Saturday Casual

Weekly Word; Serendipity

So, while I recognize that most of us are familiar with the meaning of this word, I’m not sure we all know the story of how it came to be part of the English language. That’s why I’m making it my Weekly Word. Definition: An aptitude for making delightful discoveries by accident. Pronunciation:  [ser-uhn-dip-i-tee] Derivation:  The word serendipity was coined by 19th century author and politician, Sir Horace Walpole, in reference to a Persian fairy tale called The Three Princes of Serendip. 478px-Horace_Walpole_Van_DyckIn the story, three highly educated siblings are sent on a journey by their father, the king of Serendip. During their adventures, the young princes make “discoveries by accident and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of.” Serendip was the ancient name for Ceylon, known today as Sri Lanka. The Three Princes of Serendip was popular with sixteenth-century Venetian intellectuals who entertained each other with riddles and fables. Used in a sentence: Maude was overwhelmed by the serendipity of running in to the very person she most needed to see in the canteen. First Known Use: Horace Walpole coined the phrase in 1754. Why this word delights: I only just discovered the origin of this word, and find it quite enchanting. Also, it's a word that sounds like what it means. Just saying it puts one in mind of a joyful discovery. Alright, lovelies! Signing off till Monday. Cheers!

The Uniform

Tila March bag It just hit me a couple of weeks ago that I actually have a uniform. Finally! I've been longing for one since I can't remember when. I don't know, there's just something reassuring about having an assortment of neatly-pressed, interchangeable clothes all lined up in my wardrobe, relieving me of the effort of having to put together an outfit daily.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy pulling a kit together…. but just not every day. My perfect balance would be 4 days uniform and one day completely impromptu curated outfit.  Well, that can happen now BECAUSE I HAVE A UNIFORM, which consists of, drumroll please…..dark blue jeans, cropped or otherwise, a blue or black  shirt, usually striped, a blue jacket, medium-heeled footwear and my big, bossy Celine tote, which goes without saying, amirite? I know, I know. I'm a maniac when it comes to the color blue. [satellite gallery=8 auto=on thumbs=on] My penchant for blue probably stems from the fact that I wore a navy blue uniform throughout my formative, high school years in London. I attended an all-girls convent and was required to wear a navy blue jumper, navy blue A-line skirt, navy blue blazer, contrasting white blouse, and navy blue and white striped tie. It wasn't the most prepossessing uniform, in fact, it was pretty sad compared to other nearby convents who chose brown, fawn, bottle green and grey over navy blue. Nonetheless, over time,  I grew fond of the whole concept of a uniform. But I think it goes back further than my high school years. Even before that, when I was about 8,  I became fixated on the idea of one day becoming  a bus conductor.  bus conductors And what exactly is a bus conductor, I hear you ask yourself?  Well, sadly they doesn't exist anymore, at least not in London, but back in the day a bus conductor was the person who managed the back office affairs of the bus. Basically, they asked you where you were going, took your fare and gave you your ticket. So quaint. Why did I long to be one? THE UNIFORM, DUH. By the mid-70's, the official London Transport uniform was a pencil grey trouser or skirt suit and, of course, an obligatory cap. Very jaunty. And apparently, you could choose your own shirt. I lived in West London and the majority of the bus conductors on my side of town were West Indian, which meant that had, shall we say,  something of a flair for color. So, accompanying the pencil grey jacket would often be a canary yellow/Schiaparelli pink/scarlet/hunter green/whatever shirt. I totally admired the contrast, and the irrepressible sense of personal style. I thought these people had swagger, and a fun job and I wanted in! Sadly, my childhood dream did not come true and I became a lawyer, but all is not lost because, it turns out that I eventually became A LAWYER WHO HAS A UNIFORM! Jeans: Paris cropped, MIH Jacket: ALC Shirt: Rag & Bone First Bag: Tila March Second Bag: Marni Ring: Vintage Earrings: Pearls in Motion, Mikimoto High-heel loafers: Prada Block-heeled loafers: Fendi Sunglasses: Prada Blush: Liberte by Nars Lipstick: Afghan Red by Nars Photos taken by Irys Kornbluth

The FROCK

There are certain dresses that no matter the style (shift, wrap, etc.) they are quintessentially DRESSES. Then there are others, such as the gorgeous, floral Tibi number that I finally wore last week, that are more FROCK than dress. I love this frock, but I do admit that it's quite full-on and not right for every occasion. Funnily enough, I think I've had a hard time wearing it due to a completely unfiltered comment that my 10 year old cousin made when I attempted to wear it to a family wedding a few years ago. There we were all getting changed in my aunt's guest bedroom. I had my dress on and was busy sorting through accessories when my cousin got a glimpse of me and shouted out, "OMIGOD! You cannot possibly wear that. It's awful. It's like something a 70 year old would wear!" Slightly embarrassed by the outburst, I attempted to explain that this was in fact a highly-fashionable, albeit slightly retro, frock. Pointless.  My cousin stood her ground, repeating endlessly that it was frumpy and old-looking and that I looked completely unpretty in it. It was probably that last comment that broke the camel's back. Unpretty???? I silently changed into a beige Tracy Reece number and we trooped off to the church.

Isn't it funny how other people's opinions can affect one's perception? I actually had a hard time wearing the dress following that episode. Silly, I know, but true.

Last week I attended an event at an art gallery and finally felt the occasion was a perfect match for my fierce floral frock.

