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Woolworths hit by sluggish sales, earnings warning

South Africa The fashion, beauty and home business has been under pressure recently. Image: Moneyweb Shares in Woolworths fell more than 8% on Thursday after the South African department store operator posted slower half-year sales growth and said it expected its headline earnings to drop by 5% in the period. Woolworths, which owns clothing and homeware retailer Country Road, said it expects half-year headline earnings per share (HEPS) to either be flat or fall by up to 5% from 206.3 cents for the same period a year earlier. It said adjusted HEPS are expected to decline between 7.5% and 12.5% from 223.4 cents. Woolworths shares were down 9% to R50 at 0727 GMT, which would be the biggest daily fall in the stock in more than three-years if they close at this level. The drop came after Woolworths said group sales rose by 1.9% in the 26 weeks ending December 23, 2018, compared with a 2.5% increase in the 26-week period ended December 24, 2017. The retailer had an additional pre-Christmas trading day in 2017, which helped boost the sales. South African retail sales climbed 3.1% in November, led by household furniture and appliances, textiles, clothing and footwear and general dealers as consumers enjoyed the sales opportunities presented by Black Friday. Woolworths food sales climbed 6.3%, with volume driven by low inflation higher levels of promotions and price investment. Comparable store sales increased by 4.2%. Sales at the local fashion, beauty and home business declined by 2%, with comparable store sales down 2.4% due to a significantly smaller winter clearance sale in the first quarter, the group said. The fashion, beauty and home business has been under pressure recently from constrained economic conditions and mistakes in womenswear offerings. While sales in David Jones, which is based in Australia, inched up 1%, with sales performance weakening in line with the rest of the Australian retail market in the final weeks leading up to Christmas, it said. David Jones has been going through a transformation which includes putting in place new merchandise and finance systems, new online platform and repositioning its food business and has led to significant costs and disruptions.

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Want To Build A Global Brand From Africa? Here’s How.

With more and more African brands reaching global markets, consumers have a choice of which fair-trade, African, and all-natural products to use. Photo Credit: Getty Getty Being an entrepreneur is hard. Being a female entrepreneur, in some ways, is harder. Being a female entrepreneur working in sub-Saharan Africa trying to build a fashion or lifestyle brand is a herculean endeavor. With the right support, though, it is acheivable. At an event hosted this weekend by ‘ SheTrades in the Commonwealth ‘, titled ‘Preparing for the Export Market’, women who have had success with fashion and lifestyle businesses shared insights and experiences with women who hoped to follow in their footsteps. These women, many of whom work in cosmetics, apparel, and handicrafts, listened with rapt attention to learn the secret about how they too could one day create a brand that is exported regionally or even globally. The panel consisted of Roberta Annan of the Impact Fund for Africa; Valarie Obaze, the founder of R&R Luxury and Chiedza Makonnen, the founder of Afrodesiac Worldwide. According to reporting from Joy FM, a Ghanaian radio station, the Impact Fund for Africa will invest 100M Euro in African fashion and lifestyle brands. R&R Luxury creates natural shea-based products such as essential oils and soaps which are available for sale in Ghana, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, and South Africa as well as in North America and Europe. Afrodesiac Worldwide ships their handmade clothes and accessories globally from their Ghanaian atelier. All three women are pioneers in a burgeoning market for quality African-made goods. While everyone in the room was striving for a world where women and men were treated equally in business, the women shared tips on working in today’s male-dominated business context. Makonnen said, “Never apologize for wanting to be heard.” Annan shared another perspective. She tries to be the last person to speak in a meeting so that by the time she has opened her mouth, her male audience is blown away by her competence. Obaze was unapologetic. “If you have an issue with me being a female, it’s entirely your problem, not mine.” All of the women were realistic when it came to fundraising. “You are always short on cash,” shared Makonnen as the women in the room nodded with knowing empathy. She advised the audience that if you need $10,000 but you only have $1000, find a way to make it work and turn that $1000 into $10,000. Annan, who represented the investor point-of-view, counseled that you need to become a master in your field before seeking investment, otherwise “you can be in a room full of investors and not even know what to ask.” Before concentrating her investments in fashion, Annan, who already had a master’s degree in biotechnology and years of experience working for the United Nations, went back to school. These women have had global experiences but chose to build their teams locally in Ghana and Nigeria. They agreed that to build successful teams in African markets, you must keep your expectations high. Obaze stressed the importance of setting your expectations with your staff from the moment you hire them. It’s important that they know, “This is how we are. This is who we are. This is why we are doing it.” Then it is up to you to train them and “before you know it, they are even better than you.” Mokonnen added, “Creativity, quality, and hard work are all here. We need to work on our consistency.” She puts the onus on the entrepreneur. Speaking generally about entrepreneurs, she said, “We don’t take the time to invest in our employees.” Finally, the women had a frank conversation on the difficult road ahead for the entrepreneurs in the room. “It’s not glamorous at all. I’m still waiting for the glamour to kick in,” shared Obaze. Annan stressed the importance of resilience, sharing that it’s not falling that is important, “but what you do after the fall that matters.” She added, “If someone tells you that you are not going to achieve your goals. Achieve them and take pictures.” While we still have many miles of hard work ahead of us before we will reach gender parity in the trade , with the support of programs like SheTrades, women are not alone in trying to break through and achieve audacious goals. We can’t wait to see the pictures.

