and what a year it's been. soon after i last wrote, my life changed infinitely and unchangeably for the better. after a rather mundane day at work, i departed for the airport with one carry on bag -- thank you delta baggage fees -- and had my mind on getting my airline taxes back since the congress found itself once again incapable of timely decisive action -- both on the debt ceiling, but, in this case, the federal aviation administration -- but found those intentions quickly dashed by incompetence at the customer service desk and then a reversal of policy by the congress in later days -- and after catching a connection and calling for an airport shuttle, i found myself at a cheap airport hotel catching some sleep before catching the metro downtown for some touristy sightseeing, a few cocktails at a faux-trendy bar, and then the concert of my lifetime. well, of course, because my outfit involved dark military green shirtsleeves, a lanvin military green and brown tie, and ysl jeans, the temperature had to have soared nearly to one hundred degrees and my walk to the arch did the quick job of soaking my concert look in sweat and my hunt for the resto-bar mango quickly got compromised because of the heat into my ducking into a downtown restaurant named mosaic where martinis cost four bucks and the ahi tuna found itself subpar. however, it did give me the opportunity to encounter a nice cross section of the city in the affable bartender with her deigned interest in the concert, a trendy-ish couple comprised of an overly-made up woman in tacky midwestern wear and her ben sherman-ed out husband who hailed from london and actually knew people from tampa and intrigued me so deeply that it made london once again rise on the list. there's something about those black londoners. they've popped up in the news of late. but let me assure you, this guy did not come from that sort. we chatted on and on about the recent passing of amy winehouse and maxwell and all the concerts we had seen. and of course, about the one we both were about to see. then, another couple entered in for a quick bite before the concert. this one comprised of a homely woman in more midwestern wear and a fairly trendy and very very attractive spouse. this spouse sold radio ads for a living so we got on as two media sales people tend to, but after my third martini, i had to beg off because i didn't actually want to find myself drunk for the show. i walked down to the arena and found myself so privileged to walk in and get escorted down to the third row in the scottrade center FULL of adoring fans.
while the opening act by john legend did actually surprise me (since i did not know one song before the concert), i did find myself wholly roped in by the backup singer/dancers and the all-white three piece suit john legend wore that began to become quite sheer after a sweaty performance. one thing about sitting in the third row is that all of those crazy noises and uncomfortable laughs i make when aroused actually catch the attention of the people on the stage. yeah. i was one of those. but this did not prepare me at all for the main act: SADE LIVE IN ST LOUIS. now. for those unfamiliar, while my musical tastes really remain quite dilettantish seeing as i'd rather listen to a great npr story than listen to new music given a choice most days, but sade -- like anita baker, like janet jackson, like michael jackson -- remains one of those almost hereditary musical totems of mine. she has played an interesting and formative role not only in my childhood and my sexual awakening -- i did even understand why i found myself so allured by her in my youth but i did and it crescendoed in confusion with "no ordinary love" and the "indecent proposal" film i never found myself allowed to see at that age -- but my love for sade came to the fore in my adulthood after i went to disney over ten years ago with and old flame of mine and that flame's tampa friends and after the park, we camped out for a few hours at the apartment of this gym-obsessed interracial couple where we watched a sade concert on dvd for hours as it got narrated by the sade aficiando half of that couple. well, not only did i find myself so impacted by the marital bliss of that ideal looking couple -- especially the looks of non-sade aficianado, a strong silent type if one ever existed -- but i found myself entranced once again by her music. and that odd commingling has blossomed over the years to the point where one of the biggest disappointments of my life remains missing the lovers live tour at the end of my time at ohio state. afraid to go by myself.
but now, i did not find myself afraid. and she did not disappoint. she opened with soldier of love, of course, but i found myself singing along to every single one of her songs over the course of the two or three hours she serenaded the uproarious crowds that night. and much like john legend, i found myself frequently distracted by someone in her background, namely, the guitarist/saxophonist. and, call me crazy, i kept feeling like we made eye contact. yes, i'm totally willing to become a groupie to that. it's all about that stage presence. and as the show drew to a close, i felt myself both exhilarated but also saddened that she didn't sing my favorite song, "cherish the day," but after a ten minute standing ovation, the band came back on and sang the SHIT out of my song. i teared up. i sang every word. and i had the feeling one has when one knows that one's experiencing something that one will remember for the rest of one's life.
