grown-up edge. Limiting the palette of pastels to shades of mint and baby blue, and combining it with tuscan beige, Bolano presented a collection in which each outfit was a sum of its many parts: stuffed-animal-as-accessory, mint polka dot socks, tapering coat, necktie of lock of blonde hair, bear-ears hat, and in instances bordering on geek, over-sized backpack and geek-cool glasses.

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The tailoring was immaculate. Also interesting was Bolano’s allusion to rock climbing, with mountaineering-strength rope and hooks forming belts and backpack drawstrings.

Manuel has given the world another masterpiece with his Spring/Summer 2014 collection, and we would do well to sit up and listen.

Yonderland

We are phasing out the blog and introducing Yonderland, our new monthly insider magazine on travel, culture and how to style your Minku items. We feel that an online magazine layout would allow us express things we want to convey — things that, as much as we love blogging, are sometimes lost in its linear format.

Read the current issue (and access archives)

Sign up for Yonderland

If you are already on our mailing list, thank you and we’ve got you covered. Also there are unsubscribe links on the form, so you can undo your sign up at any time.

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Also, as we grow, we’ve been undergoing a web site change, and you can visit (and please bookmark) the new Minku home page:

www.minku.com

The Lean Fashion Startup

Yesterday I was talking with a lady who is starting a business. One thing that came up several times in our discussion was the idea of ‘doing it right’: of having everything ready before launching at all — a great web site with a fully functional e-store, branding,  the product available for order in mass quantities, and staff at hand to handle distribution, etc.

At some point I think I surprised her when I told her that for Minku, I  had taken the exact opposite approach.

In April 2011, I had made about ten leather bags and gadget cases, uploaded photos of them to a free wordpress site (which you can identify with the dot wordpress dot com suffix), and sent out an email to about 100 of my facebook contacts, introducing my new business project.

From that facebook marketing campaign, I made one sale, my first sale, for 88 euros. I was super happy as I packaged and shipped that bag to Newcastle upon Tyne. Coming up with the logo, creating an online store with worldwide shipping, dedicating time to product packaging and branding, and buying a web domain… all these came later. I tested the core idea: make bags and sell them. When it worked (or seemed to, after the first few sales), I incrementally built the business behind it.

LeanFashionStartup-Minku

I have been reading the book The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. The author is on to something — something that cash- and staff- strapped business launchers from Nigeria to China have been doing for centuries. Granted, it is easier to be ‘lean’ when you are just one person with 24 hours in each day and only so much funding. It is harder to be lean when you have just scored angel capital and have investors who expect the levels of growth you promised in your business plan. Or when you have just hired people to fill the sales, customer service and tech divisions of a company that is yet to earn its first cent.

But the testing, the feedback and the direct-to-customer relationship built by lean companies (or by companies in their lean stages) is worth it.

Here is a fashion business idea I heard of recently, and how I would approach it using a lean philosophy:

– An company like Rent the Runway, for Spain.
Rent the Runway is an American company that rents designer clothing and bags to people for a fraction of the cost. For example you can rent a Prada bag for $30 per night to wear to Barcelona Fashion Week. You will look good, without having to buy a Prada bag.

My approach:  It doesn’t have to be Prada or Dolce and Gabanna clothing, at least in the beginning. I would follow the local Fashion Week circuit (attend the fashion shows and fairs, etc of the city, whether Barcelona or Madrid or Lisbon or Valencia). I will approach the designers. Many of the clothes you see on fashion show catwalks do not get manufactured or sold in larger quantities. They end up as prototypes in the designer’s archives.

Well, I would ask those designers if they would be interested in this ‘Rent-the-Runway’ concept. Better still, I would invest in five to ten quality pieces I loved from the runways. I would see if the designers are interested in some type of publicity-for-discount exchange. Once I have the clothes or accessories, I would have them photographed and placed in a classy mailing introducing my business idea. I would test the idea by mailing this document or web page to some friends or family members or third-party networks. Goal: to score a few initial customers.

– What are people willing to pay to rent an item, for example a Manuel Bolano limited edition hat or an Azabala coat to attend the Goya awards? 20 euros per night? 45?
– How much do I have to invest in dry-cleaning or transporting the item to the client (sometimes internationally, and I can imagine, often times, using express shipping, which is exponentially higher)?

– In what condition are the items being returned? How many uses can I expect the item to have before I have to retire it from my arsenal of clothing? If a dress gets stained, can it be effectively cleaned before the next wearer needs it?

This way, I would be able to plug numbers into the business plan, and have a more realistic idea of my business model. Hopefully I would even make some money (still not profit… remember I just spent on five designer dresses).

But at least, I would know if my business idea is realistic. I would also know this before I have spent say $100,000, loaned or raised, on clothing and warehousing only to learn that nobody is really interested for reason x or y, or that wine stains don’t ever really come off linen dresses.