Tibi dress

Tibi dress closeupTibi dress

Tibi dress back

Dress: Tibi Bag: Ferragamo Nail Polish: A List by Essie Ring: Vintage Sandals: Bruno Magli Photos taken by Irys Kornbluth    

The Fall

If you're like me, and cannot get enough of gritty, British detective dramas, you will LOVE The Fall. thefallnetflix2It's a 5 part series available for streaming on Netflix. As soon as I found it,  I did what I always do with Netflix series - I binge-watched it in 2 - 3 episode chunks until I'd seen the entire thing in a weekend. I will warn you now, that it is DARK and GRITTY. Of course, it wouldn't really be a bona fide "gritty, British detective drama", without these qualities but I think in this case, the emphasis is necessary. The Fall opens with Detective Stella Gibson, played by Gillian Anderson, arriving in Belfast, Northern Ireland, to take over a stalled murder case.  From the beginning the viewer becomes aware that there are two mysteries at play; the murder that quickly becomes a string of murders with a decidedly serial quality to them, and Stella Gibson's chilly, enigmatic personality. We're given scant insight into who she is and why she behaves the way she does.  Early in the series, she spots a handsome young officer investigating a crime and orders her subordinate to introduce him. Stella coolly tells him her name, where she's staying, and the number of the hotel room. A few hours later, he's in her bed. A few days later, he's shot in front of his home while waving to his 4 year old son who's smiling at daddy from his bedroom window. Both the sex and the subsequent murder seem to be matters of indifference to Stella. For his part, Jamie Dornan, does a chilling job as Paul Spector, the meticulous, compulsive killer. Ironically, he makes his living as a grief counselor.

The plot is taut and measured. And deservedly, the series which became a huge hit when it first aired on BBC in May, has been picked up for a second series. I really admire murder dramas that let you know from the jump who the perpetrator is but are still able to maintain your interest as the capture unfolds. That cannot be easy to accomplish.

My only criticism is that Stella Gibson's character is too closely modeled on that of Prime Suspect's DCI Jane Tennison, magnificently played by Helen Mirren over a 7 series run that started in 1991. I could see Jane Tennison in the outfits, the expressions, the isolation, the sexual appetite, the faintly-veiled sexism. In short, everywhere. Honestly, nothing compares to Prime Suspect, so best not to invoke it so heavily. Oh, yes, I also found Gillian Anderson's British accent a little bewildering. It wasn't the middle class with Peckham highlights thrown in for fun that you would expect from a woman who has made it to the top of a male dominated field. It was sort of Masterpiece Theatre, but perhaps I quibble. I do know that I cannot WAIT for the second series to arrive. Tarry not, Netflix!

 

The ART of the BROW

Last week I attended a private soiree at the new Benefit Brow Bar on Sutter Street in San Francisco's Union Square. Benefit

It's a beautifully appointed, free-standing boutique; with a warm exuberant retro feel and no shortage of the girly pink that we've come to think of as quintessentially Benefit.  Guests contentedly sipped champagne and nibbled on hors d'oeuvres, listening intently as a makeup artist gave a detailed presentation on the ART of the BROW.

After the presentation, guests were treated to complimentary brow shaping. Given that I have approximately 17 hairs on either brow, I elected not to take part. The truth is, I'm an avowed threadee. I allow absolutely NO-ONE other than my expert threader at Oakland's Cloud 9 within breathing distance of my brows.

As you know, I never squander an opportunity to put on a frock and gussy myself up, and this was no exception. I'm really keen on this little printed silk affair; it's witty and whimsical and always makes me feel as though I'm celebrating from the moment I put it on.Marni for H&M B

Is it just me, or does my head look like it's meant to be the B in Benefit? Marni for H&M back The tie-back makes adds a little flourish. Marni for H&M seated Dress; Marni for H&M Belt; Rag & Bone Bag; Helena De Natalio Ring; Van Cleef & Arpels Earrings;  Marco Bicego Shoes; Gucci

Thanksgiving Sunday

[satellite gallery=5] I've always been very comfortable wearing bold, bright colors and prints without really knowing why. This past Sunday (as in two days ago) I decided to wear a (somewhat) traditional Yoruba outfit to church because the first Sunday of the month is Thanksgiving Sunday and the idea is that you show up looking joyful and resplendent to show thanksgiving for the abundance received from on high. Theoretically,  I could do this in western attire but I'd have to really work at it. On the other hand, I can reach into the Naija girl section of my closet and pull together a joyful and resplendent outfit with very little thought, so that's what I ended up doing. I had this particular dress made for my brother's wedding in Nigeria two years ago. I've had no occasion to wear it since, until now.  The dress is made from sequined net organza, the cumberband is silk velvet and the head piece (known as "gele" in Yoruba) is made from ask-oke, a Nigerian raw silk. I would describe the get up as unrestrained. I grew up wearing these types of outfits and I absolutely love them. As a result, I'm completely undaunted by bold colors or layering color upon color upon color and it's probably why I wear very little black. Dark and sombre is definitely not my thing.  Bag: YSL Shoes: Rodo Earrings: Mikimoto For context, here are some pictures from the actual wedding back in 2012. [satellite gallery=6 auto=on]

Street Art on Mission

DSC_0037 I found these about a block apart. Same artist? I wonder. DSC_0132      

Speaking Frankly About Deodorant

armpit-snifferSo, as promised yesterday, let's jump right in with a pithy little piece about deodorants!

I've long been of the view that people, especially women-people, should only wear deodorants that are free of harmful chemicals. And I feel  antiperspirants are, by their very nature, unhealthy because they plug one's pores to prevent the body from perspiring, which is a natural and needed function. All that said, as women we desire to perspire as minimally and fragrantly as possible, and finding healthy products that are also effective can be a major challenge.  Over the years I've only come across a handful.  Here is a rundown of my favorites:

Malin + Goetz isn't the most fragrant of deodorants, but I don't think it's intended to be. It has a refined eucalyptus scent and can be re-applied during the day as needed. It comes in stick form, lasts for ages and is highly effective. It retails for $18, which is a great deal. If anyone from the product design arm of the company is out there doing some social listening,  it would be amazing if you could make an on-the-go, lipstick-sized version that I can stash handily in my evening clutch. You're welcome.

