The 6 best luxury shopping sites for men and women

There is a joy in seeing very pretty things showcased together, and a thrill in knowing you can choose to own any of them at the click of a button. Natalie Massenet’s Net-A-Porter showed us we didn’t have to go to a Dolce and Gabbana store window or the Prado Museum to feel that high — it could be delivered, via high-resolution images, multiple-angle shots, and smart copy, with a click of a button or the swipe of a finger. With the new-era Net-A-Porter seeming to focus on scale and lose a bit of its indie charm, here are six of the freshest curated luxury sites to visit now.

  1. Totokaelo: if the name hasn’t already convinced you that this Seattle-based e-commerce and bricks-and-mortar retailer is Japanese in its philosophy, the sparseness of its design will. Rachel Comey, Yohji Yamamoto, and Maison Martin Margiela aren’t big accounts that are stocked everywhere, but therein lies Totokaelo’s finesse. Influence: Japan.
  2. Matches Fashion: I love the matches. You love the matches. Everybody loves the matches. Lanvin, Loewe, Oscar de la Renta, Matches’ selections each season are the creme of the crop of some of the most artisanal designers, of which there aren’t many left. Influence: Western and Southern Europe.
  3. Minku: Speaking of artisanal designers, Minku has a small, artisanal e-commerce presence with a handmade feel. Were there a slow-food movement equivalent for clothing and accessories, Minku would be a firm member. Erring on the side of having too few merchandise items, what this Nigerian brand does have — leather bags, luggage, leather-bound journals, glass-bead bracelets, and densely-woven cotton clothing — awakens desire through attention to detail in both creation and presentation. Influence: Nigeria and the sub-Sahara.
  4. Browns Fashion: How such a small London boutique managed to catch the eye at Net-A-Porter/Colette levels is still a mystery. One guess is that it is down to the fearlessness of their buyers. It’s the brands you know, like Del Pozo, Balenciaga, Olympia Le-Tan and Dolce & Gabbana, but some of their most desirable pieces. Browns Fashion is currently owned by FarFetch, a fashion e-commerce site that aggregates third-party boutiques/brands to sell on its site so seamlessly, it would have made this list were its zero-inventory ‘marketplace’ model not so different from the other e-tailers on the list. Influence: UK, Southern Europe.
  5. Luisa Via Roma: The name is long, but if you remember the order of all its vowels, it delivers a pretty selection of items. Like with Net-A-Porter, you may have to filter through quite some stuff to get to the heartwarming items (case in point: 1,682 items in the Fashion Jewelry category alone), but they are there. Brands: Dolce and Gabbana, Jimmy Choo, Chloe, Saint Laurent, Dries Van Noten, Bottega Veneta. Influence: Western Europe.
  6. Kuznetsky Most-20: Named for its address in Moscow’s upscale Kuznetsky Most (Blacksmith’s Bridge) street, this online destination stocks all the cool-kid brands from the USA and Europe, as well as some of Russia’s finest casual wear designers. The selection includes Ashish, Off-White, Heron Preston, Gosha Rubchinskiy, Cav Emt, and Yeezy. Hip hop culture is alive and thriving beautifully in Moscow. Influence: USA, Russia.

Have we missed some of your favorite inspirations for a wine o’clock merch browse? Include them in the comments!

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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

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

How we spent our allowance

A bit over two years ago, after scribbling close to two hundred names on several little sheets of paper, I settled on the name Minku. It represented my brand without saying my name, and it had a geo-independent ring to it: Is it Asian? African? European? It was also just two syllables, easy to write and pronounce, and without silent letters and such.

There was only one problem.

The domain www.minku.com was taken.

Taken, betrothed, promised to another, another in far away Eurasia, who wasn’t even using it (I have come to see them as gatekeepers of the name until I needed it) and, gasp, wanted money for it.

I called bullshit, at the solitude of my work desk, where no one could hear me. Some people innovate on the net, give us exciting new possibilities to look forward to. Others hoard those innovations, demanding exponential sums as ‘recommended minimum bid’ for things that should be close-to-free. I had a new business that, like a baby, was guzzling euros by the second. I wasn’t ready, or able, to purchase the domain.

Fast-forward to early February. Minkudesign.com was becoming clumsy for where I wanted the brand to be. We were even starting to be taken seriously by the good people at Forbes, Tech Cabal, Venture Burn (South Africa), and earlier, the Barcelona Fashion Week site. I was starting to wince a bit each time I saw the burdensome ‘design’ appended to the name of the brand, not by my choice, but because I couldn’t get my first choice.

