The most underrated textile in the world

The most underrated textile in the world

We are living in the best time to connect artisans to the Global market. – Tina Lobondi

 

It was important for me to take some time to explore the textiles of the country I am from, Congo. One of them significantly stood out every time. The Kuba textile…  You may or not have heard of it but you definitely have seen it a few times in your life on television, store, textiles, frames, and so on….. I recently discovered a brand called Duarra Limited. And immediately fell in love with the work they were doing.

KUBA KINGDOM HISTORY

The Kuba people of the Democratic Republic of Congo are located around the Sankuru river in the Kasai region. It’s a tribe made up of 18 sub-groups.

The Kingdom was established in the 17th century by king Shyaam. It had a more developed state institutions than other independent villages and chieftaincy in the region. It also had an unwritten constitution, separation of political powers, a judicial system with courts and juries, a police force and military, taxation and significant public provision.

The base cloth, called “Mbal”, is made from the dried leaves of the raffia palm tree. To produce the cloth, the leaves are first dried and then stripped down to individual fibers before being woven. In the the Kuba culture, men are responsible for the cultivation of the raffia palm and the weaving of the cloth. The women are responsible for transforming the raffia cloth into various forms of textiles.

 

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Photo credits: http://en.lisapoyakama.org/the-kuba-kingdom/

The patterns of the textile communicate essentials informations about the Kuba as individuals and as a society. They are an important marker of social status, lineage and ethnicity. Finally, some textiles are used for funerals and festive events.

The textiles isn’t decorated with human or animal fugures, but with exquisite abstract designs. Although the Kuba people have been producing textiles for four hundred years, their traditional designs are strikingly modern.

Avant-garde European artists like Paul Klee, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Grace Hartzel were greatly inspired by the various abstract pattern of the Kuba textiles.

 

SOME INTERESTING FACTS

The first explorer to discover the existence of the Kuba people was William Sheppard, a black American Presbyterian.

Whenever a king dies, the capital moves to the location of the new king

Several restaurant venues in Salzburg, owned by Austria’s Red Bull founder, display a good selection of Kuba textiles.

 

KUBA FACTS

Wealthy members of society supported Fashion and Arts, which in turn augmented their status and increased their chances of being named to a lofty post. As a result, the efforts of the Kuba artisans became sophisticated and varied.

 

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Picture credit : https://duarra.com

 

The Kuba are also called the Bakuba.

The Kuba kingdom wasn’t affected by the Arabs and European slave trades. It was only destabilised when the Belgians came to Congo at the beginning of the twentieth century.

The Kuba society is matriarchal. The eldest woman from the royal family is the true sovereign and she could make the kind stand down.

The Kuba is made up of 18 different tribes but only 4 tribes have gained recognition for their artistic endeavours. The Bushongo, Ngende, Ngongo and Shoowa.

The Kuba’s primary contemporary use of the textile is at funerals of wealthy elders and sometimes weddings.

The Kuba textile was also use as a currency.

 

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Picture credits: http://pandorasantafe.com/kuba-cloth-from-africa/

 

There are four major techniques for producing finished Kuba cloth: embroidery, applique, patchwork and dyeing.

Embroideries, often called “Kuba velours”, have a velvet-like texture while the uncut variety display similar pattern work with a flat appearance.

The applique and patchwork are mirror images of each other. The former required attaching additional pieces of fabric to a base cloth to create a pattern effect. The latter involves cutting away pieces of the base cloth to create a pattern then filling in the gaps by patching the front or back of the base cloth with fabric in the shape of the missing piece.

 

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Picture credit : https://duarra.com

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What you need to know about your skins and the skincare staples.

What you need to know about your skins and the skincare staples.

Assessing your skin type is necessary for creating an effective skin care routine. It’s important to know where you fall in the spectrum of possibilities because skincare products are specifically designed to work for certain skin types.

How to find out what kind of skin you have?

1 / OILY

Shiny, slick, often thick skin.

Absorbs powder readily and begs for more.

Large pores on the T-zone (forehead, nose and cheeks).

Oil-based moisturizers are not absorbed by the skin.

 

 2 / DRY

Dull, thin and flaky skin.

Quickly becomes chapped and parched.

Soaks up moisture and thirsts for more.

Pores may appear virtually invisible.

Fine lines and wrinkles are more apparent.

 

3 / COMBINATION

Combination is skin is characterized as either combination-oily or combination-dry.

Having otherwise normal skin with an oily t-zone is characteristic of combo-oily skin.

