Thursday, 26 March 2015

Tribal Chic

These shorts, and the utterly heavenly giraffe-print dress, form the basis of my plan for Sholto and Esmeralda's wardrobes this summer.  They're by Petit Tribe, which is a just-launched (literally, the site went live last Friday) childrenswear brand whose only drawback is that they don't (yet) make the clothes in adult sizes.  Here's more:

How chic is this look?  (Unfortunately I don't think Esmeralda would wear it.  I can barely persuade her to keep a coat on even in the winter.)

But she'd probably wear the all-in-one on the right . . . 

Petit Tribe is the brainchild of the exceptionally stylish Olatoun Jolaoso (that's her daughter above on the right)  who cites her inspiration as the vibrant and colourful prints of the nomadic Fulani Tribe; she grew up alongside them in the northern Nigerian state of Kaduna.  The creative director is Joanne Jong (her daughter is in the second image) previously of Giorgio Armani - no wonder the looks are so chic.  But it's the prints that I'm really in it for.

"Looking at your Instagram feed, we just thought you'd like it," said Nick the PR, when he invited me to view the collection about six weeks ago.  He was referring, no doubt, to my Pierre Frey 'Racines' obsession

Pierre Frey, Racines

 - which, though not strictly inspired by Africa, has its roots in tree bark and straw, and "uses the chromatic palate of Mother Nature", which, historically, has also been the case with African textiles, many of which are coloured using vegetable dies -

and my Eva Sonaike crush, whom I wrote about back in January:

Cushions by Eva Sonaike

and who, incidentally, also has Nigerian heritage.

And while we're on the subject of amazingness coming out of that country, if by any chance you haven't discovered the Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (which you probably have: Purple Hibiscus was long listed for the Booker, and Half of a Yellow Sun won the Orange Prize for Fiction, but it took me 'til now and a profile in this month's issue of Vogue to finally read one of her books stacked beside my bed, not because I didn't want to but because other books got stacked on top and, well, you know how it goes) you have a treat in store:  I spent last week totally consumed by Americanah: the story unfolds between Nigeria, the US and the UK, and is fundamentally a love story, while also dissecting contemporary attitudes to race, and more than any other book I've read this year - or even last year -  has challenged the way I think. As has her TED talk,  The Danger of a Single Story.  (She's also given a brilliant TED talk on feminism, part of which was sampled by Beyonce in Flawless.)

Read this book

Talking of single stories - and glossing over the obvious fact that the single most overwhelming story right now coming out of Nigeria concerns Boko Haram which is depressing and horrific beyond belief but crucially isn't the entire narrative, and which I can only gloss over because I am neither qualified nor sufficiently knowledgable to correct the balance - Petit Tribe isn't all about clothes:  Olatoun has set up the Petit Tribe Foundation, in tandem with the brand -  1% of all revenue goes to supporting schools in Nigeria, in addition to Olatoun's own contributions.  Similarly Chimamanda is a trustee of the Farafina Trust, a non-profit organisation established to promote reading, writing and a culture of social introspection and engagement through the literary arts.

And so, inspired by Petit Tribe and Eva Sonaike and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, but not actually able to get on a flight to Lagos (on account of Sholto, and the school run.  And needing a visa.  Oh, and work . . . ) I took Esmeralda to the African Galleries at the British Musuem last week.  She lay on the floor and ate marshmallow cake pops, and I gazed at the textiles and pretended she wasn't mine. Which I might have been less inclined to do had she been wearing that giraffe print dress in the first image.