I haven’t written a post on any fashion related subject on this blog in I-don’t-know-how-long so it seemed fitting to do so with this……
No, it is not about an ultra chic homeless woman, quite the contrary; my trendy bag lady was homely and oh-so-chic!!
We met for the first time during a pilates class at a mutual friend’s gym. She was impossible to ignore; she made sounds akin to that of a beached whale in labour and was barely able to follow through on the exercises. She was positioned behind me and the whole time I kept wondering who this tortured soul was. After class, Oyinkan (later dubbed “Tweety” by both of us), the over energised gym owner/Pilates instructor, introduced us and much to my amazement she wasn’t whale-like in any way! She was a svelte pretty lady with  a mega watt smile. I couldn’t contain myself so I asked, ” Why are you taking this class?” and she answered in pure innocence, “I need to keep my tum under control” I almost went berserk!! What tum? She might as well have told me to hurl myself at plastic surgeon for liposuction…..Anyway, that’s how I met Ijeoma and we fast became close friends. We soon discovered that we shared similar interests in food, music, life’s values and even attended the same church.

Ijeoma’s Mega watt smile.

We would plan lunches, walks, breakfast hangouts and the like every now and again and it was always such a delightful time. One thing stood out though, Ijeoma loved to dress up and dress up stylishly! It wasn’t vulgar or in your face but she possessed some of the most exquisite bags and shoes!! Her bags were simply divine. Very dernier cri. I remember this teal Yves Saint Laurent patent tote she had, oh my! Oh my! But what I loved about her was that these items did not define her, she was not at all consumed by these fashion items, she just wore them with an ease that belied their value.
One day, on June 15, 2009, we met up after work for quick chat and as I approached her she started squealing in delight. I was stunned to say the least because I couldn’t imagine that she was that happy to see me. She was pointing excitedly at my bag and made off to her car; it was all very confusing to say the least. Then she re-emerged and there it was, we had the EXACT bag! Hers was grey and mine was cream coloured. It was a Reiss bag which my dad had given me as gift a few days before. I could not believe it. I started squealing as well! I know it sounds silly but I felt like having the same bag as she did validated my sense of style.

Our Reiss “sister” Bags

We promptly took pictures of the sister bags (which we named – thankfully I cannot remember their names 🙂 ) and I sent the picture to a friend, Lebari, who had gushed over my bag earlier. It was a bonding moment indeed.

My Email to Lebari announcing my latest discovery

Whoever said that lightning does not strike the same place twice , clearly knew nothing of my and Ijeoma’s shared affinity for all things pretty and shiny.
This time we were having a church organised ladies’ hangout at Tweety’s gym and since I arrived late, I missed Ijeoma who had made a quick appearance and rushed off to another engagement. So I sauntered in toting my latest prized possession; a Ted Baker bag.
Please allow me to explain how I happened upon this piece of deliciousness. My best friend and I were on vacation in the UK, Birmingham to be precise, and in our usual fashion we took the main mall there by storm (a topic for another post). The Bull Ring is not a mall for the faint hearted; it is huge and teeming with more shops than any human being should have to contend with. But you see, for Moji and I, it was just the perfect natural habitat for us. So we wove our way in and out of stores, leaving destruction in our wake, our respective bank accounts would testify to this and then we were in Selfridges. This is where it gets a little hazy for me, all I remember is staring across the shop floor at the Ted Baker section and seeing this glint of pink gold and black patent beckon to me. I stood transfixed as I took in the silhouette of this glistening temptress. Moji came over as I pointed wordlessly at this item that I KNEW I HAD to HAVE and I made my way over to the shop attendant who was ever so helpful as she allowed my caress the bag. She told me how it was part of the new collection and had just come on the shelf that morning. I knew in that moment that I was taking the bag home with me. She told me the cost which lifted my dreamy haze for a minute but I quickly reached into my wallet and paid for it regardless of the hefty dent it was inflicting on my finances…….
Back at the hangout, I got settled and stowed my bag safely away from the path of any dribbles or spills and then Tweety pops up and says, “You have to be kidding!”, “Ijeoma just left with the same bag but hers was green!” Then she adds in that high-pitched Tweety tone of hers, “Both of you are not serious!” I couldn’t believe it! Again?! What were the odds?! I racked my brain, I remember seeing the orange, beige and grey version of the bags in the shops but green? Only Ijeoma could manage that. So after our soiree I gave Ijeoma a ring and told her about our second happy fashion coincidence and she couldn’t believe it either! We agreed that a rendez-vous would be in order so that the bags could meet and acquaint themselves with each other.