Normal skin that sometimes experiences dryness is indicative of combo-dry skin.

 

4 / NORMAL

Skin is naturally moisturized without looking too dry or oily.

Does not require additional oil control or hydration throughout the day.

Pores do not appear to be overly large or extremely small.

 

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Each of the basic types of skin is both a blessing and a curse. If you have oily skin, you have your own natural moisturizer and less tendency toward wrinkles. But you’ll have more of a tendency toward acne and larger pores.

If you have dry skin, you’ll have a greater tendency toward wrinkles but much less tendency toward acne and large pores. There’s something positive about each skin type.

Black skin tends to be more often have combination and oily skin. The Key to taking care of your skin correctly is making sure that you are aware of your skin type and treat it accordingly. Therefore, having the right products that work with your skin type will have you looking great every day.

This does not mean that you fully need to change your skin care routine. If you have staples that work keep them. But what all the skin types have in common is that they need skin care essentials. Here are skin care products that have proven useful over the years with good science to be beneficial for your skin.

CLEANSERS

Using a cleanser for 30 seconds a day not only has a therapeutic effect on your skin but is also good enough to wash away the dirt and harshness of every day weather. Contrary to popular beliefs, your skin does not have to feel squeaky clean in order to be clean.

MOISTURISERS

Moisturisers are worth using especially if you have dry skin, they will help you prevent fine lines and improve the appearance of your skin over time. Here are my tips on how to get the most out of your moisturizer:

  • If you have oily skin, use a moisturizer like a gel that will hydrate (add water to) your skin but won’t add more oil.
  • If you have normal skin, use a lotion or light cream.
  • If you are very dry, use a heavy cream that takes a minute or two to absorb into your skin. Apply it more frequently than once or twice a day.
  • Everyone should use a moisturizer around their eye area and on their necks, because we all have very few oil glands in those areas.
  • If you’re oily through the T-zone area, just use your moisturizer on your eye area, your cheeks, and your neck.

 

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SUNSCREENS

Although the melanin in black skin does give some protection, the environment has changed and it is affecting the efficiency of the natural sun block.

Although people with dark skin may not sunburn as easily as those with fair skin, they are still at risk of skin damage from excessive sun exposure.

People with light skin types have a much higher incidence of skin cancer than people with dark skin types. But having dark skin is not a guarantee against skin cancer.

Sunscreen is the most important product you can use on your skin every day. It should be at the top of your list of skin care essentials.

The more damage to your skin cells from sunlight that you can prevent, the better your skin will be for years to come. If you have pre-teen or teenage children, particularly if you live in a sunny climate, encourage them to start using sunscreen on their faces everyday.

Sunscreens and sun protection are the single best way to prevent prematurely aged skin, age spots, brown spots, leathery-looking skin, and the deadly skin cancer, melanoma. In fact, melanoma is the biggest cause of cancer deaths among kids in their twenties. Choose a sunscreen based on your skin type, your climate, and the intensity of your sun exposure.

  • For oily skin, choose a powder or very light lotion for your sunscreen.
  • For normal skin, choose a lotion or a light cream, and for dry skin, a rich cream.
  • For mature and drier skin, look for a sunscreen that adds some repair to it.

That is a lot of information but remember that skin is not only the biggest organ in the human body it is as vulnerable, on your face especially, as the rest of your organs. So, whilst you make sure that you have healthy heart, liver and kidney, do not forget to take care of your skin also.

Article by Gaelle Mokoy for ESIMBI magazine

Ways to refashioning the future of African fashion from an expert.

Ways to refashioning the future of African fashion from an expert.
Leanne is the founder of the platform called Refashionafrica which is dedicated to African Fashion. It serves as a fashionable eye on urban Africa and its various styles.

 