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How To Make Fashion Interesting Again

Dia&Co customer opening her monthly subscription box. Courtesy Dia&Co I’ll say it: Fashion is boring. That’s not my opinion but it’s clear that consumers think so. Sure, there are great looks, great fits and products that are priced right but you almost never hear consumers get excited about fashion products and trends the way that you heard ten years ago or earlier. It’s almost paradoxical because improvements in communication and travel have made more and better product available to more people at better values than ever before. And yes, there are segments like athleisure that are still interesting and growing, but now they’re the exception and not the rule. So what is fashion doing wrong? Or, to turn that question around, what could fashion do better? To figure that out, I went to the part of the market that was always the most boring: Plus-size fashion. Despite being the largest segment of women (75% of American women are size 14 or higher), it’s a segment that was never interesting even when fashion was exciting for almost everyone else. The clothes themselves were mostly cheap imitations of more stylish clothes and manufacturers took the approach of, “they’ll wear what we sell them because they have no better choices.” For a long time, that worked. Plus-size women took what they could get and bought garments that “will make you look thinner.” Plus size clothes were always designed to make the wearer fade into the background and you can’t get more boring than that. It doesn’t have to be this way. I recently visited with two fascinating companies. By rights, they should be the most uninteresting companies because almost all they sell is plus sizes. But the way they do it is different than what has come before and that makes them instructional for the rest of the fashion world. Ashley Stewart In 2014, Ashley Stewart , a retailer of plus-size women’s clothing rooted in the African-American community, was such a hopeless case it was about to be liquidated. Shortly before that was to happen, an investor named James Rhee of FirePine Group, LLC came along and looked at the business differently. Rhee went into the stores and spoke with customers and sales associates and found a culture of mutual respect, community and self-esteem that he thought was worth saving. As Rhee tells it, he’d had numerous jobs that had given him skills to look at businesses like Ashley Stewart. But his most relevant experience for looking at Ashley Stewart was having been a high school teacher and sports coach in a boarding school for teens struggling to reach their potential. He learned then that, “you can’t manage people by command and control. You manage them each differently and you hear how they need to be heard.” Rhee head many stories about Ashley Stewart customers, including how they are “bringing back hangers to the store so the company wouldn’t go out of business.” When Rhee heard the sales associates and customers interact, he knew this was a culture that deserved to be saved and could be made to work financially. He stepped in as CEO when the company was months away from a Chapter 7 liquidation. What Rhee understood was that Ashley Stewart wasn’t about fashion or clothes. It was about culture and content. When he took over, he doubled down on that culture, making kindness rather than profits their most important corporate value, believing that profit would follow if the culture remained positive, kind and empowering. He treated Ashley Stewart as a venture-style startup, developing online content and building a media-driven business with creative, relevant events, enabling customers to be evangelists for the brand. Rhee created what he calls “an alternative universe,” to develop customer and employee satisfaction. Profits inevitably followed. You can watch the employees of the company tell it their way in the brief video below. YOU MAY ALSO LIKE Dia&Co Five years ago, Dia&Co didn’t exist. Today they are the leading online seller of women’s plus-size clothing by subscription (where customers get a monthly box of products curated for them). In November 2018 (according to Pitchbook ), Dia&Co raised about $40 million at a [post-money] valuation of over $400 million. None of the founders or previous investors sold any stock in the offering. I have no non-public information about Dia&Co but here’s what that data tells me: They are near to or above $100 million in revenue. They make money or they are near profitability. They are growing rapidly. Their gross margins are very attractive. Everyone in the company believes there is a lot more growth left. Growth will come from expansion into new classes of product, that’s why a profitable company would want to raise more outside capital. Why Are These Companies Successful? Both Dia&Co and Ashley Stewart are in a business with cutthroat competition. Their competitors are big and are willing to slash prices to rock bottom to sell products. But neither Dia&Co nor Ashley Stewart define themselves by their product, plus-size fashion. They define themselves by their culture and their customer. Both companies produce an enormous amount of content, only a small percentage of which is about showing or selling product. What their content and their cultures are about is one thing: self-esteem. These companies ask themselves every day, “what can we tell our customers to help them believe they’re worth it, they deserve a good life and we respect them?” That’s the focus of their content and that’s what their culture says to their customers. With all the companies producing women’s apparel and pushing hard to sell their products at the lowest prices, Dia&Co and Ashley Stewart offer something different, they make their customers feel good about themselves. Susie Fogelson , a consultant who is the former SVP of Marketing and Brand Strategy at The Food Network and Cooking Channel told me, “If content isn’t the second thing you do, you’re in trouble.” We are in an era where customers come to retailers and brands for something more than just the products they buy. They want to feel good about what they’re doing, about the life they’re living, about their own value system and they want to find brands, companies and communities that share their value system. When customers find like-thinking brands, they aren’t motivated by price, they are motivated by belonging and identity. If your values are clear, you can find a customer and they will share your point of view. They will pay your [reasonable and fair] price and it doesn’t have to be 40% off. Customers pay when the product is great and the values you’re espousing are meaningful in customers’ lives. That is where the fashion business has to go, not just to be virtuous but to make money. There can never be a slacking off in the product quality, that has to be as sharp as ever. But now there’s more. Consumers want to see values and they want to believe that the people who run the company believe them. And they want to be respected for sharing those values. These two companies get it. They make great product and treat their customers the way we all want to be treated. Consumers respect the companies back and it’s a healthy relationship in which both sides prosper. Fashion companies in the most boring, commodity-driven markets can do this and it makes all the difference. Great financial performance is a byproduct of a culture where customers and employees can both have self-esteem and communication is clear about the company’s priorities. As the winnowing of retail winners and losers goes on, we are going to see more companies prove themselves by listening to how their customers want to live and creating a corporate culture that resonates with them. That is what customers find interesting and that will make fashion interesting again.