Aesop has an amazing spray deodorant that is fresh and pine-scented. It's really well-formulated and highly effective. It contains zinc, and a variety of essential oils such as Lemongrass, Patchouli, Clove, Thyme and Vetiver Root, all of which work together to kill the growth of the Coryneform bacteria, which is the cause of body odor. Because it's a clear fluid applied by spritzer, there is no residue. The only minor detractor is that the bottle has a design defect that prevents it from spraying about 3/4 way through the bottle. It's happened to me four or five times now and the Aesop people are always sniffy about acknowledging it (pun intended). The last time I brought this up to a salesperson I was told that the design team was looking into it. I found this curious since spray bottles aren't exactly state of the art technology. You can buy one for a dollar at Walgreens (Londoners read "Boots"). At $38, it's a fairly pricey purchase considering that it only lasts about 6-8 weeks. Again, if there's anyone from the Aesop design team out there doing some social listening, it would be great if you could prioritize resolving this "design flaw".  And yes, you're welcome. Or, channeling Drake "You can thank me later."

Clarins:  The Roll-On Deodorant is an oldie but goodie. The fragrance is a pleasing, soft botanical and it's a semi-clear formulation. It's billed as an anti-perspirant-deodorant on the bottle but it doesn't have any clogging agents. Well priced too, at $24.

Donna Karan Cashmere Mist Deodorant-Antiperspirant: It's cheating a bit to put this on the list after my earlier proviso about antiperspirants, but this one doesn't contain aluminum and is such a good product that I'm making an executive decision to include. (I know!! You can do that when you have your own blog. Amazing!) I would, however, add that I only using this occasionally because it's a bit cakey.

And lastly, L'Occitan roll-on for men. This is my absolute favorite. It dries quickly, never stains and has a clean pine scent. It's an amazing buy at $18.

Happy Wednesday!

Sock Hop

This morning I was lucky enough to catch a ride with one of my favorite drivers. Favorite primarily because the car, 2014 Acura RL, is just so plush but also because the driver subscribes to XM radio which pipes excellent 70's rock into the car's commodious, luxe interior. So there I am companionably chatting with the driver about songs that came out in the early 70's and favorite lives performances when he says "When I was a teenager, they used to have these dances called Sock Hops." sockhop This was an entirely new concept for me so I asked that he elaborate. It turns out a Sock Hop was a high school dance held in a school gymnasium. They started in the mid 50's, and the idea was that you paid an entry fee, 50 c or perhaps a $1 for a double bill, took off your shoes to protect the gym floor and danced the night away to live music in your socks. This man was in his late 60's and grew up in Detroit…the home of none other than Motown Records. Motown used Sock Hops to test new acts and build up their live performance skills. The first sock hop the driver attended featured a sixteen year old Stevie Wonder. At a later Sock Hop, Diana Ross opens the concert, sings a few numbers and then says. "I want to introduce you to an act I just recently discovered out of Gary, Indiana, and I just know you're gonna love 'em, …Boys & Girls, give it up for The Jackson Five". Michael was all of 7 years old. I've said it before but it bears repeating. One is apt to meet such interesting people in Casual Carpool. Amirite?

Saturday Casual

[satellite gallery=10 auto=on caption=off thumbs=on] I share these pictures at the risk of squandering some of the fashion credibility that I might have built up over the past year on this blog. It's just that I actually enjoy throwing on my casual gear and heading to the Farmer's Market of a Saturday morning. And, I still think of it as fashion…because what is fashion, really? Isn't it simply crafting a look through clothing with the idea that a certain outfit will evoke a certain feeling in whoever looks at you. That's how I think of fashion. So, what do you think? Happy Monday! Bag: Stuart Weitzman Scarf: Vintage Earrings: cephas Cardigan: Anne Klein (vintage) Pinafore: Theory Booties: n.d.c Sunglasses: Prada Lipliner: Aubergine by Beauty for Life Lipgloss: Glossimer 176 by Chanel Photos taken by Aminat Oladunjoye

San Francisco Conservatory of Music presents ‘Salon Musicale’

Earlier in the Summer, I was invited to attend an evening of string and piano chamber music at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. IMG_2858The Conservatory is located in the heart of the Civic Center on Oak Street and educates exceptionally talented musicians from around the world. Students leave this institute as artists of the highest calibre.

The evening started with cocktails and mingling. After an hour or so the audience was asked to take seats, the musicians, 2 violinists, 1 cellist, a pianist and a young prodigy named Omar Shelly on viola, were introduced and the performance began. I can only describe it as breathtaking!

IMG_2859There's something about sitting in close proximity to that kind of energy and passion that is very moving. After the performance, I got a change to mingle with the musicians and other Conservatory students who acting as hostesses.

An added bonus to the evening was that it provided an opportunity for me to wear one of my favorite dresses, a rather sedate color-block shift, which I alway pair with my all time favorite clutch. Admission to this performance was free as are many others. It's a lovely way to spend an evening. It's also rewarding to know that you are encouraging young musicians as they embark upon what can be a very difficult career. Please check the school's calendar for upcoming performances. Ter & Bantine dress Shoes; Ferragamo. Clutch; Loeffler Randall. Dress; Ter & Bantine. Loeffler Randall clutchTer & Bantine Dress

