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From Living in a Shelter after Hurricane Katrina to Launching a Successful Bow Tie Company

Oakland, CA based designer, Rashima Sonson is the owner of SONSON®, a bow tie brand that offers unique bow ties made of African wax print fabric, lamb leather, pearls, and Swarovski stones.

Rashima Sonson

In 2005, her life drastically changed from the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina. After being displaced to Philadelphia and living in a shelter, Rashima had to start her life from the bottom. She continued to push forward with her goal of creating her fashion brand.

Now, she is shifting the gears on the traditional bow tie by adding a bit of lagniappe to its style and showing customers that women can wear bow ties too!

We caught up with her to learn more about her entrepreneurial journey.

What inspired you to start SONSON?

SONSON® was inspired by a big sister of 7 brothers—which happens to be me! In 2013, I had a difficult time finding a father to be a gift for one of my brothers who was expecting his first son.

I wanted to give him a meaningful classic and useful gift. Something commemorative, something he could teach his son, something they can bond/build a relationship with, and something his son could pass down.

Sadly, I could not find the perfect gift online or via brick& mortar, so I decided to put my fashion design degree to work—I created a men’s accessory brand to positively support the psychological and sociological experiences in a male’s life.

SONSON® embodies everything that is important to me—family, fashion and building lasting relationships. The fact that SONSON® is my last name was a divine sign! And I have not looked back!

What has been the most fulfilling and the most challenging thing about being an entrepreneur?

The most fulfilling thing about being an entrepreneur is getting up every day to grow a business with a mission that I am passionate about. When that passion is fused and embedded in a product that you are familiar, it makes the entrepreneurial journey worthwhile!

The most challenging part about being an entrepreneur is the risks and uncertainties! For example, I might invest in marketing (financial risk), but the uncertainty of the ROI from a marketing ad/campaign is a challenge.

I may or may not get the ROI that I forecasted. However, this is all part of being an entrepreneur—you have to take the good with the bad and keep pushing!!!

How do you select your unique designs and materials?

The designs and materials are selected by a mix of art and science. The art is based on my own personal attraction to beautiful fabrics, prints, as well as cultural inspirations.

You may see a collection celebrating Black History Month with items adorned in cowrie shells, black onyx, to vibrant African wax fabric. Or designs celebrating Chinese New Year with gold foil on the fabric!

The science is based on the internal voice of customer research. From conducting customer intention surveys from over 100 pop-up/vendor events (i.e. Wedding Fairs, Holiday Pop-Ups, etc.)  throughout the Bay Area as well as automated post purchase surveys.

The selection of my designs and materials were based on research conducted over a span of 4 years.


Where do you see the business in 5 years?

In the next 5 years, I see SONSON® thriving, opening a showroom, partnering with major e-commerce, corporate brands, and private organizations! In 5 years, I see the business as the go-to brand for commemorative dapper gifts.


From new dads being gifted one of our classic items in celebration of his first son, young men wearing our ties during their draft pick to the NFL, NBA or MLB,  to an artist wearing one of our pieces when accepting their first Grammy! This is where I see the business in 5 years.

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

The best and most relevant advice I can provide to aspiring entrepreneurs are:

  1. Know yourself and your craft—be authentic
  2. Know (research) and cater to your target audience/industry—be their advocate
  3. If you don’t quit, you will win—never give up on yourself or your dream
  4. The best and most valuable investment you will make in your life is investing in yourself, but make sure you have a clear plan on how /when you will get an ROI on your investment—remember you are building a brand/business (YOU)
  5. Surround yourself with people who help build you up and support your goals. Life is too short to be surrounded by negative people or people that are not interested in seeing you grow mentally, professionally and spiritually.
  6. Always pay it forward! (i.e. time, resources, etc..)
  7. Last but not least, the answer is out there you just have to be mentally present to listen for it.  How many times have we missed out on an opportunity or blessing because we weren’t present to listen and then take action? The most successful entrepreneurs that I have watched and read about, listened and took action (strategically)! Seize the moment!


