Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Stella Jean @ Home: Wax Upholstery for the Win!

It's no secret I'm a huge fan of Italo-Haitian, Armani-protégé fashion designer Stella Jean - as featured this spring!

But today I stumbled upon a delicious surprise - a preview of her upcoming HOME collection! According to my sleuthing, Stella partnered with Sephora in Milan to host a "Métissage Experience" during the exclusive Salone del Mobile showcase schedule. The designer showcased a capsule collection of vintage wax-upholstered arm chairs reflecting a "crossing of cultures, but not only… also of time periods, a crossing of generations, with influences from the Forties, Art Deco and 19th-century Italy."

I couldn't find any more details on when the collection will officially launch, and this Sephora show happened in April/May... so we'll have to keep our eyes peeled for updates!

What do you think???

Images from HERE.

Also, the flyer is SO up my ally. Do you recognize the curtain textile? None other than my top choice for an upholstered headboard!


Flyer (and more info) from HERE.

And on a different but very related note, I thought I'd hop on over to Stella Jean's home page and check out her fall/winter line. It did not disappoint. I am no fashion critic, but I always seem to love her work! She juxtaposes patterns and textures in just the right doses for me... While totally interesting and bold, I still find it all (relatively--it is the runway, after all) wearable and aesthetically pleasing. 

Side note, apparently she also just showed her ready to wear Spring/Summer 2015 line so I am very behind on things. I'll keep those pieces for a future post ;)

A few favorites from the Fall/Winter collection-


Check out the rest HERE! And while your at it, I'd suggest ogling her Instagram account too :)

This post was NOT sponsored by Stella Jean ;) ;) ;)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

West Africa, Nuanced: Safety in Dakar

It's time to get back to some regular scheduled posting... let's see if I can rebound after last week's glorious African Wax birthday recap ;) Most of these photos are "facebook relics," so please excuse the mediocre quality dating back to 2008!

I've always hoped this little blog might be of use to someone living in or traveling to West Africa. To that end, I like to reminisce on my early days in Dakar and recall what seemed particularly mysterious or mind boggling (its kind of crazy what has become commonplace four years in!). But better yet - I love emails and comments from readers curious about some aspect of life in Senegal. I recently met up with a reader visiting Dakar (so exciting!) and our conversation turned to the topic of safety in the city. As a newbie in Dakar, she didn't really feel comfortable exploring the city without a firm understanding of security norms. I recall feeling the exact same way six years ago!


Contrasts abound in Dakar, Senegal.

So on that note, I thought I'd tackle my personal experience with safety in Dakar (and Senegal in general). Let it be known that I am no security officer or safety expert, but I do really like to have a realistic perspective on the safety situation when I'm new to a city or neighborhood. I've found this information is often lacking or misleading when traveling, especially on trips to Morocco and South Africa. Visiting Morocco in 2011, I loved my trip but could not believe Lonely Planet failed to adequately warn how two women might be treated traveling alone (ahem, a story for another post). And more recently in South Africa, I just couldn't quite grasp whether to feel nervous or at ease in various situations.

In general, I definitely err on the side of cautious when I don't have a real handle on the security barometer. This dilemma is especially salient when traveling in underdeveloped places that might appear dangerous based on outward appearance. Let's be frank here, how do you typically judge a dangerous neighborhood where you live? Lack of street lights, run down homes, pollution, poverty, signs of illegal drugs, etc....

When you evaluate Dakar through this lens, the result is... confusing. While there are some aesthetically pleasing corners of the city, you would be hard pressed to find a block without some sign of development, ie. unfinished construction, unpaved streets, peeling paint, street children and handicapped people begging for money, informal shops selling from shacks, etc. You can only imagine how a newcomer might question their safety when arriving in Dakar (especially someone new to West Africa).


Horse and buggy//beautiful coast and hotels//never ending construction... a city of contrasts.

In my case, I was truly terrified after my first Dakar airport experience, driving past looming and abandoned construction sites in the dark, the smell of sewage wafting through the air. For several days, I was legitimately afraid to leave the school where I was first housed as a study abroad student.

