Last Wednesday, 22nd June, Designer Pages and The Earl’s Court Festival hosted an evening to celebrate women in fashion, writing, styling and publishing and was opened by guest of honour – model, DJ and girl about town Tolula Adeyemi to share her insights from a fashion perspective. She recited a poem speaking about Coco Chanel (the legend) and Josephine Baker (the style icon).
It was set in the ace 286 Gallery on Earls Court Road – an absolutely gorgeous period building that makes one proud to be British and a Londoner. A great location for a quite personal and intimate affair with less than 100 attendees so it appeared. I arrived pretty early and decided to people watch and enjoyed the interesting fashions I spotted but was caught out by a heart shaped Vivienne Westwood bag which encapsulated me (as an avid Westwood fan – come on we all need at least one designer love!)
The event quickly turned into a networking opportunity and so out popped my AfricaFashionGuide business cards…as you do and was happy to hear the positive reviews of this blog and the excitement of our upcoming book and our information based website. I met with Anne of Agnes and Lola online African fashion boutique, Christine of Chichia London looking gorgeous who received a sneak peak of the book, Ohemma of Shadders, the team of Votre Avant Garde (VAG) who will be putting on the Pop Up Shop in Brick Lane this weekend and much much more people.
What excited me about attending was the opportunity to network with Helen Jennings the editor of award-winning ARISE magazine, (AFG ♥ Arise – we cant get enough of it). It proved a great chance to hear her talk about her upcoming book New African Fashion especially as we launch our book this summer (watch this space readers! All SHALL be revealed!)
This dedicated hard working woman tells us her story of how she got to where she is. She recalls when she was teased for wearing rara skirts at school she went on to study English. Her first job at Big Issue brought her under the wing of its Editor at the time who seemed to wish to mentor her. She holds Touch magazine to her accolades of publications she has worked for. And engages us all with her Arise magazine story. She got a call one day to work for Arise and on entering an empty office she was asked to create a magazine in 6 weeks! NOW that is a challenge and a half but our Helen, wow she grabbed that challenge by the horns and took it on. The magazine was to be launched at an event held at the Royal Albert Hall. After this successful star filled event the magazine went on to become a commercial magazine to what we know as the fabulous global glossy mag which tells stories on African culture, music, politics, education and our mutual love…fashion. By issue 12 they are now selling in 20 countries around the world and have won awards, sponsored Alicia Keys ‘Keep a Child Alive’ events and it has taken Helen to Nairobi, Kenya to attend the FAFA (Festival for African Fashion and Arts).
Helen cites ‘its never a dull moment and I love it..it will only become bigger’ and we so agree!
African fashion is completely under recognised. There are obvious things to approve upon which we will be addressing in AfricaFashionGuide on the blog and on the website. But the exciting thing is that creativity is back on track in Africa and it is making itself known to the world.
Helen saw this and did research and realised that there was a need for a book which spoke of African fashion, fabrics and its’ wonderful textiles history. There wasn’t anything in the market already that showcased African fashion in a big sexy coffee table style book so she contacted Prestel who have published it for her.
As well as the lovely Helen (who rocked in her Mulberry dress – Helen I clocked that straight away!) was British Ghanaian jewellery designer Anita Quansah renowned for her beautiful statement necklaces and because of how beautiful her work is has been commissioned to create catwalk pieces for designers Christian Lacroix, Eki Orleans, Jewel By Lisa and Nkwo and her fans include Estelle, Shingai Shoniwa and Keisha Buchanan.
Speaking of her background she tells us how she was inspired by her grandmother who died last year Anita spoke about growing up with lots of women. She tells us when it comes to her work ‘anyone who knows me knows that colours and textiles play alot of place in my work’. As a student at Chelsea College of Art and Design (which she highly praises as a wonderful college to attend) she won the Texprint contest award previously and went to Premier Vision in Paris where she and other winning students had their own booths.
Her most recent joy has been in collaborating with Jewel by Lisa, Kemkem and Eki Orleans for Arise Fashion Week in Nigeria earlier this year. Though she stresses that her market is not Africans but she sells more to Asian, European and American markets. In her case she finds that Africans prefer gold jewellery.
As she says ‘I don’t do small but big’ when it comes to her jewellery and I feel this represents her personality which is also big, like her gorgeous smile yet she seriously tells people if they wish to get into the jewellery design market to do their research and your due diligence when it comes to boutiques and retailers. Stop, pause and think before moving. Great advice from another hard working woman who admits she doesn’t sleep🙂
There was a great raffle prize and I ended up with two raffle tickets as I thought I had dropped one :0 (honest!) but I still didn’t win😦 The prizes consisted of Model Iman’s book ‘I am a Man’, perfume, necklace from Ghost and what I really really wanted….an Anita Quansah necklace. But it wasn’t my day but Votre Avant Garde won it. No jealousy, no hatred ……mmmh.
After indulging in the gorgeous cakes of the evening, the night wrapped up and the fashionistas headed off afterwards to the Jalouse private member’s club in Mayfair where Tolula Adeyemi was the guest DJ from 1opm.
The evening goodie bag consisted of an Arise Magazine, product from Black Up make up and more sweet treats – biscuits – mmmmhhhh.
Overall a great evening of discussion and networking. Well done to Tiffany and team for organising it.