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…

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

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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

Sweet Lolita, Lolita Sweet

Manuel Bolano’s Spring/Summer 2014 collection took the kawaii (cute) subculture of Japanese youth and gave it a thoroughly grown-up edge. Limiting the palette of pastels to shades of mint and baby blue, and combining it with tuscan beige, Bolano presented a collection in which each outfit was a sum of its many parts: stuffed-animal-as-accessory, mint polka dot socks, tapering coat, necktie of lock of blonde hair, bear-ears hat, and in instances bordering on geek, over-sized backpack and geek-cool glasses.

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The tailoring was immaculate. Also interesting was Bolano’s allusion to rock climbing, with mountaineering-strength rope and hooks forming belts and backpack drawstrings.

Manuel has given the world another masterpiece with his Spring/Summer 2014 collection, and we would do well to sit up and listen.

Futuristic Amish at Manuel Bolano Autumn/Winter 2013-14

It’s hard to imagine the Amish of the future without being tempted to throw in a device centered around a motherboard. Wanna try? Close your eyes, give it a shot, reopen eyes when exhausted.

Enter Manuel Bolano, young Barcelona born/Galicia raised fashion visionary with the vocabulary to ideate an Amish future beyond iPads and broadband (how about some zippers, blue lipstick and golden russet hats?)

For his Autumn/Winter 2013-14 collection, Bolano sent his models down the 080 runway dressed in Yayoi Kusama spots, their endearingly-tattooed faces maintaining the fixated glare of a people caught between the necessity of eventual progress and a battle with the ills it introduces. Forget homogeneity – many of his models were unmistakably Asian, Scandinavian… as if to imagine a future of Amish cross-breeding.

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Textile-wise, simplistic cotton and knits remained prevalent but Bolano also imagined the occasional fashion-embracing Amish, unafraid to welcome a bit of vanity with sequined black tops from Philly, a bit of sheer, lots of shine.

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Barely five years fresh from launching his own line after his studies at Felicidad Duce fashion school, he has become in artistic vision, elaborateness of execution and historical story-retelling, something of a John Galliano. From their Mayan-like facial tattoos to their herringbone braids, the narrative was woven not just into the clothes in the collection, but also into the styling and carriage of the models, making them actors of sorts.

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Speaking of actors, how long is it before AMC or HBO draws on the Amish community for inspiration for their next prime-time TV offering? I can see it already, thanks to Manuel’s styling and a bit of Photoshop adeptness on my part:

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Fashion needs more Maunel Bolano – part of a new guard unafraid to draw inspiration then run with it into uncharted, unexpected and unforgettable waters.

And hey, what do you think about the idea for that show?

Minku

*Lob Lied is an Amish song usually sung in church congregations.

Africa as a consumer and producer of global luxury: A take on the 2012 IHT Luxury Conference

On November 15 and 16, some of luxury fashion’s big names from ManoloBlahnik to Donatella Versace converged in one luxurious conference room in Rome to discuss the future of luxury. The conference was organized and moderated by Suzy Menkes, IHT Fashion Editor, and this year the theme was “The Promise of Africa; The Power of the Mediterranean.”

Suzy Menkes discusses luxury with African fashion pioneers Omoyemi Akerele and Duro Olowu at the 2012 IHT Luxury Conference in Rome. Photo: IHT Luxury Conference web site

Some of fashion’s most influential thinkers, doers and writers, the future of luxury lies in Africa. The take of each of said influentials on why, when and how this would come to pass made for lively two-day listening. According to Vivienne Westwood, who has been working with Simone Cipriani (Head of the Poor Communities and Trade Program of the Ethical Fashion Initiative) on various fashion initiatives in Africa, sustainability, not middle-class consumerism and how to promote it among the nouveau riche of the continent, should be the top of everyone’s agenda. More on that later.

Designers and creative directors Manolo Blahnik, Duro Olowu, Kim Jones (head of Louis Vuitton menswear), Renzo Rosso (founder, Diesel) and Jean-Paul Gaultier all emphasized how growing up in or spending some time in Africa shaped their aesthetic, with Kim Jones highlighting the Masai-inspired plaids that formed part of the LV Mens Spring 2012 collection and Jean-Paul Gaultier lauding Africa as a source of beauty, including his uncommonly beautiful muse of many years Farida Khalefa, who also attended the conference as an ambassador of the soon-to-be-relaunched Maison Schiaparelli.

Much of the new interest in Africa comes from the rise of a middle class with a natural desire to trade up premium and mass-market goods and services for luxury ones. Projections of an average GDP growth of 7% for several African countries, coupled with the maturity of European (and increasingly, Asian) markets are leading to the search for a new frontier for luxury consumption. However, while most conference delegates seemed interested in Africa as an expansion of the market reach of their brands, the conference was simultaneously marked by an interest in Africa as a source of craftsmanship, of which the continent has a strong heritage.

The thought of craftsmanship evokes an image of hands as opposed to machines making an object. It is an image that, in a post-industrial era, ties one back to the key topic of the conference: luxury. What is luxury? Several of the speakers gave their definitions. According to Jochen Zeitz, Director of PPR, luxury is not just about price but about aspiration, the unique/bespoke, and quality beyond utility. Donatella Versace qualified luxury as exhibiting skills in craftsmanship, Suzy Menkes emphasized the prerequisite of luxury being ‘touched by human hands’, while Lauren Bush Lauren of the FEED initiative defined a humble luxury that is about creating cherished experiences.