after the concert, i caught the train back to the room, caught a few hours of sleep (i had to walk back because my phone stopped working at this point), and then caught the shuttle back to the airport where i departed for columbus. well, what's to say about columbus? while i missed it immensely, i probably wouldn't have gone if i had known about rob's wedding before booking the ticket. the money simply isn't there. but i'm glad i went because it not only scratched at my nostalgia, but it gave me the gift of great times with my best friends and the reverberations of meeting someone i honestly clicked with from the beginning. but, first things first, on friday, rob and i caught up a bit before alex arrived and then we all sprinted to the hotel after taking a constitutional (by car) around the short north and the campus area. that night, we went to an interminable work party with rob's company peers and then went the marcella's -- an ironic name given the appellation of the brazilian -- to remind ourselves of the olden days and after a horrible grapefruit concotion -- no w gimlet here! -- and an even worse bottle of champagne -- it literally tasted like beer -- we walked up to level where rob ran into people he knew and i found myself paralyzed by social awkwardness after seeing so many people i knew from the olden days and half knew from facebook who i no longer knew. thankfully, alex introduced me to a subpar absolut ruby and soda concotion that finally got me buzzed and then we went up to the new union station where we met up with an old friend, rita, who used to work at bennetton, and began resorting to our old nefariousness which quickly ended since bars close so early there. and somehow alex and i wound up in the hotel room alone which kind of pissed us off because it seemed quite calculated that rob wouldn't spend time with us.
the next day, we went to campus and had a walking tour just reminiscing about all of the great times we had. after campus, we returned to the hotel only to have rob rope us into cocktails with the fiance. at this seriously dive bar that served drinks so strong that we all carried around a buzz off of one round. after happy hour, we went back to the hotel to change and then went to barcelona where i got quite tipsy off cosmopolitans and then we went to the short north where we got snubbed at eleven and wound up, once again, at level. same bartenders, different crowd, and after some quick moments downstairs, we became involved in an endless exchange with this couple from montreal -- what is it about those french canadians?! -- and i seriously wanted to sleep with the blonde half and after an hour long conversation where it became clear that wouldn't happen -- does it ever? i don't think i've been with a blonde in years -- i decided to join a conversation with alex who had somehow re-united with one of his good college girlfriends who lives in DC and whose friend and i had an immediate connection that resulted in one of my desultory conversations where i try to distance myself from my object because of how intensely i like them. well. this got intensified by alex and rob pulling me to the side and saying how much they endorsed this romance. and after we got a rickshaw ride downtown -- which could've sent the poor rickshaw rider into cardiac arrest -- the romance blossomed into a drunken hookup. and we'll see what more from there. we're friends on facebook. it's so strange for me to meet someone my age who i'm that attracted to and that intellectually compatible with. but then again, it's columbus. i never really found myself all that lonely when i lived there despite all the drama.