The post has already been a bit longer than I wanted it to be. I want to see more fashion startups, but it would also be cool to test the business model before going all-in. The lessons to be learned from testing (by talking with customers, seeing at a smaller scale whether our assumptions about customer behaviour, the market, etc hold) are priceless.

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If you would like me to give some suggestions on launching a business idea using a lean approach, then please email me at minku@minkudesign.com. I would recommend the book by Eric Ries, but really, the name sounds cool but at its core, lean is about creativity. It is about divide-and-conquer: breaking a problem up into manageable pieces, focusing on each piece in its order of relevance to profitability and customer satisfaction, getting feedback from as many of your users as possible and using it to improve the core functions that are already working. Finally, it is about incrementally building a fully viable product or idea from a shell (MVP or Minimum viable product according to Ries) that has been proven to be viable.

Viernes is Bag Day V: Pink Prunes Fagunwa Bag

On the old Minku ‘About’ page, I said that Minku is a brand inspired by love, friendship, travel and the sea. It’s true — I love all these things, not least travel. One of the unintended consequences of starting the brand is that the bags somehow seem to end up on the arms of ladies and gentlemen who love to travel. Thus I often get to see the world vicariously through them.

I’ve been singing IwannagotoMoroccoIwannagotoMorocco into the ears of whoever would listen, so it is only fitting that when a Minku bag goes to the oldest marketplace in the Arab world (see: Muttrah Souq), draped on the arm of a lovely Minku client and friend, it should get its very own post.

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Clemence visited the Minku atelier last summer, actually to see  me, but it was a chance to see in person, the bags she had heard and said so much about. On setting her eyes on the Pink Prune Fagunwa bag, she asked when I would complete it, and I casually answered, “when someone shows interest in buying it.”

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Some weeks later, the bag was on its way to Clemence’s door, lining completed with the pockets she had specified…

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and packaged thus:

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Today, Clem sent me this lovely note (below), and the picture of her sporting it stylishly in the Muttrah Souq to go with it. I love, love, love this particular Fagunwa bag — I would be lucky to find this joyous combination of leathers and fabric again, and it’s a delight to see it on the arm of someone who loves it even more!

ClemMinkuTestimonial

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Viernes is bag day II: The Emure bag

Although I was raised in Lagos, there’s some pretty hard core Ekiti-ness (etymology: Ile Olokiti, or land of the hills) flowing in our veins that really defines us, my parents’ children.

Ekiti is in the Yoruba region of Nigeria. It has its own dialect of Yoruba called Ekiti which, though I don’t speak fluently, makes occasional cameos in the midst of the English and Yoruba that are the language staples in our household. Sometimes those cameos come thanks to the music of Elemure Ogunyemi (the fun part of the video below starts at 01:00).

‘Elemure’ means King of Emure, a town in Ekiti State. So you would say “Elemure of Emure’ in the same way you would say the Ooni of Ife, for instance.

In honor of that lovely hilly Ekiti town, I present you the Emure bag.

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Can you see the way the top of the bag undulates to emulate a hilly landscape? Mustard is one of my favourite colours, and being able to combine mustard leather with a mustard damask interior was for me like this huge wow moment from which I doubt I’ll ever recover.

Like, dude, wow.

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The Emure bag is a complete sensory feast, from the textured cowskin of its exterior and handles to the no-holds-barred hand-stitching on the exterior. I’m just gonna be silly and say that it’s one bag that is going at a ‘giveaway’ price, given the collectors item that it is. I don’t know if I would make another Emure bag, and I’m totally cool with it if this one never leaves the shelves.

Interior: Full damask lining, zipped inner pocket, leather-trimmed cell phone holder pocket.

I love Chief Elemure Ogunyemi’s music and how it brings me closer to Ekiti culture through a dialect I don’t hear enough of. I love Ekiti, that relentlessly pounded yam-consuming state. And I hope this bag, inspired by both, conveys some of that cultural loving to you, dear reader, and to whoever’s arm this bag may one day grace.

Love and warm wishes for a happy weekend,
Minku

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View other Viernes is bag day features here. Please share this page with your friends on twitter, reddit, facebook, pinterest or any of the other sharing tools, using the corresponding buttons below:

Viernes is bag day I: The Ado Weekender

Like most other designers, male or female, my love for fashion has its origins in my mum’s closet. The colours in there, and the shapes, the textures… When I started Minku in 2011, I very easily had three bags: two leather ones I’d bought for work circa 2007 (in trusty Marshalls, and rotated to death as in blue bag this week, black bag next :-) ) and one ‘street’ bag or the other. I knew little about bags. My inspiration when it came down to it was, “what would my mum like to wear? Or my sisters?”

I kept that question in my head through five collections. I would gift my mum bags and sometimes it was a hit; sometimes a miss.

The Ado Weekender is the first bag I’ve made that my mum would unequivocally love to wear.