Reach out and touch somebody’s hair

hair 3The politics of black women's hair never really reaches a natural (pun intended) conclusion. It dies down for a while, and then suddenly before you know it, someone sees fit to make yet another documentary on the topic, or the Guardian publishes an article about it, or the New York Times runs a thoughtful op-doc on a writer transitioning from decades of processed hair to natural and BOOM  just like that, it's back on front street. I can see why, actually, because hair and what it represents for woman overall is a fascinating topic. Layer on race, power and identity and it becomes deep, very deep. my hair I've worn my hair natural for most of my life. Ironically, the only time I had processed hair was the decade during which I lived in Nigeria. My uni years, as it were. I've been living and working in the United States for two decades now, and almost uniformly every black woman I've ever worked with or been friends with whether they are Africans but naturalized Americans or African-Americans have chemically processed hair. I suppose the exception is women with dreads, and while I have a few friends who wear dreads, they're generally not working in corporate America.  I've never felt any pressure to conform. But there was this one time when my hair became an issue. I was working at a software company, one of the largest in the world, and we had a global legal offsite, so all the lawyers worldwide convened in Mountain View for a week. A team came in from APJ (Asia Pacific and Japan) and on Day 1 we were doing a "Meet & Greet" where you had to introduce yourself to as many people in the room who you didn't know within a 30 minute period. So, I made my way over to a female colleague from China and introduced myself. While I was explaining my role to her I noticed that she didn't appear to be listening. Instead, she stared intently at my hair and then suddenly without warning reached out and grabbed a fistful. I was stunned. I don't think she even noticed my reaction, instead she rolled my hair around between her fingers and remarked on how soft it felt. I extricated myself from her as soon as I could and moved on to another colleague.hair 2 An hour later at break time, I was standing with a group drinking coffee when a colleague from Singapore sauntered over and joined our conversation. Well, of course, you know what happened next. At some point during the conversation, which was probably about something benign like American Idol, this man reached over the person standing between us and stroked my mini-fro. He too remarked upon it's surprising softness. I am so totally not kidding, or embellishing in any way. Ok, so now I was just through. Indeed, I was in high dudgeon!  I  went off in search of my manager, who we'll call Katie. Katie is caucasian, although I'm not sure that's pertinent to the narrative. She tried to keep a straight face as I huffily described what had happened, but she just couldn't. After a minute I was laughing too, because it is actually very funny on some levels. When we composed ourselves Katie promised that she would speak to the APJ Lead Counsel immediately and tell him straight up to advise his team that no-one else should attempt to molest my hair. What's the moral of this story? Well there isn't one really, except perhaps that African hair in it's natural state can inspire deep curiosity in non-Africans, I suppose. I had never thought twice about this incident until last year when I heard of interactive public art exhibit debuting in New York called  You Can Touch My Hair. The event staged by un'ruly featured three black women. Each stood in Union Square holding black and white signs that invited the general public to sink their fingers into their curls. The purpose of the exhibit was to spark debate, and explore issues of power, race and identity in America. As I watched the clip, the incident with the Asian lawyers came flooding back into my mind. It really shocked me that this was actually a thing! I have great admiration for the un'ruly team because I think their work has the potential to create awareness or at least to generate valuable discourse. Let's be honest: Being objectified is wrong and damaging. It's also very disheartening to realize that the people doing it don't have the faintest clue that it's unacceptable. There is a two-part series on  U-tube featuring the exhibit. I urge you to watch it. Cheers. P.S. Is it Wednesday already???

Rainbow Nails Redux

Mauve Rainbow Manicure I did a rainbow mani a few weeks ago on a lark but it turned out that I liked it so this time I did it deliberately.  This one is a tighter, mauve rainbow. I found the ring  in a vintage shop in the Marais in Paris a couple of years ago. It's made of chrome and glass and it dates back to the 1930's. I love the way it looks and I've always wanted to have it recreated but until recently I couldn't find lapis lazuli of a quality that was pleasing. Everyday lapis isn't hard to find, but it can be grainy and matrixed so that it looks more like composite non-precious mineral than a precious stone, you know what I mean? The kind of thing you could pick up at the flea market for $30. I wanted Afghan lapis, which is the absolute best. It can be hard to find but one of my gem dealers recently found some for me. So, the ring is being fabricated as we speak. It will be set in 18k royal yellow gold. If it comes out favorably, we'll try it in rose gold, which has a tendency to be skittish, for reasons nobody's really sure about.  Theories abound. Some say the copper alloy makes the gold unstable. I persist, however, because I find rose gold to be warm and flattering, especially on  a darker skin. I'll be sure to post pics of the ring as soon as it come in. photo-3 Happy Wednesday! ( I refuse to say "hump day", I've tried but I just can't do it)

Rainbow Nails

Les Nudes Les Nudes Does this ever happen to you where you're getting a manicure, your nails are prepped, cuticles tidied, base coat applied and you're asked the very weighty question "Which color?" but you can't decide? It happened  to me a couple of weeks ago and as I struggled to make a decision, changed my mind and then changed it again,  suddenly it dawned on me "You don't need to choose!" Is there some hidden meaning to this? Only if you think there is….. Happy Monday!        

Oh, Belle!

belle_filmposterIn keeping with my New Year's resolution to watch as much independent film as I possibly can this year, I caught Belle in the opening week and found myself amply rewarded for my dedication. It was quite incredible. It pulled all my levers: Romance, Exquisite costume and scenery, arrestingly beautiful woman of color in the starring role, thought-provoking probe into the roots slavery. A word here about slavery films: I can't do them. I just can't. The last one I saw was Amistad, and that was years after its release.  So I haven't seen 12 Years A Slave or Django, and I won't. I think the simple reason is that they make me unhappy without teaching me anything new on the subject. It probably all started with Roots. I was about 12 when it was released in London, and it was a BIG DEAL. I mean, the kind of thing where every family I knew was  crammed into the living room (back then in London it was definitely one telly per household) watching with bated breath as Kunta Kinte's story unfolded. I adored it. I'd never seen so many black actors in one place. I had no idea that some of them, such as Cicely Tyson, were icons. I just watched in amazement. But even then, slavery films led to tension.  Case in point, the next day at school a friend of mine, an Anglo-Irish girl, told us that as soon as Roots was over, she headed outside to buy some sweets with a group of her friends (all white) and hang out for a bit. On the way to the sweet shop, they had to pass through a tunnel and coming in the opposite direction, was a group of black girls, likely on a similar mission. Because it was a tunnel, when they came face to face, they had to side-step so that everyone could get by. My friend accidentally elbow-bumped one of the black girls as they passed each other and the girl swung around enraged and screamed: "Don't you dare f**king push me! I'M NOT YOUR SLAVE ANYMORE!" Needless to say, my friend and her posse  booked it out of the tunnel. So, since the tender age of 12, I've avoided slavery films. Belle, however, isn't properly a slavery film because while it explores the topic  you don't get to see anybody chained up or hear the words "Massa" or "Boy". Feel me? It fits more squarely into the genre of period drama, and I love period dramas. I can say hand on heart that I have seen every Merchant Ivory film ever made. Belle tells the story of a noblewoman in late-18th-century England of mixed English and African ancestry, the first mixed-race woman to be raised as an aristocrat. Her unique circumstances helped bring England ever closer to eventual abolition. I'm not going to outline the plot, because that would give too much away. All I will say is, if you see only one film this year, it should be this one. Happy Tuesday!    

