Did you know that today was the International Day of Happiness? No really. It’s an actual, real thing. Here is a blurb on www.dayofhappiness.net on why the day was created and sanctioned:
After years of happiness research, one thing has proved fundamental – the importance of our connections with other people.
But modern societies are built as if the opposite was true. We are surrounded by people, yet we feel genuinely connected to almost none of them. The effects are devastating.
Social isolation is as potent a cause of early death as smoking; and the epidemic of loneliness is twice as deadly as obesity.
We could change this in a day if we all reached out and made at least one positive connection. For the International Day of Happiness, that’s exactly what we’re going to do.
I took this mandate very seriously, and as my contribution to International Happiness Day, I went out into my community and spent some money. Eh heh! What greater connection can a woman have than with a designer/retailer who makes her spirit come alive? And are designers/retailers not also happy when they have parted us from our money? Everyone has a part to play in this cycle of joy!
No, but seriously MOM Squad: you all know I have been on the hunt for Black Luxury ever since I told you about that article expressing mainstream disgust for Black dollars, and I am happy to report I have found it. As of 10:43 this morning, I became an F &W Girl, thanks to the design and business prowess of Alexandria Alli manager and head of creative concepts at F & W Style. The story behind her brand has been featured in this month’s edition of Jezebel Magazine, as well as on Black Enterprise and other publications you can look up at your leisure. They will tell you all the stuff that comes as part and parcel of a polite and proper interview. Me, I went to her shop for gossip.
Alexandria Alli is tall with a tiny waist and stunning with a perfect complexion. Pimples daren’t approach her skin. Her lipstick doesn’t smudge when she talks. Her body is one fluid masterpiece and all its pieces work in tandem. Today she was wearing a figure flattering green and bronze asoke blouse and skirt ensemble. If I was going to buy a luxury handbag from anyone, it was going to be this Nigerian goddess today! She greeted me warmly and invited me into her studio. I was immediately impressed by how clean it was design and décor wise. The simplicity and boldness she surrounds herself with in her environment translates to the way in which she designs her bag.
After our pleasantries were exchanged, I told her without mincing words why I had come to seek her out.
“Someone actually put that on a blog? For the whole world to see?”
“Yes! And no one on their editing team thought it might be a good idea to take it down!”
“Wow,” she said pensively, “that’s really sad.”
(In hindsight, I’m glad that they didn’t. I might never have discovered F & W if I had remained in my pop culture stupor. )
I took a quick scan around the back office we were meeting in and took note of several of the bags I’d seen online. My eye went immediately to the red Chloe bag, since red is my favorite color. At Alexandria’s subtle urging, I turned my attention over to the croc embossed bags to the left. I asked her about where she gets her leather and inspiration from.
“This is Italian leather,” she replied. “As far as the type of leather we choose, that’s all because of our customers. They indicated that they like pebble grain and crocodile, so you will notice that all of the bags have that sort of embellishment. It just gives them something special, and gives it a more luxurious look.”
I ran my finger over the details of the burnt orange croc embossed bag I was holding and had to agree with her.
“As far as inspiration, I look to women,” she continued. “I spend a lot of time just observing women…how they move and interact with their accessories…and I then I try to imagine what they might like that is functional while still having an element of luxury.”
We then went on to discuss color and how she chooses her leather. Alexandria’s favorite color is pink.
A strong Nigerian woman should like gold or midnight blue…warris pink? She laughed.
“Not just any pink…strong pink. And besides, pink is a very happy color, I think!”
Alexandria opened up the purse I had been looking at and drew my attention to the lining. Every F&W bag is lined with the same hot pink in its interior. This distinguishes it from other luxury bags and serves as her stamp.
“And it was a compromise for me, since I couldn’t make every single bag I designed pink.”
“How does your mother feel about your success?” I asked. I am always impressed when Africans of a certain age pursue a career in the fine, literary and/or digital arts and are successful at it. Such careers do not come without some opposition from our parents. Of course, Alexandria’s mother – being a designer herself – is very proud. “Did you go to school for design?”
“No. Actually I was modeling in school.”
“Heh? Wait! Your mother – your Nigerian mother – allowed you to go to modeling school?”
“No! I went to school to study management,” she replied, “but my mother allowed me to model so long as it didn’t interfere with my work. She’s just really happy to see us doing well, you know? Parents love to see their kids succeeding…”
“…even when it’s not the ideal career that they would have mapped out for them. But when the success comes?”
“Oh! Then suddenly, all of this was their idea!”
We cackled for a bit about Chimamanda, Wale, African norms, husbands and children and making it all work. Alexandria mused about how her husband was the one who really pushed her to start her own luxury brand. She gave me a look that told me she thought he was crazy at the time.
“Who does that?” she asked. “But he really encouraged me and we’ve been in business for 5 years. This year, it’s really taken off!”
She did a swoop motion with her hand, like a rocket taking off. I was compelled to smile. Her enthusiasm was infectious and her humility refreshing.
Now that I had everything I needed, I bade her goodbye and thanked her sincerely. I don’t know if she or her husband know what they have done for (newly) conscious consumers like me by giving us a choice. I am particularly grateful that she views her luxury brand as something that all women – no matter what their social strata or racial makeup – should have access to and enjoy.
This won’t be my last bag from F&W Style.
Visit www.fwstyle.com to find a list of stores that carry the brand in your area or to shop online.