In Mermoz, no less, which I now know is one of Dakar's most upscale neighborhoods. (Not to say upscale guarantees safety, just to say I thought we were in the ghetto! Hah! SO. NAIVE. Hey, at least I'll admit it!) While others confidently ventured out to explore the city, I followed suit with a gnawing pit in my stomach, afraid of violence in broad daylight, jumpy and on edge.

Yup, I thought this was the ghetto. Feel free to judge, fellow Dakarois.

But here's the thing...

With four full years under my belt, I feel incredibly safe in Dakar. 

And I have since about Day Six of my study abroad experience in 2008. I've also travelled to nine countries in Africa (which is actually pretty minimal, when you consider that the continent is comprised of 54 countries!) and I have never felt safer than I do in Senegal. Whether this is due to culture, religion, political history, all or none of the above... I'm not sure. But it's the truth! The only "fear" I've experienced is linked to petty theft, but I have truly never been afraid for my physical or personal safety. Dakar has extremely low instances of organized crime, drug addiction, and sexual violence.

For full disclosure, I have been pick pocketed twice, and my apartment was broken into in 2012. BUT! I have also left my cell phone and/or wallet in three taxis and one bus to Touba (hours outside of Dakar) and had each driver go above and beyond to contact me and hand deliver my lost belongings. Yes, I know this maybe says more about my tendency to lose things than anything else ;) BUT SERIOUSLY! Would that ever happen in a major American city? Rarely.


Construction looking good, for once.

Let me get a little more specific so that this post might be of practical use to someone. ;)

IN DAKAR...

+ I feel safe walking alone in any neighborhood during the day, and this sense of security does not correlate with how upscale (or not) the neighborhood is. There are definitely more hectic parts of the city that require extra awareness of my belongings, but if anything I'd say you're more at risk for petty theft in upscale areas popular with expats and wealthy Senegalese.

+ I avoid unwanted attention - begging, pushy vendors, offers to guide me - by exuding a standoffish demeanor, avoiding eye contact and conversation, and wearing culturally appropriate clothing (basically nothing above the knee during the day). I've also spent a lot of time watching my Senegalese counterparts for social cues and learning key Wolof phrases. Of course, if I want to be friendly, then I smile and chat! :)

I use common sense. I don't usually walk alone at night, but I will every now and then, sticking to well lit streets in neighborhoods with which I'm familiar. And I am quite comfortable walking at night with someone else. I'm also totally fine with taking taxis alone at any hour, and in the past I did take public transportation without issue. (Again, being honest here ;)

I avoid flaunting expensive items in public. I don't walk around talking on my iPhone, and if someone calls me while I'm out, I keep the conversation short. I will carry my laptop in my purse, but only because my bag doesn't scream LAPTOP like a computer case might.

I have a deep trust and faith that the vast majority of Senegalese people would come to my assistance if I ever needed help in a public space. (Or when I lose things! Hah.) But I do recognize that my ability to speak French maybe solidifies this comfort level.

+ As a woman, I can honestly say that it does not cross my mind to be afraid walking past a man alone at night. It really dawned on me how lucky that is after reading this post. Can you say the same where you live? Violent and sexual crime is so rare here (though it still happens, of course). Also, there are people--guards, storekeepers, neighborhood kids--everywhere at every hour, keeping an eye on things. (Side note: you are always within view of someone, haha.)


The hazy coast//some modern roads and street lamps (that mostly don't work)//your local boutique

***

What does this novel boil down to? Visit Dakar, and no need to be afraid! :D My sense of personal safety is a HUGE part of the draw to living in Dakar. It is liberating not to live in fear as a woman. There is a palpable aura of community, compassion, and goodness of most people here in Dakar. And so I hope visitors will feel comfortable traveling to Dakar, even though it can take time to adjust your instincts to the surroundings.

If you live or have traveled to Dakar - would you agree with my take on things? Any other burning questions I can address?!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

An African Wax Print Birthday Bash

Happy Hump Day! Let's pretend its Monday so I can get away with a weekend recap post, shall we?! Or rather, a WAX PARTY EXTRAVAGANZA recap. Get ready.

Megan's birthday was last Friday, so we decided it was FINALLY time to throw together an African wax print themed party... something we've been talking about for years. I'm so glad we bit the bullet because it was SO. MUCH. FUN. I might even break the record on caps lock and exclamation points in one post.




