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

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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 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 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.

 

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

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my… visit to the Lekki Conservation Center

I love the Lekki Conservation Center: they have animals, but you only see the non-threatening ones. And they have a swing:

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We went up the tree house.  This was a bigger challenge than it looks, because that part of the trail was damaged from a tree that had fallen, and the two Canadian designers of the Conservation Center/trail were actually there with their work crew, preparing to fix the broken trail. We talked with them for a bit — it turns out that one of them also designed/built the Kakum National Park aerial walkway in Accra. The scary, rocking one 120 feet high and overlooking dense tropical foliage, that I walked across with my mum and sisters when we visited Ghana in the late 90s!

Here is a picture of the steps I took while going up the tree house:

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The reflective surface you see beneath the grab-posts is the swamp below.

We also sighted monkeys. This was really nice because last time we came, the monkeys were probably having a siesta. Or perhaps we didn’t know where to look — this time, we saw them, high up in trees, the view of them blocked by the sun overhead.

The last cool thing I saw that I’m going to talk about is the tortoise. It’s a grand tortoise, very old, telling from the scales on its  limbs, but also very fast. Yoruba culture is replete with folktales of the tortoise (ijapa) and how cunning it is, but also how slow-moving it is. It was the first time I saw a tortoise in the wild (not turtles, which are not fully terrestrial, but divide their time between water and land) — and I was surprised at how fast it moved.

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Let me just say that the Lekki Conservation Center is a fun way to pass an afternoon. A ticket for entry is N1,000 so about 7 dollars. There is no hurry to leave and there is good conversation to be had with other people on the trail, like Mensah and Bukky, this lovely Ghanian-Nigerian couple we met on the trail, and also John and his team — the actual people who built the trail (how cool was that?!)

This has been a public paid announcement brought to you by your local park… actually, it hasn’t. But the product placement of the Minku bag in the last picture is rather unmissable, isn’t it? ;-)

Love,
Minku

080 Barcelona Fashion Week Day 3: Josep Abril, some Custo, etc

On Day 3 of Barcelona Fashion Week, I went to see the Txell Miras and Josep Abril shows.

Yesterday was my second Josep Abril show. One thing you should know is that Josep Abril is one of the only exclusively menswear designers on the annual 080 roster. His work has a beautiful asymmetry going on. I also just saw that along with his wife Alessia Zoppis, he has a line designing executive uniforms (called Uniformed By). This explains the maître d’, chef, and waiter inspired outfits that occasionally made their way down Josep’s runway.

The outfits and models were beautiful. For the duration of the show, I was positioned next to three female models who were evidently in the same modeling agency as several of the young models coming down the runway. Whenever Jon walked by them, two of them would holler, “Eyyyy, Jon, waooooooooooow, go Jon!!” Or for Michael: “Oooooooh, Michael. Yeah, go Michael!!” You could tell it was an annoyance to some other guests who just wanted to enjoy the show and the live jazz trio performing in the backdrop. They were also distracting their co-workers, right when they were walking towards the photographers’ section! I didn’t mind too much, it was nice to see some (American) models having fun :-)

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The models Josep sent down his runway were gorgeous. Each had a tuft of red hair, and wore red socks. The presentation was sophisticated: live music, the models’ gait conveyed a youthful hipster energy, and the clothes were exciting and experimental, in fabrics that made me want to touch. If I were a guy, after yesterday’s show, I would add Josep Abril to my list of places to shop for ready to wear.

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I came in by the time the hall was full, and didn’t get a good seat, hence the not-great pictures. But Fucking Young has all the pictures form the collection. Also you can visit the Josep Abril web site to find some of their Barcelona stockists.

On the exhibiting floor, things were nice. Minku is getting overwhelmingly positive response here and I look forward to seeing where things lead. It makes sense to be showing here, the energy suits our vibe.

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I stayed back for the Custo Barcelona show, which started around 8:30pm. I watched it from my stand, on the big screen.

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Afterwards it rained cats and dogs. I somehow made it home.

love,
Minku

080 Barcelona Fashion Week Day 2: Manuel Bolano FW2014-15 show, etc

The highlight of today was Manuel Bolaño’s show. Unlike other seasons when I understood what he was trying to say and had the vocabulary to crack his fashion code (Amish-ness one season; sweet Lolita Japanese subculture another), this season, I find myself drawing blanks.

Colour blocking awesomeness? Nah, he’s more profound than that. 80s bouffant hairdos? Nah, there’s more. New York quirky-eclecticism meets California laidback cool? We might have something there. Maybe this season, he just wanted to chill. Not have any codes. Just be a modern designer making clothes, like Kenzo or Krizia or Just Cavalli.

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Not that we won’t still file into the hall in hordes if he decided to go all no-codes on us. But he’s more fun when he gives us codes to crack. Just sayin’.

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I think the organizers of 080 really struck gold using the Centro Cultural as the venue for Fashion Week. Barcelona excels in decisions like that, combining its rich architecture and history with contemporary events. Where else could a designer coming out for the final bow be made to look so iconic? Like he’s literally watching over all the models.

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After the show, it was off to my exhibition stand, which was visited by lots of lovely people. Meeting people, or just observing their interactions with the bags, is where much of the fun lies, for me. I managed to get some pictures of people who I talked to for a bit, and who were kind enough to not mind me photographing them:

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At some point i got a wee bit tired and began to pass my time as I have done through elementary school, high school and university: by doodling. I doodled a lot in that fashion magazine.

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Tomorrow’s gonna be another full day at the fashion week and I very much look forward to it. As long as i move my being closer to the heater, I think I should be just fine!

love
Minku