-Tony O. Lawson

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KoshieO: The Black Owned Luxury Brand Representing The Culture

The luxury fashion brand, KoshieO is the brainchild of  Nina Baksmaty. It all started while she was still in college in Missouri and wanted to make some extra money.

Because fashion came as second nature to her, she started a business trading in accessories and shoes that she bought from NYC.

Although Nina only did this to make ends meet, she eventually began to enjoy being involved in the business of fashion. That is when she had the “aha moment” that inspired the creation of KoshieO.

Nina Baksmaty

Tell us more about why You started your business.

As an African immigrant, I wanted to blend both cultures to come up with unique pieces that showcased my African heritage as well as the culture of my new home, America.

A lot of prominent brands have been inspired by the African continent. I believe it is time we rise and tell our own stories through our designs with the same quality of work, if not better.

All of this led to the inspiration of the brand 10 years ago and has also attracted some big names in the industry like the Late Franca Sozzani (editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia).

Can you describe your background in the fashion industry?

 I like to say that I was born into fashion. My mother was an outstanding fashion designer of her time and I remember always being fascinated while watching  her make clothes.

She always told me the story of how she had to go to work at a factory in London while she was pregnant with me so she could afford baby stuff.

As I was growing up I spent a lot of time around her sewing room and was exposed to all her work tools and sewing equipment. 

She eventually got me a hand machine which I used to practice sewing dresses for my dolls, and thus began my journey to fashion.

How would you describe your designs?

My designs can be described as vibrant fabrics put together to create a luxury brand that pays homage to the uniqueness and beauty of Africa.

Black Owned Luxury

Usually, when people think African-Inspired they think wax print, but these prints are a staple of African fabric, so we chose to make them look different by merging them on other quality fabrics like Egyptian cotton and silks to bring our designs to life.

We wanted to create something that could be on the same level as international standards and be in the same space as some high-end brands we grew up with.

I started at the time when this space was yet to be created in the Fashion Industry in America for African brands but I can proudly say that the high-end stores that we are distributing to puts KoshieO in the same space as some of these brands now. 

Black Owned Luxury  

Where do you see the business in 5 years?

We are currently in stores in areas like NYC, Washington. DC, Virginia, L.A., Detroit, Toronto, Chicago, Accra (Ghana) and still working to quickly expand distribution into many more stores both nationally and internationally.

We want our logo (which is the silhouette of a woman carrying goods on her head and a baby on her back) to be iconic and easily recognizable. This logo symbolizes “all women who deftly and successfully combines parenting, housekeeping, and breadwinning.”

I started a foundation (which we are still working on) with the ultimate goal to develop communities by investing in entrepreneurs. Our focus will be mainly here in the USA and Africa. Our motto is to “empower one entrepreneur and change entire communities.” Hoping to achieve all this in the next 5 years. 

What advice do you have for aspiring designers?

I know that innately people know what they want to be. Our creator made us that way but often times we are crippled by fear.

Fear to me is an enemy of progress. I am a black woman that had a dream to own a luxury fashion label that not only catered to female folks but also the male folks as well and I accomplished that. I did it without letting fear stop me.

So my advice to aspiring designers would be that, If you want to get into fashion start writing down goals on what you want to achieve. Fashion is not just about sketching garments and creating designs, there’s also a business and branding aspect to it.

Secondly, exposure to working with designers and brands also helps, this way you will be privy to the whole scope of what the industry entails. You have to also be passionate about what you are doing because while there will be ups and downs your passion for what you are doing will remind you to stick to it.

Tony O. Lawson

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Black Owned Denim Brands You Should Know

A recent report published by the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), revealed some of the most startling and disheartening news to break from the apparel industry. 

In textile factories located in Lesotho, South Africa, many of the women sewing blue jeans for brands such as Levi’s, Wrangler, Lee, Calvin Klein, and even The Children’s Place often faced frequent sexual harassment and sexual violence from the factories’ managers and higher ups.

If these women refuse to comply or attempted to report their sexual coercion, they were often met with threats, further violence, or termination of their contacts.

The WRC spent two years accumulating findings on labor practices in Lesotho and interviewing women in Maseru region. Their report is clear, “The gender-based violence and harassment identified at these facilities violated workers’ rights under Lesotho’s labor laws, international standards, and the codes of conduct of the brands whose products those employees produce.”

