women at work

arts + entertainment, good news, entrepreneur tips

#WomenatWork: 'LADYLIKE' director Tiffany Johnson schools us on art as freedom

Welcome back to our "Women at Work" series, where you're introduced to a curated selection of working women discussing their professional lives as well as the impact they're making - through an audacious blend of professional and personal passions - on the world around them.

Closing out Women's History Month, meet Tiffany Johnson.

via @tiffanyjenellej

via @tiffanyjenellej

Admittedly, I wait until the morning each WaW story is due to write it. As an entrepreneur whose entire life is now guided by one giant Passion Planner, I get joy out of being able to wake and feel my way to useful words - hopefully, accurate words - describing these women who move me so much.

When I started thinking about Tiffany this morning, I started thinking about freedom. I started thinking about "the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint," the "absence of subjection to foreign domination or despotic government," "the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved."

via @tiffanyjenellej

via @tiffanyjenellej

As a graduate of the Los Angeles Film School - one who majored in Directing and minored in Screen Writing - I can imagine that Tiffany knows a lot about engaging the right to speak, think and act without hindrance. I'm probably projecting my 8-year black girl experience as an English Ph.D. student, but I'm willing to bet Tiffany would bring brilliance to a discussion of art, particularly Hollywood filmmaking, and the feeling of foreign domination.

We just haven't discussed that yet.

I think about freedom when I think about Tiffany because (well, look at her, so in and of herself)  since graduating, she's worked for CBS, Overbrook Entertainment, and Academy Award-winning Producer Peggy Rajski.  She's also worked as an Associate Producer on numerous live television award shows, including MTV Movie Awards, MTV Video Music Awards, People’s Choice Awards and the 2011 Primetime Emmy’s. She also serves as assistant to another fave, Lena Waithe.

Tiffany is a woman not just standing in, but operating from her multiple freedoms: to desire, to choose, to create, to redefine. If you're not quite sure how I got there yet, you will be after further reading.

 

Check out the best from my correspondence with Tiffany below.

 

On owning her professionalism ...

I didn't always, but I definitely do now. I had to learn to change the way I speak. When asked what I did, I would say, "Oh I am an aspiring director." That's bullshit--I am a director. Filmmaking is what I do. 


On the logistics of life ...

There's definitely a lot of music ... Music gets me through my days. As an assistant to a Showrunner/Writer, my day usually consists of lots of emails and reading scripts. In the evenings, I'll sometimes grab drinks with friends, maybe catch a movie I've been wanting to see or go home and binge a new show. It varies.

 

On the last year ...

I actually have 2 important projects I completed last year. One was my short film LADYLIKE.
We screened it at a few festivals and even went to Cannes--such a wild, life changing experience! It's currently streaming on Issa Rae's YouTube channel.
I also completed a short documentary last year, entitled The Ride Home. It's the most emotional and personal film I've ever worked on. It was the first time I turned the cameras on myself--it follows me and my dad on the day he was released from prison and the ride home we shared. 

 

On what's up next ...

I'm currently in post on a short film I recently shot called Dead. Gay. Fictional. It's a fun rom-com send up, written by my good friend Caty Zick.
via wesjanisen.com

via wesjanisen.com

Also, my writing partner, Nick Williams and I are developing LADYLIKE into a feature which I'm really excited about!
via ladylike.com

via ladylike.com

On sustaining your craft ...

I think it's super important for creatives to fuel their craft. What I mean by that is: surround yourself with other creatives that inspire ... and encourage you. Learn from each other. Study those you admire and dedicate time to your [calling]. I'm constantly watching films or reading books or articles on filmmakers I'm obsessed with.  

 

Do you see why I'm thinking about freedom?

Before I began writing this, I kept scribbling a phrase in my journal: "Do not complicate your freedoms."

Over and over.

DO NOT COMPLICATE YOUR FREEDOMS.

It wasn't until I reread Tiffany's correspondence that I realized what that phrase was really getting at. We, like Tiffany, will often have to enter into spaces that others might dictate as never having been meant for us. However, what's important is our presence there, that we have shown up, not the narrative surrounding our entrance.

Tiffany Johnson reminds us all that we have a right to exercise our freedoms, uncomplicated in whatever form they appear to us. We can show up as ourselves, for ourselves, and tell the stories we want to have heard. Or in Tiffany's case, seen.

via @tiffanyjenellej

via @tiffanyjenellej

 She is a vision, with sublime vision. 