the next day, alex and i had a buffet breakfast and then we all headed east toward rob's apartment and then for a day of shopping at easton after a long wet brunch on my part. after checking out familiar stores, we went back and had dinner at a small sushi restaurant in rob's ex-urb. after a few hours of mindless television, a little bit of tense argument between rob and his betrothed, and many late night hours of facebook, i went to bed and got up for the airport the next morning. only to have a ridiculous flight delay that resulted in my missing work and running into the p.r. girl's makeup artist friend at chipotle that afternoon. after i got the stuff with my phone sorted -- it did not work at all while i stayed out of town -- my lines of communication resumed with the brazilian and i got a text from my columbus romance. that wednesday, i went shopping with my sister and then on thursday, i believe, i spent the night with the brazilian. so that happened. and the brazilian had designs on having me meet the best friend the next day, but i had to work. we didn't get back together until the next friday and we watched star trek voyager reruns, ate chinese take out, and fucked like ferrets. the next morning, we headed over to tampa to have lunch with the best friend at lonestar and then i left because they had a weekend planned out of town to celebrate yet another friend's birthday. and how could i judge seeing as i had just come back into town? also, my sister and i had a family meeting to deal with her schooling and that went not as either of us would've wanted and now she's staying here for a semester -- staying here and not speaking to me -- instead returning to florida state. anywho, that next wednesday, i was supposed to go out with the brazilian to the movies, but that fell through due to a work commitment (which lead me to go catch a double matinee of "friends with benefits" and "the beginners") so i went out with my sister to exorcise my frustrations with french fare and fantastic cocktails at cassis where someone literally fell off their barstool with drunkenness and then we went to ceviche where i discovered my new favorite drink, the mango mojito made without sugar, and where i had a long conversation with an overly friendly patron and a jazz singer, and then we went to the only bar in town where i got positively soused out of my mind which lead to drunken online mishaps (nothing regrettable) and a drunk text to the exsomeone which didn't mean anything right off but the next day between the vomits, the hangover jimmy john's, and a mad men marathon, i somehow wound up over the exsomeone's "just to talk" and we all know how that ends.
i left feeling guilty (and noticing that the exsomeone and the brazilian live on the same street although some one hundred and thirty blocks apart in different municipalities), but we haven't said the words nor had the conversation -- which i would've like to do that wednesday the brazilian had to cancel -- so i don't feel too bad. besides, i don't know that the brazilian is completely faithful to me. just sayin'. it's early. so that sunday we had plans to go to a brazilian steakhouse (where i had to wait an hour!), but these plans got hijacked when the best friend interjected himself making it an odd threesome where i was too tired to be sociable and too frustrated to even do anything. so we saw "planet of the apes" and went shopping at kirkland's and american signature furniture and coldstone creamery and marshall's which would be all well and good if it was just us two, but it was us three so it was awkward and since the best friend had no car.....we left separately leaving me VERY frustrated sexually and emotionally. so then i had a three hour conversation with my favorite coworker living in miami about relationships with latin americans. but the brazilian did try to make amends by inviting me over afterward, but the moment passed. we agreed to a late night interlude on the tuesday next. well, that tuesday, after work, i drove over around half past one in the morning and we had a good conversation and even better sex. i mean, mind blowing. it's just such a strong contrast to the exsomeone. seriously. it's so easy. and passionate. and fulfilling. and then, last night, we had one of those text exchanges where i basically felt "hungry" but i left it alone. oh yeah, and our mutual versatility got revealed. hopefully, i'll get to see the brazilian again this weekend as i've officially changed my status to "it's complicated" on facebook.
Here is your Daily Single's Horoscope for Sunday, August 28
You don't have to know someone's genealogy, blood type, childhood imaginary friends and complete educational history to spend time with them. You'll fill in the gaps later -- for now, a good conversation is enough.
Title: Sade - Pearls
Artist: Sade Lyrics
There is a woman in somalia
Scraping for pearls on the roadside
There's a force stronger than nature
Keeps her will alive
That's how she's dying
She's dying to survive
Don't know what she's made of
I would like to be that brave
She cries to the heaven above
There is a stone in my heart
She lives a life she didn't choose
And it hurts like brand-new shoes
Hurts like brand-new shoes
There is a woman in somalia
The sun gives her no mercy
The same sky we lay under
Burns her to the bone
Long as afternoon shaddows
It's gonna take her to get home
Each grain carefully wrapped up
Pearls for her little girl
She cries to the heaven above
There is a stone in my heart
She lives a life she didn't choose
And it hurts like brand-new shoes
Jill Biden visits East Africa refugee camps to draw international attention to famine
By Associated Press, Updated: Monday, August 8, 6:29 AM
DADAAB, Kenya — A U.S. aid official warned Monday that hundreds of thousands of Somalis could die as famine spreads, amid a visit to Kenyan refugee camps by the wife of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.