While the brands in question and the factory’s owners have issued their various apologies and calls for action and change, we turn to Black Owned brands, because, well, rather than continuing to support brands who ignore sexual violence until they get caught, we would rather support our own. 

Black Owned Denim Brands

Serena Williams



black owned denim


Nichole Lynel

Milano Di Rouge

black owned denim

William Okpo

black owned denim

Public School 


Contributed by Whitney Alese – Whitney is a lifestyle and culture blogger, content creator and podcaster. Find her on Instagram and Twitter @TheReclaimed



Black Owned Men’s Shoe Brands

Whether you’re thinking about expanding your wardrobe or someone else’s, consider choosing from these Black owned men’s shoe brands.

Black Owned Men’s Shoe Brands

Ron Donovan

Black Owned Men's Shoe Brands

Armando Cabral 

Black Owned Mens Shoe Brands

Blue Sole Shoes

Black Owned Men's Shoe Brands

Billioné Rikko 

Black Owned Men's Shoe Brands


Black Owned Men's Shoe Brands


Black Owned Men's Shoe Brands

Tucci Polo 

Fabrice Tardieu

Black Owned Men's Shoe Brands


Southern Gents 

Black Owned Men's Shoe Brands

Uptown Yardie

Black Owned Men's Shoe Brands


Black Owned Mens Shoe Brands

Sole Rebels

Black Owned Men's Shoe Brands


-Tony O. Lawson

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Black Owned Luxury Brands To Support Instead of GUCCI and Prada

Years after the Gucci and Prada debacle, apologies have been made as well as attempts to win back consumer trust. No matter the motive behind these gestures, the fact remains that there are too many Black owned luxury brands that offer great products for us to keep supporting the same brands religiously.

That being said, here is a list of Black owned luxury brands that you can use to replace the usual suspects.


Black Owned Luxury Brands

Wear Brims

Frances Grey

Tori Soudan

House of Takura


SWAV Eyewear

Linell Ellis

Undra Celeste

4th & Avery




Fe Noel

Armando Cabral

Wales Bonner



Andrea Iyamah

Tsemaye Binite

Ozwald Boateng

Made Leather Co.


Monrowe NYC

Christie Brown

Tony O. Lawson

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Foot Locker Invests $2 Million in Black Owned Footwear Design Academy

Foot Locker Inc. has made a $2 million investment in Pensole Inc., which operates the Pensole Footwear Design Academy, founded by former Jordan design director D’Wayne Edwards. In short time, Pensole has become a signifiant part of the sportswear industry’s talent pipeline.

Pensole features the most sought after faculty in footwear, comprised of both young professional designers and established footwear design leaders from the top footwear brands, with more than 150 years combined experience.

Pensole founder, D’Wayne Edwards

The investment deepens Foot Locker’s long-standing partnership with Pensole and extends the companies’ relationship across all aspects of the design process. It will also give Foot Locker and its vendor partners new access to collaborative design and manufacturing talent.

Edwards will remain the majority owner of Pensole. In a recent interview, he said Pensole will stay on the same trajectory and the money will help “create a better academy.” He expects to use the money to expand class offerings, hire more staff and design exclusive products for Foot Locker.

Edwards, who has worked in the athletic industry for three decades, created a pipeline of new designers through the academy that offers free tuition and a learn-by-doing curriculum that teaches students the entire footwear and apparel process, from product inspiration and concept development to manufacturing and branding.

“My relationship with Foot Locker goes back over 30 years, from consumer to designer to educator and now partner,” said Edwards. “I am excited to deepen our relationship with Foot Locker so we can empower consumers to create their future through innovative educational programs.

Suzette Henry, the founder, and director of the MLab at Pensole

It has always been our joint mission to foster the next generation of emerging footwear and apparel design talent, and I am confident that our collaboration will contribute to the continued growth of the academy, success of our students and accelerated innovation in the footwear industry.”

Together, Foot Locker, its vendor partners and Pensole will collaborate on new educational programs and the design and manufacturing of exclusive products for the Foot Locker family of brands.