The only appropriate way to end this is by butchering Bambara, is to say all of our freedoms are real, all of our dreams, attainable. "The failure to realize is the only unreality." 

arts + entertainment, good news

#WomenatWork - Maame Adjei inspires us to literally be all that we can

Welcome back to our "Women at Work" series, where you're introduced to a curated selection of working women discussing their professional lives as well as the impact they're making - through an audacious blend of professional and personal passions - on the world around them.

This week, I'd like to introduce you to Maame Adjei.

via msadjei.tumblr.com (used with permission)

via msadjei.tumblr.com (used with permission)

Every time I sit to write about anyone, I'm tasked with minimizing an overwhelming desire to type something like "I don't know what to tell you guys. It's ridiculous that you don't know Maame. She's important. Her face. Her eyes. Her body. Her being."

I don't write, "Most important is that I adore her ... that I saw her and she immediately felt like everything to me ... that I see her and can more clearly see myself - in ways that are incredibly important as an immigrant living in the United States ... as a future expat ... as a brown body full of curve and lyric and Liberian ..."

I don't write, "Can't you see she's a model of my most desired ways of being in this world." 

via Blavity

via Blavity

Instead, I turn what has already become a full-fledged unrequited love affair into the concrete language of Internet introduction.

So let's just get that out of the way.

Internet, meet Maame Adjei, more commonly known in cyberspace as Ms. Adjei, and, perhaps, most easily recognized as the confident, couture-clad, Zainab on An African City

via Blavity

via Blavity

Now that you've been formally introduced, I'll admit that most of that opening rant was true. I was less than halfway through the first episode of An African City, when I realized I loved Zainab. And because I am who I am, I decided that meant I loved the person who embodied her. A quick internet search would validate all of my feelings.

via msadjei.tumblr.com (used with permission)

via msadjei.tumblr.com (used with permission)

I soon learned that Maame Adjei was not only a talented actress, but also an artist and producer with an educational background in Psychology and Healthcare Finance and Administration.

As an actress, aside from playing Zainab and co-producing An African City, Maame has also had roles in "A Sweet Song,"a short film by Ghanaian director Asantewa Prempeh, and Coz Ov Moni, a Ghanaian musical.

As an artist, she upcycles vintage and antique furniture for private clients, and has produced visual installations for The Chalewote Street Arts Festival in Accra.

via msadjei.tumblr.com (used with permission)

via msadjei.tumblr.com (used with permission)

As if those passions weren't enough to consume one human being, Maame served as the Talent Director for the Miss Universe Ghana 2014 pageant, is currently Travel Editor for The Style HQ, and an influencer for Tastemakers Africa.

Maame's bio admits (as if one didn't automatically infer from her list of pursuits) that she is "committed to living life passionately, and to exploring all the opportunities that her natural gifts and talents bring her way."

Learning this, I needed to know more. And I needed it directly from the source.

 

Check out the best from my correspondence with Maame Adjei below.

 

On passionately multitasking ...

Each role definitely seamlessly rolls into the next. I'm an artist. I consider everything I do art. So from production, to making furniture to even teaching (which I do sometimes). I always pull my creativity into it. They are never mutually exclusive.

On the logistics of living ...

Being a self employed artist anywhere in the world is not easy. On the continent it's even harder. My day starts and begins and ends with emails. ... Constantly replying to emails. I'm usually heading to one meeting or another which, in Accra, means I'm spending a lot of time in traffic. At some point during the day, I always stop by my friend Dedo's cozy restaurant, Tea Baa, for some good eats. I always end the day in bed re-watching a movie I've probably seen a hundred times.

On her most important project ...

Everything I work on his super important to me because I'm in a space where I only do work that moves me. So An African City, of course, a short film project I just worked on. And of course my passion project Girl Going Places, a travel show that exposes the beauty and dynamism of the continent and implores Africans, and Diasporans especially, to travel the continent. I've been working on [Girl Going Places] for almost three years and I'm so excited to slowly be sharing it with the world.

On sustaining creativity ...

Diversify, diversify, diversify! It's important to work for the love of the art but at the end of the day artist still need to eat, and pay bills. I can't give the what, where and how cause I'm still trying to figure it out myself but I think that's definitely a good starting plan.

Diversify. Diversify. Diversify.

 

Received, Maame. Received.

I want to end this neatly, enveloped tight phrasing with a simple call to action. But, as the beginning of this article demonstrated, often words and will don't work that way.

