Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Foire de Dakar: Holiday Shopping, AfricaStyle {Expat Diaries}

While many of you are strolling the Christmas pop-up shops in Bryant Park, or perusing online stores and blogger gift guides to find the perfect presents for friends and family... we expats in Africa (and other places, I'm sure) must rely on a good dose of creativity and thoughtfulness - wooden masks do get old after a few years, just ask my mom.

Nope, Amazon doesn't ship here and it's downright depressing (and one of the things I miss most about the U.S.!). Mail is generally unreliable so ordering online just isn't an option. We don't have Target or Costco - I was shocked and envious when I found out there were locations in countries outside of the U.S. And local store-bought items here are generally tacky, imported, and over-priced.

BUT! We do have many affordable, stylish, and unique local goods to choose from. And believe it or not, there are several winter gift sales hosted in Dakar (mainly targeting the expat community), featuring a plethora of crafts made with local materials. Megan and I had a booth for Six Bougies at the Dakar Women's Group annual Christmas Bazaar a couple weeks ago...

But an even more fun option is the Foire Internationale de Dakar - an annual tradeshow that takes place in Dakar every December showcasing items from all over the world - from Pakistan, West Africa, the U.S., Indonesia, and more. The Foire is in its 22nd year and an enormous complex is entirely devoted to the show. What I love most about this two-week event is that it is organized by Senegalese and mostly attended by Senegalese. It's inspiring and invigorating to see so many local people (in a developing country) come out for an event that is very much devoted to culture, entertainment, leisure, and recreational spending!

Last night, Megan, C. and I braved the crowds on one of the last few days of the foire, and we came out with some exciting holiday finds ;) The array and variety of items you can find at the foire is quite impressive... seeds, refrigerators, crafts from all over the world, used clothes, gaudy furniture... you name it. 

Behold. (And don't mind the iPhone pictures, it was the only way to document this outing!)

The ticket booths slightly resemble a prison. I guess this is for security purposes? Unfortunately no hands were sticking out from the darkness when I snapped this picture.

Gaudy gold chairs, anyone? Miraculous two-week weight loss, straight from the U.S.???

Marabout-art, made with shells. (These are photos of renowned Senegalese spiritual leaders, which hang in many households. The shells are a new twist, though.)

A reenactment of Ahmadou Bamba (renowned spiritual leader and founder of Mouridisme) walking on water. In an aquarium. Led by magnet.

The Chieftain has arrived, donning royal garb from Burkina Faso. (I spy hoards of beautiful woven fabric above!)

Terrible picture, but I had to snap this enormous jug of shea butter and other mysterious and strong-smelling creams. This stand was extremely popular, perhaps for the natural remedies on display.

Some of my finds: mud cloth from Mali, a wicker basket bag from Madagascar, and a coin purse made with woven cloth from Burkina Faso.

Some more great finds: a hanging callebas bowl... maybe to hold fruit, or something in the kitchen? More mud cloth (a bedspread for Megan), and a close up of the gold coin purse.

We also found homemade honey from the Casamance (southern Senegal) and Megan snagged a few more textiles from Togo and Burkina Faso.

All in all.... great success! I highly recommend visiting the Foire Internationale de Dakar - and tomorrow (December 11) is the last day. In general, I think checking out local fairs targeted at locals can be a very enriching and interesting cultural experience. People watching, people. Do it.

I can only imagine what the traffic will look like tomorrow...

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Men's Guide to Dapper Dressing

Hi folks,

This post originally started as a letter to a good friend who wanted advice with establishing his personal style for the business world. Then I started sending it to other friends and family members along with a host of pics found around the web. Basically, if I could say something to men everywhere it would be to not be afraid to STAND OUT and take fashion risks. It is oh so sexy when a man feels comfortable and confident in himself. When I go out and see a guy who has his own unique style, he exudes poise, charisma, and charm and women (or men) can't help but to find that alluring.

I know some men feel like they just don't "get it" when it comes to fashion and there are so many "choices" out there it can be overwhelming to even know where to begin. I think it helps to establish some "rules" for yourself to guide you with purchases.

Just think of any style icon, let's pick an easy one... Karl Largerfeld. He is an extreme case but it will give you a picture of what I'm talking about. His rules: white hair pulled into a well-kept ponytail, black sunglasses and high white starched collars, and, as always, black. That was easy.

You don't have to be the head designer at Chanel to cultivate your personal style.

Now, just start to make your own rules to follow... do you like shoes with sleek minimalist design or lots of buckles, straps, and detailing? Small heel or no heel? Do you like brand names that show labels or ones that are hidden? Set up some rules that work for you. Don't stress and when in doubt ask your girlfriend, sister, or random shop girl--you know they will have an opinion ;)

1. Highlight your ASSests... you know which ones ;) Wear more fitted clothing (there are good tailors everywhere, find one).

Well, its not fitted, but come on, you know why I posted this one ;) Check out this awesome brand, President for Life!

2. Shoes make the man. You already know this, how about some boots?

3. A pop of color never felt so gooooood! I like how the dude in the second picture is wearing conservative neutrals but when you get to the ankles he shows his orange socks....... HOT!

This might be a tad extreme, but...
... don't be afraid to use color in unexpected ways!

4. Money is no issue... if you shop second hand and online. Shop sales and thrift stores whenever possible.

5. A well-fitted blazer. Guys have it easy because you can just throw on a graphic print t-shirt and a blazer on top and look smashing. Now take it to the next level like these guys and buy some funky colors/patterns!


Good Luck. Have FUN! Show me what you come up with ;) And for these photo sources and other links, visit my Pinterest board dedicated to men's fashion.