Angela Medlin, Founder and Director of the The Functional Apparel and Accessories Studio (FAAS) at Pensole

Foot Locker first supported Edwards and his vision for Pensole in 2015 through an annual master class design competition, “Fueling the Future of Footwear.” Thirty students who have gone through the Foot Locker and Pensole Master classes are working in the industry. Foot Locker has also sold three styles created from the class globally.

“Through this investment, we are excited to extend our partnership with Pensole, an organization that shares our deep commitment to fostering education and driving design innovation and excellence in the industry,” said Richard Johnson, chairman and CEO of Foot Locker.

“Pensole’s position as a leading footwear design academy will enable Foot Locker to deepen our relationships with our vendor partners and leverage the next generation of talent across our brand partners for exclusive consumer-facing concepts. We look forward to working closely with D’Wayne and Pensole’s talented students and world-class faculty as together we design and produce the footwear of tomorrow.”

Spring 2018 Student Exhibition (Pensole)

Partnership with New Balance

Pensole has now partnered with NewBalance for the 3rd annual 3-Week Design and Marketing “Co-Op.” This course features on the job training in Footwear Design, Color + Material Design, Functional Apparel Design, and Marketing.

Students will be selected by category of submission for a hands-on learning experience at the New Balance HQ and a chance to earn a 1-Year Paid Apprenticeship. For details and submission requirements, visit


Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson (IG @thebusyafrican)


Couples Inc. : Toya and Reuben created southern lifestyle brand, Grits Co.

Grits Co. is a southern lifestyle brand created to graphically represent the southern experience in an unapologetic way.  We spoke to founders, Toya and Reuben Levi to find out how they balance business and family.

Grits Co
Toya and Reuben Levi

What inspired the creation of Wear Grits?

Wear Grits was inspired by the narratives of our southern lifestyle. We wanted to create something that reflected our lives and ancestors.

How did you meet each other?  

We met through a mutual friend at a Hip-Hop event in Austin, Texas. The friend knew both of our backgrounds and thought we needed to know each other. We exchanged information and pretty much have been talking ever since.

In what ways do you have similar entrepreneurial traits and in what ways are you different as entrepreneurs?

We both have our strengths and we work well with them. We come together for the creative, but Levi is strong in design and Toya is strong in business management and marketing. We both know what it takes to run a successful business, so we know our roles to get the job done.

Grits Co

So far, what has been the most rewarding and the most challenging thing about being an entrepreneur?

The most rewarding thing would be teaching and showing our daughters so much about being an entrepreneur. Everywhere we go and every opportunity that we receive we make sure that they feel included in this family business.

Seeing them have pride in something that we are creating is the best gift. We don’t see anything as a challenge, just another lesson on our journey. Things come up all the time with business, but you figure it out and keep moving forward.

What advice do you have for couples that are in business together or thinking about it? 

The advice we would give for a couple going into business together would be to know your role and be accountable for your actions. By going into business with a clear guideline on who is doing what will keep things running smoothly without over stepping boundaries.

Of course, you will be around each other more than a regular work relationship, so being clear with communication is also key. We encourage couples to do business together, but to remain patient and honest with each other through the process.

Where do you see the business in 5 years?

We plan things day by day, but of course we want to continue to be creative, more professional speaking engagements, more opportunity for our film, The Green Book Project, and so much more.

Tell us more about The Green Book Project.

The Green Book Project is a web documentary that will include photo essays and interviews across the United States about African American’s experiences.  We look forward to traveling to new locations, hosting more Dinner Parties, and speaking engagements. We hope to release a few new dates by the beginning of 2019 please check out

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

No Grits No Glory, that is why our motto is so simple. Never give up. Things will be hard, but the struggle is a part of the story. Smile through the good and the bad, and always give yourself a pat on the back for taking the risk to do things on your OWN. Life is all about taking Risk and owning a business is a risk. Stay positive and get ready to work hard.


-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson (IG@thebusyafrican)


The World Is Witnessing Nigeria’s Creative Golden Age

Nigerians, of course, saw it all along. The infiltration of world culture by the sounds, images, and styles of their country has been building for some time. The author and photographer Teju Cole notices Nigerian pop music when he travels—recently, in a taxi in Peru.

