Archive | July, 2011

Behind the Scenes

29 Jul

Everyday people ask me where and how they can purchase one of my pieces…well the moment you all have been waiting for has arrived! My new shopping website will be launching MONDAY AUGUST 1st! On Monday you will be able to go directly to the new site or come here and click “SHOP”, select your size, choose your method of payment, and a Nichole Alabi handmade piece will be shipped to you.

For this most auspicious occasion I created a capsule collection based on my trip to Ghana. Using many of the fabrics I acquired while there from my “Family Matters” post, I created a small collection that represents my point of view as a designer. This collection, perfect for the end of the summer, is for the fearless Nichole Alabi girl. Each piece looks awesome with other pieces in the collection as well as styled your own way with pieces from your own wardrobe.

For the website I had a photo shoot with Ray Marshall of ORay Photography and DC based model April Barnes. Check out the pictures below and make sure to shop the site!

Ray Marshall shooting the first look

Ray prepping model April Barnes for the second look

April is all smiles in the third look

Clearly April loves this look!

Showing off the new accessories

Bon Weaving

22 Jul

After my Kente lesson I was prepared to haggle with the best of them and acquire some authentic material. So I took a 4 hour van ride north of Accra to visit the Bonwire Weaving Center. The center is located right outside of Kumasi in the Ashanti Region which is considered the home of Ashanti culture and Kente. When I arrived at the center I was prepared to watch some weaving and buy a piece or two…what I was not prepared for was to learn so much and to do some weaving of my own.

The center is made up of master weavers and apprentice weavers. Apprentice weavers learn under the masters and perform the task of single weaving (with one color) while the master weavers perform double and triple weaving techniques (weaving with multiple colors) and are able to sell their creations. I thought it was interesting that all the weavers at the center were men and when I asked about it they said that it was folklore that women couldn’t weave becasue it causes infertility. According to Kofi, one of the master weavers I met, that was a ploy to keep women doing housework (Lol). Now, more and more women are learning the Kente weaving technique.

At the age of 29, Kofi had been weaving for 20 years as his father and grandfather were master weavers. Kofi gave me my first weaving lesson. Seated at the loom to learn the single weaving technique, loops were attached to my big toes and I sat on a kid sized stool inside the wooden contraption. The loops on my toes were attached to the loom and controlled the weft, with my hands I looped a single strand through the weft, and with a comb I beat the weft. The technique sounds arduous but you should’ve seen how fast the master weavers and even apprentice weavers were doing it!

There was something magical about being at Bonwire. The idea of learning a technique that has been passed down through the generations for centuries and centuries had an outstanding effect on me. And to top it off, there is nothing antiquated about this art form; to this day people are still wearing the traditional Kente prints as well as constantly innovating new ones. This experience reinforced my aesthetic as a designer with an African influence and I hope and pray that my work will be around for generations to come.

Weaving! PS...Dont I look cute with my hair in a bun!

Master Weaver attaching loops to my toes

Getting a tutorial on the single weaving technique

Look how much I did! I did the black (single weave)

Check out a Master Weaver in action…

Family Matters

12 Jul

The Alabis

Growing up I didnt have aunts and uncles and cousins around. My parents immigrated to the States from Nigeria in the 80s, leaving their siblings behind, and due to the expense of it all we never got any visits nor did we have the opportunity to visit them. Its ironic, though both my parents grew up in really large families, I always felt like I had a small family because all I had were my sisters, brother, and parents. In hindsight I think this is why I’ve always made my girlfriends my family; I never miss their birthdays, I talk to them multiple times a day, and dread when we’re apart. Throughout the years I didn’t think much about my family; as tragic as that may sound. To me they were distant relatives in a distant land quickly becoming a distant memory.

When the opportunity to study abroad came, I knew I needed to be in West Africa. Though Howard Law has a very prestigious South Africa program, I decided to attend Fordham’s Ghana program. The opportunity to be physically close to my family could not be passed up. My plan was to make my way to Nigeria once I found my footing in Ghana. However, after being in Accra for a few days I realized that I had completely underestimated cross-border travel on the continent and therefore the Nigeria trip was out.

When my family heard about my thwarted attempt to see them,  they took action and came to me! ALL of my dad’s siblings boarded a plane for one night only and came to see me. My dad’s sister and three brothers came to see me and it was surreal! Looking into their faces and seeing my dad and parts of myself is a feeling I cannot describe. I’ll admit it was awkward at first but soon I found my groove. When I told them about  my line they were all so excited. Just like my dad, they are all entrepreneurs and love that I have the Alabi entrepreneurial spirit.

We decided to go to Osu, a trendy part of Accra, for dinner and some shopping. When we arrived at a fabric shop they began loading my arms with yards and yards and yards of fabric for my new collection. By the time we left I had about 30 yards of amazing prints in vibrant colors. I am so excited to get started working with these prints and I am already planning a trip to Nigeria this fall so I can meet my grandfather and my cousins.

Check out the fabric my family hooked me up with below

Neon Blue Cheetah

Art Deco

Graphic Roses

 

 

Glitter Kente Print

No Regrets

11 Jul

My classmate Ms. Emma

A conversation with one of my classmates towards the end of my time in Ghana really made me think… I was asking around about where I could buy some authentic Kente cloth when Ms. Emma, who sat in front of me, turned around and told me she was a Kente collector. She told me she would bring in some Kente to show me some of her collection and give me a quick Kente lesson before I hit the streets to haggle.

The next day Ms. Emma brought me a new Kente design which is lightweight and woven with rayon fibers. The particular material can be used to make a traditional evening skirt for a woman or even the inside vest of a three-piece suit for a man. As she explained to me the way the weaving works and how the stoles are sewn together, we spoke a bit about her life and her history with Kente.

Apparently, Ms. Emma has been sewing traditional Kente outfits for friends and family for the past 45 years (she barely looks 45 years old!). Though she excelled as a designer and seamstress from a very early age, by the time Ms. Emma was ready to pursue higher education, it was the trend of the day for women to go as far in their education as possible. With that in mind Ms. Emma pursued a degree in economics and a career in banking and finance.

Ms. Emma said “In my time I didn’t even know people could get degrees in fashion”. Despite not studying fashion formally, Ms. Emma has been all over the globe working for various financial institutions and after 30 years in banking she is now pursuing a law degree in Ghana. When I asked her if she regretted not pursuing fashion full-time back then, or even now instead of law, she said no. According to Ms. Emma, collecting Kente and fashioning custom creations for her friends and family is her passion and she has absolutely no regrets.

I think about what Ms. Emma said a lot. For the past three summers I wrote to Savannah College of Arts and Design requesting an application to their Masters in Fashion Design program. This year I even went as far as having an interview with an admission officer who came up to DC from Atlanta. I cant quite put my finger on whatever it is that has stopped me from going all the way and applying but something about it hasn’t felt right. After speaking to Ms. Emma I realized that a formal fashion education may not be for me or for everyone seeking a design career. Like Ms. Emma, my other talents have taken me around the world (well…at least to Ghana for starters), and have opened doors for me. Nonetheless, fashion is my passion and I’ll continue living without regrets in my pursuit.

Check out the pics below for a quick Kente lesson.

Dual-print Kente

 

From the underside of the Kente you can see that the entire print is made up of strips sewn together