- M -

PS. You can always check out the Six Bougies Etsy Shop by pressing the SHOP button on the top left side of the page or click here for the latest in Six Bougies styles for men. We try to make it easy and subtle to integrate wax into everyday wear. Baby steps to embracing your inner-wax-diva!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Black Friday, Senegal-Style

In the spirit of blogging more regularly... Hello! :)

Friday, I braved downtown Dakar with a few friends and came out with some exciting fabric finds... silks and chiffon this time, not African fabric. Today I thought I'd share some of my "Black Friday" finds - decidedly not a phenomenon in Dakar Senegal ;)

Before I moved to Africa, I never bought fabric, because what would I do with it?! I certainly don't know how to sew. I remember visiting the HLM fabric market in Dakar for the first time in 2008, completely in awe. The endless stands and rows of fabrics from all over the world, vibrant colors, glitz, patterns upon patterns, coordinating accessories... it was mesmerizing. The chaos of this booming maze and mild claustrophobia heightened the effect.

And thus began my love affair with textiles.

My study abroad host-sister with my very first African fabric purchase back in 2008.

Friday's shopping trip brought us to the Lebanese-owned fabric stores downtown, a controlled chaos of dusty fabric rolls ranging from the garish to the charming, from the tacky to the extravagant. When I first started combing through the Dakarois fabric stores a few years ago, I was quite skeptical I'd find anything appealing. Orange shag? Hot pink pleather?

And yet... after some digging, I always end up with a host of fabrics that strike my fancy... and some difficult decisions.

Voici Friday's finds:

Most of these will be used for blouses and flowy tops, and maybe a dress... I'm not feeling very adventurous with tailors these days. (Side note, I owe you all a "Tailor Tales" update; still need to photograph some of the final products!)

And this last fabric combo - a gold linen and a pink/gold textile from an old Woodin stash purchased in Ivory coast - is for an upcoming home project

On that note, I have an exciting update coming soon!!! And Megan might have some upcoming (style) tricks up her sleeve as well ;)

Happy Monday, fellow fabric-lovers!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thankful for Our American Adventure

Ice skating at Rockefeller... C.'s first time and a highlight of the trip!
Witness him in action on insta. Consider it an early Christmas gift :)

We're back! 

Also, Happy Thanksgiving :)

It’s been about a week since C. and I returned from our American adventure and I must admit I’m feeling a little flat. My Thanksgiving was nice - tanning at the Radisson followed by gelato - but rather un-American. Last year I had malaria on Thanksgiving and didn't know it yet, so I guess it's an improvement ;) At least the weather is gorgeous here, especially compared to the sweltering humidity we left behind us in mid-October.

But... culture-shock seems to be hitting me harder this time around. I thought I was at a point where I could move rather seamlessly between the U.S. and Africa, immune to the potentially startling differences between the continents. And yet this past week, I have returned wandering glances with glares, scoffed at incompetent customer service, bristled at corruption and bureaucracy, and felt generally bothered and on edge.

Of course, it’s probably because this past trip to the U.S. with C. was so special that I’m having a harder time readjusting to life in Dakar. So let’s focus on the positive of that glorious trip, shall we?!?! After all, it is Thanksgiving, a time to be grateful! (And fight all urges to whine and lament that it’s already overrrrrr...)

We traveled through 10 states (and stopped in a few more), soaked in much needed time with friends and family, indulged in so much gluttony (sushi! grass-fed steak! Mexican! Thai!), drove tractors in Minnesota farm land, walked the streets of New York city in the rain, road a boat on the Charles river, spun around the 48th floor of a sky scraper in Times Square, relished pumpkin spice lattes, twirled in a flurry in Fargo. And so much more.

A few of my favorite memories...

Side note, I'm wearing pretty much the same thing in every picture: (old) winter coat, black pants, a scarf, and boots. What can I say, my winter wardrobe is limited ;)

Corn fields in Minnesota... oh, the places you go for your job!

Mall of America Legoland... a different scarf, revolutionary ;)

Back to familiar territory: fall on the east coast, Maryland to start.

Quintessential DC: Dahlgren Chapel at Georgetown, Clyde's, Georgetown Cupcake, the White House, the Capitol. Cue NOSTALGIA.

NYC: The Highline, Washington Square, Central Park... Be still my heart.

Family, friends, and festivities in New England. I spy a Six Bougies tie ;)
Portsmouth, NH.

One last romp in NYC, pourquoi pas?

To my 
American compatriots
 - have wonderful Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Happenings in Fashion and Wax

Guess what? The tailor postponed... again. So I do not have a Tailor Tales update for you this fine Tuesday, in fact I barely remember what I had made! But if I recall correctly, I don't think the kaftan dress will be seasonally appropriate for my upcoming trip...

Megan normally handles the fashion posts around here, but I've been eying some African-inspired fashion around the interwebs lately and wanted to share.

First off, I love Adama Paris' new Spring/summer 2014 collection, which she just showed at Black Fashion week in Paris. The pieces are sexy, colorful (my sweet spot as you will see below) and combine African wax and tissé fabrics... my two personal favorite textiles from (or inspired by) Africa.

I snagged those pictures from her Instagram, but you can see many more pictures of the runway show on the Adama Paris website.

The next two designers I stumbled upon via Nothing but the Wax, a great (French language) blog devoted to all things.... wax (specifically here and here). Once again, these brands feature colorful, modern, sexy designs in African wax. Gets me every time!

First, the Candy Collection (and a few other pieces) by Sika:

And Dpipertwins, twin sister designers based in NYC and inspired by their Ghanaian roots:

As the weather cools off here, I would love to try some 3/4 length blouses in African wax (minus the crop top/side slits... not sure that would be the best look for me ;) And if the weather ever cooled off enough, I'd be all over a wax trench coat, like the ones from Sika. 

I'm most definitely inspired! And you???

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