The journalist Bim Adewunmi remembers finding a group of white British kids in London singing “Oliver Twist,” a hit by D’Banj, down to the artist’s Nigerian accent: OH-lee-vah. “D’Banj trumped Charles Dickens in that moment,” Adewunmi says. “And that made me feel good!”

Perhaps the breakout moment came in 2013, when Beyoncé placed a spoken passage by the Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, excerpted from an essay on the social conditioning of girls, at the ­center of “Flawless,” her empowerment manifesto set to a bouncing Houston funk groove. Queen Bey’s validation turbocharged the ascent of the author of Americanah to her status as a cross-cultural (and stylish) feminist icon. And any doubt vanished once Drake turned up on the remix of “Ojuelegba,” a silken ode by the Nigerian singer Wizkid to his Lagos neighborhood, in 2015—along with Skepta, the British-Nigerian star of the London grime scene.

It’s been a seeping, decentralized thing; to call it a takeover would be hyperbole. But the assertive Nigerian global influence today cannot be denied, whether it’s in literature, music, fashion, or art, with new talents appearing at a relentless pace. Many hold court in London, which has an established Nigerian presence that spans working-class Peckham and the Knightsbridge mansions of industrialists and oil barons. Others are in the United States, where middle-class immigrants have flourished in places like Houston and Atlanta. But all of them feed off the scene in Nigeria itself—and in its megacity, Lagos, a frenetic engine of creativity.

nigerian creatives
Ogbewi, Oyéjidé, and Ayodele (from left) wear suits from Ikiré Jones. Ogbewi wears a Missoni shirt; Kathleen Whitaker earrings; Alumnae shoes. Oyéjidé wears his own jeans, glasses, jewelry, and boots. Ayodele wears Erdem shoes.
Photograph by Ruth Ossai; Styled by Jason Rider.

Ever since Purple Hibiscus, Adichie’s 2003 debut novel, Nigeria’s history, social issues, and the experiences of its immigrants have spread into every realm of literature. Cole, for instance, who grew up in ­Nigeria and lives in Brooklyn, trains a meditative eye on Lagos in Every Day Is for the Thief. Illinois-raised Nnedi Okorafor draws on Igbo spirituality to shape award-winning science-fiction and fantasy; Who Fears Death, her postapocalyptic allegory in which magic transcends sexual violence and civil war, is slated for an HBO series.

Acclaimed recent debuts by Ayobami Adebayo, Lesley Nneka Arimah, and Tomi Adeyemiunderscore the prominence of women writers in the scene. Adebayo was born in Lagos; her Stay With Me, a deft, stirring family drama, addresses intimate ordeals of infertility and illness against middle-class pressures and aspirations in a provincial Nigerian town, and received the critic Michiko Kakutani’s final New York Times review. Minneapolis-based Arimah sets the surrealist, feminist stories in What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky in both Nigeria and the U.S. Raised in the Chicago suburbs, marked by both the Harry Potter series and the rise of Black Lives Matter, Adeyemi found her outlet in a world she called Orïsha, inspired by the divinities of Yoruba culture. Published this year, Children of Blood and Bone, the first in a series for which Adeyemi secured a huge publishing deal at the age of 23, topped the young-adult best-seller list.

Nigerian designers are giving fashion a jolt of adrenaline as well. They follow established creators such as Duro Olowu, who showed his first London collection in 2005 (and later became a Michelle Obama favorite), Lisa Folawiyo (Jewel by Lisa), and Amaka Osakwe (Maki Oh). Meanwhile, Nigerian shoppers—big spenders who regularly visit London and Dubai, and who avidly seek out foreign brands on the MallforAfrica app—support up-and-coming talents. Lagos brims with showrooms nestled behind the walls of private compounds. Alára, the entrepreneur Reni Folawiyo’s concept store in Lagos, houses both Western and Nigerian designers in a David Adjaye–designed building, as well as Nok, the store’s nouvelle-­Nigerian destination restaurant.