Jill Biden on Monday visited the world’s largest refugee camp, Dadaab, where tens of thousands of Somali famine refugees have arrived in recent weeks.
Biden’s trip is the highest-profile U.S. visit to drought-stricken East Africa since the numbers of refugees began dramatically increasing in June. Biden said the aim of her visit was to raise awareness and convince donors to give more.
“What I’m asking is for Americans to reach out and help because the situation is dire,” said Biden, who met with two Somali mothers and their eight children during her visit to the camp. “There is hope if people start to pay attention to this.”
More than 29,000 children under the age of 5 have died in the last 90 days in southern Somalia alone, according to U.S. estimates. The U.N. says 640,000 Somali children are acutely malnourished, suggesting the death toll of small children will rise in the coming weeks.
USAID administrator Raj Shah said models predict that hundreds of thousands of people could die from famine.
More than 12 million people in the Horn of Africa are in need of immediate food aid, including nearly half the Somali population. The U.N. has declared five famine zones in Somalia, including the camps for displaced people in Mogadishu.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
© The Washington Post Company
Thursday, Aug. 11, 2011
Kenya: Desperate Times in a Perpetual Refugee City
By Samuel Loewenberg / Dadaab
At a biweekly food-distribution site in the Dagahaley refugee camp, hundreds of people are waiting for their sacks of food, corn-soy meal and tins of cooking oil. If the scene lacks the frenzied desperation of food distributions usually seen in television news reports, it is because this is part of regular life in the two-decades-old refugee-camp complex, just 100 km over the Kenyan border from Somalia. For longtime residents, it is the equivalent of grocery-shopping day. A minieconomy has even grown up here, with a submarket of people selling off some of their food in exchange for other essential items, vendors selling food and tea and young men stationed around the edges with wooden carts to help families carry their sacks. (See the photo-essay "Haven and Hell: The World's Largest Refugee Camp.")
One of the haulers, Hussein Mohammed, 27, says he earns 32 cents per load. He has been doing it for eight months, and it is his only source of income. The flood of refugees fleeing famine-ridden Somalia, more than 1,400 a day, is putting pressure on an already fragile situation, he says. "The new arrivals from Somalia are making the population very congested," he says. "They are making the situation worse for us."
With the stream of news reports and images showing the Somali refugee crisis in Kenya and Ethiopia getting worse by the day, as thousands of people flee the famine in the war-torn country, it is easy to forget that the refugee situation is not new. In fact, it has been going on since the conflict first broke out in Somalia in 1991. "For the last 20 years, most of the world had totally forgotten what is happening here," said Alexandre Izart, the field coordinator for Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders. (See an interactive graphic about life in Somalia.)
The Dadaab camps (there are actually three) make up the largest refugee complex in the world. It has existed since 1991 and now, with a population of over 380,000, is the size of a city. With more than 40,000 new arrivals in the month of July, the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) began moving hundreds of people a day into new makeshift camps and plans to have relocated 180,000 by November. The quarters for the new arrivals are as rudimentary as can be: rows of identical white tents, portable latrines, mobile health clinics and three 10,000-L water tanks. There is almost nothing else. The UNHCR is predicting that the number of refugees will only increase and is planning to expand the camps even further if it can get the approval of the Kenyan government. Meanwhile, the most recent U.N. assessment in one of the camps found that acute malnutrition is at a catastrophic 29% and the mortality rate for young children is increasing.
Being a refugee should be temporary, but longtime residents of Dadaab know differently. Many have spent their whole lives there. Still, their lives are significantly different from those of the newcomers. In some ways, life here has settled into a kind of normalcy. The camps were started 20 years ago, after all. Many residents came as children or were born here — this is their whole life. People have houses, aspirations and in some cases even jobs — albeit within the aid organizations that are supposed to serve them, because the Kenyan government forbids their taking other employment. (See pictures of the brazen pirates of Somalia.)
