Style and Fashion

August in Africa Summer Festival 2015

African art, craft, food, music and culture are fast taking roots in London and beyond. You only have to pop into any event with a slight connotation of African culture during the warmer months of the year to see the different style and designs of Ankara and Kente garments donned by men and women alike. Not that these two fabric types are the only African cloth but these are more easily recognisable due to their vibrancy and the amount of people who wear them. In fact there are so many other African textiles well worth exploring such as Akwete cloth, Ukara (both from the Igbo people of Nigeria), Aso Oke Fabric, Adire (from the Yoruba people of Nigeria), Mudcloth from the Bambara people of parts of Mali, Guinea, Burkino Faso and Senegal, Kitenge and Shweshwe from Kenya and South Africa respectively. Did you know that the earliest surviving African textile discovered dates back to the first Century CE? This was discovered at the Archaeological site of Kissi in Burkino Faso.

African food itself is becoming a staple for many as new restaurants serving different African cuisines continue to pop up in the city. That is all nothing compared to the way Afrobeat (a highbred of Jazz, highlife and funk) with West African origins, have taken hold of England. There’s no way you can go to any night club in central London without at least a handful of Afrobeat songs being played to an appreciative audience.

So it came as no surprise when I walked into the Covent Garden piazza area on Saturday the 1st of August to hundreds and hundreds of people happily floating in and out of the area. Covent Garden was truly alive with vibrant coloured garments, delicious smelling food and upbeat sound of music that is unmistakably Afrobeat. The atmosphere was electrifying to say the least.

Because I did not have the opportunity to dive into a massive plate of Jollof rice and Plantains, I was particularly looking forward to being entertained by the lyrical specialist and poet that is Alim Kamara. This young man has a way of playing with words like no other. I have been fortunate to see him perform live on several occasions and he always delivers. In fact he was the only act of the day I could vouch for based on experience. To my disappointment, I was too late and I missed his performance. Imagine my dismay. However, Fuse ODE who performed just after I got there made up for this disappointment. Fuse ODG has become a household name in the UK with big collaborations with Wyclef and Sean Paul in “Antenna” and “Dangerous love” respectively. One of the things that made Fuse ODG a standout act to me is his thirst to show Africa as a thriving continent with much more to offer than the stereotypical and outright wrong image of the continent. His music or should I say movement does not only have good beat but carries a political message and a message of hope for a new Africa.

The event came to a fitting end with the fantastic and soulful performance of the Nigerian French singer and songwriter, ASA. I mean I could write a whole blog post about this woman’s performance and it wouldn’t be enough. Listening to her serenade the crowd with songs such as “Fire on the mountain”, “Eyo” and many more beautiful ones highlights an influence of great artists such as Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu. Her performance left the very diverse crowd from different background wanting more and a great example of how African cultures have impacted this great city of London.

The festival itself was organised by the Africa centre that has a 50 year history with the aim of promoting Africa’s cultural diversity outside the continent. It literally provides a hub for creativity, innovation and business in all matters pertaining to Africa.

In case you are one of the unlucky ones who did not get to see this wonderful event, make sure to check out the pictures below. Leave a comment and question! And if you were there, then feel free to add to the conversation by posting a comment below. Ta

 

 

Dressing up a rainstorm – Brit style

Ok not exactly a rainstorm but I’m sure you know what I mean.

They say the surest way of striking a successful conversation with a Brit is to start with the weather, preferably over a cup of tea. To certain extent, we are a bit obsessed with talking about the weather. Outsiders think we moan when it’s wet, when it’s hot, when it snows or even when the leaves fall. I mean it is true to a certain extent but for the most part, we just like talking about something that everyone can relate to and the weather fits perfectly.

Did you know 2012 was the second wettest year for Britain since records began? 2012 had an average rainfall of 1,330.7mm and only 6.6mm short of the record set in 2000. There you go, bet you did not know that did you? Thought you would appreciate a completely unrelated trivia. You are welcome! #Sideeye.

Anyway back to the issue at hand. Whiles the weather is completely out of our control, what we wear through the seasons is and that is where this post comes in.

Just because the heavenly precipitations aka rain has not yet completely relented does not mean you have to go through your wardrobe to dig out your raincoat or other heavy garment. It is true that the unpredictable weather can be cruel at times when you least expect it but let’s not panic just yet. I recon you can still look the part without wrapping yourself with too many layers.