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Red ball cricket the foundation for success

IOL Sport writer, Lungani Zama. Spare a thought for the red-ball soldiers. While the Proteas continue to pummel Pakistan with whatever colour ball they use, there is a most intriguing domestic battle for honours on the go. The Cape Cobras looked to have sewn up the Four-Day Franchise Series, but they have been hauled back to shore by the Lions and, to an extent, the Warriors. It’s a tantalising race once more, and we may well have a final day drama unravelling to determine the champions. That is what happened with the Titans last season. They played to the final whistle. Now, the onus is on the Cobras and the Lions to wrestle it out. It is not a script too dissimilar from the Mzansi Super League. The men from the Cape have done much of the running, only to see a GP number plate getting bigger in their review mirror. It would probably hurt even more for the Cobras if they missed out on the four day loot. They played quality cricket upfront, pummelling teams with positive cricket. Their young attack stepped up, and their top-order piled on the runs. And then, and then, and then… The best part of this four-day competition are the number of unheralded players making their way into the bright lights. Remember the surnames Malan, Qeshile, Ackerman, Rapulana and Bosch. Those are just some of the vital cogs in the future of the long format. We all crow about the Proteas at Test level, but it is imperative that the next layer beneath them is healthy. Zubayr Hamza went to the Wanderers to make his Test bow, and did not look out of place. He played his shots, and his defence looked organised. There are other, intriguing storylines emerging around the country. The Warriors may not win a trophy this season, but they are building a heck of a squad. As long as they can keep their pace pack out of the clutches of franchises with deeper pockets, they may well be a dominant force next season. The Knights are always plucky, and the Titans are too proud a union not to bounce back. The Dolphins are in the midst of a succession plan, but the likes of Sibonelo Makhanya and Marques Ackerman have shown they will still make runs in the future. It’s fashionable to look at the Proteas and be chuffed, but there must be lessons taken from Australia’s demise in recent years. Back in 2014, as they came and snatched a series here, they looked like they were ready to start a new dynasty. Alas, their playing reserves were diminished, and they were far too reliant on ageing warhorses. South African cricket can’t dare fall into the same trap. The regeneration must be an ongoing process. That is why it was so pleasantly surprising to see the headlines in the recent Pakistan series snatched by Duanne Olivier. Good on him. He is a proud product of the system, a man who has plundered at franchise level. He graduated when he was ready, and he has flourished in esteemed company. While flash in the pan acts may work for short-term projects in coloured clothing, you still have to do your time with the red ball. And those who are ready often hit the ground running in international cricket. The four-day fare may not be on everyone’s radar, but it remains a great factory for the Proteas. Roll on, the domestic red! @whamzam17 Sunday Tribune

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African fashion enjoying great reception in Dubai -Osadebe

Ace fashion designer, Dennis Osadebe (Source:IG) He started with traditional attire, now graduated to modernised African-inspired dashikis and dresses, the various print designs and range of colours of Nigerian and African textiles. Dennis Osadede, ace fashion designer is arguably the first Nigerian to own a fashion brand, `D and D Clothing’ in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). His brand is the predominant means through which Africans and non-Africans in UAE can access Nigerian fashion pieces. Osadebe tells his story in this interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN). Below are extracts: As a Nigerian designer, how would you describe the influence of Nigerian fashion in global fashion? Going back to history, African print textiles, which were actually inspired by batik or wax-resist cloth from Indonesia, have been used to dress the people of Central and West Africa from the 1800s to present day. From traditional attire to modernised African-inspired dashikis and dresses, the various print designs and range of colours of African textiles have had influence on the fashion industry. It is amazing to watch this influence as the world seems to have suddenly realised the beauty of African fashion. It is now a strong part of global pop culture and provides more opportunities for African designers to shine internationally. Why did you decide to pursue fashion and design? The fashion industry had always been my passion. I love fashion and that is the main reason, among many businesses, I chose D and D Clothing. After a successful outing in Europe and US, D and D Clothing became popular and recognised all over the world. I then decided to set up my own show rooms across the world and that was how we opened the Dubai office. What led you to launch in Dubai? Dubai is the most suitable place for luxury tailoring services. I recognised the potentials of introducing African fashion to the world and now here we are. I chose to create an African fashion brand in United Arab Emirates because no one had done it before. I wanted to use the opportunity to reach my brothers and sisters in the world. Remember that Dubai is a tourism hub for business. Your brand is big on African pieces, how much thought and consciousness would you say are put into this? Africans are bold especially Nigerians and I love to represent the homeland in every piece I make; however, it takes a lot of thinking and creative digging to make a master-piece. I simply tell myself that nothing good comes easy. The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand and determination that whether one wins or loses the best strategy has to be applied on the task at hand. So, I put 100 per cent of my time in designing the business and because I see the future in this, I want people around the world to know about African fashion. How are African prints received in Dubai which is the world’s biggest emerging fashion market? The reception has been amazing and seeing taste we are pioneering it, I can say that D and D is more than a clothing line. It is a movement that gives each person the opportunity to express oneself. My clients in Dubai were very bored of the regular before we launched it; that is why they feel so special wearing custom-made clothes with creative African touch. Working in Dubai and in the international fashion market, I quickly realised the need to translate our fashion language to the worldwide market to show Nigerian inspired print fabrics, colors combination and modern fashion trends. Dubai is only the beginning, you will hear about us in Milan, London, New York this year. How would you describe the growth of African fashion globally? African fashion is growing and I can say it’s ready for the world. You can see an African touch in recent collections of Gucci or Louis Vuitton. Just look at all these impressionable fashion houses and you will see that African elements such as prints are present. Yearly, more and more international runway shows are happening in on the continent and African designers are becoming world famous number one on the chart. In fact, their businesses are shining outside Africa and I feel proud that African fashion has such big influence on world’s fashion trends. What are the factors responsible for this growth? First, African fashion is beautiful. You cannot take this away. Secondly, the thought and process that is put into it makes it a project close to the heart. A lot of people want to connect with something esoteric and African fashion has so much soul in it. Also, the industrial and cultural revolution from Africa is positively affecting the fashion industry. With competitive labour costs, Africa has the potential to claim a much greater share of the world’s apparel and textile manufacturing output but to achieve this, significant international investment is needed to build the industrial infrastructure required to compete with the likes of Asia. Now, we can see that South African fashion is growing and heavily influenced by Nigeria. Kenya is catching up fast too. Already, I can see the massive growth of African industries in the nearest future. What new projects are you embarking on this season? As I already mentioned, 2019 is a new era for us. The team and I are so excited to implement all our plans and to showcase our creativity to the world. We want the world to hear us and we are working to put together our own fashion shows and houses. After Dubai, Kenya is our next stop and all the necessary documentation for our new office in Kenya has been done. I am very keen on the importance of making African fashion more visible in the international fashion market. I will always support and develop my native fashion culture and I can assure you that the new season for D and D will be all shades awesome. What challenges have you faced as an African designer in the international market and how are you combating them? I love challenges and was ready to start from the beginning in a new country although I knew it was going to be hard. When we started, nobody knew our brand. But you have to keep pushing business to each African person; now we are proud of our growth. At least, 50 African customers visit our showroom regularly and the numbers keep growing. We also have Europeans and Arabs who love our products and are intrigued by the beauty of African fashion. We have the same uniqueness on our newly launched online store. We are so proud to be shipping our clothes all around the world. Even the last custom-made wedding dress was shipped to Australia. Our brand has grown in terms of scale, working now all over the world with agents and distributors and we are trying to grow with the addition of new categories like accessories for instance. In all these, I have learned over time that it is really important to stay true to our values and keep the same hand writing in every business. What are the lessons for the Nigerian fashion industry? Africa is home to seven of the fastest growing economies in the world and about 70 per cent of the continent’s populations live in countries that have experienced average growth in excess of four percent over the past decade. Although the statistics are interesting, the African fashion industry currently contributes only a small fraction. So, to grow to the international level, Nigerian fashion designers should bring their styles abroad and actively search for international representatives to tell the African story. We should always dream big and work hard to make our plans real. That is the only way to make your brand popular and successful.

