Yes, we are still talking about this issue, why? Because it’s still an issue! There has been an effort by big brands to make foundations for darker skin tones. In 2014, Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o became the first black ambassador for Lancôme. In 2016 L’Oréal UK launched #YoursTruly campaign, where they expanded their foundation range covering 23 shades.
Iman face powder has been my staple for years, I love it! Before using it I didn’t wear face powder as I never found a shade I was completely happy with. Even when I had acne, I didn’t wear makeup partly because I didn’t have confidence I’d find my shade but also because I didn’t want to add anything else to my already troubled skin.
It’s good that big brands are expanding their ranges, but I don’t think we should just give our money to them on a plate. There are other brands which have included products for darker skin tones a part of their core ethos and we should be supporting them too!
L’Oréal was established in 1909, and in 2016 they expanded their range. Hmmm…ok, I guess as the saying goes “better late than never”, can be applied here?
This year I’ve left my Christmas shopping late, I know it’s cliché but usually I’m organised. I’ve had my office Christmas party so got the secret Santa present out of the way and now I’m onto my friends.
I’m Christmas shopping and battling the UK winter. Trying to keep warm, as well as preventing my hair and skin from drying out!
I like to give gifts that I would want to receive. So, I’ve decided to go the gift set route this year, it’s the most efficient!
I’ve been using Shea Butter Cottage’s rhassoul clay for over and year now and love it! My friend wants to try it but hasn’t got around to buying it yet. So, I’ll get it for her, along with a few other trinkets (that’s what friends are for!). I know it’s something she wants, so when I found it in a gift set I knew it was meant to be!
I usually buy the 1kg bag and mix it to a thick consistency; as you can see I’m running low (but don’t worry, I’ve already ordered my next batch).
This year fashion took centre stage at the Africa Utopia Festival. Directed by Agnes Cazin, the #AfricaSquad fashion show put the spotlight on amazing designers across the African diaspora and the Continent. We caught up with one of the UK’s fresh new talents, Elizabeth-Yemi Akingbade, founder of Yemzi, a sustainable street-luxe bohemian fashion label.
…inspired by African and European art, culture and creativity; made with love in London for the active dreamer. Elizabeth-Yemi
We first heard of Yemzi through Africa Utopia 2016, how did you get involved with the festival?
I was invited to take part in the #AfricaSquad fashion show by the creative director Agnes Cazin. My SS16 collection showcased, was based on animal skin prints, in blue, orange and green. I’ve worked with Agnes before; she used some of my pieces for House for Koko.
When did you want to be a fashion designer?
From a very young age. I’ve always been creative, I won various art competitions at school and when I was 14, attended Bournemouth Arts Institute on Saturdays.
When did Yemzi officially launch?
I like the idea of being a young business owner, so in 2013 during my final year at London College of Communication, in South London, I decided to open Yemzi.
My Nigerian name is Yemi; Yemzi was a nickname people called me and was just a natural progression.
How did you start Yemzi?
My only 2 official collections, were SS16 and SS17. Before that I printed my designs on ready-made T-shirts sold in Soboye Boutique, giving me exposure to other markets like Paris. Now I source and cut fabrics myself.
Prints are the foundation of Yemzi…Because I like using timeless prints and textures that can be worn in any season. I create my own prints telling my story through drawing. Many African designers use Dutch wax prints, but I don’t. It’s boring to see the same prints everywhere.
What fabrics do you use?
Any sustainable materials, like Bamboo and organic cotton. But when I created the high-end gold collection I used silk chiffon and silk satin.
Are you concerned about being pigeon-holed as an ‘African’ fashion designer?
I describe myself as a British-Nigerian designer. I’m not really concerned about categories and labels. If people want to call me a British designer or a Nigerian designer, both are fine with me!
What does sustainable /ethical fashion mean to you and why is it important?
Fast fashion can cause a lot of damage to the environment and for those at the bottom of the fashion food chain. It doesn’t have to be like that. All my collections are made in London, everyone is paid a fair wage and work in a safe environment.
Are sustainable fashion businesses like Yemzi, becoming more common?
Yes, people are becoming conscious about what they consume and are aware of alternatives. If mindsets change and people buy quality clothes they can buy less and have something that lasts longer.
What inspires you?
Life. I like to express my struggles, joys and culture, through my collections. I was fostered by an English family but still have a connection with my Nigerian culture, so everything I do is a fusion of that. Being fostered made me more determined to stay connected to by Nigerian heritage and part of the reason I studied African studies rather than a fashion course.
After learning some Yoruba I went to Nigeria and met my Grandmother, before she passed away in January this year, and learnt important aspects about Nigerian culture.
This is the mood board for SS17 – I combine my inspirations and then draw my prints, which are digitally printed onto fabric.
Continuing with the theme of combing my British and Nigerian culture, I used Yoruba symbols / tribal marks and imagery I found though researching, as the main source of inspiration. I went for a darker theme, as my collections reflect how I feel. I was invited to show some of the new collection at a fashion show, on Nigerian Independence Day, but didn’t have an official launch.