 

For some reason, sharing Baraka's “How You Sound” (1959) feels best.

MY POETRY is whatever I think I am. (Can I be light and weightless like a sail??  Heavy & clunking like 8 black boots.)  I CAN BE ANYTHING I CAN. I make a poetry with what I feel is useful & can be saved out of all the garbage of our lives.  What I see, am touched by (CAN HEAR) … wives jobs, cement yards, where cats pee, all my interminable artifacts … ALL are poetry, & nothing moves (with any grace) pried apart from all  these things.  There cannot be closet poetry. Unless the closet be wide as God’s eye. And all that means is that I must be completely free to do just what I want, in the poem. 

Yea. That feels right.

 

 

entrepreneur tips, good news

#WomenatWork: @ItsAriFitz brings out our deepest feels

Welcome back to our "Women at Work" series. If you joined us last week, then you already know that our newest series introduces you to a curated selection of working women discussing, of course, their professional lives. But Khafra's always trying to help you look good and live great,  so we explore the impact these women are making - through an audacious blend of professional and personal passions - on the world around us.

Allow us to reintroduce Tomboyish founder, Ari Fitz.

photographer: Brenton Gieser

photographer: Brenton Gieser

It's difficult to discuss Ari Fitz without reaching into the most vulnerable depths of my feels (or fee-fees as my lil sis would call them). In 2013, Ari and I had one very important phone call, followed by a few strategic meetings, and a short stint in a world of surreality. From that, we made magic.

Like. A lot of it.

A whole lot.

Today, the feels are lovely, dark, and deep, not because we're more homies than creative partners these days. That's to be expected of magic makers - those who come together at a brief moment in the universe's juncture for the sole purpose of sharing.

I speak about Ari from a soft spot because I look at her and see the manifestation of intentional desire matched hunger, unimaginable work ethic, and indestructible self-belief.

photographer: Brenton Gieser

photographer: Brenton Gieser

Ari is proof that if you dream it, build it, do it, it can and will come ... and in ways, that (even to me, thank god) were unforeseen. From the day I began collaborating with Ari, I recognized in her what I see in so many of us who know that we know; I saw will. And for the last three years, I've been proudly watching her wield that will, shaping a future (and undoubtedly the next media empire) along the way. 

This is the shit that moves me, folks.

I recently checked in with Ari on the current status of life. Check the best of her interview below.

On the architecture of dreams ...

I'm one of those creatives [funding] their projects with a day job, so a day in my life is pretty hectic. My nights, weekends, and lunch breaks are spent ... curating content on TOMBOYISH's Instagram, casting/producing/filming/editing fashion films, engaging with my audience at every moment, and in my spare time looking for new collaborators (photographers, videographers, brands, etc.).

On her most important project of the last year ...

Late last year, TOMBOYISH launched a partnership with Reebok Classics where we had complete creative freedom to develop something dope for their new styles. That [partnership] was definitely one of my most exciting, rewarding, and impactful projects in the past 12 months.

On what's next ...

Right now, [I'm] hosting meet-ups for TOMBOYISH to bring other tomboy-ish folk together. [I'm] headed to nine cities: SF, LA, Chicago, Toronto, NYC, Philly, London, Paris & Cape Town in the next few months.

Some sound advice ...

Don't let anyone else decide what success is for you. Define it for yourself and don't sleep until you have it.

Define it for yourself. Don't sleep until you have it.

Noted.

Need more Ari in your life? Complete our  STYLE SURVEY and request an invite to Ari's INVITE ONLY salon at Relove Vintage Boutique in SF on Friday, March 25.

 

By khoLi.

 

EXPLORE: #WomenatWork - We spoke with @Pathbrite founder Heather Hiles. It was everything.

good news, entrepreneur tips

#WomenatWork - We spoke with @Pathbrite founder Heather Hiles. It was everything.

If you follow us on Instagram, you probably already know it's Women's History Month. In celebration, we're launching our newest series, "Women at Work."

"Women at Work" will introduce you to a carefully curated selection of working women discussing, of course, their professional lives. They'll also explore the impact these women are making - through an audacious blend of professional and personal passions - on the world around us.