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‘Why African fashion will take over the world’

Dennis Osadebe Dennis Osadebe is a talented Nigerian designer who is Chairman, D&D Clothing. He started off as a movie producer, then ventured into the construction industry and later D&D Travels and Tourism agency in Dubai. But with the growing trend of fashion in 2018, he turned his attention to fashion and set up D&D Clothing and Tailoring with the main office in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Here, he talks about his clothing line and more. Excerpts: What inspired the birth of the D&D fashion brand? The fashion industry has always been my passion, I am a fashionista and that’s the main reason why, amongst many businesses, I chose D&D Clothing to specially focus on. After successful runways in Africa, Europe and the USA, D&D Clothing became popular and recognized in Africa and all over the world. I decided to set up my own showrooms across the world and that was how we opened the Dubai office. ‘Why African fashion will take over the world’ Your brand is doing amazing work in pushing African fashion into Dubai. Why did you decide to launch in the UAE? The UAE is the most suitable place for luxury tailoring service. I recognised the potentials of introducing African fashion to the world and now we are here. I chose to create an African fashion brand in UAE, because it’s unknown there. So, I use this opportunity to reach my brothers and sisters in the world. Remember that Dubai is a tourism hub for business. Your designs are big on bold African pieces. How much thought and consciousness is put into this? Africans are bold, especially Nigerians, and I love to represent my homeland in every piece I make. It takes a lot of thinking and creative digging to make a masterpiece. I simply tell myself that nothing good comes easy. The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand. So, I put 100 per cent of myself in designing and business because I see the future in this and I want people around the world to know about African fashion. How has the brand’s use of African prints been received in Dubai, seeing that the city is fast becoming the world’s biggest fashion market? I strongly believe that D&D is more than a clothing line. It is a ‘movement’ that gives each person the opportunity to express himself. My clients in Dubai were very bored of the regular before we launched. That is why they feel so special wearing custom made clothes with creative African touch. Working in Dubai and in the international fashion market, I quickly realised the need to translate our fashion language to the worldwide market to show Nigerian inspired print fabrics, colour combination and modern fashion trends. Dubai is only the beginning of D&D International Retail. You will hear about D&D Fashion in Milan, London, and New York this year. How would you describe the growth of African fashion globally? African fashion is growing and I can say it’s already for the world. You can see an African touch in recent collections of Gucci or Louis Vuitton. Just look at all these influenceable fashion houses, African elements, such as prints are present. Yearly, more and more international runway shows are happening in Africa and African designers are becoming world famous. In fact, their businesses are shining outside Africa and I feel proud that African fashion has such big influence on the world’s fashion trends. What are the factors responsible for this growth? First, African fashion is beautiful. You cannot take this away. Secondly, the thought and process that is put into it makes it a project close to the heart. A lot of people want to connect with something esoteric and African fashion has so much soul in it. Also, the industrial and cultural revolution in Africa is positively affecting the fashion industry. With competitive labour costs, Africa has the potential to claim a much greater share of the world’s apparel and textile manufacturing output. But to achieve this, significant international investment is needed to build the industrial infrastructure required to compete with the likes of Asia. Now, we can see that South African fashion is growing and heavily influenced by Nigeria. Kenya is catching up fast too. I already can see the massive growth of African industries in the nearest future. As a fashion brand, what major milestones have you hit in the international market, including runways and collections? We have 12 collections a year, because each month our clients want to feel stylish, new and different. So, for them to know the latest fashion trends, we make runways all over the world. You are going to see us in France, in New York and other fashion cities. I can say that from 2019, D&D Clothing will be everywhere. In our strategic plan, we have more than 18 countries to launch this year. I am not sure if there is a brand that has done that in one year. We don’t know if any fashion house has four collections a year and will want to blaze the trail. As a Nigerian designer, how would you describe the influence of Nigerian fashion in African fashion globally? Going back to history, African print textiles, which were actually inspired by batik or wax-resist cloth from Indonesia, have been used to dress the people of Central and West Africa from the 1800s to present day. From traditional attire to modernized African-inspired dashikis and dresses, the various print designs and range of colours of African textiles have had an influence on the fashion industry. It is amazing to watch this influence as the world seems to have suddenly realised the beauty of African fashion. It is now a strong part of global pop culture and it provides more opportunities for African designers to shine internationally. What challenges have you faced as an African designer in the international market and how are you combating them? I love challenges and I was ready to start from the beginning in a new country, although I knew it was going to be hard. When we started, nobody knew our brand. But you have to keep pushing business to each African person and now we are proud of our growth. At least 50 African customers visit our showroom regularly and the numbers keep growing. We also have Europeans and Arabs who love our products and are intrigued by the beauty of African fashion. And we have the same uniqueness on our newly launched online store. We are so proud to be shipping our clothes all around the world. Even the last custom-made wedding dress was shipped to Australia. Our brand has grown in terms of scale, working now all over the world with agents and distributors, and we are trying to grow with the addition of new categories like accessories, for instance. I have learned over time that it is really important to stay true to our values and maintain the same handwriting in every business. With your experience in the international market, what are the lessons for the Nigerian fashion Industry? Africa is home to seven of the fastest growing economies in the world and about 70 percent of the continent’s population live in countries that have experienced average growth in excess of four percent over the past decade. Although the statistics are interesting, the African fashion industry currently contributes only a small fraction. So, to grow to the international level, Nigerian fashion designers should bring their styles abroad and actively search for international representatives to tell the African story. We always should dream big and work hard to make our plans real. That is the only way to make your brand popular and successful.