So would it be safe to say that Africa would be the new frontier for what I would call ‘slow manufacturing’, with the twist of creating luxury items, not mass-consumption goods, and equipped with hand tools not heavy industrial machinery?

One of the most striking statements at the conference was made by Vivienne Westwood, who expressed how, after working with artisans in Nairobi to create several shopper bags, she wished they had just given the artisans money to do nothing at all. Because “there’s all this hype that you need to produce all this useless stuff so that a country’s economy can grow.”

How many more bags do we need? Produced under ethical work conditions, or in a sweatshop; by hand or machine; lined with sackcloth or gold threads…is the fabrication of goods really the way to integrate Africa into the world of luxury production? Many of the speakers, and many well-meaning people who engage in projects to help Africans create stuff seem to think so. However, the burning question of sustainability (as Jochen Zeitz put it, what good is wealth if we lose the world to achieve it?) makes the answer to that question less of a resounding yes and more of a tentative maybe. Because sustainability is not only about improving the quality of human life especially in marginalized societies, but also about a responsible management of our limited natural resources, something at odds with the philosophy of employing more hands for the unfettered creation of objects.

Being a bag maker myself, it is quite possible that the conference left me more confused about my role in the world of fashion than I was at the beginning. However, a few things were clear:

– Better to engage the hands on something useful and beautiful than to leave people idle and free to get into trouble.

– Vivienne Westwood and Jochen Zeitz, with their focus on creating a sustainable luxury (according to Zeitz, one that is about creating quality and developing and passing crafts to our future generations, while considering impact on the environment) led the way on how designers need to be thinking and training their consumers to think in the 21st century.

– Africa’s integration into the globalized European and American economies may well happen through fashion, and there seem to be several key figures working behind the scenes to make that happen.

– In ‘integrating’, Africa needs to preserve and develop its indigenous crafting techniques. Good intentions at conferences are one thing, but the pressure-for-profit from investors and sales divisions gradually erodes time-intensive techniques that lead to more culturally-authentic products, in favour of mechanized processes that can churn out more goods and bring in more money. Companies like Prada have fallen in this trap.

– I see a Zara model of responding flexibly to demand (see: Kanban), not creating, storing in a warehouse, and hoping people would buy it all, increasingly as a way to balance the need to create African fashion jobs with the responsibility to create less waste.

– Africa is a sexy place, according to Bono, who also attended the conference and talked about the fashion line he co-founded in 2005.

What next?
If you are a designer interested in learning ways to weave sustainability into your creation process, the British Fashion Council has a document titled “The Sustainable Thread of a Product Lifecycle” that can be downloaded for free.

I hope you would take some time to read the article, share it, and share your thoughts. A conference like this is a paving stone for future actions that affect our economies, lifestyles, and the dynamic of the cities we live in (it would be telling to see which of the designers at the conference follow through with their pledges to open stores or initiate collaborations in Africa).

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.

Artist: Twins Seven Seven

I first learned about Twins Seven Seven’s art in high school in the 90s. I have since been fascinated by the osogbesque* attention to intricate detail exhibited in his works, such as those seen here:

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Do you know about the Mbari Mbayo Club? It is a group of artists that came together in Osogbo, and produced works often characterized by their intricacy and use of indigenous indigo dyes. Twins Seven Seven’s work, for one, is extra exciting because it was inspired by Yoruba mythology.

When I go to Lagos, I get a nice art fix at the Nike Center for Art and Culture. Its founder, Chief Mrs Nike Okundaye, keeps the Mbari Mbayo dream alive by training painters, sculptors, bead-makers and textile workers in the Osogbo style. About three thousand artists have passed through this training. Imagine working in an art community where the textiles you need for your collage and the beads you need to highlight a part of your painting are all produced in the same compound. Imagine the exchange. I am really thankful for what she is doing, and I hope to do a more complete post on her work in the near future, maybe even an interview with her.

Twins Seven Seven passed on in June of this year, aged 67. In 2005, he was designated as UNESCO Artist for Peace, for his contribution to the promotion of dialogue and peace. I am writing this post to celebrate his life and works. I hope his art can serve as an inspiration to you to give your creativity a happiness-inspiring yet profound outlet.

trivia
– Twins Seven Seven (1944 – 2011), so called because he was the lone survivor of his mother’s seven sets of twins.
– According to 234NEXT, he used to be a street dancer for a medicine seller when he was younger (dude. cool.)
– His works  appear in international collections including the Smithsonian Institution and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
– He wore his hair in plaits, like Sango (god of thunder and lighting) who also featured in his works.
– The book Prince Twins Seven Seven is about his life and the role mythology plays in his works. You can buy it here (opens a link to Amazon.com book page).
– Some other members of the Mbari Mbayo Club are  Jimoh Buraimoh, Muraina Oyelami, Yinka Adeyemi, Jacob Afolabi, Rufus Ogundele. Look them up! Their art is exciting.

*Osogbesque (pronounced oshogbesk) is a word similar to arabesque. I coined it today, because I don’t know a parallel word to describe the intricate patterning and layering that I see so often in the works of artists working out of Osogbo, like Twins Seven Seven, Nike Okundaye and a whole new generation. I wanted to use the word arabesque, but it referred to a different type of aesthetic, thus a new word was needed. View more osogbesque works here and if you’re planning a trip to Lagos, definitely let me know and we can go see some Osogbesque works at Nike Arts!