These have been tough days.
More than just days, we have endured over a year of being force-fed distressing information disseminated, confounded then transmitted faster than the dreaded subject matter. We, from the very aged to the very young, have been affected in different - sometimes multiple - ways these fourteen months. Reciting details of our experiences is unnecessary as we know how this year has impacted our lives.
Call it Covid Fatgue, Pandemic Exhaustion or Rainy Relentless April Days, we at queeniebrownmagazine.com have felt this impact.Creating this edition was a challenge because "trivial things" like fashion, favourite things and pretty pictures seemed unworthy of discussion. We wish not to offend those to whom fashion, favourite things and pretty pictures are relevant, but, heavy feelings could not bring forth light, so, every topic appeared frivolous, and was cast aside...
...Until a recurring thought persisted greater than horrid news reports or cloud covered skies. The message was, "Count Your Blessings."
So, we did.
One by one, we listed the wonderful gifts (and were surprised by the many we took for granted) existing in our lives. Sure, a partner left wet towels on the bathroom floor - all the time! But, those meals s/he made us with loving hands was delicious (even if not, the appreciation of someone caring for us was recognized). While writing our lists, each notation was examined: looked at from varied angles, validating its place on The List. Each experience was Recalled then Re-Lived, again and again... The blah became less oppressive then less dismal. The weighted blanket lifted from our heads, at some point, allowing the somber to actually transition into laughter.
We called this process: Revelling in Our Blessings.
We were glad for it. Suddenly, this edition was exciting, energetic - joyous - imbued as we were with the secret of this life: Revelling in Our Blessings.
Now, we pass our experiences on to you with a hope of pulling you out of whatever dismal mood in which these months may have bound you.
The number of blessings on The List is irrelevant. Even if the item is one, the point is to revel in it; let it bounce around in your mind as you picture yourself rolling around in the tremendous memory as you would a field of flowers or (three million dollars in cash on your bed) whatever brings you joy.
Feel it. Revel in it.
Every time, the gloom looms - Revel in Your Blessings.
That is what this issue of queeniebrownmagazine.com is about, remembering to push through the horrid times by taking stock of your gifts then revelling in them. You will meet determined women who found 'that thing' that allowed them to LIVE their life because they knew they needed to do more than exist.
May they inspire you as they have us. Enjoy!
Recall "Jackie O" - or as she was known before her first marriage, Jacqueline Bouvier? Then you must remember her wedding of the century to John F. Kennedy, wearing that voluminous, silk taffeta, fairy-tale, bridal gown that stunned the world. Almost 70 years later that gown is still marvelled over and copied as the quintessential wedding dress.
Considering the hoopla Jackie's wedding gown created, d0 you also know the Black woman who designed that classic piece?
Well, you should. Ann Cole Lowe: aka Annie Cohen, is America's first Black fashion designer who designed one of a kind, dazzles, not just for Jackie (and her brides maids), but for America's high society. You name the richest most recognized names in the U.S. (heard of the Rockefellers or Roosevelts?) from 1920 to 1971, and Ms. Lowe adorned their bodies.
So, how did this Clayton, Alabama, grandchild and child of seamstresses, end up becoming the first Black fashion designer to America's elite? By taking over the family dressmaking business, at aged sixteen, of course!
Ms. Lowe's mother and grandmother were established society dressmakers to Alabama's, so-called, finest. Working at their elbows sparked in Ann a passion and skill at creating intricate, floral, embellishments, as young as six years old. These embellishments would include beaded work which would become her, signature work.
After her mother's sudden death, Ms. Lowe was forced to complete a commission of four dresses, for Alabama's First Lady. According to The New Yorker March 22, 21 article written by Judith Thurman, Lowe said, “my first big test in life,” and it inspired her to feel that “there was nothing I couldn’t do when it came to sewing.” We did mention, she was only sixteen years of age, right?