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Ijeoma Obasi: I feel I was born a century late

Ijeoma Chinelo Obasi is not the typical fat gal that broods over her shape and size even in the face of societal stickers against extended sizes. She carries herself with uncommon élan no wonder. She said spirit, passion and style encapsulate her personality. Apart from being a plus-size advocate, Obasi runs a modelling outfit aptly named Dream Plus Modelling Agency and she equally has interest in writing and photography. Meanwhile, in a frank session with MORAKINYO ABODUNRIN, Obasi speaks against the societal misconceptions against gals with extended sizes, and how much she has personally overcome some of these fallacies. How did you think your way through to being a plus-size advocate? I was born fat, grew up fat, still fat, now christened plus sized. I can’t remember what I weighed at birth. I was told I was fat but, come on, some people are not good with numbers; I weigh 105kg now. What was growing up like? Growing up was wonderful. My late father loved books and I was exposed to advanced literature very early in my life; reading about people in faraway lands, adventures, rise and fall of empires shaped my thoughts and fired my imaginations. My sympathies over the loss of your dad. How old were you when he died and how did you battle with it because of the usual depth of affection between fathers and daughters? Thank you. I was 14 and I didn’t feel it that much then. The only challenges I faced were on education; he was no longer there for discussions. My father was not one to show affection; thinking about it now, I can tell he wanted me to be strong. To be totally honest to myself and to others; to take responsibility for any of my actions and then to follow my heart. He was an atheist. Was your father a writer? No. But he had lots of books. It shaped his thinking and also mine. What are your thoughts about religion? Do you really want to hear it? Because I have none. I only want people to be safe in their belief and also try and accommodate other people’s beliefs. All my life I have been constantly judged by my lack of religion, which I don’t do to others. What is your religious belief? I still see myself as an atheist. I attend church when my friends have events, so I am not against any religion. What is the attraction in being an atheist, especially for a young lady like you? It is just like asking you a Christian or Muslim the attraction; which I am sure you have no answer to. I have been seen as the devil incarnate, just because I do not hold any religious affiliations. Ours is a very religious country, people also do not mind their business, they all have an opinion of how you should live your life. Imagine my ordeal as an atheist when I apply for official documents and I have to choose between Christianity and Muslim; I will suggest the authorities look into this. Nigeria has a large community of atheists and it is not right to force them to choose what they are not on their official documents. Is atheism a family thing or this is all about Chinelo? It was a family thing and not all about me; but I still hold onto the belief. How many are you in the family; what influence does your mum have over your choices? We are three. My mother is a very kind and understanding woman and even if your ideas are not that sound, she will walk you through it. I have always been a thinker. A nomad at heart; if travelling were to be free I would have been all over the world by now. She has no other choice. Which neighbourhood did you grow up in? We moved around a lot; Nnewi in Anambra State first, Oju-Ore in Sango Ota, then Ijesha in Lagos. Growing up fat, I was faced with discriminations over my body type and how I looked. Apart from the discriminations, there are the sexual predators who feel you are too big for your age. I was shy, I hid inside the pages of my books, moving around to cat calls and demeaning names turned me into a recluse. Then, I discovered social media, met plus sized ladies who were carrying their weights and sizes well online. Met a few offline, was amazed at my discoveries. I decided to get some confidence myself, and the rest was history. What is the most common misconception about plus-sized women? Glutton; sluggish and clumsy…people think we eat too much; we are slow and dirty. Do you have any unforgettable incident that you’ll like to share? I will try. I was once at a hotel to meet a friend. There was a line at the reception. I was standing behind two ladies and a guy; when it got to my turn the receptionist didn’t bother to ask me anything, she just said: ‘Madam, sisters’ fellowship holds at the pool side’. I was shocked, she was already pointing; I recovered my wits to ask her why she thought I was there for the fellowship, and she said I am big. I asked her what size has got to do with anything. You see, she didn’t point the other two ladies before me to fellowship, simply because they are slim. Fat ladies, even when they are dressed to kill, belong to fellowships. It was very embarrassing and unforgettable because I was actually dressed to kill and was not in some drab born-again kaftan and beret. Why do fat ladies like to ‘dress to kill’? Blame it on the killer bodies. When I used ‘dress to kill’ in that sentence, I never intended for anyone to get hurt; who even invented that word? The question is should a plus-sized or curvy woman wear ‘infuriating’ dresses? It depends on what you see as infuriating. Fashion is a choice; I might be into free clothing while somebody else thinks otherwise. Meanwhile, the fashion industry has never been fair to plus-sized women. You hardly see any design solely for them, what we get is bigger sizes of smaller ladies designs. Meaning, the designs were made with the little lady in mind, the plus sized ladies get the bigger sizes of it. Recently, some designers are correcting