A good friend with a beautiful home and pool overlooking the coast kindly offered we host the party at his house. Um... yes, please, and thank you! Megan put together an adorable invite (above) and the wax-inspired planning commenced. First, we cut leftover wax fabric in long strips and braided it to make the base for our bunting. We then cut out triangles from various fabric scraps, and Megan put her hot glue to work. So cute, if we do say so ourselves ;) (And straight out of Anthropologie, am I right??)




Inspired by the photo-booth craze and the photography of Seydou Keita and Omar Victor Diop... we put together our version of an African wax print photo-booth: vibrant wax fabric back drop, waxed-out props, and a resident photographer near by to document people posing.

Megan and some Peace Corps friendsicles made most of the props, but I did help with the Wolof speech bubbles. (Sidenote, Sai Sai laa = I am a trickster/troublemaker/naughty.) Not only did the props come out amaaaazing... they were a HUGE hit. Who knew people loved taking selfies?! ;) But seriously, note to self: every party needs a photo-booth and props. Endless entertainment and keepsakes.






Another sweet detail: wax-adorned skewers for fruit-kebobs, which leads me to the simple but perfect menu. Megan whipped up several batches of bissap-infused sangria: delicious, potent, and budget friendly... can't go wrong. We used a closed drink dispenser to serve the sangria, so she prepped mini fruit skewers to garnish each glass of sangria with taste and style!

Megan also served cut up veggies and dip, nems (fried spring rolls common in Senegal), and some other yummy snacks. Guests brought juice and other drinks to supplement the options. But I'd say the sangria was much-loved and more than sufficient for fun!

^^This may or may not have been staged after the party ;) Shhhh...


^^Christian, otherwise known as Oba, my hipster Nigerian boyfriend, wore those glasses all. night. long.

And of course, THE OUTFITS! Everyone was required/implored to deck themselves in wax... and to really push the envelope and mix prints, while keeping it classy. We were going for FASHION FORWARD (as opposed to wacky tacky). I'd say people definitely followed suit. I also know Megan's closet offered many ladies a plethora of style options, myself included!




^^Sangria was spilled, hence the wardrobe change.

^^This, my friends, is called taking one for the team. Yikes ;)

As you can see, the night was a blast! It may or may not have ended in clothed swimming -- better than skinny dipping ;) We keep things pretty PG-13 around here! Megan put together an awesome playlist and people posed, danced, mingled, and drank the night away to the sound of waves crashing against the shoreline.





GREAT. SUCCESS.

Hopefully it will be a birthday Megan will never forget ;) Her wax-filled dreams made a reality.




And Sunday I honestly felt depressed it was over! Haha. We want to throw wax-themed parties every weekend. We still have those props on hand... just sayin'

Thursday, September 4, 2014

More is More: Matching Daring Decor with Saturated Style


As plans for the bedroom have slowly been taking form (I may or may not have found fabric for the headboard!)... I've been contemplating the aesthetic direction I want to go in. Previously, I imagined a breezy, slightly stark bedroom with whimsical details and (gasp!) pops of color. But after choosing my headboard fabric which isn't exactly subtle, I think I'm slowly having a change of heart. And I'll be revealing the fabric soon! Here is my previous bedroom mood board, before we even had our own place:


But lately I've noticed myself gravitating towards busier, more ballsy, high contrast designs, all within my tried and true boho-glam vibe. I'm finding I want to veer a little more experimental in decorating the bedroom. Megan has been a real inspiration to me when it comes to mixing African wax prints in fashion and decor, and helped me pull the trigger on my fabric choice.

I love being creative, but my biggest challenge has always been letting things flow naturally and organically.  For example, despite my best intentions to fashion a haphazard gallery wall, somehow it (almost) perfectly aligns?! Or when I tried my hand at embellishing an African mask, my lines were so perfect it almost looked elementary. Ugh. I'm definitely not the most confident when pushing the envelope in design, but I'm looking forward to relying on my gut and intuition a little more than usual!

And though I'm much less likely to attempt this in fashion, I also totally admire the risk takers when it comes to style. With a MORE IS MORE aesthetic in mind,  I played around matching daring decor with saturated style. Check out some of the combinations that have been inspiring me below! All the color and pattern warms the heart :)
 


.
All sources can be found here and here!






Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...