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Ok, me too for sure, for a weekend getaway or two or a thousand. Or for a particularly busy workday, one where I need to be reminded to smile. What would I store in it? Well…

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The inside of the bag is fully lined with some seriously platinum-quality damask, and that includes the pocket on the side for storing your passport, or your cell phone for those calls before you hop on your flight. The zippers are durable metal, so there are no stories.

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The hand stitching on this bag is evident, up to 80% of the bag (including the side pocket, shown). The Ado weekender is made from cow leather, the straps are from matching sheepskin for a softer grip.

I am working on this bag in a few other colour schemes and, on popular demand, in black.

It is now available in the Minku online shop.

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Every week this Spring, I plan do something called ‘Viernes (Friday) is bag day,’ to highlight the bags in the new Minku collection. Which bag would you like to see featured next? The full list is here. I would love to hear your suggestions in the comments area :-)

Love, lots of it,Minku

Minku Autumn/Winter 2013-14 Collection Launch

Yesterday March 3, 2013, six days into Paris Fashion Week which we didn’t take part in, and 31 days after Barcelona Fashion Week which we did, we officially launched the Minku AW2013 Collection. Why not have a party if there’s a faint reason for a party, right? And thus it was that we began to send out invites to friends, bloggers, buyers and other creatures of general awesomeness. In Lagos. In the March heat. Because life is awesome. Flowers were bought and picked, posters were made, food and drink were ordered. Lola of Oliya Modi, our guest exhibitor, arrived to intersperse the bags with some of her lovely clothing. And then our guests came.

LaunchPhotos

There would be more pictures rolling in, so look out for another collage like this, perhaps more of what was going on outside the exhibition room. Otherwise known as my parents and their friends hanging out outdoors and sharing stories and drinks. On second thought, maybe not so many pictures of those coming up ;-) The good news is that starting today, the bags from the Autumn/Winter 2013-14 Collection are now available in the e-store. And that were it not for Wana, the damask lining of the Ado weekender may not have been sewn. I compare using her sewing machine to driving a Ferrari after years with a stick-shift Toyota. So yeah, a story for whichever lovely client picks up the weekender bag. As usual after the labor of love that is a new collection, I rely on you guys’ feedback as my designer-oxygen. What do you think about our new directions (more of the Eleko Wave; some structured bags, our first weekender, some serious mustard loving, and a blingy backpack)? Life is good. It is beautiful despite all the tough days. Minku helps me celebrate that. The launch was a celebration of life, of friendships, of family love which Minku is very much based on. It was held in Lagos, not far from the coastal view that inspired the logo. Life is good, I say. Go forth therefore, dear friends, to the Minku e-store, and shop. And spread the news to any friends you meet along the way. Love,Minku

Minku at Social Media Week Lagos

Simultaneously this month in 10 cities around the world (Copenhagen, Hamburg, Lagos, Miami, Milan, New York, Paris, Singapore, Tokyo, Washington DC), Social Media Week is going down. We, Minku creative director Kunmi and PR/Marketing manager Taiwo have been attending the events, meeting with people many of whose fingers leave their tweeting devices only long enough to shake our hands (it is social media week afterall), and flaunting the cute Social Media Week Lagos buttons we received upon registration.

It makes a lot of sense to be here because Minku is a company that was formed during the global peak of the Web 2.0/social media wave. LinkedIn was a few months away from its IPO, a movie on the Facebook CEO was one of the year’s big  Oscar winners, and Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan was wising up to twitterville (he now has 902,000 Facebook likes, not bad for the president of a country often described in slow terms like emerging, developing and third-world).

So, yeah. Social Media Week Lagos. Monday morning saw us attending the Entrepreneurship in the Digital Age panel discussion and the Afripolitans Landing Reception, while on Tuesday it was all about ‘Smartvertising’ using big data and social media marketing for Africa development.

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Day 1 was definitely ‘it’ for me. Old classmates with their fresh faces, people excited about the potential of a full room of young and upwardly mobile folks like themselves. In the evening, we headed over to the Four Points Sheraton for the aforementioned reception, and in my case, it was a perfect opportunity for me to get an in-depth one-on-one response to a question I had asked earlier in the day (PS thanks Maaden!).

Love and happiness to all the good folks I met at the events, from Adaku who has worked with us at Minku on several occasions to Dumola, who was classmates with me cough cough, thirteen years ago.

And love to you guys for reading, we’ll be attending some more events today and tomorrow.

Minku

 

Futuristic Amish at Manuel Bolano Autumn/Winter 2013-14

It’s hard to imagine the Amish of the future without being tempted to throw in a device centered around a motherboard. Wanna try? Close your eyes, give it a shot, reopen eyes when exhausted.

Enter Manuel Bolano, young Barcelona born/Galicia raised fashion visionary with the vocabulary to ideate an Amish future beyond iPads and broadband (how about some zippers, blue lipstick and golden russet hats?)