Women have found new opportunities they would not have had in Somalia. In a wooden-hut workshop in the middle of the Hagadera camp — one of the three that make up Dadaab — Sadia Ahmed Mohamed works a loom of colored yarn, creating a rhythmic clank clank as she and several dozen other women turn out hand fans, cloth wraps and satchels they will sell to the community and local NGOs. Mohamed, a mother of six, arrived here two decades ago. She helped found the women's collective, called Together Women Group, several years ago, in order to give women the opportunity to work for themselves. With a donation of looms and training from the Lutheran World Federation, they now have a thriving workshop. "I am happy to be working, to be self-sufficient," says Mohamed.
As always and everywhere, children are the most resilient of all. They go to school and dream of a better life. A promising student, Fatuma Ahmed Abdi, 16, came to the camps in 2008 — she and her family were among the last to be admitted to Dadaab before Kenya shut the doors of the complex to new refugees. Her manner is reserved, but she has big ambitions: "I want to be the best student in school," she says. Her favorite subject is science. She says life in the camps is O.K. — there is food here and relative safety. And she can go to school. In Somalia, she was not able to because of the war. Now, in just three years, she is on her way to graduating. (See the photo-essay "The Urbanization of the World's Refugees.")
But the schools, which were always overcrowded, have suddenly gotten a lot worse. The Central Primary School in Hagadera has seen a surge in students, growing from 1,600 to 2,300 in the past year. Some classes have more than 70 students sharing just three or four textbooks. The teachers are all refugees and haven't received any special training.
The influx of new refugees has strained the camps' aging infrastructure: basics like water-distribution points are congested, says Omar Abdi Mohammed, 23, a teacher at the school. Nonetheless, there is little hostility toward the new arrivals. They are our "brothers and sisters," he says. Mohammed arrived in the camps when he was 5 years old.
Longtime refugees are helping the new arrivals cope, sharing food and supplies as the backlog for official UNHCR registration grows daily, says Mohammed. "We aren't waiting for the U.N. and the aid agencies to assist them." Somalis don't like being dependent on the aid agencies, says the teacher. "People want to be independent, but they don't have a way out."
So where does it end? UNHCR chief António Guterres tells TIME that while his agency would like to help the fleeing Somalis to eventually go home, as long as the violence continues in their homeland, all the aid agencies can do is try to keep up with the expanding population. They can't bring peace. "There is no humanitarian solution to a humanitarian crisis. It is a political solution," says Guterres. "People are not coming because they want to live in a refugee camp. They are coming because they have no other choice."
Loewenberg's trip to Dadaab was funded by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting
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Copyright © 2011 Time Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.
Life in an African village
Explore the life of a young boy in Kenya.
By Sherry Shahan / November 7, 2006
After the sun goes down, Nkadaru herds six baby goats inside his hut to keep them safe from hungry lions. In the morning, he is awakened by one of the goat's scratchy tongues licking his cheek. Nkadaru laughs and plays with the goats on the dirt floor beside a small fire.
The rest of Nkadaru's family has left the hut to begin their long day. He knots a piece of red cloth over his shoulder like a toga. He sips water from a cowhide bag and eats a few beans. Then he leads the goats outside the six-foot high fence that surrounds his village in Kenya, which is in eastern Africa. It's near the equator.
His friends play herding games under the hot sun. They're about 6 or 7 years old. Because they always go barefoot, the skin on the soles of their feet is tough.
Nkadaru's baby goats graze beside the young animals being cared for by his friends. He joins their game to see who can throw a stick the farthest. They wrestle in the dirt and herd one another with the sticks. Later, they pretend to be fearless warriors hunting lions. But the boys always keep an eye on the animals to make sure none of them wanders off.
Several families have huts in this Masai village, which is called a kraal. Nkadaru and his sister helped their mother build their igloo-shaped hut by weaving long tree branches into sturdy walls. Nkadaru plugged the gaps with grass and leaves to keep out sun and rain. His mother mixed cattle dung and mud in a bucket. Together the family plastered the walls with the clay.
Nkadaru's sister helps their mother with her many activities – patching the hut, making clothes, milking animals, stringing beads, and tending to their small plot of beans and corn. She ties ribbons on their baby brother to show how special he is.