that but they are almost not affordable. How and when did you get an idea to run a modelling outfit for plus-sized ladies? I nursed the idea for two years before I finally kicked it off in January 2018. As a size acceptance advocate, I wanted to see more plus-sized women in advertisements, runways, entertainment etc. The modelling outfit was my way of doing something about it; grooming professional plus-sized models. I do not model myself, I direct. The society is used to having slim ladies as the ideal body type; they are almost in all the commercials, on the runways, billboards. Even in entertainment (media) the plus-sized are cast as the mothers, hardly any lead role, no love interest. How much of breakthrough have you made in this direction? Not much, but I am happy with the level of awareness created. We are planning for the Accra Fashion Week (AFW) this year. A plus size clothing line from Florida, Nina Sharae Resort & Swimwear, would be using my models. I am optimistic. Pageantry is all about beauty and carriage, what are the other things you look for while selecting your models? Passion, personality and goals. My next casting will be very tough since I will be looking out for exceptional ladies that have the qualities listed above. The agency will also bring male models on board. I have not done anything major yet with Dreams Plus Modelling Agency. For now, I run only the modelling agency. Before, it was just running as my age on social media and organisation of Fabsisters Corner. Tell us about the Fabsisters Corner Fabsisters Corner is a size acceptance advocacy group. It started as a Facebook Page; the more we share pictures of plus sized ladies, write about the challenges, and also encourage the plus-sized women to have confidence, the more the women wanted more. It was formed by two plus-sized women, Ijeoma Chinelo Obasi and Kenechi Okafor. What other challenges do plus-sized women face besides the usual societal stereotype? I think the greatest challenge is about relationships – finding love. Most plus-sized women have a complex problem and finding the right cloth for their body. Have you found love; is he a plus-sized guy? Tell us about the lucky guy… Yes, I have found love. He is not plus-sized. I love slim guys because I am already big and acquired enough flesh for both of us. About him… It took me long to believe him that he truly loves me, though sometimes the insecurity sets in. We met on social media and from experience, one guy on Facebook talking to you as a woman is also talking to 10 other fat women. But he is just special to me, I can’t point at anything. My instincts convinced me (it has failed me in the past, especially relationship-wise) but this time around, I am also making this work. How soon are you heading to the altar? Very soon. I do not want to rush it. I am taking my time; I had my fears but I do not have to put my fears first before my happiness. I’ve talked to myself; if anyone deserves happiness, that person is me. Do you feel unhappy sometimes that you are plus-sized and has it limited your choice of things you’ll like to do? I used to be unhappy about my size. When I walked down the street, I felt everybody and their dogs were talking about me; it affected my relationship with people but I no longer feel that way. Even small ‘stressful’ things like skinny jeans that used to make me sad, I now rock them happily. Yes, being plus-sized comes with a lot of limitations. What are some of these limitations and what advice can you give to overcoming them? Getting jobs in some organisations; it never happened to me but I have listened to plus-sized women share experiences. Be confident of your abilities, do not let what others think or say about you shake you. Always go out of your way to prove that you can. If you do not promote yourself, who will? How are you planning for the coming Accra Fashion Week? Planning to have the best models on the run way. Who knows if my agency might produce the first curvy super model? I have another passion, which is travelling, exploring and documenting. I am lucky to be part of a team of photographers who are trying to rediscover Africa. I feel as if I was born a century late; I would have made a good explorer. Not too late now because Africa beckons and it would be nice to tell Africa’s story by an African, not the stark poverty and corruption but stories of the beautiful continent. I was at the northern region, a place called Tamale; beautiful place, untouched, though very hot. I saw how shea butter was processed and I even came close to a friendly crocodile. I want Africans to travel round their own continent, meet people from other countries, not in New York or Norway. It will help us realise how beautiful our land is and have a better appreciation and dedication to it. A lot of Nigerians have travelled all over Europe but never made it to neighbouring Benin Republic. With the pictures we will be sharing, it will help people who want to travel all over Africa. What is your fashion regimen? I do not care about fashion that much. I dress up in clothes that make me comfortable, I wear lots of black (I believe it hides the folds). Yes, black is my favourite colour. I love long dresses and African prints. What will you not be caught wearing? Revealing clothes and loud colours. Why are you not following the trend? Why can’t the trend follow me? I enjoy being different, I don’t have to do what others are doing. What kind of food do you like and which ones do you run away from? I love fufu too much. I run away from foods I do not understand, like Chinese and Italian stuffs. Give me swallow anytime, any day I will be at peace and happy. How regularly do you go to the gym to exercise? Once in a red moon; meaning never! I’m fit and I am confident about myself. Sponsored

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Sundowns turn on the style against Casablanca