For his Autumn/Winter 2013-14 collection, Bolano sent his models down the 080 runway dressed in Yayoi Kusama spots, their endearingly-tattooed faces maintaining the fixated glare of a people caught between the necessity of eventual progress and a battle with the ills it introduces. Forget homogeneity – many of his models were unmistakably Asian, Scandinavian… as if to imagine a future of Amish cross-breeding.

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Textile-wise, simplistic cotton and knits remained prevalent but Bolano also imagined the occasional fashion-embracing Amish, unafraid to welcome a bit of vanity with sequined black tops from Philly, a bit of sheer, lots of shine.

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Barely five years fresh from launching his own line after his studies at Felicidad Duce fashion school, he has become in artistic vision, elaborateness of execution and historical story-retelling, something of a John Galliano. From their Mayan-like facial tattoos to their herringbone braids, the narrative was woven not just into the clothes in the collection, but also into the styling and carriage of the models, making them actors of sorts.

ManuelBolanoFallWinter2013_details1

Speaking of actors, how long is it before AMC or HBO draws on the Amish community for inspiration for their next prime-time TV offering? I can see it already, thanks to Manuel’s styling and a bit of Photoshop adeptness on my part:

ManuelBolanoAutumnWinter2013_Poster

Fashion needs more Maunel Bolano – part of a new guard unafraid to draw inspiration then run with it into uncharted, unexpected and unforgettable waters.

And hey, what do you think about the idea for that show?

Minku

*Lob Lied is an Amish song usually sung in church congregations.

Minku A/W 2014 campaign

The Minku autumn/winter 2013-14 collection is getting us excited from Lagos to Barcelona, and we wanted to share the preview poster with you. I just posted it on our twitter page and our home page.

So here it is on our twitter page:

MinkuGoesMeta

Très meta, I know. Ok, check it out and, be sure to follow our facebook or twitter pages, they’re a distillation of the blog.

happy weekend, it’s the first one of the year…

Minku

Africa as a consumer and producer of global luxury: A take on the 2012 IHT Luxury Conference

On November 15 and 16, some of luxury fashion’s big names from ManoloBlahnik to Donatella Versace converged in one luxurious conference room in Rome to discuss the future of luxury. The conference was organized and moderated by Suzy Menkes, IHT Fashion Editor, and this year the theme was “The Promise of Africa; The Power of the Mediterranean.”

Suzy Menkes discusses luxury with African fashion pioneers Omoyemi Akerele and Duro Olowu at the 2012 IHT Luxury Conference in Rome. Photo: IHT Luxury Conference web site

Some of fashion’s most influential thinkers, doers and writers, the future of luxury lies in Africa. The take of each of said influentials on why, when and how this would come to pass made for lively two-day listening. According to Vivienne Westwood, who has been working with Simone Cipriani (Head of the Poor Communities and Trade Program of the Ethical Fashion Initiative) on various fashion initiatives in Africa, sustainability, not middle-class consumerism and how to promote it among the nouveau riche of the continent, should be the top of everyone’s agenda. More on that later.

Designers and creative directors Manolo Blahnik, Duro Olowu, Kim Jones (head of Louis Vuitton menswear), Renzo Rosso (founder, Diesel) and Jean-Paul Gaultier all emphasized how growing up in or spending some time in Africa shaped their aesthetic, with Kim Jones highlighting the Masai-inspired plaids that formed part of the LV Mens Spring 2012 collection and Jean-Paul Gaultier lauding Africa as a source of beauty, including his uncommonly beautiful muse of many years Farida Khalefa, who also attended the conference as an ambassador of the soon-to-be-relaunched Maison Schiaparelli.

Much of the new interest in Africa comes from the rise of a middle class with a natural desire to trade up premium and mass-market goods and services for luxury ones. Projections of an average GDP growth of 7% for several African countries, coupled with the maturity of European (and increasingly, Asian) markets are leading to the search for a new frontier for luxury consumption. However, while most conference delegates seemed interested in Africa as an expansion of the market reach of their brands, the conference was simultaneously marked by an interest in Africa as a source of craftsmanship, of which the continent has a strong heritage.

The thought of craftsmanship evokes an image of hands as opposed to machines making an object. It is an image that, in a post-industrial era, ties one back to the key topic of the conference: luxury. What is luxury? Several of the speakers gave their definitions. According to Jochen Zeitz, Director of PPR, luxury is not just about price but about aspiration, the unique/bespoke, and quality beyond utility. Donatella Versace qualified luxury as exhibiting skills in craftsmanship, Suzy Menkes emphasized the prerequisite of luxury being ‘touched by human hands’, while Lauren Bush Lauren of the FEED initiative defined a humble luxury that is about creating cherished experiences.

So would it be safe to say that Africa would be the new frontier for what I would call ‘slow manufacturing’, with the twist of creating luxury items, not mass-consumption goods, and equipped with hand tools not heavy industrial machinery?

One of the most striking statements at the conference was made by Vivienne Westwood, who expressed how, after working with artisans in Nairobi to create several shopper bags, she wished they had just given the artisans money to do nothing at all. Because “there’s all this hype that you need to produce all this useless stuff so that a country’s economy can grow.”

