Winter.

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

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

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

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

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

Back to the ease of film

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

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

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

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

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

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

Optimizing for empathy in design – Part II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love,
Minku

Optimizing for empathy in design

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

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

Now, for the considerations.

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

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

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

How I learned computing Part I

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

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

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

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

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

“The car was grippy” and other F1 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A different photo shoot than the ones I usually do.

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

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


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

Model: Akor
Photographer: Kunmi

Listening to the Cut the Rope mobile game soundtrack.


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

 

Mastering Mobile

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

So yeah, Shakamakas.

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

I know, I know, I apologize.

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

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

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

minkuonmobile2016

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

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

Verstappen and other quirks at F1’s Spa-Francorchamps

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

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

TyrePredictionsBelgianGP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

F1 Racing’s Driver of the Day: Lewis Hamilton

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.

Fadaka bags

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love,

Minku

Walls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

love
Minku

Festa Major de Gracia 2014

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

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

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

love,
Minku

Yeah Mr. White, Science!

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

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

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

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

A Cornucopia of References at Manuel Bolaño’s SS2015 Show

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

love,
Minku

Minku at 080 Barcelona Fashion Week – July 2014

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

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

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

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

Love,
Minku

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

This past week

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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Happy New Year 2014

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 sub-Saharan sun!

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Happy New Year everyone.

love,
Minku

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.

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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.

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.

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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

 

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

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.

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.