Ogunlesi wears clothing and boots of her own design. Ize wears signature pieces from his spring 2019 collection.
Photograph by Ruth Ossai; Styled by Jason Rider.

Nigerian style is all about subcultures, mash-ups, and street life. London-based Mowalola Ogunlesi, known for her sexually charged punk clothes, finds inspiration in the country’s rock underground and the aggression of Lagos street racers, bikers, and minibus drivers. ­Adebayo Oke-Lawal’s Lagos-based label, Orange Culture, short-listed for the LVMH Prize in 2014, explores androgynous undercurrents that Nigerian tradition, influenced by both Christianity and Islam, repress. London’s streetwear brand Vivendii, started in 2011 by Jimmy Ayeni, Ola Badiru, and Anthony Oye, collaborated this year with Virgil Abloh’s Off-White and Nike on a limited-edition jersey for the Nigeria soccer team. Meanwhile, Nike’s official gear for the team’s World Cup campaign became an instant cult item.

Ayeni wears a Vivendii top; Marni suit; Bunney choker; his own necklace and sandals. Oye wears a Vivendii shirt; Craig Green trousers; Ambush necklaces; Alexander McQueen boots; his own sunglasses. Badiru wears a Vivendii shirt; Alexander McQueen coveralls; Ambush jewelry; Bunney bracelet and signet ring; Falke socks; Marni sneakers.
Photograph by Ruth Ossai; Styled by Jason Rider.

Global brands are catching up to Nigeria, says the photographer Ruth Ossai, who took the pictures in these pages. “There is such a spotlight on Nigerian creatives because brands have gotten behind us and trust us,” she says. “But local talent has always been there.” Indeed, as trend spotters ogle Nigerian kids in London and reporters safari through the Lagos nightlife, many Nigerians seem amused. “People are just realizing this now?” the artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby says. “Maybe they are just slow to the scene.”

With 190 million inhabitants or more—no one knows, there hasn’t been a census in years—the country’s size alone, dwarfing its ­African neighbors, makes it a player. “You can’t ignore the nation that ­represents one in eight black human beings in the world,” says the crime novelist Leye Adenle, author of Easy Motion Tourist. In the years ­following independence, in 1960, that scale was accompanied by prestige. ­Nigeria had good universities, political influence, a booming ­commercial capital in Lagos, and a dynamic, emerging middle class. Music blossomed—highlife in Lagos and the Igbo southeast, juju from the Yoruba heartland—and albums by great bandleaders found their way across Africa and to the West.

But the good times didn’t last. A coup and countercoup in 1966 ushered in the bloody Biafra civil war, followed by three decades of nearly uninterrupted military rule. The economy became dependent on oil exports, and corruption took hold as politics centered on controlling and distributing oil revenue. In the long, jazzy songs that made him Nigeria’s musical icon in the 1970s and ’80s, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti described a country beset with greed, decay, and the suffering of ordinary people. The nation became disreputable: Visitors returned with tales of outrageous shakedowns, and Africans from neighboring ­countries stayed away, traumatized by stories of swindles or vigilante justice. The advent of the Internet gave rise to a stubborn archetype, the Nigerian prince who wants to wire you a vast sum of money after you send him a fee—Nigerians called this scam 419, after a provision in the legal code on fraud.

Ogbewi wears a Salvatore Ferragamo dress and shoes; Versace shirtdress. Anakwe wears Balenciaga.
Photograph by Ruth Ossai; Styled by Jason Rider.

Today’s Nigeria reflects a drastic turnaround. “It’s gone from 419 to Lagos nights,” Adewunmi says. Elections have been held since 1999, and the country has become an energetic—if still corrupt—democracy. Every year, Nigerians living overseas stream back for the holidays, injecting millions of dollars and pounds into the economy, moving by Uber around Lagos and Abuja, the capital, and popping bottles at the ever-changing clubs. Social media is vibrant, and instead of scams, it turns out a steady flow of Nigerian memes, slang, and music.

