Tag: London

Yemzi’s sustainable street-luxe style fashion label hits the spotlight


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.

 

African fashion UK
Photo credit: Alia Thomas

 

…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.

silk jumpsuit, african fashion
Model wears a Yemzi jumpsuit SS16, at the #AfricaSquad Fashion Show.                             Photo credit: Belinda Lawley

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.

Why ‘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.

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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.

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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.

yemzi-ss17-collage

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.

 

yemzi-ss17-collage-mood-board
Photo credit: @adsdiaspora

 

Your SS17 Collection launched on 19th September tell us about that.

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.

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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.

 

yemzi-ss17-2nd-shoot
Photo credit: Alia Thomas

 

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!

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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.

Want more of Yemzi?! Check out her Instagram and Twitter, along with the #YemziGirl crew.

 

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All photos (unless stated): Lepa Georgievska

MUA: Chantelle Phillips

Hair: Zateesha Barbour

 

 

 

Africa Utopia 2016: My Feature!


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.

African magazine, southbank centre,
After a crazy and fun 24hrs, Dual Magazine made its debut on Sunday 4th September.

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.

Southbank centre, Africa Utopia

African fashion, london fashon show
Snaps from the #AfricaSquad fashion show. Credits: Belinda Lawley and Steve Woodhead.

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!

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Caribbean Food: Three Little Birds


Where to eat a Caribbean brunch? We found Three Little Birds in Brixton, South London. This Jamaican inspired independent restaurant and rum bar is small, with big character. Their pancakes, with rum sauce are amazing!

This is a Caribbean restaurant in London to check out and let us know what you think, by taking the anonymous poll below and leaving any comments.

 

Caribbean brunch time, with pumpkin soup.
Caribbean brunch time, with pumpkin soup.

 

A curation of who’s cooking in the African-Caribbean food scene.

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#MondayMotivation – The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt


Another start to the week with quotes that inspire, motivate and challenge!

“In Africa today, we recognise that trade and investment, and not aid, are pillars of development.” – Paul kagame; president of Rwanda, October 1957 – present

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison;  America novelist, 1931 – present

“Some men see things as they are and say, ‘Why?’ I dream of things that never were, and say, ‘Why not?” – George Bernard Shaw; Irish Playwright, 1856 – 1950

nelson mandela poverty

“Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.” – Will Rogers; American cowboy and newspaper columnist 1879 – 1935

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” – Abraham Lincoln

“Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.” – Maya Angelou; American author and poet; 1928–2014

“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” – Sylvia Plath; American poet, 1932 – 1963

“Life is like riding a bicycle. Your keep your balance, you must keep moving” – Albert Einstein

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#AFWL / African Fashion Week 2015: Five years and counting!


The highly anticipated Africa Fashion Week London descended upon the English capital this weekend. This brainchild of Ronke Ademiluyi, isn’t just about high fashion catwalk shows but also creators of African inspired products and accessories. Africa Fashion Week London provides a platform for African inspired creativity to be showcased globally and celebrates designers from Africa, the UK and the rest of diaspora.

bbc fashion news, African fashion week
Before the party started, designers and models visited the BBC studios in London to talk about the event.
Photo: BBC
enyan fashion house, Njema , African fashion
Still at the BBC Studios, Model Tasha wears Kenyan fashion house, Njema Helena.
Photo: BBC

Start as you mean to go on: Day 1 starts with a bang!

Day 1 start off with a bang. Photo: Mike Rolls
Photo: Mike Rolls

The burgeoning African fashion industry is going from strength to strength. There is no doubt that events like Africa Fashion Week London are a contributing factor to increasing awareness of African designer talents. Contrary to popular belief, African Fashion isn’t just about African prints but also, elegant tailoring and a fusion of various textiles. Endorsements from celebrities such as Michelle Obama who has been spotted in various designs by Duro Oluwa and fashion houses, including Vivienne Westwood and Burberry (despite the controversy) have also helped to move the African fashion industry from the fringes of the fashion world.

 

Michelle Obama wears African fashion
June 2015: First Lady Michelle Obama lands in Milan wearing a Duro Olowu skirt.
Photo: Jacopo Raule/Getty Images

 

AFWL is collaborative and works with other events such as The Mayor of London’s Black History Month celebrations and the annual Africa Centre Summer Festival. It’s this collaborative format that allows the African fashion story to be seen by everyone and not just those ‘in the know’, which has seen African fashion become more than just a “traditional” or “ethnic” alternative but an important facet of the global fashion industry. The love for African fashion not only has a positive impact on the industry itself, but also on the perception of the continent.

Africa rise and be seen by the world!

African Fashion Instagram
There is fun for everyone!
Photo: AFWL Instagram

African fashion london

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Photo: Mike Rolls

AFWL instagram trio

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Photo: Mike Rolls
Photo: Mike Rolls

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Africa at Spitalfields: Love Chin Chin review


Welcome to the first review of the food blog section of this site, featuring a tasty West African snack. Known as Chin Chin / Achomo in Nigeria and Ghana respectively this snack is popular among the African diaspora.

It all started with a sunny Monday, the second Bank Holiday of this month (25th May) is always a welcomed bonus, and Pop Up Africa at the famous Spitalfields Market in the city of London didn’t disappoint!  There was live music, dancers, African drummers, food, clothes, accessory stalls and good vibes. Just want I wanted on a sunny Bank Holiday.

Everyone knows food is a staple in African culture; as well as traditional dishes there were also cake/pastry stalls on display. When there is so much choice, you need to have a strategy!

African market, Spitalfields MArket London
‘Africa @ Spitalfields’: the pop up is popular!

Like any good market it was bustling, so I weaved through the isles making a mental note of which stalls I wanted to explore further and after a few seconds of deliberation my first stop was the “Love Chin Chin” stall.

Chin Chin West African snackI liked the colourful and friendly set up of the stall whose staff were happy to answer questions and share some history of this family run business. Intrigued by the packaging branding, the cinnamon, vanilla and lemon flavours, I bought 2 packs!

£1 for each 70gram pack or 3 packs for £2.50 (I think this was an offer only available at the ‘Africa @ Spitalfields’ market day).

African food snack, food, west African food
Chin Chin Lemon flavour, put a smile on my face!

I remember my mother making this moreish snack when I was young and you’ll be sure to find it at parties, weddings, christenings, naming ceremonies and other social events. It’s easy to get Chin Chin wrong by using too much oil but Love Chin Chin got it right.The right amount of rapeseed oil, the right amount of sugar and the hint of flavours.

Love Chin Chin has provided a tasty and convenient way to get hold of some Chin Chin, when you don’t feel like making it yourself. You can pick up packs at various Tesco stores.

Want some sweetness in your life? Then have some Chin Chin in your life! I actually finished both packs before taking a picture of the snack itself :-), but for some pictures, just pop over to the Love Chin Chin website.

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