First Up ... Pathbrite Founder, Heather Hiles

via leanin.org

via leanin.org

I was first "introduced" to Heather at the first Lesbians Who Tech Conference in San Francisco. We didn't actually meet. I was dizzied by a round of curious and provoking pitches from powerful women committed to diversifying tech, then sobered by Heather's discussion of her (much newer then) company, Pathbrite.

via Pathbrite

via Pathbrite

As an English Ph.D., my interest was peaked - though admittedly, more in Pathbrite than Heather. But I don't always know what's good for me.

Some two years later, watching Heather open the Capital Connections Conference in Oakland, the universe brought me to my senses.

At Capital Connections, Heather revealed that, launched in 2012, Pathbrite (the world’s first Portfolio Learning Platform) has since raised over $12,000,000, and been acquired by Cengage Learning. The company currently supports more than 500 schools, colleges, universities, and companies, and -- with Heather still serving as CEO -- "Pathbrite’s Portfolio Learning Platform is transforming learning, teaching, and assessment across the globe."

Moved by Heather's discussion of what she calls "overt inclusion" -- a commitment to not only inviting diverse representatives to the tech table, but providing them with access to equal would-be victuals when they arrive -- I decided, "We need to talk."

In my pre-call prep (Internet stalking), I was reminded that Heather is a serial entrepreneur, one who's held founding and leadership positions in multiple private and public sector organizations. For instance, she's served as Board of Directors Member of Liberty & Justice (Africa’s leading Fair Trade Certified™ apparel manufacturing company, based in Monrovia Liberia), Commissioner for the San Francisco Unified School District; Executive Director of Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund (SV2); co-founder of EARN; and CEO of SFWorks, a nonprofit that transitioned women from welfare into careers.

Heather has also previously been named as one of the Top 100 coolest people in Silicon Valley by Business Insider.

via Pathbrite

via Pathbrite

Below, you can check out some of the highlights from my chat with Heather Hiles.

On Pathbrite's ideal audience ...

Pathbrite is a modern version of the e-portfolio with the power to improve meta-cognition through learning, and mastering ... content.  [It's] helping all lifelong learners [and] built for all human beings … not just [people working] in education.

On intuition ...

[When making the decision to separate from my co-founder and transition Ripple to Pathbrite,] it was definitely a gut decision. Intuition happened earlier than action. It was like any relationship, you just know when it's time. 

...

[A lot of women believe they need a co-founder, but] trust yourself. You need one leader. You need to trust you can lead. It has never served me wrong, believing in me.

...

[You have to] get to your core. You know what you need to do. Sometimes you’re afraid of the answer, but you’re there already. Ask yourself, "What is the honest truth about the situation?"

On overt inclusion ...

It’s fulfilling. There’s not a tremendous amount of gratification in being the first of something if you can't do something meaningful with it and share that. [There's something about being there] to just share access - not pitching, just helping.

On choosing to share information and resources ...

It's about creating more opportunities for people to be in a place of growth and transformation. I'm invested in the creation of organizations, the experience of building and growing with other people. So, sharing is not a decision. It's what I have to do. It's who I am. There is a calculated decision about what and who [I give my time to] … but then it’s pure instinct.

But then, it's pure instinct. 

Interested in learning more about Heather? Check out her portfolio on Pathbrite, or follow her on Twitter.

 

by khoLi.

 

EXPLORE: I think you are a Lost Queen | Interview with founder Eboni Merriman

good news, collections, women at work

#WomenatWork - I think you are a Lost Queen | Interview with Eboni Merriman

via LostQueens.com

If you recognize this catchy tune from Pharrell ...

then you're already familiar with most of the intentional magic that went into the launch of Eboni Merriman's e-commerce boutique, Lost Queens. 

But, since rebranding what began as a spontaneous meeting of passion and necessity, Eboni's baby, Lost Queens, has grown to a self-sustaining nationally-recognized brand.

I've been curious about (and admittedly hardcore stanning for) the Lost Queens Instagram account for awhile now. I've watched as it's grown by thousands of followers, boasting black girl fave ambassadors like Jamilah Lemieux, Nina Amour and Pinned x Stitched's Meron B. But when the new collection launched, inspired by Beyoncé's "Formation," I knew I absolutely needed to have a sit down with Eboni.

But it's 2016 and we're working women on different coasts. So we did what any two long lost girlfriends who had never met would do ... we hopped on the phone.

I won't make you endure the details of the many moments I fell in love with her raw and present energy. But, I will say, baby girl showed up ... in full authenticity.