But maybe I could.

There are all these American Dream stories about the goal that seems so unattainable. But where, over years of working step-by-step towards one’s enlightenment, that goal begins to seem like the logical next step. In this case, I am not talking about being drafted to the NBA or Lupita-like propulsions to stardom. I am talking about getting the domain.

After a while, having the site at http://www.minku.com just seemed like the next logical step.

Now, several hundreds of euros later, my next logical steps include actions like emailing the writers of some articles of the past few years to see if they can update their links. And updating DNS records, which I never really paid attention to in school (so far, no major breaks, but I have to wait days for different changes to propagate around the web, so only time tells). And thanking you guys profusely for not losing your patience when I say “please, update your bookmarks.”

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A new era is here. Thanks to the good domain-name gatekeepers in faraway Eurasia, I could get the name I desired (that is how I choose to look at the situation).

Thank you for your support always.

Minku

PS: The original artwork above was done by artist Rithika, to commemorate Valentine’s day at Minku in 2012.

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.

Viernes is Bag Day V: Pink Prunes Fagunwa Bag

On the old Minku ‘About’ page, I said that Minku is a brand inspired by love, friendship, travel and the sea. It’s true — I love all these things, not least travel. One of the unintended consequences of starting the brand is that the bags somehow seem to end up on the arms of ladies and gentlemen who love to travel. Thus I often get to see the world vicariously through them.

I’ve been singing IwannagotoMoroccoIwannagotoMorocco into the ears of whoever would listen, so it is only fitting that when a Minku bag goes to the oldest marketplace in the Arab world (see: Muttrah Souq), draped on the arm of a lovely Minku client and friend, it should get its very own post.

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Clemence visited the Minku atelier last summer, actually to see  me, but it was a chance to see in person, the bags she had heard and said so much about. On setting her eyes on the Pink Prune Fagunwa bag, she asked when I would complete it, and I casually answered, “when someone shows interest in buying it.”

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Some weeks later, the bag was on its way to Clemence’s door, lining completed with the pockets she had specified…

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and packaged thus:

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Today, Clem sent me this lovely note (below), and the picture of her sporting it stylishly in the Muttrah Souq to go with it. I love, love, love this particular Fagunwa bag — I would be lucky to find this joyous combination of leathers and fabric again, and it’s a delight to see it on the arm of someone who loves it even more!

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Viernes is bag day II: The Emure bag

Although I was raised in Lagos, there’s some pretty hard core Ekiti-ness (etymology: Ile Olokiti, or land of the hills) flowing in our veins that really defines us, my parents’ children.

Ekiti is in the Yoruba region of Nigeria. It has its own dialect of Yoruba called Ekiti which, though I don’t speak fluently, makes occasional cameos in the midst of the English and Yoruba that are the language staples in our household. Sometimes those cameos come thanks to the music of Elemure Ogunyemi (the fun part of the video below starts at 01:00).

‘Elemure’ means King of Emure, a town in Ekiti State. So you would say “Elemure of Emure’ in the same way you would say the Ooni of Ife, for instance.

In honor of that lovely hilly Ekiti town, I present you the Emure bag.

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Can you see the way the top of the bag undulates to emulate a hilly landscape? Mustard is one of my favourite colours, and being able to combine mustard leather with a mustard damask interior was for me like this huge wow moment from which I doubt I’ll ever recover.

Like, dude, wow.

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The Emure bag is a complete sensory feast, from the textured cowskin of its exterior and handles to the no-holds-barred hand-stitching on the exterior. I’m just gonna be silly and say that it’s one bag that is going at a ‘giveaway’ price, given the collectors item that it is. I don’t know if I would make another Emure bag, and I’m totally cool with it if this one never leaves the shelves.

Interior: Full damask lining, zipped inner pocket, leather-trimmed cell phone holder pocket.

I love Chief Elemure Ogunyemi’s music and how it brings me closer to Ekiti culture through a dialect I don’t hear enough of. I love Ekiti, that relentlessly pounded yam-consuming state. And I hope this bag, inspired by both, conveys some of that cultural loving to you, dear reader, and to whoever’s arm this bag may one day grace.

Love and warm wishes for a happy weekend,
Minku

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