Akunyili Crosby, who grew up in Nigeria and lives in Los Angeles, has found acclaim for her mixed-media collage works that evoke her memories of family and Nigerian daily life. “I’m really trying to show the side of Nigeria that is just people living their lives,” she says. In her wake, Alabama-raised Toyin Ojih Odutola had a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art last year, with a series of elegant large-scale drawings that depict the lives of two fictional aristocratic Nigerian families connected by the marriage of two male heirs. Ruby Onyinyechi Amanze, for her part, makes works on paper in an evanescent, surrealist style that evokes unsettled identities; raised in the U.K. and living in Brooklyn, she says her approach took form during a year spent in Nigeria, where she was born. “I have a connection to the land that is deeply nuanced, perhaps even immeasurable,” she says.

Some Nigerian artists who began their career overseas have returned home, joining the Lagos scene—anchored by the respected curator Bisi Silva’s Centre for Contemporary Art and the Art X Lagos fair—or reestablishing their rural roots. The photographer and ­conceptual video artist Zina Saro-Wiwa—the daughter of Ken ­Saro-Wiwa, a national hero executed by the military regime in 1995 for his environmental activism—is based in Brooklyn but makes her work in the Niger Delta region that her father fought for. “I’m in our village a lot,” she says. “I’m trying to let the land speak through me and express the reality of that place.”

Daberechi wears Prada clothing and Manolo Blahnik boots. Davies wears his own Ozwald Boateng suit and Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello sunglasses.
Photograph by Ruth Ossai; Styled by Jason Rider.

An important force behind Nigeria’s cultural dynamism is its collector class, including deep-pocketed banks and corporations. Even more ­decisive, however, is the vast popular market for locally ­produced entertainment. It includes the sprawling Nollywood, but also the Hausa-language film industry, which is influential in the country’s north and gets exported to the Arab world. Nigeria’s music scene, too, allows artists to grow careers independent of foreign labels and tastemakers. “I’m able to make music locally,” says the musician Brymo, who began in mainstream pop and then moved to a more recherché singer-songwriter style. “Between downloads, streams, and gigs, people pay to see my group.”

The exponential growth of Nigerian pop music—now often called Afrobeats—tracks with the turn some 10 years ago toward a hybrid sound full of references to prior waves of Nigerian music, sung in English as well as in Yoruba, Igbo, and pidgin, a street vernacular. American, British, Caribbean, and Congolese borrowings add to the blend. It’s this music, not the more formulaic hip-hop and R&B that immediately preceded it, that has taken Africa by storm and merged with global black culture.

Nigerian pop’s royal ranks already include the megastars Wizkid and Davido, the reggae-inspired Burna Boy, and the female singers Yemi Alade and Tiwa Savage. Ubiquitous across Africa and increasingly in the mix elsewhere, pop music has become a source of prestige for Nigeria. “Growing up in the U.S., it wasn’t cool to be Nigerian,” says the rapper Jidenna, who was raised near Boston. “Now, it’s freeing.” These days, he works vintage Nigerian highlife music into his songs and finds inspiration for his ultra-dapper style on the Lagos streets.

nigerian creatives
Jidenna wears a Loro Piana cape; his own shirt, pants, and jewelry.
Photograph by Ruth Ossai; Styled by Jason Rider.

But let’s be real: Nigeria is also a mess. Middle-class life involves constant battles—with corrupt cops, disorganized public services, fuel shortages, and power cuts that force reliance on noisy, polluting generators. The country recently surpassed India as the nation with the largest number of people living in extreme poverty. And violence is rife: not just the Boko Haram crisis that drags on in the northeast but resource conflicts, such as between farmers and herders, that take on ethnic hues. “People think Nigeria is incapable of imploding, but I don’t agree,” says the novelist Elnathan John, who comes from Kaduna, in the northwest, and now lives in Berlin. “It’s these little conflicts in a million places.” But others are more sanguine. “Some god is ­smiling on Nigeria,” Duro Olowu says, “considering how many things are completely ignored.”

“Nigeria succeeds in spite of itself, and that’s what’s great about it,” says the writer Lola Shoneyin. “The doggedness is always there. On nearly every street, there is a girl who is going to university but also has a sewing machine. There is a fearlessness with which ­Nigerians pursue creativity.” Shoneyin, the author of The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives, herself has many hustles—a positive term in the ­Nigerian vernacular. A publisher and cultural entrepreneur, she founded the Aké literature festival in 2013. It is now a vibrant institution with a global draw.

