This is me wishing for snow.

Winter is here for real and like many in the Mediterranean, I’m in full-on denial about how cold it can get on a January afternoon in these parts. So for instance, today I ran work errands in a thin jacket over just two clothing layers. A thin down jacket it was, yes — albeit one of those featherweight ones made with ultralight backpackers in mind. I should reach back for the proper one I stashed away last week, thinking the worst of the cold was over. It isn’t.

48°F (9°C) is cold, no? This is me wishing for snow. I’d go to the park, lay facing the skies, make snow angels. Be competitive about it because I have the longest arms of my friends, designated human selfie-stick. Maybe we’ll have enough snow that we can make balls, snowballs, and throw them at one another before they sublimate in our gloved palms. It hasn’t  happened in all my winters in this city, but a girl can dream.

There’s a lot of activity in the now, including preparations for 080 Barcelona Fashion Week’s Fall/Winter 2017 edition that starts at month’s end. My favorite designer isn’t showing, again, but I’m determined to find new designers to root for, photograph ouevre of, write about. I’ll also be doing a press round of Barcelona Fashion Summit 2017. So, similar to my joint coverage of Lagos Fashion & Design Week’s Fashion Business Series and fashion shows in the February/March 2016 issue of Yonderland, you can look forward to a concise report of both events.

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Pictured: Barcelona Fashion Week coverage in past Yonderland issues. To read either report, tap on the image.

Things have been pretty amazing here, and work has been interspersed with not-work. I’ve been waiting for La-La Land to be released in Barcelona, and we’re (finally!) going to see it this weekend. This la-la-lady can’t wait.

MinkuAt080_2014-15b Pictured: An old poster (2014) announcing our participation in the Fashion Week pop-up section.

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, an Apple Macintosh, 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.

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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.

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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…

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

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

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

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

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

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

F1 Racing’s Driver of the Day: Lewis Hamilton

The music/maker connection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Work, play, and dreaming of the weekend

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

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

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

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

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

 

Summer notes

It’s almost mid-July already. This has just been the loveliest of summers, with everything taking on a calm warmth. I had been traveling a lot (this year so far: Lagos, London, NYC, Blacksburg, a quick Washington DC stop, Fontainebleau), and on the train the other day, my guy and I were talking about summer plans and how a staycation was looking like a pretty solid idea.

So here we are — last weekend, we took the train 45 minutes outside of Barcelona to an indie music festival. Well, I say indie; their headliners in 2015 and 2014 were Primal Scream and Lana del Rey respectively. It was in a forest, with forest lights and food trucks. We arrived in the afternoon and just hung out on some haystacks(!) and ate some wild blueberries — yeah, it was that kind of indie festival; just kidding, we brought the blueberries from a Barcelona supermarket chain — and tried food from the trucks: a chorizo hot-dog, some thai noodles… and then between performances much later, a kebab and a nutella + banana crepe.

At 9pm we left the festival grounds to see the football match between Germany and Italy in a bar, then returned to the festival at half-time, giving us a few minutes to search the merchandise stands unsuccessfully for a shirt to keep me warm and then to go and see Neil Hannon and the rest of the Divine Comedy band. Neil’s jokes between songs gave an even quirkier edge to an already unconventional set (chamber pop!). Kula Shaker, the next band, upped the festival mood further. Look up Tattva, it’s a 90s psychedelic rock hit that Crispian, the lead singer + guitarist, performs with even more gusto live than in the music video. Lindstrøm was magical. Dancing outdoors under the moonlight may be an overplayed cliche, but with his DJ set, Lindstrøm made it a beautiful reality that night and, I think, one of the big and cool memories of this summer.

By the time the next band was performing, I was starting to nod off (it was almost 3am by this time!) and after about 30 minutes of lending me his shoulder or lap (I can’t remember!) as a pillow, the guy said let’s go back to Barcelona, so we did.

Back in Barcelona, the sales are on and yesterday we went to get ourselves some sneakers, both from the men’s shoe section! So if you see a girl in city sneaks that look unmistakably androgynous, chances are it’s me :-) I quite often do this… hi mum! (my mum knows of this habit of mine and even though we enjoy shoe-shopping together and she’s got me some of the nicest heels and mary-janes I own, I still don’t hesitate to send her a picture of my latest finds in the men’s section when I can. I love her responses :-) :-)

Also my beautiful country America is in my thoughts, today and always. Love kills fear. I am thinking today of everyone who is out there protesting police brutality against the African American populace. My time in America was stress-free because of the courage of people like you, who fought to put in place rights that I have benefited from. Thank you.

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.