New Jewelry – Blue Bead Necklace

I found this necklace at a vintage store in the Glenview district of Oakland. I haven't upcycled it yet, but I already know that not much about this piece will change. I'll knot the beads rather than string them, and make a gorgeous white gold and diamond clasp to add a touch of luxury, but will probably leave the 3-strand configuration as is. Chalcedony beads-Shona A big part of my style as a jewelry designer is to put the stones first and let everything else follow. In fact, sometimes there's very little else. The metal is simply there for structure but the piece is all about the stones. I think of it as designing from the inside out. Chalcedony beads-Shona Chalcedony is a type of quartz made up of crystals so tiny they appear as a solid mass. Blue chalcedony in particular has become increasingly popular over the past few years, which has pushed up the price. The most prized blue chalcedony  is translucent and free of clouds, just like the beads in this necklace. Chalcedony beads Blue on blue. I couldn't resist! DSC_0063   Chalcedony beads Will circle back with more pictures, when the redesigned piece is complete.

Man in corduroy suit

San Francisco is full of hidden treasures. Every now and then, I'll come across a piece of sculpture or a mural that has been there for ever, but that I've never stopped to fully appreciate. Man in corduroy suitThe truth is, when you live in a beautiful city, you can start to take things for granted. Recently, I vowed I would "look up" more. Meaning, I would savor a cup of Blue Bottle coffee more often, take unplanned, meandering walks and stop and admire works of art along the way. Days after making this resolution, I came across this fellow in a courtyard a block from the Embarcadero near the Ball Park. As you can see, he's very well turned out.

The more I looked at the piece the more intrigued I became by the intense detail, awed by the level of skill and sheer effort required to cast this piece that stands over 6 feet tall. It has a retro, late 70's feel to it, because, let's be honest, you'll go a long way these days before you'll see a man decked out in a three-piece corduroy suit.

Man in corduroy suit I found myself wondering, Why is he taking a picture of his watch with a Kodak, and why is it called Smile? As always, more questions than answers. Happy Friday! Man in corduroy suitMan in corduroy suit Man in corduroy suit Man in corduroy suit

Lawyering Up

I'm often told that I don't dress like a lawyer. I understand the sentiment although it's not quite accurate since I work in-house at a technology company, and the dress code for such an environment is generally relaxed,  more akin to a start-up way of dressing than a law firm way of dressing.542086_10150693932865248_697255364_n

I tend to wear a lot of color and love the vintage feel of prints. Here I am in an outfit that is bright, colorful and very comfortable.

Tucker Blouse; Cut 25 skirt, Costume National boots.

Introducing The Office of Angela Scott

Are you clu-ing in on the fact that I LOVE  shoes? And as I mentioned yesterday, Fall footwear harbingers a welcome return to classic, retro stylin; a perfect setting for the emergence of  The Office of Angel Scott, from whom  I recently purchased a pair of  Ms. Wright brogues.

I'd been longing for a pair of  bossy brogues, but never seemed to find a pair that look great AND fit properly. Brogues are essentially sexed-up  Oxfords. They may have a 3" heel but they're meant for walking. One should be able to wear them all day long without feeling the pinch. Then one day I saw a beautiful write up on Garance Dore's blog about a talented shoe designer based in Dallas, whose line was eponymously named The Office of Angela Scott. I was immediately intrigued by the designer's devotion to traditional craftsmanship. All of Angela Scott's shoes are hand-crafted in the bespoke tradition. Rather than being put together assembly line style as in common these days, each individual shoe is bench-made. This means a single cobbler personally crafts every shoe from start to finish. This level of attention to detail and craftsmanship reveal itself in the exquisite fit and comfort of the finished shoe. The designs are fashion-forward and whimsical, but again, fit and comfort and not sacrificed at the altar of design. Not only are the shoes amazing, but the packaging is delightful and the customer service is flawless.

So, I ordered a pair of Ms. Wright brogues from the TOOAS online store, where they are described as “The equivalent of a natural beauty with no need for makeup, whose vibrant dinner conversation still has you reeling the next day (the girl you want to hate but can’t), these poetic pairs are for ladies who have more on their minds than what’s on their feet.”  They arrived beautifully wrapped ......

TOOAS

Alas, they were too small and so I reluctantly sent an email to customer service  inquiring about an exchange. Ms. Scott wrote back personally, explaining that the higher heeled shoes tended to run small, and offered to send me the next size up right away. I was pleasantly surprised, as I still had the original pair. The second package arrived and inside this lovely note:TOOAS

I returned the too-small pair, but couldn't get over the white-glove treatment. It's the kind of thing that only occurs when you encounter a designer on the threshold of dizzying success. Or maybe not. Maybe, it's the hallmark of a new type of woman-led, sustainable enterprise where the designer stays close to her customer base, and the designers work in real life.

I wear my Ms. Wrights all the time.

Rag & Bone London Dress

They transition from day to evening really well.

TOOAS

In addition to the online store, there is also a gorgeously-curated boutique in Dallas. Check out the amazing new Fall/Winter 2013 collection.