Could you please tell me about your background? 
I have a commercial, marketing and branding background. Prior to founding Refashion Africa I also had my own marketing and sponsorship agency.
Do you really think the African continent is ready for a Vogue Africa? If so why?
I do think it’s time. As I tried to lay out in my article for the “Business of Fashion” website,  we have proven long term economic growth with future prospects, a vibrant fashion eco-system which still has its challenges but I feel must be represented in an authentic way. We have an affluent class and a growing consumer class which will be driving the new modern African narrative. We are more inter-connected than ever before and already have luxury brands present on the continent.
African Vogue could have been the unity element between all the african nations, do you think this may be why, the western media has not given it a chance yet?
I am not sure about that. But what I know is this, this is about us, in Africa. We are a force and the African Renaissance is underway. We must continue to make our own tables and take our place on the global stage.
With South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana leading the fashion industry on the continent, how do you imagine the infrastructure of an African Vogue?
I imagine that the engine driving Vogue Africa will be the best creatives, digital, commercial, communications, publishing, etc… African talent, in other words a collective effort to create a narrative that reflects what is happening inside the continent from major fashion cities to capture the African Zeitgeist and elevate our stories. We need an attitude of openness and willingness from many parties not fingering strong leadership.
You are a very successful writer, what is your opinion about diversity and how social media is helping break barriers globally in the beauty industry? Can the fashion industry follow?
There is continuous pressure for things to change. In the new world diversity is key. The world is in a state of continuous flux and more change is coming. Technological change is a major force shapeshifting the future, and in Africa we have a very high adoption rate for example of mobile technology. Expect new conversations, new ideas, to go beyond what was once thought impossible.
What is the next step for African fashion if this magazine doesn’t not happen in the next 3 years?
African fashion is not dependent on a Vogue Africa happening or not. It will continue from strength to strength, no doubt. We are a force to be reckoned with and Vogue Africa shouldn’t feel like this far fetched idea.

This is why Africans are rejecting the idea of a Vogue Africa!

This is why Africans are rejecting the idea of a Vogue Africa!

The past 2 weeks have seen the trending subject of a “Vogue Africa” to finally come to life. Naomi Campbell has sparked a lot of discussions recently around the subject after her trip to Lagos, Nigeria for Arise Fashion Week.

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But, I have not heard one person of African descent actually thinking this is a good idea. It seems like we are once again trying to get some kind of approval from the western media and really there’s no need anymore. We know that Vogue is not interested in the African continent so why force it?

“There should be a Vogue Africa.” “We just had Vogue Arabia — it is the next progression. It has to be.” “Africa has never had the opportunity to be out there and their fabrics and their materials and their designs be accepted on the global platform… it shouldn’t be that way.” Naomi Campbell

I am very much confused by her statement about African Fashion and our fabrics|materials not being”out there”! Do we not see the same images online? African fashion, wax, ankara, from America to Europe, African culture is everywhere!

And thanks to Black Panther, Africans are bolder  than ever before.

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An African inspired editorial in Brazil

They are so many publications by Africans, bringing lights on African cultures, arts, personalities, travel such as New African Woman, Zen Magazine, Fashizblack.

Do we really want another western influence on Africa’s mind? Thats the question some asked.

The continent is working hard to push the boundaries in the fashion industry, via its own merits, and create its own vibes and personally. I feel like it will be very difficult to create an infrastructure around an African Vogue, simply because of the various cultures that we have and the complexity of the market as an all.

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African women have always been strong and determined to get things done on their own terms.  Diversity talks are growing through social media and the global press,  this is surely shaking the beauty industry like never before. Things are happening and it should have been Vogue magazine asking Africans their thoughts on this potential venture.

I think many are upset as this feels like we are begging for the chance to prove that Africa can do it too. To make this work, Vogue would need time to study the African market because really there will need to have several versions of the magazine to fit the diversity of our continent.

I do love Naomi, as she is the role model we all look up to. But I feel someone like Iman who invested more into bringing value to women of colour by creating products and engaging with the community, would be a better ambassador for a Vogue Africa.

Naomi’s business sense could definitely lead an edition. I actually thought by coming to Africa, she would have perhaps done an African version of her show The face. This would definitely be a success given the minority of black models still in the global market.

In 2010, Paris based photographer Mario Epanya created series of fictional ” Vogue Africa ” covers, which unfortunately were not enough to convince the mainstream media that Africa was ready to join the elite publication.His work is certainly noticed now as it has been used in every recent articles talking about the Vogue Africa subject.

This trending subject needs to teach us that we need to stop chasing this nonsense approval. Africans can represent their own cultures. What we need is for our governments to invest in the arts and cultures sector. We need to keep standing on our own feet and lead our way.

This is the reason why we launched ESIMBI Magazine, to be able to tell our own stories truthfully. Africa’s time is now but that way needs to be led by our own communities.

If Vogue ever decide to do an African version, we would simply ask that they do their best to represent us as we are and not as they want us to be.