How many more bags do we need? Produced under ethical work conditions, or in a sweatshop; by hand or machine; lined with sackcloth or gold threads…is the fabrication of goods really the way to integrate Africa into the world of luxury production? Many of the speakers, and many well-meaning people who engage in projects to help Africans create stuff seem to think so. However, the burning question of sustainability (as Jochen Zeitz put it, what good is wealth if we lose the world to achieve it?) makes the answer to that question less of a resounding yes and more of a tentative maybe. Because sustainability is not only about improving the quality of human life especially in marginalized societies, but also about a responsible management of our limited natural resources, something at odds with the philosophy of employing more hands for the unfettered creation of objects.

Being a bag maker myself, it is quite possible that the conference left me more confused about my role in the world of fashion than I was at the beginning. However, a few things were clear:

– Better to engage the hands on something useful and beautiful than to leave people idle and free to get into trouble.

– Vivienne Westwood and Jochen Zeitz, with their focus on creating a sustainable luxury (according to Zeitz, one that is about creating quality and developing and passing crafts to our future generations, while considering impact on the environment) led the way on how designers need to be thinking and training their consumers to think in the 21st century.

– Africa’s integration into the globalized European and American economies may well happen through fashion, and there seem to be several key figures working behind the scenes to make that happen.

– In ‘integrating’, Africa needs to preserve and develop its indigenous crafting techniques. Good intentions at conferences are one thing, but the pressure-for-profit from investors and sales divisions gradually erodes time-intensive techniques that lead to more culturally-authentic products, in favour of mechanized processes that can churn out more goods and bring in more money. Companies like Prada have fallen in this trap.

– I see a Zara model of responding flexibly to demand (see: Kanban), not creating, storing in a warehouse, and hoping people would buy it all, increasingly as a way to balance the need to create African fashion jobs with the responsibility to create less waste.

– Africa is a sexy place, according to Bono, who also attended the conference and talked about the fashion line he co-founded in 2005.

What next?
If you are a designer interested in learning ways to weave sustainability into your creation process, the British Fashion Council has a document titled “The Sustainable Thread of a Product Lifecycle” that can be downloaded for free.

I hope you would take some time to read the article, share it, and share your thoughts. A conference like this is a paving stone for future actions that affect our economies, lifestyles, and the dynamic of the cities we live in (it would be telling to see which of the designers at the conference follow through with their pledges to open stores or initiate collaborations in Africa).

Top ten uses of a summer bag

1- depending on its size, stuff your towel in it as you head to the beach. Keep it away from water – nobody said it will be 100% practical :-)
2- Store your music player in its front pocket, nod Ally McBeal style on the metro or at the traffic light.
3- Hide surprise cookies for your children, reveal cookies after work. Stock up on (even more) mummy points.
4- Keep wallet securely in zipped inner compartment. This is Barcelona afterall.
5- Show your intellectually-stylish side. Unapologetically.
6- Keep your dancing shoes. Head to salsa do after work.
7- Carry flip flops for a lunchtime walk along Barceloneta beach.
8- Go old-school and carry your camera around. Capture moments and scenery spectacularly lit by the Mediterranean summer sun.
9- Bring a harmonica to unexpected places. Sit and play a tune.
10- Store a 50cl bottle of water and some seriously chic sunshades. Winter is over. They’ll come in handy.

on the beach in Sitges, June 2012

You still have a few days of summer left in the year, so grab a timeless Minku bag from our web site and update us with comments on how you’re using yours.

Or shop our wintery bags that are always summery inside!

xoxo
Minku

Nneka for Minku: a photo shoot

While on tour, musician Nneka took some time to collaborate with Minku on a lovely photoshoot.

Nneka is a talented and beautiful Nigerian-German soul/reggae singer currently on tour across Europe, promoting her new album ‘Soul is Heavy’.

In a photo shoot that was lively and informal, Nneka modeled some bags from the Minku Autumn/Winter 2012 Collection, that included a five-compartment, red leather travel bag lined with green contrast aso-oke fabric. The collection, ‘Folklorist Reloaded’, expands on the theme of the Minku AW2011 collection — the power of folklorists to unveil old ways and help us imagine new possibilities through their colourful folktales.

Named after prominent folklorists, the bags explore colour through what has become a Minku trademark of combining Spanish-sourced leathers on the exteriors, and fabrics like aso-oke on the bag interiors.

Minku bags are sold exclusively at Nike Center for the Arts in Lekki Lagos and online (with worldwide shipping). Customization services are also available.

Nneka is currently touring Europe, with her relaxing and inspiring brand of soul fusion and cool dance moves such as kept us captivated during that warm summer night at Cruilla. If you get the chance to see her perform live, by all means put everything else aside and go.

Sign up to the Minku blog or join Minku on Facebook for outtake reels from the photo shoot, that would be posted shortly.