In the nude….so to speak

This  skirt is officially my favorite Carven piece to date. [satellite gallery=4] The fabric is rich and nubby, the styling is uber-detailed and just a little bit cheeky. That said I do find it more than faintly amusing that the good marketing people at Carven describe the color as "nude". "It's not nude on my chocolate brown legs!" I all but scream out loud when I first spy the beloved item online at Farfetch. I know, I know…. After all these decades, I'm still not used to the fact that I'm considered part of a minority that designers aren't really thinking about when they design, label and market their wares, no matter how much money we spend. I should be used to this by now but every so often it causes me to scratch my head in consternation. Deep sigh. And truly, I think it's more aptly a dusty rose, if anything…. Setting aside the sketch politics of fashion merchandizing for a moment, I really love this skirt. It shows Carven at its youthful, whimsical best. And it's versatile, you can dress it up or down depending on the chosen accessories. Expect to see it over and over again on this site, because as I mentioned when we kicked off the year, my intention is to buy very few new pieces this year. One of my New Year's resolutions was to finally become the kind of woman that In-Style magazine believes exists. You know, the kind that can wear a seemingly simple dress in 5 different ways with the addition of a scarf/skinny belt or by merely changing the shoes. Yes, that's right. When I'm done, I will be able to pack a Tumi overnight bag for a 4-day weekend getaway, no trouble. This, of course, goes against the grain of my Naija girl style sensibility which calls for a separate pair of color-coded shoes and matching bag for each outfit and sometimes an auxiliary pair of shoes (also color-matched) for when a party creeps into the early hours of the morning and you can no longer hang with the Manolos. So, I'm retraining my whole way of thinking about clothes and I'm getting there. Slowly, but I'm getting there. Testing out the In-Style theory, I paired the skirt with 4 different pairs of shoes, and a couple of different bags. What do you think? Is it just me, or does it look like the exact same outfit despite the accessory change-up? Skirt: Carven First Bag: Celine Second Bag: Vintage Armani Ring: Van Cleef & Arpels Sandals: Burberry High-heel loafers: Prada Block-heeled loafers: Fendi High-heeled sandals: Derek Lam First Sunglasses: Bottega Veneta Second Sunglasses: Oliver Peoples Nails:  Provocation by Chanel Blush: Liberte by Nars Lipstick: Cardinale by Le Metier de Beaute Photos taken by Irys Kornbluth Ciao bellas!  

I give you THE JABOT

Maybe because Fall fashion is everywhere, and I'm being inundated daily with rich colors and new trends, or maybe because I've made it my personal mission to exponentially expand my vocabulary this year, whatever the reason, I've decided to focus in on quirky, seldom used apparel vocab over the next couple of weeks.

Do you know what a jabot is? Definition: The decorative burst of lace or ruffles around the neck that makes an otherwise drab judge's robe or pirate's ensemble pop. Originally to hide the closure of a shirt. Pronunciation:  [zha-boh or jab-oh] Derivation: French. The literal French meaning is the throat or crop of a bird. Get it? First Known Use: 1815–25 And now for some pretty pictures: jabot4 Very stately. I wish we could see more of the matching sporran, but alas.... Jabot 1 Enough said! jabot2 I don't know, there's just something about a man with a jabot, don't you think? Happy Tuesday!

Hot Pants

I've always been the kind of person who would LOVE to be able to accessorize and mix and match the way fashion magazines tell us we should. You know what I'm referring to; the obligatory fashion layout titled "One dress, 3 ways" or "Day to evening cargo pants". The thing is, despite my deep and abiding love of fashion, I have never been able to hone this skill, which is a shame because it would be an extremely useful skill to have when going on a trip. It would mean that I don't end up packing 10 pairs of shoes for a 5 day getaway. The more I think about it, though, the more I am convinced the whole concept is an urban myth fueled by overzealous fashion editors for the sole purpose of making ordinary fashion consumers such as myself feel uncool. Yes, that's it. That's definitely what it is. I don't really think of myself as a conspiracy theory type, but sometimes certain things are so obvious, there's just no denying them.

Surprisingly then, given my short-coming (and the aforementioned global fashion editor conspiracy), I was able to style these peacock blue Carven pants TWO different ways just by changing the shoes and bags.

To my eye, the beige pumps and bag give the outfit a casual, sporty Sunday afternoon look......

Carven pants Carven pants

On the other hand, the dark-hued, high-heeled loafers/chestnut clutch transform the ensemble into a business/drinks after work ensemble. amirite?

Carven pants Prada High-heel Loafers Pants: Carven Beige Bag: Bruno Magli Chestnut Clutch: Loeffler Randall Ring: Van Cleef & Arpels Earrings: cephas High-heel Loafers: Prada Beige Pumps: Givency Scarf: L'epice Jacket: Rag & Bone Belt: Rag & Bone Sunglasses: Prada Photos taken by Irys Kornbluth

Happy Feet!

Something LIFE-ALTERING happened to me recently. I'm serious. It's a pretty big deal because it's about SHOES. Yes, that's right FOOTWEAR. OK, now that I have your attention....

Following a series of back-to-back evenings encased in precipitously high-heeled stilettos/booties/platform gladiator sandals, my feet hit their discomfort pain threshold. In fact, they more than hit it, they blew clear through it and I was forced to wear high-tops and ballet flats for the next week or so. Clearly, it was time to make some changes. So, my feet and I finally came to an accord. After protracted negotiations it was agreed that in exchange for mobilizing me from place to place every waking moment on the day, I would make a concerted effort to wear more comfortable shoes. Details of the settlement include but are not limited to the following terms:

    • I agreed to divide my shoe-wearing time more equally between flats and heels;
    • I would immediately purge my closet of all killer sexy shoes that murder my feet if worn for more than a couple of hours;
    • I would refrain from buying shoes online  since the chances of getting a pair that fits based on an image are laughably low; and
    • As a general matter, I would be kinder to my feet.