When Nkadaru is older, he – like his brother – won't herd baby animals. Young warriors have more important duties, such as protecting the village from lions and water buffalo. Nkadaru admires his older brother for his strength and bravery.
Like all warriors in this village, his brother wears his long hair in braids. He decorates himself with beaded jewelry made by women friends. A thin bone pierces one ear and a button made from a crocodile-egg shell shines in his hair. He paints his skin with ocher, a reddish clay that is ground up and mixed with animal fat.
Nkadaru's brother also watches over the family's animals. Nkadaru understands the importance of the cattle: All of them have names.
In the Masai language, there are more than 30 names for different kinds of cattle, depending on an animal's markings and the contour (shape) of its horns.
Nkadaru thinks white cows with black spots are the most beautiful. He sings songs with his friends about the colors of hides.
His mother stitches hides into clothing, shoes, and bedcoverings. She also makes jewelry for herself and her family. Her head is shaved to draw attention to a collar of beads on her neck. She earns extra money by selling beadwork to foreigners.
The beads reflect colors in nature. Blue is like the sky, and green is a symbol of peace, a reminder of the healthy plants after it rains.
Her beaded earrings are similar to a wedding ring, because only married women wear them.
Nkadaru is happy when people from other countries visit his kraal. Sometimes they bring gifts: pens, ribbons, balloons, or balls.
Nkadaru's brother and the other warriors show off their jumping dance, a competition to see who can leap the highest. Nkadaru stands nearby and chants to help them keep the beat.
Because Nkadaru's father is an elder, he doesn't work or participate in these games. Elders belong to a council that governs the village. Their duties involve making important decisions and solving problems.
Elders wear beaded jewelry and decorate their bodies for special ceremonies. They carry simple items, including a walking cane and a buffalo-tail fly whisk used for blessings. A thick cotton blanket is draped over their strong shoulders.
Nkadaru's day passes quickly. Near dusk, he herds the baby goats through the open gate into the village. The goats curl up inside the hut. His mother boils water for tea over a small fire. His sister brings in cow's milk and fresh corn.
Nkadaru and his brother settle in beside their father and listen to stories about the history of the Masai people. Nearby mountains cast shadows over the village, as if trying to protect their ancient way of life.
THAKOON GIRL OR LOUIS VUITTON BOY?
25/07/2011, FASHION AND STYLE, LOUIS VUITTON
The New York gaysian mafia are in full force! Following the footsteps of Alexander Wang and Jason Wu (who recently relaunched his website), the handsome Thakoon Panichgul just opened his new online store! I love Thakoon’s Masai plaid jacket for women.
But then again, I am also in love with this Masai-inspired look from my beloved Kim Jones’ first Louis Vuitton menswear collection. I need this HEAD TO TOE. PERIOD. FULL STOP.
What’s a gurl/boy/shim gotta do? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it once again… menswear these days is so much fun!!!
Thakoon Fall/Winter 2011 Ready-to-Wear
NEW YORK, February 13, 2011
By Nicole Phelps
Rococo Masai. When Thakoon Panichgul was doing research for his new Fall collection, he observed similarities between the costumes of Versailles and the clothes worn by the Kenyan tribe. Sound like a stretch? The designer made the connection in the first look out: a puffer jacket with detachable panniers à la Marie Antoinette, but cut from a red and blue plaid ripped from a photo of African warriors. Panichgul kept the juxtapositions going from beginning to end: A short-in-front, long-in-back ball skirt came whipped up from a yellow floral batik, and a bustled vest in that buffalo plaid was worn over a pair of cropped pants in an African paisley print. (Thakoon, it must be said, was an early adopter of mismatched prints.)
The irony is that clothes with such high, far-flung associations could end up looking so connected to the street, so sporty. Pointing out before the show how the pink taffeta he used for a down vest and a drawstring-hem skirt resembles the nylon from a windbreaker or a tracksuit, Panichgul described the collection as "fanciful, but pavement." The fact that that came across in the gilded environs of the Plaza hotel only goes to prove that this was his freshest, most alive collection in a while.