If you like any of the bags modeled by Nneka, visit our online store and see how much fun we have playing with colour. You can see different views of each bag, including Minku trademark aso-oke lined interiors.

Share on facebook or twitter or pinterest or reddit using the buttons below. Love, Minku

Some pictures from the 1st Lagos Accessories Fair

Here are some pictures of my lovely mum and sisters at the Minku table of Lagos Accessories fair earlier today. I am so happy to have a team of family members dedicated to making the impossible possible. Later I hope my sisters would write a post on their experience, but for now here are some lovely pictures from the day.

Also here is my sister with I’m guessing the designer of these lovely sandals (they’re called Bambata footwear; check their facebook page here!).

Many thanks to everyone and if you went, please send me your pictures, we’ll put them up on the Minku blog.

xoxo

Minku

Eleko wave™ overdrive

I’ve been Elekowaving like there’s no tomorrow. I even broke a needle today in the process. It was quite something, I was lucky to have another needle waiting to be used.

What’s the Eleko wave? It’s a treatment of leather that is exclusive to Minku and that will probably be arduous to imitate anyway because who would want to hand-sew all those stitches? The return on time-investment of it is probably low but I am just happy to experiment in my little ‘leather lab’ here. The reward is beauty and that is always a reward worth striving for.


Minku

we now interrupt this editing session for a service announcement

I am in what must be a yoga pose in my room listening to Chopin and editing images for the collection. Zen moment? Very.

Then I remember – the interview! It must be out by now!

It is :-)

Double serving of Zen goodness.

It’s in Spanish.

Make that a triple.

Not too long ago, the fun people of BCN or DIE Magazine contacted us about doing an interview. Our first interview in Spanish! (The Timeout piece was in Catalan). I looked up the magazine online. It was really alternative and fresh, like Lokalirri, and I was like, I’m on this like a bag of chips. I felt I had to be listening to rock music, drinking a bottle of Jagermeister, and flipping through a catalog of tattoos as I answered the interview questions. Flip through a few of their back issues to see why (click Leer revista, a magazine-format window opens).  The Jagermeister and tattoo parts are still too cool for me, but here’s the interview, in an easy-to-read format.

 

You can also read it on the site here (pg 18-22). Check the back-issues too – they do some cool interviews and the layout and photography are always on-point. Their Facebook page is here.

xoxo,
Minku

my first repettos

My first Repettos were a very deliberate purchase from Hu’s Shoes on M Street in Georgetown, Washington DC. It was around 2007, at the peak of my salsa dancing, and I had been filling up a closet with high-heeled, open-toed, synthetic-soled shoes that looked like what the dance instructors wore, but with the added characteristic of  delivering targeted pain to my phalanges, or for another pair, my heels, and for yet another, my arch, and ankles.

I needed to dance.

Without pain.

For hours.

Four hours, if I wanted.

I don’t remember if I went into the store that day thinking I would find appropriate dance shoes. But I walked in, spotted them in all their sparkling beauty, and measured them against what I’d come to learn — the hard way — were the characteristics of a good dancing shoe.

Leather sole (forget that suede sole) for smooth low-friction movement across the dancefloor, which for salsa should be wooden, always wooden, smooth, and slightly varnished. Check.

A strap to hold the foot securely in place below the ankle. Check.

Proper heel support, not in the form of a strap across the back of the heel of the foot, but a solid chunk of leather holding the heel in place during even the most rigorous of spins. Check.

A low-to-medium heel with a CG well-positioned in the middle of the heel, not too far backwards or forward. Check.

A soft, comfortable bed for the feet. Check.

(Ahem, sparkles. Check.)

The shoes fit like gloves. Whole Foods (Whole Paycheck to my friends who were familiar with its organically priced offerings, and heck I called it that too :-)) would have to wait, as I had salsa needs of the non-food variety to attend to.  I could hardly contain my excitement. If I didn’t have a strong and sensible rule of only wearing my dance shoes on the dance floor, I might have worn those darlings home from the store.

Five years and over a hundred salsa nights later, I don’t dance as much as I used to. But my trusty shoes still lie sturdy in their case, awaiting the days – like last September in Lagos – when a chance to spin, sashay, shuffle, and Suzy-q around a dancefloor presents itself.

Today, walking down rue de Rambuteau and spotting a Repetto store at the end (pictured), I smiled my gratefulness to those shoes that spared my feet so I could savor to the painless fullest, that most aerodynamic of human movements.

Minku in Time Out Barcelona

Happy New Year everyone!

I have some good news – I got around to scanning the spread of Minku and five other brands that were featured in the December 14 -20 issue of Time Out Barcelona. It’s the one with the Chinese cat on the front, so if you have it, pls flip the pages again in case you missed the article, written by Laia Beltran, and the accompanying pictures, taken by Scott Chasserot.

and now, for a pic where we were smiling a bit more:

Hot stamping on leather – how to

Also called estampar en caliente in Spanish, hot stamping has been the hot topic at Minku for the past few days. It started with the acquisition of a Minku die, cast in metal. I just have the die and its handle, no built-in thermostat or other adornment. The goal was to have some cool branding on the bags I made, something more sophisticated than sewing the name ‘Minku’ onto a sticker and attaching them to the bags.