Self-belief is no culture’s monopoly—but talk to Nigerian creatives and you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise. In Donald Glover’s hit TV series Atlanta, the character Darius, a purveyor of goofy wisdom played by Lakeith Stanfield, is Nigerian-American. “Don’t you start that,” he tells Earn, the lead protagonist, played by Glover, at one point. “You know Nigerians don’t fail.” And as their influence grows, Nigerian creatives are nudging one another into more transgressive terrain: feminism, queerness, dissent. The hope is that the culture at large will follow.

The trans author Akwaeke Emezi, who is half Igbo, half Tamil, and grew up in southern Nigeria, identifies specifically as ogbanje—a gender-ambiguous spirit that arrives from outside the lineage and inhabits the body. Freshwater, Emezi’s debut, unfolds from an ogbanje’s perspective, narrated in the first-person plural. The acclaimed novel, which earned Emezi a two-book follow-up deal, was published in the U.S. this past February and recently in Nigeria. “Several Nigerian readers have written me to say, ‘Thank you for this,’ ” says the author. “ ‘This is the first time in my life that I haven’t felt crazy.’ ”

Oke-Lawal, of Orange Culture, observes that his androgynous label is generating interest abroad and at home, with a growing number of customers from conventional professions, such as lawyers, now purchasing his clothes. New York–based Chike Frankie Edozien, author of the acclaimed memoir Lives of Great Men, is among a handful of gay Nigerians who are writing and speaking openly, often at personal risk.

Iweala wears a Paul Smith suit; Brioni shirt; Falke socks; his own shoes. Saro-Wiwa wears Elsa Peretti for Tiffany & Co. earrings; her own clothes. Cole wears an Hermès suit; Brioni sweater; his own glasses, pin, and shoes.

“People are creating progressive culture in real time,” Teju Cole says. Known for his own artistic experiments with social media, he sees the Internet as a catalyst for Nigerian culture to gradually shed its inhibitions. “There are people who are very liberal in their views, and there are people who are not so much, but you can see them thinking it through.” For all its difficulties, Nigeria is going through a creative blossoming and sharing the results with the rest of the world, at a time when many societies seem to be looking inward. Perhaps that’s the secret to its appeal. “It feels like a coming to fruition,” Cole says. “We really got hot, and that feels right.”


Source: W Magazine


Black Owned Jewelry Businesses That Should Be on Your Radar

Historically, jewelry was meant to indicate social status, familial roots, and significance. Today, people wear jewelry to jazz up an outfit, express individuality, or to profess their love and passion.

Whatever your reason for rocking some fly accessories, there’s a Black owned jewelry business that can provide what you need.

Here are just a few.

black owned jewelry

Black Owned Jewelry Businesses

Lorraine West Jewelry

Sewit Sium Jewelry

Egbo Collections

Black Owned Jewelry

Johnny Nelson

black owned jewelry


Afrohemien Jewelry

Adele Dejak

Black Owned Jewelry

Sheryl Jones Diamond and Gemstone Jewelry


Anita Quansah London

Valerie Madison

Tracey Beale

ADORN 42.20

Moijey Fine Diamonds

Nirvana Wild

Black Owned Jewelry

Mock & Co 


Saint Jewels

Lingua Nigra

Black Owned Jewelry

Limba Gal

Jam + Rico

Black Owned Jewelry

Omi Woods

black owned jewelry


-Tony O. Lawson

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Black Owned Lingerie Businesses You Should Know

As Victoria’s Secret’s monopoly on the $12 billion U.S. lingerie market dwindles year-over-year, several Black owned lingerie businesses have entered the playing field.

They’re offering new kinds of inclusive styles and sizes that cater to the underrepresented consumer.

Black Owned Lingerie Businesses

Anya Lust

black owned lingerie

Beautifully Undressed


Cherry Blossom Intimates

Nude Barre

Nubian Skin



-Tony O. Lawson

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 Get your SHOPPE BLACK Apparel!