Five minutes into our convo, Eboni had already offered me her full self, her full spirit, and revealed herself in a form that's rare for many. I'm talking revealing everything from how she couldn't keep a job before pursuing her dream, to her relocating about 15 times since moving back to NY from VA in 2011, to the balancing of depression and being diagnosed with bi-polar disorder in 2015. Did I forget to mention that Eboni is only 24 years old?

Catch the best from my chat with Eboni below.

And shop the new Lost Queens collection with 15% OFF when you enter "LQCARRIEK" at checkout.

On how Lost Queens became a thing ...

I was sitting at home with a friend, typing ideas on a computer - [Eboni and another friend, Nik Adams had previously begun a blog for creative women that would be a spring board for Lost Queens]. I felt like I was just going in circles … and that Pharrell song came on and took me. I felt it and went with it.  I had already been experimenting, selling things on Ebay. So Lost Queens was a way to spread my love for women and pretty things.

 

On creating ...

I can’t pretend like I'm this business woman that has it all together. I didn't have business experience coming into this. I’m just myself, what I go through is what is reflected in the collections.

On trusting herself ...

I do second guess myself a lot. It’s something I’m working on. But, Lost Queens was something I needed. It gave me a chance to say to myself and other women, "It’s ok to be beautiful, be yourself, be different."

On the Lost Queens collections ...

The jewelry is secondary to the girl. It's complementary. Lost Queens is all about that moment when they pull out the phone to take a selfie because they're like "Oh, I look poppin’ today.” Or, "Oh, my hair is poppin', so let me put this headband on."

On what she's learned from her brand fans and followers ...

Everything, really. Black women are the most vocal. So I take their feedback seriously ... I take the advice and fix the problem. And put the growth back in the business.

It's hard to want to end this with anything more than a "Thank you." So, sincerely, Eboni. Thank you. For being and doing you.

 

By khoLi.

 

EXPLORE: @KariFaux has something to say. And, we're listening.

 

Meet Ifetayo Abdus-Salam

“Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself …"” ― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves      Ifetayo Abdus-Salam , owner and sole artisan of  Hecho en Harlem Jewelry , is probably one of my favorite human beings on this planet, and we’ve never even met. At least not in person, anyway.   But Ifé’s not the kind of person you have to meet to know.    On November 28, 2015, I was on the couch with  Lu  - right-clicking through pages and pages of Etsy, opening more tabs than anyone would care to have to review and/or close - doing what I like to call e-networking.   When I’m searching for a  Khafra partner  or even just new style options for a Khafra client, I’m never anticipating I’ll be lucky enough to find a full collection. Sometimes all I’m hoping for is a glimmer of earnest-seeming inspiration that I can take and amplify for the world.  I was gifted way more than that when I found   Hecho en Harlem .   After about an hour of clicking through every product - staring, studying the materials, design, cost value - I reached out to Ifé somewhat verbosely.     I (hopefully without gushing too much) explained to her that Khafra would be doing a   #khafrachristmas15   promotion for the entire month of December. I detailed the other businesses involved and discussed our interest in collaborating to offer her handmade jewelry to the Khafra community. I didn’t explain that until that very moment of reaching out, I wasn’t even sure that #khafrachristmas15 actually  needed  to happen.  “Thanks so much for your outreach,” she replied less than 24 hours later. “I would be happy to participate … Please provide next steps.”   I was sure then of what I’d suspected all along: I was about to embark on a journey, and hopefully spark new friendship, with a woman deeply invested in action.   Still I wouldn’t confirm this feeling until after our first and only phone call prior to launching the #khafrachristmas promotion.           Inspired by the vibrant aesthetic of Harlem and rooted in a focus of geometric form, Ifé’s jewelry deeply resonates with those who understand the desire and need to adorn. I felt connected immediately.     (I’m not judging anyone who’s thinking of 1980′s rapper  Dapper Dan  or  Cam’ron’s excessive glow -up right now …     I saw all of that when I first saw Hecho en Harlem.)     Hearing Ifé’s voice transformed my relationship to both her and her product. I’d probably be lying if I said our phone call was longer than 5 minutes, but I can hear a kindred soul when it speaks to me, plus Common’s made us all aware that it   takes but a moment to recognize  the sun. And Ifé’s shine is bright.     For her, jewelry-making has been a life long process, begun with bead work at about 10 years old. Although her mother suggested she turn her design efforts into a small business then, according to Ifé, “Like many adolescents, I did not eagerly embrace her suggestions!”  Ifé continued telling me about her journey to entrepreneurship in email.     … My passion for jewelry was never quelled. I began studying (and decided I wanted to go to college for) photography in high school, but still I travelled every weekend alone into Philadelphia from my boarding high school in Newtown, PA to take classes at Moore College of Art. I would return back to school, change my clothes, and go straight to my weekend job at a local Indian restaurant; I think this voluntary routine of 8am-11pm Saturdays exemplifies my natural motivation for artistic practice.   As an undergrad at New York University, double majoring in Photography and Africana Studies, Ifé continued classes in metal work and began selling her jewelry through the gift shop of Studio Museum in Harlem (”Shout out to Jamie Glover, the buyer at the time!”.   I still remember my jewelry professor at NYU, Lisa Spiros, and the encouragement she gave me to start my own business. Hearing this incredibly talented, accomplished jeweler tell me I had a unique, important voice, and that I should continue to pursue my jewelry craft is something that stays with me today.   After graduating from NYU, Ifé began a career in art education, and for the next 10 years (with a little bit of Grad school thrown in the mix for good measure), found herself consumed by the lives of her students, with very little time or energy left to pursue her personal art.  But soon, the high of creative practice would tempt her again … permanently. Ifé returned to jewelry-making in 2013 and started selling her designs under her company, Hecho en Harlem, during the summer of 2014.       I have found no other thing, besides being an artist, that is as fulfilling and satisfying, as being able to support myself from my own creations.  Being able to design my life, has quite literally been a transformative experience for me and has been the most empowering thing I have ever done.   Remember when I said that I wasn’t sure that the #khafrachristmas15 promotion  needed  to happen until I contacted Ifé? What I meant by that was that when I came across her jewelry, I believed: Hecho en Harlem is a line that people needed to know. It’s prodigious but practical. It’s decadent and yet, unassuming. It feels pure.  Ifé, it only now occurs to me, feels much the same.   Be sure to check back tomorrow for more of my conversation/correspondence with Ifé, when she shares everything from the most important lesson she’s learned from her customers, to the celebrity she’d be most willing to form an army with (spoiler: it’s Meshell N’Degeocello).   with <3,    khoLi.

“Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself …"”
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves


Ifetayo Abdus-Salam, owner and sole artisan of Hecho en Harlem Jewelry, is probably one of my favorite human beings on this planet, and we’ve never even met. At least not in person, anyway.

But Ifé’s not the kind of person you have to meet to know.

On November 28, 2015, I was on the couch with Lu - right-clicking through pages and pages of Etsy, opening more tabs than anyone would care to have to review and/or close - doing what I like to call e-networking. 

When I’m searching for a Khafra partner or even just new style options for a Khafra client, I’m never anticipating I’ll be lucky enough to find a full collection. Sometimes all I’m hoping for is a glimmer of earnest-seeming inspiration that I can take and amplify for the world.

I was gifted way more than that when I found Hecho en Harlem.

After about an hour of clicking through every product - staring, studying the materials, design, cost value - I reached out to Ifé somewhat verbosely.

image

I (hopefully without gushing too much) explained to her that Khafra would be doing a #khafrachristmas15 promotion for the entire month of December. I detailed the other businesses involved and discussed our interest in collaborating to offer her handmade jewelry to the Khafra community. I didn’t explain that until that very moment of reaching out, I wasn’t even sure that #khafrachristmas15 actually needed to happen.

“Thanks so much for your outreach,” she replied less than 24 hours later. “I would be happy to participate … Please provide next steps.”

I was sure then of what I’d suspected all along: I was about to embark on a journey, and hopefully spark new friendship, with a woman deeply invested in action. 

Still I wouldn’t confirm this feeling until after our first and only phone call prior to launching the #khafrachristmas promotion.

image
image
image

Inspired by the vibrant aesthetic of Harlem and rooted in a focus of geometric form, Ifé’s jewelry deeply resonates with those who understand the desire and need to adorn. I felt connected immediately.

image

(I’m not judging anyone who’s thinking of 1980′s rapper Dapper Dan or Cam’ron’s excessive glow-up right now …

image

I saw all of that when I first saw Hecho en Harlem.)

image

Hearing Ifé’s voice transformed my relationship to both her and her product. I’d probably be lying if I said our phone call was longer than 5 minutes, but I can hear a kindred soul when it speaks to me, plus Common’s made us all aware that it  takes but a moment to recognize the sun. And Ifé’s shine is bright.

image

For her, jewelry-making has been a life long process, begun with bead work at about 10 years old. Although her mother suggested she turn her design efforts into a small business then, according to Ifé, “Like many adolescents, I did not eagerly embrace her suggestions!”