Share Mamelodi Sundowns are back in the business, following their 2-1 victory against Wydad Casablanca in the CAF Champions League on Saturday night. Mamelodi Sundowns are back in the business, following their 2-1 victory against Wydad Casablanca in the CAF Champions League on Saturday night. SUMMARY – Zwane nets a brace- Sundowns move to second in Group A REPORT Sundowns, who lost the opening encounter to Nigeria’s Lobi Stars earlier this month, had a critical point to prove this week and they did it in emphatic fashion against a giant of African football. Bafana Ba Style are now second in Group A on goal difference, having accumulated three points from their first two matches. The top two teams in the group qualify for the knockout phase of the tournament. However, it is worth noting that all four teams currently sit on three points. The comeback is not complete, by any stretch of the imagination but critically Pitso Mosimane’s charges are still well and truly in the contest. Themba Zwane sent Wydad a clear message in the 8th minute, when he put Sundowns ahead – a lead that was sustained for most of the first stanza. However, even when Mohamed Nahiri equalised just before the interval, one always had the sense that the three points were Sundowns’ to lose. Zwane scored his brace twenty minutes into the second stanza, sealing the victory and boosting the morale of the former African champions, after what has been a difficult 2018/19 campaign both at home and abroad. Zwane’s second goal was the classic combination of opportunism and clinical execution. Wydad failed to make a decent clearance, Zwane latched onto the loose ball and fired home from range. His volley found the top corner of the goal. Goalkeeper Ahmed Tagnaouti had no chance. This long range business is becoming somewhat of a habit for Sundowns. The first goal was more of Sundowns’ making, after Lebohang Maboe set Zwane up in the box, where he was all alone and ready to pounce….and pounce he did. The first-time strike found the back of the net. Share

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Smooth Traveler: Washington, DC, the pulse of America

ABOVE PHOTO: Washington Memorial viewed from steps of Lincoln Memorial (Photo: shutterstock) By Renee S. Gordon “Justitia omnibus” – “Justice for All” George Washington surveyed and selected a place on the Potomac River to become the permanent site of the Federal Capitol. In 1790, the Residence Act made this a reality. He commissioned Pierre L’Enfant to design the city, but after one year, L’Enfant abandoned the project, taking his plans with him. Benjamin Banneker, a free African-American, recreated the plans from memory, thereby allowing the work to continue. The White House, known as the President’s House until 1901, was first occupied by the Adams family on November 1, 1800. Slaves were hired from owners to help construct the mansion. Blankets and clothing were supplied by owners. Documented free Blacks also worked as carpenters and surveyors. ( https://washington.org ) The Capitol (1793) was always meant to be the centerpiece of the District of Columbia. Its location, Jenkins Hill, was specifically chosen because it allows the structure to appear to glow at sunset. In 1855, a dome and a statue for its top were commissioned. The sculptor of the statue sent the cast to the US, but he died and it appeared impossible to disassemble the statue for casting. James Reid, an enslaved foundry worker, solved the problem and the statue, “Freedom”, continues to crown the dome. ( www.visitthecapitol.gov ) For more than 200 years, “The District” has been the beating heart and soul of the country and the keeper of the nation’s history and cultural memory. Festivals, marches, protests and other events that altered history’s narrative have played out here. The more than 300-acre National Mall was designed to serve as a main thoroughfare. Today it provides access to the most viewed and visited monuments, museums and Smithsonian sites. (Photo: shutterstock) As the Mall is referred to as “the nation’s front yard”, the Smithsonian Institute is considered the nation’s attic. James Smithson, a Scotsman who never visited America, willed more than $500,000 in 1829 to establish the Smithsonian, now the largest museum in the world with an additional zoo and research sites. ( https://www.si.edu ) Taking an Old Town Trolley tour is the best way to see as much as possible and cover great distances while in the city. Offered tours are guided, begin at 9 am and allow passengers to hop-off and re-board at 25 stops. There are red and blue routes that cover The Mall and take you to Arlington National Cemetery. The evening tour, Monuments by Moonlight, is a spectacular way to view the illuminated city. One of the greatest benefits is that visitors can explore sites that tend to be underappreciated. ( www.trolleytours.com/washington-dc ) (Photo: Renée S. Gordon) The National Museum of African Art is dedicated to the traditional arts of sub-Saharan Africa. It was established in 1964 and became part of the Smithsonian in 1979. The museum’s collection is representative of 900 distinct African cultures. “Good as Gold: Fashioning Senegalese Women” is an outstanding exhibition focusing on the cultural significance of gold, including mining, trade and gold as a symbol of power, beauty and self-expression. #goodasgold (Photo: Renée S. Gordon) “Gordon Parks: The New Tide, Early Work 1940-1950” is on exhibit in the National Gallery of Art until February 18. His works are a window into an era as is Dawoud Bey’s “The Birmingham Project” in an adjacent gallery. The gallery is housed in two buildings and has a collection of European and American Art from the Middle Ages to the present. ( https://www.nga.gov/exhibitions/2018/gordon-parks-the-new-tide-1940-1950.html ) (Photo: Renée S. Gordon) Strong women have always carved a place for themselves in DC and one of their iconic sites, the 1929 National Woman’s Party headquarters, is now the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument. The site interprets the early women’s suffrage history. A tour highlight is Susan B. Anthony’s desk. ( www.nps.gov/bepa/index.htm ) You will gain a new respect for the postal service after a visit to the National Postal Museum. Exhibits feature the history of postage stamps and a timeline of the postal service in America through interactives, videos, artifacts and text. Visitors can enter a train mail car, walk the original mail route and examine artifacts from famous crimes involving the postal service, including the Unabomber’s handcuffs. Currently on display is “John Lennon: The Green Album”. As a boy Lennon collected stamps and his album contains 565 stamps on 150 pages. This is a hidden treasure. ( www.si.edu/Museums/postal-museum ) The Korean War Veteran’s Memorial commemorates the soldiers who fought there. The war was the first without racial segregation and the 19 sculptures when reflected on the wall add up to 38 representing the 38th Parallel. There are twelve White, three African-American, two Hispanics, one Asian and one Native American sculpted soldiers. Nearly 10,000 women served in Vietnam. Their service is commemorated with the 1993 Vietnam’s Women’s Memorial. Located near the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Wall, the 6’8” bronze sculpture depicts a seriously wounded soldier assisted by three servicewomen. Portrait of LL Cool J (Photo: Renée S. Gordon) The National Portrait Gallery displays portraits of noteworthy women and men, including the U.S. Presidential portraits. One highlight of the collection on exhibit is Nelson Shanks’ life-sized painting, “The Four Justices”, of female Supreme Court Justices O’Connor, Kagan, Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Two of the most famous portraits are those of Michelle Obama by Amy Sherald and Barack Obama by Kehinde Wiley. I suggest you be there when the gallery opens and head straight to the third floor for comfortable viewing. Do not miss the symbolism in Michelle’s portrait, especially in her patterned dress. ( www.nps.gov/bepa/index.htm , #myNPG) Eaton House, which opened in September 2018, easily rises to a level of innovation and creativity that is designed to foster environmental, artistic, global and community awareness and to inspire guests to seek their loftiest goals through personal interaction. It is comprised of five individual parts: Hotel, House, Media, Wellness, and Impact. Public spaces are designed to facilitate mingling and free exchange of ideas. Live performances, an Eaton Radio community program and DJ mixes, offered as well as art, create a spectrum of mediums. Eaton Wellness center showcases The District’s holistic healing community. Four main dining options are guided by chef Tim Ma, American Son, Kintsugi, Wild Days and Allegory. ( www.eatonworkshop.com ) Eaton DC is LEED Gold certified and their environmental commitment extends to the guest rooms. Rooms offer eco-friendly mattresses and linens and Grown Alchemist, plant-based, bath products. ( www.eatonworkshop.com/hotel/dc/house )