It was an equable arrangement, both sides got a fair deal and neither lost face. What brought me to the negotiating table? Oh, I don't know.....perhaps a sentimental attachment to the notion of  STILL BEING ABLE TO WALK WHEN I'M 60!

Ok, Ok, I'm joking but you get the point? Footwear designs have been veering steadily towards the ridiculous for quite a while now, to say nothing of the prices. I personally blame Christian Louboutin. Nothing has been the same in high-end footwear since those sexy red soles became a must-have for the fashion-forward woman. Even when Manolo Blahnik was the Reigning Footwear Monarch for a couple of decades before Louboutin, things still seemed a little saner and less potty, both style-wise and price-wise.

Thankfully, my resolution has been re-inforced by some really encouraging Fall footwear trends. The pronounced return to traditional styling is welcome and long-overdue. Oxfords, Brogues, and Loafers are everywhere and they are gorgeous! Encouraged, I had a dig around in the back of my closet and found a pair of black Oxfords that have been languishing in there for a while. I dusted them off and now they're my go-to's for Fall. I can't begin to describe how comfortable they are. So comfortable in fact, that I picked up a similar pair in powder blue for Summer. Matching Oxfords, Imagine such a thing! I myself never thought I'd see the day, but again, it's about STILL BEING ABLE TO WALK WHEN YOU'RE 60!

Turning back to the extended metaphor to close, the following exhibits were taken from my closet and sworn into evidence as irrefutable proof of my commitment:

Powder Blue Oxfords - Prada   Powder Blue Oxfords 4 Prada Oxfords - Black

Handcuffs – The Season’s New Luxury Accessory

Or at least that might appear to be the case if you are black or brown and have the audacity to shop for luxury goods in Manhattan these days! "What the what????" I hear you cry. No, seriously. Here's what's been happening in midtown Manhattan of late:

This past  Saturday New York’s civil rights leaders headed by none other than the Reverend Al Sharpton issued a heated statement condemning the alleged practice of  two major retailers accused of working hand in hand with NYPD to profile black shoppers who say they were detained by police after buying luxury items.

Brooklyn nursing student Kayla Phillips, 21, alleged this week that she was surrounded by four undercover police officers in February after leaving Barneys with a $2,500 Celine handbag she had purchased. She has hired a lawyer and plans to sue.

Similarly, Trayon Christian, 19, claims he was detained for two hours and questioned by New York police in April after buying a $349 Ferragamo belt at Barneys.

Christian, 19, and Phillips, 21, both of whom are black, are accusing Barneys of targeting them after they shopped at the store. Well, I can certainly see how they got that impression.

“We’ve gone from stop-and-frisk to shop-and-frisk,” said Reverend Al Sharpton, president of National Action Network, alluding to a police crime-fighting tactic that critics say amounts to racial profiling. I really love the way the Reverend never squanders an opportunity to coin a catchy, rhyming phrase. That's what I call media savvy!

FAST FORWARD to yesterday, two days after the Reverend threw down the gauntlet; Barneys CEO Mark Lee expressed "sympathy" towards  Christian and Phillips while at the same time asserting that Barney's employees had no part in the incidents.

“No one, and I mean no individual, should go through the unacceptable experiences described by Trayon Christian and Kayla Phillips ... and we offer our deepest sympathies to both,” said Lee. From what I can gather expressing "sympathy" falls short of apologizing. I think they teach you that at CEO bootcamp.

I read the statement and scratched my head a little bit, trying to figure out how NYPD officers could independently watch black people shopping in Barneys, follow them off the premises and then detain them for extended periods (up to 2 hours in Christian's case) while waiting to have banks/credit card processors confirm that the cards used to make the purchases were not fake. In both case the cards were not fake, they were genuine. To say that Barney's had not part in this, simply doesn't have the ring of truth to it.

This all comes at the worst possible time for Barneys who recently signed a deal with Shawn Carter (as in, Jay-Z) to retails items by top designers, inspired by Carter, this holiday season with some of the proceeds going to his foundation. Carter had also planned to  work with the store to create its artistic holiday window display. In other words, a very smart collaboration. Since the scandal hit the spotlight, however, Carter has faced mounting pressure to back out. An online petition and Twitter messages from fans have been making the rounds since Saturday. For now, Carter, ever circumspect, is holding off on making a decision. In a statement issued yesterday, he said:

"I move and speak based on facts and not emotion. I haven't made any comments because I am waiting on facts and the outcome of a meeting between community leaders and Barneys."

While that scenario plays itself out, others are coming forward with similarly distressing allegations.  On Friday actor Rob Brown of HBO’s “Treme” told the New York Daily News that he had been “paraded” through a midtown Mahattan Macy’s in handcuffs in June by NYPD and held for an hour, after purchasing a $1,350 gold Movado watch for his mother. He was released without charges and Macy's Inc. has issued a statement saying they are investigating Brown’s allegations. Errgh, yes. I think they should do that.

Apparently, shoplifting and credit card fraud in the midtown Manhattan area has increased dramatically over the past two years. This is bad news for everyone including consumers because it eventually drives the cost of goods up.  But here's the thing: That statistic does not give NYPD or luxury retailers license to institute racial profiling as a fraud reduction mechanism. It just doesn't.

I'd love to see some good come out of this. I'd love to see Barneys use this as a teachable moment. What would that look like? It would start with taking responsibility for shady, discriminatory practices, showing some corporate leadership by issuing unequivocal apologies to those affected, and respecting every woman's right to own a Celine tote regardless of skin color. Let's see if any of that happens.

             

Easter Sunday Native

[satellite gallery=7 auto=on thumbs=on] I dressed up again for church this Sunday because it was Easter Sunday, the most important gathering of the year. The service was wonderful, and most of the congregation was decked out in full native. "Native" is the Naija way of describing non-western garb. I chose a brown sequined organza set that I've had for over a decade, and paired it with orange accessories. Bag: Prada Shoes: Rodo Under garments: Victoria's Secret Gele: Grand Hayes Ring: Van Cleef & Arpels Toenail polish: Girls Just Wanna Have Fun by OPI Happy Easter Monday!    

