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.


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).


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.


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.


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!).


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.



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.


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:


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.



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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.