I have put together a few photos of two looks that I think are versatile and practical for the season. A friend and brother Oliver Kumawu was kind enough to model with me to demonstrate these looks.

Oliver opted for a smart-casual look whiles I went for a more business friendly look.

There are three key ingredients to explore in both looks, which are as follows:

Blazer

You have to have the blazer. The appropriate use of a blazer can easily transform a casual look into smart-casual, and smart-casual into smart. Every man should have at least three blazers in their wardrobes bearing in mind colours that are versatile.

Oliver opted for a velvet blazer which he pulls off very well. Velvet itself is a statement fabric that speaks volumes of the owner. Get it wrong and you would be sorry you ever considered it an option at all. But get it right and you‘re the man, literally. Wear one of these on a wet and cold day and you won’t need additional layers as the weave of the fabric is very close together restricting air flow which in turn keeps you warm.

I on the other hand wore the first half of a midnight blue wool blend suit. Because the jacket is contemporary and close cut at the shoulders and waist area, I am able to mix and play around with it with different combinations with relative ease.

Trouser

Oliver wore a burgundy/redish pair of classic chinos whiles I went for a grey with a hint of brown lightly stripped pair of dress trouser.

Shoes

I wore a pair of brown tasselled loafers whiles Oliver went for a pair of blue suede wingtip oxford lace up brogues which complement the colour of his shirt. The fact that his shoes are suede perfectly suits the texture of his velvet blazer.

Oh and the pocket squares gave both looks an extra dimension of suaveness.

So there you have it. Whiles we wait for summer to make a grand entry for 2015, we can still look the part for the remaining few days of the wet and slightly chilled weather.

Photography by Cano

The look

Black velvet blazer – M&S
Coloured Chino – John Lewis
blue suede oxford lace up brogues – M&S

Midnight blue jacket – FCUK
Stripe dress trouser – Zara
Brown Tasselled loafers – Paul Smith

Family is the word – Stepping out in style

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Family is a word that evokes so much feelings and emotions that cannot be summed up in words but rather shown through actions.

The oxford dictionary defines family as “a group consisting of two parents and their children living together” or more aptly “a group of people related by blood or marriage”.  The term blood by itself (in the second definition) is enough to conjure a feeling of belonging and one of real connection. A connection even nature itself cannot undo.

Family is the most basic but yet most important unit of any society.

I personally think that family is God’s way of teaching us how to relate to him through service, accountability, challenging each other in love. Love which when nurtured properly within the family can be extended to people outside of it.

A happy celebrant!

 

As it happens, I was blessed with amazing sisters, one of whom was graduating after completing a degree in Criminology and Criminal justice.

I know right, you can imagine the excitement laced with feelings of accomplishment after all those sleepless nights burning the midnight oil.

Seeing my sister graduate was a moment of pride, joy and absolute pleasure for the entire family and celebrations were in order as we thank God for his mercies.

My Dad, Ed senior and my other sister Jennifer were both in attendance too. Knowing Jennifer, she might try to outshine everyone else in the ceremony including the celebrant. #sideeye

Jennifer trying to outshine her sister #Sideeye

Not that I was competing with them but I wasn’t going to look like a tramp in their midst. So for this reason, I was going to turn up in style.

 

As you would know by now, I love my suits and always look forward to wearing them at any given opportunity.

I personally think a suit adds an extra dimension to a man’s look no other garment does. A business suit or lounge suit is the most common of suits. Although this kind of suit is common, it doesn’t mean it has to be monotonous and boring.

So in this occasion my style idea was ‘simple with a twist’ or a ‘cool classic’.

I only wanted two colours, well strictly speaking, white does not count as a colour as it is not found on the colour wheel so midnight blue was my colour of choice for the occasion.

Midnight blue is one of those colours that go with almost everything. I say ‘almost’ loosely as from the top of my head I cannot think of any other colour that does not go with it. I think it’s so versatile that you can wear it all year round, day and night, summer or winter.

I recon it’s a good investment so if you do not have a blue suit (especially darker hues), I suggest you go out and get one now. You won’t regret it, ever!

Ok back to the look. As I said above, I was aiming for the ‘simple with a twist’ ‘cool classic’ look, which means one colour only.

With my white shirt providing layering for the suit, there was only going to be two accessories with this look, white pocket square and a watch. No necktie, bow tie, lapel pin or even collar tips.