CRUSHED!

That's the only way to describe how I felt  on Saturday when a friend casually mentioned over drinks that George Clooney, my forever crush, had got engaged. Wow … Now I could slowly start to relinquish the idea that had taken root in my psyche over a decade ago that one day I would be Mrs George Clooney. 1398619197000-clooneyeng You can see how it happened though, can't you? George is age and height appropriate for me, funny, handsome, bankable and has quite a yen for smart, strong women. Add to that, his astonishing dedication to the blighted South Sudan independence struggle, and frankly, there's no way I wouldn't have a mad crush on him. Well, true to form, George has gone out and found himself an uber-smart, strong, gorgeous human rights lawyer, Amal Alamuddin, and at the ripe age of 52, is taking himself off the market. There hasn't been official confirmation from camp Clooney yet, but somehow, I'm sure it's for real. I congratulate them, it's wonderful news. There's nothing I love more than a good looking power couple, and George & Amal make the ultimate good looking power couple. Happy Monday, people!

Burning Torch – Venice, California

DSC_0285 This is so interesting, but after posting the piece yesterday it suddenly occurred to me that I DO know of a boutique that has the funky, eclectic, artsy vibe I was describing yesterday. It's called Burning Torch, located on the hopelessly hipster Abbott Kinney Boulevard in Venice, California. DSC_0198 I fell in love the minute I walked through the carriage doors... Morroccan Glasses DSC_0271 Lauren @ work DSC_0185 DSC_0149 Vases Dress stand DSC_0208 Clutch LeatherThe concept of the store is unique and genius; beautifully designed apparel inter-mingled with exquisitely-curated mid-century furniture and other vintage finds (think Art Deco mirrors, pottery etc.) as well as interesting books and accessories.  The clothes are what I would describe as elegant, eco-conscious hipster, and they are all designed by the store's owner and Founder, Karyn Craven, who also sources the furniture. It's certainly a must-see if you're in the Venice area. Burning Torch 1627 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, CA 90291 | 310.399.1920 Mon-Sat 11-7 | Sun 11-5 If there's a similar type of gem in your neck of the woods, can you let us know, please. Let's shine a light on style & individuality. Why not? Let's make it our theme for the month. Happy Tuesday!

Are you getting enough?

H2O, that is...... Waterbar   This was taken during lunch last week at the Waterbar on the Embarcadero in San Francisco. It was so warm that day, high 70's, I probably drank three glasses of water back to back. That's all behind us now. We're back to a week of typical San Francisco weather, peaking at high 60's on a good day.

Americanah

"Americanah" is the sardonic, slightly resentful term used in Nigeria to describe "returnees" from America. Earlier this year, Chimamanda Adichie, the award-winning author of Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun, released Americanah,  a sprawling, ambitious new novel. It tells the sweeping story of a Nigerian American who after having clawed her way to success and acceptance in America, gives in to the pull of the new, post-military Nigeria and retraces her steps back to Lagos, and all its intrinsic chaos and drama.

The story opens with Ifemelu, the novel's restless and ambitious protagonist, getting her hair braided at an African salon in Trenton, New Jersey, some thirteen years after coming to America. Ifemelu has taken her knocks, including her share of squalid living conditions and humiliating jobs, and risen above them to become a fellow at Princeton and the founder of a wildly successful blog about race in America entitled “Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-American Black.” O.K, fair enough. Despite these outward trappings of success, Ifemelu has decided to return to Nigeria, to uncertainty. From this point forward, her  story unfolds in a sequence of extended flashbacks that seek to throw light on her decision.  Threading through the story, is the lost soul-mate, first love story between Ifemelu and Obinze, who met in high school.  Adichie's characters are complex, flawed and ultimately believable. What isn't quite as believable is the  love story that plays out across three continents and two decades, that in places feels meandering and disconnected. This minor detraction notwithstanding, Americanah is a 2013 Summer "must read".

       

“Let’s talk about it!”

I don't usually post on Fridays, but I happened to see this post yesterday on Man Repeller, I blog I admire and follow. It's encouraging that other fashion bloggers (I know,  I said "other fashion bloggers" which sort of implies that I'm officially a fashion blogger, albeit self-appointed, but I digress...) Where was I? Oh yes, I was saying that I'm encouraged to see other fashion bloggers shining a light on Barneys' recent foray into racial profiling. It's also interesting to see the continued conflation of Jay-Z with Barneys. Is it fair that Jay-Z is taking sooooooo much heat for not taking a position? I think it is. It comes down to recognizing that you can't profit from a customer base and spit in its face at the same time. Jay-Z has earned his status as a hip-hop/fashion icon, no doubt. But if he continues to maintain his silence on this matter, it will just look as though he's cozying up to Barneys and condoning their shady practices. And that just would not be cool. Mr. Carter, you have the floor!    

I share these pictures at the risk of squandering some of the fashion credibility that I might have built up over the past year on this blog. It’s just that I actually enjoy throwing on my casual gear and heading to the Farmer’s Market of a Saturday morning. And, I still think of it as fashion…because what is fashion, really? Isn’t it simply crafting a look through clothing with the idea that a certain outfit will evoke a certain feeling in whoever looks at you. That’s how I think of fashion.

So, what do you think?

Happy Monday!

Bag: Stuart Weitzman

Scarf: Vintage

Earrings: cephas

Cardigan: Anne Klein (vintage)

Pinafore: Theory

Booties: n.d.c

Sunglasses: Prada

Lipliner: Aubergine by Beauty for Life

Lipgloss: Glossimer 176 by Chanel

Photos taken by Aminat Oladunjoye

One Comment to “Saturday Casual”

  1. Irys Wednesday May 14, 2014 at 10:14 am #

    I LOVE this outfit!!

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