Sweet Charity | ELLA ALEXANDER | 19 August 2011
THAKOON is showing his support for Africa's current drought crisis by designing a limited edition Masai scarf - with all proceeds going to UNICEF to help children affected. The countries that make up the Horn of Africa - namely Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti - are currently experiencing one of the worst famines in history, due to widespread drought.
"We had the idea already to make limited edition scarves based on the African-inspired plaid from the fall show, but when we became aware of the crisis, we all thought that it made perfect sense to donate all the proceeds from the sales of the scarf," the designer told us. "It feels great to give back to something that we took inspiration from in the first place. At least 30,000 children under the age of four died in three months alone, and many more are expected to die because the drought is predicted to continue for a couple more months. This is absolutely preventable."
Thakoon's charity scarf costs $250 (£151.64), and is available from THAKOON.COM. It's modelled by Ruby Aldridge - the sister of Victoria's Secret Angel, Lily Aldridge.
"We put the project together last minute, and really I was asking friends to help, friends that are in town," said Thakoon. "Ruby was so into the idea, and that really makes it feel really genuine, positive. She's a cool girl and has a great heart!"
Louis Vuitton Spring/Summer 2012 Menswear
PARIS, June 23, 2011
By Tim Blanks
Kim Jones' debut as men's style director at Louis Vuitton today was a coup similar to the one achieved by Vuitton's artistic director, Marc Jacobs, 14 years ago. A union that seemed unlikely on the surface turned out in actuality to be a relationship of remarkable, intimate compatibility. In the four months since he was appointed to the position, Jones and his team managed to turn out a collection that wove his own history into Vuitton's heritage. The common bond? Travel. Vuitton has always been the traveler's brand. Jones grew up in Kenya, and his life since has been defined by a nomadic spirit.
But the personality of his first LV collection was just as contingent on Jones' famous connoisseurship of pop culture (made obvious by a front row that included Kanye West, Lily Allen, and Michael Stipe). He'd been thinking about photographer Peter Beard, the once-gorgeous Kennedy-like apogee of American aristocracy whose life and work have been devoted to the Africa that Jones is equally enamored of. (The show was tracked by Talking Heads' "I Zimbra.") Like Beard, the consummate WASP gone native, the collection ran a gamut from city suits to tribal textures. A Masai blanket Jones has at home as a souvenir of his East African childhood inspired an extraordinary passage of cornea-searing blue-and-red plaids. Wild alligator was tamed in a jacket paired with pajama-striped pants. Crocodile was revisited as a varsity jacket with sleeves in navy cotton canvas. There were gold and navy tops in shimmering raffia.
Underscoring Jones' achievement was the fact that the more "western" pieces were equally seductive. The tailoring felt fresh and youthful, and the designer had effortlessly cracked the codes of the house with the easy, functional luxury of pieces like the tan Harrington with leather-ribbed cuffs and waistband, or the suede parka that folded away into its own pac-a-mac bag. And, for get-up-and-go ingenuity, the sandals that packed flat and snapped into shape were hard to beat. Jones showed them with his midnight blue silk mohair evening suits, just to make the point that traveling light need not mean traveling low-rent. Anyway, that would be next to impossible with any one of the bags that accompanied the clothes. From tobacco-toned totes to festival-ready knapsacks, the luggage danced attendance on a new dawn for Louis Vuitton's menswear.
June 22, 2011
Out of Africa
By SUZY MENKES
PARIS — Kim Jones has started his new role as men’s style director at Louis Vuitton with a mission: to embrace, via the luxury label’s travel history, the craft and culture of Africa.
The vivid red and purple-blue of Masai blankets are a striking new take on the famous LV Damier check. And the classic squares also are given a splotchy water-color look and texture for both shirts and scarves.
“Growing up in Africa, living with little lizards, snakes and elephants or being chased by baboons — it never really goes away,” said Mr. Jones, 32, referring to family life in the wild with his hydrogeologist father.
Having worked on sportswear for Umbro and more recently at Dunhill, the British-born designer took the opportunity of a change of job to fill in some travel gaps, going to Easter Island and planning a trip to Madagascar this summer.