What you need: – die – heat source, eg an electric iron – untreated leather – water in a glass – a sponge – a flat, hard surface

How to hot-stamp a pattern, your brand logo, etc onto leather:

1. Turn on the heat source. Depending on how pronounced you want the stamp mark to be, the temperature can be 80 to 160 degrees Celsius. I just put the iron on max, waited for 5 minutes, and rolled.

2. Place the die on the hot surface, to start pre-heating. I use one that is forged out of brass.

3. Dip the sponge into the glass of water, squeeze it, and wipe it across the surface of the area on the leather where you’ll like the stamp to appear. Continue to swipe the sponge across the leather until its (the leather) colour darkens. If it doesn’t darken, the leather may be treated with a dye or other coating that makes it unabsorbent. I would advise trying another piece of leather, preferably vegetable tanned as this is most suitable for hot stamping.

4. Lift the die and place it on the leather. Apply some pressure, but try not to shift the die on the leather in the process, to avoid the parallax- reminiscent phenomenon of le double-stamp.

5. How did you do?

5a. The stamped area should be darker than the rest of the leather. This is a good sign. If they are the same colour, wet the sponge some more on your next try. Also, I placed the stamp on while the leather was still dark-wet. I read somewhere that you should wait a few minutes, but I did it this way and it’s what worked for me.

5b. The stamped area should also be pressed/ appear in lower relief than the rest of the leather. If it’s not, it is possible that the leather you are using is treated, or too thick, so try another piece if you have one.

6. Wait for the leather to dry.

7. Your stamped leather is ready for use.

The difficulties I was having: I tried stamping about ten different leathers, mostly treated. The  relief was really little, and the imprint faded, becoming virtually invisible after about an hour:

Then I looked online and saw that you should use water. So I applied water with a sponge, and waited till the leather wasn’t quite so dark before stamping. The combination of this (I think) and the fact that most of the leathers were not vegetable-tanned, resulted in similar, faded results. At this point I was getting a bit frustrated because the die is quite expensive, and I was thinking there was something wrong with it.

  

Today I had a Eureka moment and decided to try stamping on untreated leather, and using just a bit more water. I think that because I grew up hearing that you should keep water far away from leather goods, I had been reluctant to wet the leather to the point that it darkened. But once I did these, everything else was smooth sailing. Now I’m happy, it’s 6am, and I think I will go to bed. Thanks for reading, and if you have had some experience with hot stamping, please share in the comments section.

Caveat: In the case of hot stamping, the heat and the water (and the nature of the leather) do most of the work. So don’t stress your arm trying to achieve ‘sufficient’ pressure, like I was doing. If you do the other things right, you can get a bold, visible press using minimal pressure. Also, many different leathers including chrome-tanned ones can be used for hot stamping, but the ones that take the heat the easiest are the vegetable-tanned ones.

xoxo Minku

If you would like to see the end result on some bags I made, you can see them here (opens a new window).

Artist: Twins Seven Seven

I first learned about Twins Seven Seven’s art in high school in the 90s. I have since been fascinated by the osogbesque* attention to intricate detail exhibited in his works, such as those seen here:

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Do you know about the Mbari Mbayo Club? It is a group of artists that came together in Osogbo, and produced works often characterized by their intricacy and use of indigenous indigo dyes. Twins Seven Seven’s work, for one, is extra exciting because it was inspired by Yoruba mythology.

When I go to Lagos, I get a nice art fix at the Nike Center for Art and Culture. Its founder, Chief Mrs Nike Okundaye, keeps the Mbari Mbayo dream alive by training painters, sculptors, bead-makers and textile workers in the Osogbo style. About three thousand artists have passed through this training. Imagine working in an art community where the textiles you need for your collage and the beads you need to highlight a part of your painting are all produced in the same compound. Imagine the exchange. I am really thankful for what she is doing, and I hope to do a more complete post on her work in the near future, maybe even an interview with her.

Twins Seven Seven passed on in June of this year, aged 67. In 2005, he was designated as UNESCO Artist for Peace, for his contribution to the promotion of dialogue and peace. I am writing this post to celebrate his life and works. I hope his art can serve as an inspiration to you to give your creativity a happiness-inspiring yet profound outlet.

trivia
– Twins Seven Seven (1944 – 2011), so called because he was the lone survivor of his mother’s seven sets of twins.
– According to 234NEXT, he used to be a street dancer for a medicine seller when he was younger (dude. cool.)
– His works  appear in international collections including the Smithsonian Institution and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
– He wore his hair in plaits, like Sango (god of thunder and lighting) who also featured in his works.
– The book Prince Twins Seven Seven is about his life and the role mythology plays in his works. You can buy it here (opens a link to Amazon.com book page).
– Some other members of the Mbari Mbayo Club are  Jimoh Buraimoh, Muraina Oyelami, Yinka Adeyemi, Jacob Afolabi, Rufus Ogundele. Look them up! Their art is exciting.