 

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What these women philanthropists did to empower others

What these women philanthropists did to empower others
Becoming a philanthropist is not something I had in mind in the past 10 years. Personalities such as Mother Theresa, one of the few I followed along with Princess Diana, were not labelled like that in my small village back in France, but more like humanitarians I think. A philanthropist nowadays is a business person with a big heart who does more than just caring about social responsability. I used to donate to various charities but unfortunately none of them had a connection with Congo. This is the reason why I made it my mission to start researching Congolese organisations in the sector of arts and education. Many were helping schools but none were focusing on the creative industry so I decided to start my own initiative.

Where I am from, donating to others is not quite considered as an employment option. So I never imagined that giving back to my community would give another perspective to my work and what it means to do more for others even when you have less for yourself. It was very hard for me because I kind of expected to have the support of certain people, which never came… but it made me stronger and more determined to make things work. My vision was my own and I was wrong to expect people or my entourage to see it as clearly as I did. I remember my ex saying to me ” You haven’t build your career and you want to help people?”, that day I smiled and said yes in my head.

I also smiled because I realised that he was not the man for me and left him shortly after that. I have understood in the last 3 years that as humans, our purpose is to connect and love. Nothing else. We leave everything behind after death so why is it so hard for us to be open and give to one another?

Some of us look at Oprah Winfrey as a role model, for business, and to get inspiration. But the day I looked into Mother Theresa as a role model, a new world opened up. In Africa, Asia and other parts of the world helping your neighbour with whatever you can, comes down to common sense. People helping people without looking or asking for any recognition.

Africans are generally taught to be giving and kind, respectful to our elders by never calling their names. Many other cultures have these basis. Have you noticed that in the Hindu language for instance, every time you hear “Ji“ is often a sign of politeness: babuji, auntyji, etc… in Africa, it’s the same, Aunty, Uncle, Tata. Anyone from a neighbor, to a blood related aunty receives respect every time his or her name is called.

Companies such as Western Union are making millions because of the culture of giving. Perhaps the reason why we don’t really give this a second thought is because this is what we grew up to see.

 

 

 

I am often asked why I started a social initiative when my brand was still at an early stage, instead of fully focusing on building it?

Well, there are 2 reasons, which I actually did not realise straight away.

  • My grandmother, may she rest in peace, was the most amazing woman. Fortunate enough to have found a husband who adored her and made sure she lived a comfortable life. She was strong and loved fashion, jewellery and anything feminine. But what I remember her the most for is her devotion to her church and people she cared for. The street we lived in Kinshasa was “under her protection”. Our house was always open for anyone in need and I really wish I had a chance to tell her how much I admired her heart.
  • My aunt, she once told me after I refused to share my food with my little cousin – “ If you don’t give when you have little, you won’t give when you have a lot “. I remember telling her that whatever she said wasn’t logical because if you have a lot then obviously you are more keen to give to someone else. It is only a few years later that I realised I was wrong and she was right. Having a Giving heart is not everyone’s cup of tea and it definitely is not based on your bank balance. I have seen fundraising events where a room full of millionaires raised only £2000.

To be honest, I feel like my charitable work has made me more vulnerable and sensitive now. When we hosted our first free workshop for ESIMBI with about 250 children in Kinshasa, Congo, one girl came to me, she was 12 years old. She wanted to hug me and said “ Thank you for doing this event. No one ever do anything for us. “

No need to say that I cried…. It was probably the most fulfilling moment of my life.

This article is to highlight women I admire who are giving back whenever they can. I hope that it will help, the reader to understand my point about the art of giving.

But really, I can’t talk about black women and philanthropy without talking about one of the first known African- American woman, who successfully went from being a laundress earning less than one dollar a day to becoming one of the first self-made female millionaires in the United States. Her name was Sarah Breedlove, and she was also known as Madam C. J. Walker, the founder of a hair care empire and a well-established philanthropist.

Ms Walker used her fortune to champion the YMCA, the Tuskegee Institute, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and other important civic and educational organizations.

How impressive this woman was! Definitely worth celebrating this month. Here are my top 3 Sheros!

 

Noella Coursaris

She founded the Malaika school in 2007, a nonprofit organisation to empower Congolese girls and their communities through education and health programs. Malaika’s projects are impacting thousands of people’s lives in Kalebuka and are all offered completely free of charge. All these efforts have made her an advocate for peace, speaking to large audiences at UNICEF and the UK Parliament. Let’s not forget the several times she appeared alongside President Clinton on Clinton Global Initiative panels. Noëlla has been interviewed about her philanthropic work on global news outlets such as CNN and the BBC. And that’s only a few things about my Congolese sister.