I’m based in a converted shipping container and the SS17 collection was shot in a World War II bunker underneath my office. The styling is London inspired but I have some silhouettes which are very much African. I take traditional African shapes and make them commonplace in the London environment.
Fela Kuti’s wives inspired the bold unblended eyelids and dotting make-up framing the eyebrows.
Why was the theme dark?
Working a second job 6 days a week, completing my MA in African Studies and trying to grow Yemzi has been challenging. The fashion industry can look very glamorous but there is an ugly side to it. The collection reflects this contrast between the different faces of fashion and the personal challenges I face.
What’s the Yemzi ethos?
I have a ‘green and clean’ ethos, using fabrics which are not toxic to the environment.
You recently did another shoot for your SS17 collection?
Yes, again outside my shipping container with 2 models. I only use models with natural hair (it’s part of my green and natural ethos). One is white with ginger hair and the other is of mixed African and Asian heritage.
I am a huge advocate of natural hair since doing the big chop in July 2010. Textured hair should be embraced.
The most challenging aspect of running your business?
It’s a lot more expensive running a sustainable fashion business, the fabrics I use have an impact on the cost of my collection.
The biggest lesson you’ve learned since starting Yemzi?
Ask for help. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Whether it’s an MUA or photographer, you should be willing to ask for help when you’re on tight budget. The worst anyone can say to you is ‘no’.
The main highlight of running your business?
When people appreciate the clothes!
Any exciting developments on the horizon?
My unisex Capsule Collection launching in February, will be my first AW collection. Very excited about that!
Any advice for other aspiring fashion designers?
Make use of what you have when starting out on a tight budget, I’ve connected with people who’ve helped along the way and for shoots used the space outside my office, rather than using studios all the time. You must be financially creative as well as artistically creative.
Laduma Ngxokolo has been making international waves for a while, since launching his knitwear brand, MAXHOSAby LADUMA in 2010. His collections have graced runways all over the world, including AFI Mercedes Benz Fashion Week – JoBurg in August.
Inspired by Xhosa beadwork distinctive patterns and colours, I was lucky enough to see his collection first hand at Africa Utopia 2016. As part of the team who created the first official magazine for the annual festival, I was in the photographers’ pit when the #AfricaSquad Fashion Show kicked off! The show’s creative director, Agnes Cazin, created a collaborative, afrobeat, disco vibe as models wore a mixture of designers from Africa and the diaspora, including MAXHOSA Knitwear pieces.
Photo credit: Belinda Lawley
Knitwear isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when I think of an African fashion label, and that’s one of the elements I like about MAXHOSA BY LADUMA; it caught me by surprise. Harnessing creative prowess from traditional Xhosa culture, MAXHOSA has reimaged stylish African knitwear.
Photocredit: Belinda Lawley
After winning the 2015 Vogue Italia Scouting for Africaprize, MAXHOSA has been covered Elle Magazine (South Africa) and earlier this year went viral after Beyoncé visited the Smithsonian Design Museum in NYC, and became aware of the brand.
MAXHOSA is making the world take note of African knitwear, not just in clothing (including socks) but furnishings too, with a collection of rugs.
At Lagos Fashion & Design Week a few days ago, the Apropriyeyshin SS17 collectionwas on full display.
“With this collection, I aim to express the beauty in culture exchange of the dress codes of western and Xhosa dress-code. All the looks are sketched with an ultimate objective of constructing an innovative utopian African feel, that will outlive the time span of the collection.” – MAXHOSA
In its 5th year at the Southbank Centre in London, Africa Utopia festival didn’t disappoint! It’s amazing to have a festival which celebrates the fusion of African culture from the diaspora and the continent. A relationship that has blossomed in recent years, as the sons and daughters of the African diaspora realise they should carry the rich legacy of culture and history with them wherever they go.
“Africa Utopia presents talks, workshops, music and performances that celebrate the arts and culture of one of the world’s most dynamic and fast-changing continents.” – Southbank Centre
This year was even more special because it was the debut of the first official magazine in association with the festival and I was so excited to be one of the contributors to the magazine, DUAL. I was part of a small talented team from the magazine’s inception to it’s publication, all done in a hectic 24hrs, at the festival finale.
In addition to my feature “No’Fro Zone”, it was amazing to be part of the festival, were I interviewed performers and was backstage soaking up all the energy from the preparation of the fashion show, from excited models, hair, make up artists and cameras!
There were too many highlights to mention, but the #AfricaSquad catwalk show, in which I was in the photographers pit with the rest of the paparazzi had my adrenalin pumping! With pumping Afrobeat infused disco vibes, the centrepiece of the festival went down a storm. With creative director Agnes Cazin’s, theme of collaboration, models hit the runway wearing a mixture of designers from the continent and diaspora.
There was so much musical talent on show, including the Chineke! Orchestra, which comprises all black and ethnic minority musicians, featuring BBC Young Musician of the Year 2016, cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason. Festival goers were also treated to the talents of the Chineke! Junior Orchestra.
Check out some of the highlights from the festival here and I would definitely recommend going next year if you’re in London.
For the full extract of my feature, exploring whether natural hair prejudice is shrinking in the workplace, click here!