Our Ted Baker “sister” Totes

We did meet up eventually and sure enough, we had the same bag, we were tickled pink to say the least. She relayed the tale of how as she rushed through Heathrow to catch her flight home, she went past the Ted Baker shop in the duty-free section and the bag caught her eye. She stopped, bought it and raced on to the plane. I understood her reaction and decision completely!!!
We shared many other memorable non-bag related moments…….but our bag moments were one of a kind.
Even though you are no longer here with us, you will always be cherished…..I miss you so much my dear friend……..Till we meet again……..Rest in peace. ….
NOTE: My friend Ijeoma was one of the hundreds of people killed by the ill fated Dana flight 992 of June 3, 2012; there were no survivors.
Just two days before she had called me to assure that she would come visit me and my baby (who had been born a few months earlier)……the visit never happened.
She was a truly beautiful human being and she left quite a legacy of love and kindness and of course wise counsel. What will you be remembered for?
Live. Love. Learn

During my childhood, I remember that when women got dressed to go out for parties and events, they donned the traditional lace buba and iro (blouse and wrap skirt) associated with the South-Western part of Nigeria or the lace/satin blouse and “george” fabric wrap skirt associated with the Eastern part of Nigeria. Accompanied by towering head-gear of all shapes, colours and sizes, beads, gold trinkets and coordinating hand-bags and footwear they represented the height of Nigerian fashion. A little later on, influenced by Senegalese fashion, the Boubou, a billowing Kaftan-like attire made from batik and tie-dyed fabric and matching embroidery work around the neckline and hems, stormed the fashion scene and women wafted around in these gargantuan (often) heavily starched attire. I often thought in my head that one could get concussed if one were to run into these starched contraptions, thankfully I was never unfortunate enough to test the veracity of this thought.

The colourful fabric known as Ankara was considered to be cheap and very unfashionable. It was reserved for hard-done by folk who could not afford the lavish lace and george fabrics. It was never a fabric that one could wear on an outing. Today, however, Ankara has literally taken on a different life form; we simply cannot seem to get enough of it. Almost every Nigerian designer from “Jewel by Lisa“, “Zebra” to “Ituen Basi” use it in their collections in the most amazing ways. It has featured on runways abroad and at home, it is everywhere; I mean everywhere. The lowly rejected Ankara is now a mainstay in every woman’s wardrobe.

It is quite an interesting turn around as I remember that the first time I wore Ankara, I hated it. It was my grand mother’s funeral and the family was bedecked in this putrid brown Ankara fabric. To make matters worse, one of my aunts had the bright idea to make mine into a Boubou; a double fashion faux pas to me!

Yellow Tulip Ankara Dress by Zebra

Thankfully, I survived that era and now I am enjoying the Ankara renaissance. The versatility, the colours and the patterns have given rise to so many possibilities. It can be beaded, sequined and bejewelled. Ankara clothing are made for casual wear and formal wear; it is popularly worn to events like weddings, coctails and the beach; “Da Viva” has a collection of Ankara bikinis made by “Patience Please“. Its status has even be elevated for use in upholstery of avant guard furnishing (Zebra Living makes the most amazing chairs and ottomans covered in Ankara) and  it is also used to make footwear, necklaces and ornaments which have been made popular by Ituen Basi.

Chair by Zebra Living

Abule Chair by Zebra Living

Not to be left out of this raging trend Aldo shoes in the UK now have two pairs (of decidedly unattractive – in my opinion) ankara-covered wedges on sale.

Aldo Ankara wedges in the shop window captured by Ijeoma Uju who was in the UK last week

Aldo Ankara Clutch - Picture taken by my friend Simbo during her UK Holiday in April 2011

Some of the trendiest hand bags are now made partly or entirely of Ankara. Tiffany Amber has a new collection of leather and Ankara Birkin inspired bags and yours truly is the proud owner of some really trendy arm candy made from the ubiquitous fabric (pictured below).

Picture of Ankara clutch kindly donated by Ijeoma Uju

Yellow Ankara Dress and Brown Ankara Bag

It is trendy and it is available; go on then, do some shakara in Ankara. You know you want to 🙂

You could also read an interesting piece on the history of Ankara by Bella Naija at http://www.bellanaija.com/2009/02/16/vogue-celebrates-nigerian-ankara/

Yellow Ankara Dress and Green Ankara Bag with matching bangle

For more information on the bags pictured above or to place orders please contact me at dilim21@yahoo.com