Back to the ease of film

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

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

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

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

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

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

Optimizing for empathy in design

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

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

Now, for the considerations.

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

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

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

A different photo shoot than the ones I usually do.

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

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


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

Model: Akor
Photographer: Kunmi

Listening to the Cut the Rope mobile game soundtrack.


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

 

Out on a disorderly artistic limb

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

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

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There will still be bags, not to worry.

Happy new year!

Minku

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

Yeah Mr. White, Science!

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

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

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

YeahScienceMeme

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

MinkuBraceletSmallRes

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

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

Love,
Minku

Minku at 080 Barcelona Fashion Week – July 2014

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

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

BagsSS2015

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

MeCristinaModel_2

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

Love,
Minku

Sold out

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

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

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

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

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

MinkuParaLaOrange2_small

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

Love,
Minku

How we spent our allowance

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

There was only one problem.

The domain www.minku.com was taken.

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

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

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

But maybe I could.

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

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

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

WeReNowAt_Large

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

Thank you for your support always.

Minku

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

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.

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 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

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

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).

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

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.