 

 

 

Naomie Campbell

Our favourite top model is the runaway icon with the biggest heart. I always admired her for being real on camera as she usually simply speaks her mind. To me, that is definitely where her power lies… She organised the first Fashion for Relief to raise funds to help the victims of the Hurricane Katrina. The charitable organization founded in 2005 has since raised funds for various environmental and humanitarian causes. They organise events in association with the London-based non-profit organization CARE. They support international charitable organisations bringing aid to people in crises in different countries. The event always attracts high-profile individuals from the fashion, film, music, and television industries to participate and attend the show.  They have showcased in Cannes, London, Moscow, and Mumbai to name a few but also had partnership with global online retailer Yoox in 2012.

 

 

 

 

Jada Pinkett Smith

Jada Pinkett Smith and husband Will have been engaged in philanthropy for many years now. Their established a family foundation which supports a range of causes including education and the arts. Jada graduated from Baltimore School of the Arts, and donated to the school 1 million dollars in the last decade. The foundation also supported an energy start-up called Quidnet Energy, a “developer of grid-scale energy storage systems capable of enabling the baron-free power grid,” and recently backed NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts’ Fusion Film Festival, which works with women filmmakers. The “Girl’s trip actress” has always been someone to watch out for. Her interviews and motivational speeches have me shook everytime. I will always remember that video where she speaks to her daughter about love and what it means to be a woman. So inspirational!

 

 

 

 

I would love for you to let me know who are your role models in the non-profit sector, rather they are from an African background or not.

In life, we must stand for something, whatever that may be. Giving to others has never been about charity, it is about love. Always.

 

Want to know the 9 steps I follow to prepare for Fashion Week?

Want to know the 9 steps I follow to prepare for Fashion Week?

This Autumn/Winter season was the first time I attended Fashion Week as a visitor. For the past 7 years, I have been backstage working on my collections which I showcased in various cities. It was nice to be off duty for once.

At first, I was very excited to attend Fashion Scout London and see the collections with a friend. But then came the fundamental fashion question, What am I going to wear?

This was my first thought… so as a true fashionista, I went on a mission to try different outfits and choose what will represent me the most, as a designer. I concluded that I could not go out if I wasn’t wear something from my brand.

I opted for what I call a classic feminine boss lady look. Printed pencil skirt, Oversized shirt, layered jewellery, a beret because let’s face it, London has been freezing for the past weeks, a military style coat and my final touch, colourful heels to kill the winter blues with a matching handbag.

 

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There are a few things to consider if your goal is to make your visit worth it. The steps I follow:

  • Find the perfect outfit! Something that represents who you are. Fashion Week is all about your personality because that’s all people will care about before you speak.
  • Be mentally prepared to be photographed by strangers! Yes, you will become an instant celebrity if you wear a dashing outfit. Street style photographers are great and friendly. You may just end up in Vogue for the best street look. That’s a motivation on its own. They usually are attracted to visitors expressing their personality through their outfit.
  • Take your business cards with you. You will connect with stylists, photographers, designers, fashion students, etc… A collaboration may be around the corner.
  • Check out the schedule of the shows and the designers, so when you have a conversation with anyone, you are fully informed.
  • Don’t be shy to approach people and give compliments on things/outfits you like.
  • Take your flat shoes with you because Fashion Week usually involves some walking too and no one wants to ruin a good pair of heels.
  • Take a picture with the official Fashion Week banner, why you may think? Well so you have a proof you actually visited :).
  • Embrace the season with a friend who enjoys your passion for the industry because the days are long and you need someone who will stay motivated.
  • Don’t forget your invitation card.

 

I wanted to do a review on the fashion shows I enjoyed. Hermes, Balmain, Preen, Saint Laurent and Self-portrait had very nice shapes and textured so here are my favourite pick.

 

HERMES AW 18

photos from Vogue.co.uk

 

SELF-PORTRAIT AW18

photos from Vogue.co.uk

 

BALMAIN AW18

photos from Vogue.co.uk

BALMAIN was definitely “mon preferee” this season. The colours and the structured shoulders and details, all together created a feminine and strong silhouette.

Tailored jackets are going to be the must buy item in the next coming months and the colour yellow. I can’t wait to showcase my new collection next season in New York or London.

 

PREEN BY THORNTON BREGAZZI AW18

photos from Vogue.co.uk

 

SAINT LAURENT AW18

photos from Vogue.co.uk

 

 

More photos from my look