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Dowdy no more: Men in suits storm back into style

Long eclipsed on the men’s catwalks by supposedly more practical street and sportswear, the suit was thought to be slowly going the way of the doublet and pantaloon. Models showcase suits by Off-White label designer Abloh, the first African American to lead a major French luxury brand. Picture: instagram.com PARIS – Many had thought it as good as dead, destined for a place in fashion oblivion next to plus fours. But this week a most unexpected thing has been happening on Paris men’s catwalks — the stuffy old suit has come back. In show after show suits and tailored jackets have shaken off the toxic baggage of corporate uniformity. It wasn’t supposed be like this. Long eclipsed on the men’s catwalks by supposedly more practical street and sportswear, the suit was thought to be slowly going the way of the doublet and pantaloon. "There is the narrative that tailoring is dead, that the tastes of the youth are completely defined by sportswear — and you do see that on the street," Vogue critic Luke Leitch told AFP. It was assumed that men no longer wanted to "wear tailoring at work", he added, "because it is not always that comfortable, and that it’s forever associated with their dads". Yet with fashion swinging "between streetwear and sportswear for quite a few seasons now, this week in Paris and to some extent in Milan, we have seen tailoring galore". "Suddenly everyone is saying, ‘I’m reconsidering tailoring. How can we bring it into the future?’" Leitch added. 21-CENTURY TAILORING That includes the biggest streetwear guru of them all, Louis Vuitton’s Virgil Abloh, fashion’s hottest property at the moment. The first African American to lead a major French luxury brand, he sent rappers out in suits and ties in the star-studded show for his own Off-White label. "I am always the streetwear guy," Abloh told reporters, lamenting being stereotyped. "But… in culture you are supposed to lead," he said. And that is what a brace of top designers from Kim Jones at Dior Homme to Dries Van Noten, Junya Watanabe and Sean Suen have been trying to do with the suit and jacket in Paris. fw19 men’s Off-White™ runway show titled “Public Television” streaming on www.off- – -white.com. set design enhanced to create an alternate experience online. photography c/o @fabienmontique A post shared by Off-White™ (@off____white) on Jan 17, 2019 at 8:45am PST It is all about making 21st-century tailoring "more now", Jones told AFP. A master of giving luxury clothes a streetwise edge, the Briton said he wanted to make "Dior’s classic black suit a bit cooler and a bit more fashion". Pop star-oriented Balmain also blinged up the dinner jacket and the classic two-piece. Givenchy too are dipping a toe into top-end male tailoring. Even the avant-garde American Rick Owens, the grandaddy of the oversized trend, which has seen men swaddled in vast duvet coats in recent seasons, returned to the fitted jacket fold. His glam rock collection about the "glory of lust and vice" was sleek, sexy and highly masculine. We can expect more of the same from the superstar designer Hedi Slimane — the "sultan of slim" — when he presents the first-ever Celine men’s collection Sunday. Slimane has always been a true believer in tailoring, as has Kris Van Assche, who showed his first collection for luxury men’s outfitters Berluti Friday after more than a decade at Dior. SILVER SWAGGER "Rather than accepting that all people want to wear is sweatshirts and jeans, I want to claim back the idea of tailoring, a new tailoring, one that talks to young people," he told AFP just before he took up his new job. The Belgian is no fan of the androgynous look that has gone hand in hand with more unisex and oversized clothes. "There is nothing more lovely than a girl in a man’s suit, it’s an interesting contrast," he said. "But if men’s clothes become feminine we lose the contrast," he added. Like Van Assche, Japanese veteran Watanabe used older models for his joyous "Silver Swagger" show earlier the same day. He took his inspiration from how middle-aged hipsters can make a suit sing by mixing tightly-cut blazers and tweed jackets with turned-up jeans. Yet Vogue’s Leitch wondered if the trend would change much in the real world. Designers have a "romantic attachment to tailoring", he said. "It has its own language and it is a great pleasure to go back and play with the codes." In an age when a "kid from Albuquerque can get as many likes on Instagram as Dior", Leitch said the street now sets the tone for what most of us wear. Even so, he said Ermenegildo Zegna, "reputedly the world’s biggest suit company, turning over billions every year" recently bought Thom Browne, the highly tailored and brilliantly far-out American brand which showed in Paris Saturday. "Whatever about who is setting the zeitgeist, the market is there," Leitch said.