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.

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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.

Five years… thank you!!!

Five.

  1. The people. One of the most surprising traits of an introvert is the need to feel connected. Connected to place, connected to work. In these five years, I have found my place, my community. It is in every person who showed they believed in Minku either through their words or through a purchase or through their feedback on a Yonderland article or just in letting me participate in their fashion week or stock in their store. It is in those who have worked with me to build Minku — and that includes friends and family.
  2. The place. People always ask, “why Minku Lagos?” It is because Lagos is the place whose blood flows in my veins. It is the place where I was born; where I learned to “shine my eye” (be street-smart and innovative); where I discovered the beautiful aso oke fabric in my mum’s closet that gave me a story to focus on telling.  Lagos, seat of that cool and innovative hustler mindset that keeps its 17 million inhabitants going rain or shine, NEPA or no, is the city that resonates with the Minku life.
  3. The work. In five years, Minku has been sold to people in over 18 countries across four continents. Yes, I am always running to the post office (need to handle that more efficiently), but it’s such an honour to appeal to so many different styles. There are some staples, but I am constantly designing and creating for where I am in life, and how I see the world at any given time. The beauty has been in having people go on that journey with me. I am thankful.
  4. The future. I’m working with a communications person for the first time now, and we’re having the hardest time. If we timed certain articles in Yonderland, she tells me, maybe she could find smart ways to monetize them. It’s not that I don’t plan, it’s that I go with the flow more than most do. Whatever the future holds, I hope it’s beautiful and I hope it lets me keep bringing my ideas to life.
  5. Love. Minku has been one long love story. Love for aso-oke fabric, that started when I was about five or six or maybe seven, when I made my first aso-oke bag and was berated by my aunt for using a fabric with inherent holes to make a bag. Love for languages, for lesser-known aspects of cultures, for beauty, for colour. Love for writing and other forms of expression. Love for life, for travel, and for people. I hope this is only the beginning.
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At the Minku pop-up store event in Stranger Lagos on April 9, 2016. Photo: Kachi Eloka

 

Feeling the crunch of the oil price decline

Nigerian businesses are feeling the crunch of the oil price decline. Not only is oil price crushing the country’s revenues, but the uncertainty exuded by the Nigerian central bank has also led to capital flight. Those with naira are left holding something whose value is uncertain and fast declining. One of my tasks in the past few weeks has been to decrease our exposure to this. It’s tough. Minku is a Nigerian company with a Nigerian soul. At the same time, though many of our raw materials are locally sourced, I also source quite a bit from outside Nigeria. The declining real value of the naira is not helping.

Many Nigerians are having to come to terms with their naira not having the purchasing power it used to have. I assume the same is happening in Russia and some other oil-dependent economies. It’s a painful process. There are many things that can improve the situation.

  1. From what many economists have said, the naira can’t keep being pegged at the current unrealistic official rate. It’s now almost double that on the black market, and the administration is still not budging.
  2. Everyone wringing their hands singing can’t can’t can’t. It’s time to get creative with gas if not oil, find avenues to sell the natural gas that we’ve been flaring for decades to reach the formerly oh-so-valuable/expensive crude oil beneath it. Action needs to be fast, it needs to be deliberate, and it needs to be communicated unequivocally to investors and citizens, to calm their fears.
  3. We hear that we should be more self-sufficient as a country, but it’s not that easy. Electricity generation remains an issue (imagine hand stitching instead of using electric sewing machines for instance: some magic will be required to scale output). A crucial preparatory step is being skipped, in the process to increased self-sufficiency.
  4. SMEs. People are ready to work, and to put people to work. But they need capital, and they need assurance that government policy won’t switch up on them just as they are getting their engines going. Actually in the States during the recession, the government’s main goal was to stimulate the economy, get people spending not hoarding, get companies hiring, and just create the illusion of wealth until reality could catch up with it. The States was easily the fastest economy to get out of the most recent recession that hit several Western countries including most of Europe, and it was because instead of belt tightening, it doubled up efforts to put money in the pockets and accounts of its populace and companies.
  5. Don’t scare foreign investors away, because borrowing from the IMF is not an ideal situation.

In the meantime, companies are dealing with uncertain times. Some companies are able to capitalize on the current economic crisis but for many others, the fiscal squeeze is real.

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. Remember when social media was new, or when the internet was new? Or if you are a bit older, when space travel was new or even televisions were new? There are many new ideas that come to life everyday. However, sometimes you get a good feeling about a new idea. It’s how I feel about digital currencies.

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.

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