Ifé continued telling me about her journey to entrepreneurship in email.  

… My passion for jewelry was never quelled. I began studying (and decided I wanted to go to college for) photography in high school, but still I travelled every weekend alone into Philadelphia from my boarding high school in Newtown, PA to take classes at Moore College of Art. I would return back to school, change my clothes, and go straight to my weekend job at a local Indian restaurant; I think this voluntary routine of 8am-11pm Saturdays exemplifies my natural motivation for artistic practice.

As an undergrad at New York University, double majoring in Photography and Africana Studies, Ifé continued classes in metal work and began selling her jewelry through the gift shop of Studio Museum in Harlem (”Shout out to Jamie Glover, the buyer at the time!”.

I still remember my jewelry professor at NYU, Lisa Spiros, and the encouragement she gave me to start my own business. Hearing this incredibly talented, accomplished jeweler tell me I had a unique, important voice, and that I should continue to pursue my jewelry craft is something that stays with me today.

After graduating from NYU, Ifé began a career in art education, and for the next 10 years (with a little bit of Grad school thrown in the mix for good measure), found herself consumed by the lives of her students, with very little time or energy left to pursue her personal art.

But soon, the high of creative practice would tempt her again … permanently. Ifé returned to jewelry-making in 2013 and started selling her designs under her company, Hecho en Harlem, during the summer of 2014. 

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I have found no other thing, besides being an artist, that is as fulfilling and satisfying, as being able to support myself from my own creations.

Being able to design my life, has quite literally been a transformative experience for me and has been the most empowering thing I have ever done.

Remember when I said that I wasn’t sure that the #khafrachristmas15 promotion needed to happen until I contacted Ifé? What I meant by that was that when I came across her jewelry, I believed: Hecho en Harlem is a line that people needed to know. It’s prodigious but practical. It’s decadent and yet, unassuming. It feels pure.

Ifé, it only now occurs to me, feels much the same. 

Be sure to check back tomorrow for more of my conversation/correspondence with Ifé, when she shares everything from the most important lesson she’s learned from her customers, to the celebrity she’d be most willing to form an army with (spoiler: it’s Meshell N’Degeocello).

with <3,

khoLi.

Zimasa Mabela should inspire us all

Africa’s first female navy commander     The first African woman to command a navy vessel has recently been appointed in South Africa.   Zimasa Mabela  broke new ground when she took charge of a de-mining ship based in Cape Town last month.  The 38-year-old mother of two says she wants to be judged on her ability to command and not her gender.

Africa’s first female navy commander

The first African woman to command a navy vessel has recently been appointed in South Africa.

Zimasa Mabela broke new ground when she took charge of a de-mining ship based in Cape Town last month.

The 38-year-old mother of two says she wants to be judged on her ability to command and not her gender.

“Is definitely a balancing act, and it is not at all easy. I do the best I can, which involves a lot of saying no to things, actually, and a lot of really organized scheduling and a lot of help, to be honest. That was one of our major incentives to moving here.   
  We were living in LA and I was writing and recording this album literally between the hours of 9am and 3pm every day because that was the time that Julez was in school. We were completely isolated, we didn’t have any family or long-term friends there, and we didn’t have that support system built in there that we have in New York.”  
 
  You probably already know h  ow much we love everything Solange has been doing with fashion lately  &hellip;  and how much we love   her coming into her own sound   &hellip; but most of all we love her love for family &hellip; her love for living a real life.  
  Read more about Solange Knowles and her thoughts on being near Beyonce and Tina and so much more here:    Solange: All in the Family

“Is definitely a balancing act, and it is not at all easy. I do the best I can, which involves a lot of saying no to things, actually, and a lot of really organized scheduling and a lot of help, to be honest. That was one of our major incentives to moving here.

We were living in LA and I was writing and recording this album literally between the hours of 9am and 3pm every day because that was the time that Julez was in school. We were completely isolated, we didn’t have any family or long-term friends there, and we didn’t have that support system built in there that we have in New York.”

You probably already know how much we love everything Solange has been doing with fashion lately … and how much we love her coming into her own sound … but most of all we love her love for family … her love for living a real life.

Read more about Solange Knowles and her thoughts on being near Beyonce and Tina and so much more here: Solange: All in the Family