Ok, in hindsight maybe I could have added a collar tip to give my collars a bit of character but that’s it, nothing else. With my shirt buttoned up and pocket square squared up my idea of simplicity is complete.

Now to add a little twist to the mix, I opted for a pair of white high top leather all-star converse. I could have gone for a pair of brown or black shoes with matching belts but that would make me look just like everyone else. With two folds on my trouser, I made sure the converse was in full view. The reason I chose converse over any other pair of white trainer is that converse in general carries that classic look and they are streamlined and fitted instead of being bulky. This I think goes well with my look. The converse on this occasion is the statement piece.

So next time you put one a suit, think of inventive ways of wearing it. Push fashion boundaries to make a statement.

The look:

Suit – FCUK

Shirt – TM lewin

Pocket Square – M & S

Trainers – Office by Converse

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Mind the details: pocket Square

A few of my pocket squares: Paul Smith, Reiss, TM Lewin, Tie Rack and Marks and Spencer

I’m starting a series on men’s accessories called ‘Mind The Details.’ ‘Mind The Details’ will explore men’s accessories and how they add value to your look. The purpose is to identify certain pieces that will take your dress game to the next level with little effort. To kick this off, lets start with my favourite piece of accessory, the pocket square.

If you have being reading my blog then you would know that whenever I talk about a fashion piece, I like to give a brief background or history to get things into perspective. I would’ve loved to do the same for the pocket square but I am not even going to try.

Simple reason being the origin of this piece of accessory is so unclear that different writers attribute it to different “inventors” from varying civilization. Because I like to talk in absolutes and facts except when I am expressing my views and opinions (which I usually make clear), I will leave the origins of this beautiful piece to the historians.

Packet square with a double breasted blazer

I have no intentions of digging up the remains of King Richard 11 of England (1367 – 1400) to ask him whether he had a hand in creating the pocket square. And just in case you are indeed interested in finding out the origins, please come back and share with us. Word of caution though, history favors the views of the writer regardless of facts.

Now that we got that out of the way, let’s have a quick look at how the pocket square was used hundreds of years ago and try to relate it to present day use.

Before it became a fashion accessory, the pocket square was primarily used for health and hygiene purposes such as wiping hands and face, blowing nose or covering it to block out bad odors. It was also used by ancient Greeks to cover their heads. As time moved on, it became necessary to distinguish this small piece of cloth based on it uses, known at the time only as Kerchief. For the piece used primarily by the hand, word hand was added to kerchief (hence handkerchief) to differentiate it from the one used to cover the head.

Like the necktie, this was used by the upper class in different societies. Due to the stench from the streets and the odor of the working class men, nobles and upper class people would add perfume to the hanky to hold it close to their noses to disguise the smell.

Even though this piece of cloth is still referred to as the handkerchief by many, it is more commonly known as the pocket square in fashion circles. The difference lies in its function. The pocket square is strictly for fashion purposes and belongs in your suit or blazer or outer top garment’s pocket, whiles the handkerchief is for blowing the nose and wiping sweat and this belongs in your trouser pocket or the inside of your top garment.

Now that we have a bit of background to the original functions and how the name has evolved, let us now focus on the fashion and modern day use of this cloth known as the pocket square.

Some writers and commentators say that matching your pocket square to your tie is a fashion faux pas. All I can say to that is, its subjective.  I have matched my pocket square exactly to my tie and I personally think it’s a great look. Whether you want to match your pocket square to your tie or not, there are a few things you must consider. Does your entire look already have a lot going on? If so, then it may be wise to play safe and not try to introduce a completely different pattern or colour to the mix.

I personally think that the right pocket square can transform an everyday look into a more sophisticated one. The pocket square, just like the necktie, allows the user to instantly switch between levels of presentation. In a society where wearing a suit and tie is not only common but expected, the pocket square is the deal breaker to separate the men from the boys.

Pocket square with a denim jacket

Oh and do not for one minute think you can only wear a pocket square if you have a suit on. I have personally won a pocket square over a denim jacket to give the look a bit of a twist. So go ahead and experiment with your packet square.

I will be doing a blog post on the different kinds of folds you can use for a pocket square

I’ll be continuing with the theme of pocket squares. Next time i’ll be looking at the different folds such as the one point, two points, three points etc.

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