“As much as possible I like to get away from cities,” said Mr. Jones, who uses as his ultimate reference Peter Beard’s 1965 book “End of the Game” about the destruction of African wildlife, especially the elephant.
The designer calls his new work “my dream job,” marveling about how quickly things can be made in the vast, but focused, luxury group. His experiments for the spring/summer 2012 season include wood work, as a play both on Africa and on the carpentry that was essential to make Louis Vuitton trunks in the 1920s and ’30s, There are also pens for writing a traveler’s diary (as luxury today means not tapping on a laptop).
A water-resistant silk jacket is designed as just the thing to wear in the Amazon rain forest, while sailing or even for urban weekends, while roughly woven backpacks are tough enough to face the trail to Machu Picchu in Peru or the rigors of downtown city life.
“The thread is travel. It’s the DNA of the brand — but it is not just for travel but for leisure as well,” says Mr. Jones, who trained at Central Saint Martin’s in London and whose first fashion memories are of brands like Bodymap in the late ’80s.
Marc Jacobs is the overall creative director of Louis Vuitton and can be expected to take a joint bow with Mr. Jones at his debut show Thursday. But the Kim Jones spirit, and creative personality, are now part of the Vuitton team.
THURSDAY, JUNE 23, 2011
Inspired: Louis Vuitton [Resort 2012 Menswear & 3 Others]
Thakoon took a bite out of Masaai plaid (see below) for their F/W '11 collection and Louis Vuitton followed suit for their Resort 2012 menswear collection. Fashion continues its obsession with Kenya - from kanga print, to vibrant beads, and now the Masaai's statement plaid print, and this is by no means Louis Vuitton's first - or last - foray into Africa. The New York Times reported on Wednesday that Kim Jones, Style Director at Louis Vuitton Menswear, cites Africa as a strong influence having spent part of his childhood there, so the Masaai reference shouldn't come as much of a surprise.
More luxury brands are looking to artisans in general and African in particular to infuse their heritage with crafts, culture, and ethics. Others have continued to turn to Africa for inspiration, pure and simple, and Louis Vuitton has had a number of notable Africa-related moments in recent times:
Many will remember Louis Vuitton's Ghana-must-go inspiration for Spring 2007 - Africa's ubiquitous checkered bag elevated to luxury symbol in the hands of Louis Vuitton:
Also, not too long ago, one Vogue reviewer described Louis Vuitton's Spring 2009 collection as 'Josephine Baker African razzmatazz':
Finally, Louis Vuitton's Core Values campaign signed on Bono and Ali last year and featured a little piece of Africa: A charm made in Kenya by local artisans under the guidance of MADE -
What do Africa and luxury have in common? Quite a bit, apparently.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 19, 2011
This Just In: ASOS Africa A/W 2011
ASOS's Africa range caught our eyes in February 2010 because of their ethical mission (all the pieces are made in Kenya), price points, and their high street approach to Africa-inspired pieces. These days, their pieces are less full-on print on print and more subtle. In fact, several of the pieces don't 'look African' at all - but has that been ASOS's mission and point with this range? We bring this up only because a number of folks took to Twitter some months ago so say the collection wasn't 'African enough', the 'Africa' label was a misnomer, and the range was no longer worth supporting as a result.
The argument about what 'African Fashion' is or isn't will go on for a while to come, but the Made in Africa movement points to the real heart of ASOS Africa's mission - ethical sourcing and production in Africa and 'providing vital employment to underprivileged communities in Kenya'. Their partnership with SOKO Kenya should be wholeheartedly supported and should strike the discerning as something worth replicating across the continent. If Africa holds the key to mass production and artisanship from its sheer size and peculiar skill sets, ASOS Africa is good proof that the continent can deliver if adequately enabled.
Print or no print, we love and support ASOS Africa and SOKO Kenya's mission. The latest range features highlights such as jersey, print pants and quilted, padded pieces - all sophisticated, cool and laidback in that ASOS Africa way we've come to know and love.
Shop ASOS Africa A/W 2011 here.