*Osogbesque (pronounced oshogbesk) is a word similar to arabesque. I coined it today, because I don’t know a parallel word to describe the intricate patterning and layering that I see so often in the works of artists working out of Osogbo, like Twins Seven Seven, Nike Okundaye and a whole new generation. I wanted to use the word arabesque, but it referred to a different type of aesthetic, thus a new word was needed. View more osogbesque works here and if you’re planning a trip to Lagos, definitely let me know and we can go see some Osogbesque works at Nike Arts!

Logo voting results revealed

Hi everyone, thank you so much for taking time to respond. I learned a lot from your comments. In the end, the Minku logo is option 1, because it won the vote 26 to 5 (including two votes that were sent to my inbox).

Other reasons:

– Apparently my friends think I am more an ‘earth’ person (it’s true, I love earth tones), so the natural-looking logo goes more with the person they know (Alicia, Pembe)

– Option 1 may fit the brand’s feel better (Rithika, Jaebin)

– Lagos. Picture of sailboats with what seems like Third Mainland Bridge in the backdrop really brings home the idea of, you know, Lasgidi* (Folarin, Victor)

– Reproducibility. If the image is going to be reproduced for different purposes, option1 is easier for this purpose than option 2 (Siddhika)

– Option 1 gives an idea of exoticism and travel to the collections (Clemence)

– The sense of something different and edgy is better exuded in option 1 (Tolu, Diana)

– Option 1 for the leather brand that Minku is now, 2 may better suit a future clothing label, who knows? (Dele, Tolu)

So there it is. Starting August 3 – tomorrow, your Minku orders will come with a Minku logo stamped on to the leather. It will look like this:

Please see tomorrow’s post for a sample. Yay, brandinggggg :-)

Best regards, Minku

*Lasgidi is the informal name for Lagos, Nigeria

please vote

I am trying to choose a Minku logo. Something specific and defined, that can help our branding campaign, and appear consistently on the web site, perhaps on Minku images, and so on. Still in deciding stage, but with the help of roommates, friends, brother, I’ve narrowed them down to two choices. Please leave a comment to vote your preference. Voting ends on August 2, 2011.

Thanks! Minku

MINKU LOGO OPTION 1:

MINKU LOGO OPTION 2:

Still using comps, the final logo would be cleanly finished..

To find out about the results on Aug 2, please check back on this site or go to http://www.facebook.com/minkudesign

August

August starts next week. August in Spain means everything is closed, and people go on vacation. Residential neighbourhoods are so quiet in August, but the tourist areas and the beaches are packed. For me, all this means that the tannery will be closed too, so I am trying to be sure I have enough supplies to last until late August/early September.

I bought an image today, from one of these photo databases. I don’t know if I’m going to use it anymore, so I am sharing it with you here:

It’s two sailboats at sea, in what looks like a summer sunset. I find pictures of the sea to be delightful. I love the actual sea too – just a huge, seemingly endless expanse, a perfect place for relaxation and reflection.

What about you – what things do you like? Some people collect representations of owls, some people visit the bridges in all the cities they travel to, and some people buy seeds of every flower they read about. It is these little quirks and idiosyncrasies that make life exciting. I want to know yours :-)

My Secret Showroom

In less than two weeks, Minku will be at My Secret Showroom in El Born along with Sugarhill Boutique and some other really cool, slightly alternative brands. Yeah :-)

If you’re in Barcelona on May 13, 14, or 15, then come around! You’ll get the chance to see Minku stuff that’s not on the web site yet, and to have tons of fun walking around with your friends and exploring what the creative underground in Barcelona has been up to.

I like Barcelona for all the one-of-a-kind hand made goods in felt, leather, fabric, metal, etc that you can find, in shops but also at events like My Secret Showroom. It’s great to gradually join that scene.

Minku FTW

A good friend and Minku customer received her Minku handbag today. Her email made me super-happy (the title of the post is a quote from it). I’m fired up and ready to work. It was an interesting day going to the outskirts of Barcelona in search of materials for bag-making. I came back tired after four hours, and with not much to show for it.

But after getting that lovely email, I am so on it :-)

Minku is here

Thanks for stopping by to check out what’s going on at Minku. It’s 1:30am on a Wednesday, soft rock (aka the type of music my roomie’s parents listen to) is playing on my laptop. The past few days have been for cutting, hand-stitching, combining pieces of leather and fabric, into what will be the first Minku collection. In the next post, I’ll put up pictures.

About Minku: I started Minku because I wanted to put my art, design, and engineering backgrounds into practice in a way that would be meaningful and fulfilling.