Years later, Ms. Lowe (now Mrs. Cone aka Cohen) refused to depart when the dean asked her to leave, after realizing he had admitted a Black woman into the segregated S.T. Taylor Design School in New York City. In spite of having a child to support and being regulated to a single room separate from white students, Ms. Lowe's work was such perfection, her items became examples of proper workmanship for her peers to study. Needless to say, she graduated from that school in early measure.
Though Ms. Lowe was a single mother, she is not to be pitied. Her husband divorced her for taking a personal dressmaker position with the wife of a Florida tycoon. It was this wife who encouraged Lowe's formal training. It was partially due to her why Lowe was able to open her own shop, post graduation. "Annie Cohen" eventually supported 18 seamstresses, catering to the Who's Who of Florida society.
Called by the Fashion Mecca of America, Lowe returned to New York, freelancing for high-end stores like Neiman Marcus, and Saks Fifth Avenue. In New York she met her second husband, who she later divorced because he wanted a "normal wife," but not before she tired of loosing credit for her dresses and opened her own shop in Harlem.
Leveraging notoriety within the African American community, Ann was commissioned to cover the postwar couture shows in Paris. There she became familiar with talented peers like Dior, and most likely revelled in the prestige and glamour, immersed in the world that was her passion, and receiving respect from those she most admired.
You see, Ann Cole Lowe was a best kept secret amongst America's high society women. With that said, this fact did not stop her - in fact, it encouraged her - to open a Fashion House on Madison Avenue. This accomplishment made Ann Cole Lowe the first Black person to do so.
It was post Kennedy's assassination when Jackie acknowledged Ann Cole Lowe as the designer behind her celebrated bridal gown. A flurry of articles, interviews, and television appearances ensued. She was even listed in the National Social Directory as well as a copy of Who’s Who of American Women in 1966. This exposure shared her with "the cafe woman" as she described the rest of us in a 1964 Ebony interview.
In spite of years living on the financial edge due to extreme white supremacism as well as considerably undercharged socialite clients; blindness in one eye due to glaucoma; and only once being invited to a place where her dresses drew great acclaim, Ann seemed not to complain. Her pride, she professed, was being part of something she was not, otherwise, allowed entry.
Today, some of Ms. Lowe's dresses can be seen in the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. There her reputation and talent are highlighted, as a glimpse into our past.
Freeing Yourself with Faith
Ever left everything you've known to start a new life, leaving behind people you loved who could no longer be a part of your world?
Caron Morgan has.
Caron (pronounced: Ka-Rone), walked away from an established religion wherein "a lot of bad things occurred." As a dedicated follower of a religion Caron now describes as a cult, she admits to "turning a blind eye" to terrible treatments and behaviours (like shunning, public shaming, and various forms of child abuse) in support of The Faith. "I finally had to walk away because (when she was Publicly Shamed) I knew I deserved better treatment than I received, particularly after decades of service."
Disillusioned, hurt and alone, Caron struggled with the legacy of her past. Its indoctrination caused her to question everything she knew about relationships, as she throughly admits to "coming from a place of victimhood" due to religious and parental issues. Yet, one might say, her willingness to express love - unconditionally - is what saved Caron, and what propels her forward, to this day. Just ask one of her several friends carrying the status, "homeless," including the white supremacist she brings food to on a regular basis, and the man who lives in his travelling recycle bin. Yes, you read that correctly...
You see, to you and me, calling a homeless person, by its truest definition " a friend," is likely one of the last things we would do. Searching for an individual who lives by a bridge to ensure they are safe, telling these individuals you love them, and praying for their well being is all part of a shared humanity, Caron will tell you. She believes in paying attention to the people in front of you. And being awake in this life.
It is with this same openness Caron's relationship with God survived. She (re)discovered God attending a friend's church. Through the music and simple message that God Loves You, Caron finally asked the question: "Do you love me, God?"
In the answer, Caron agreed to a one on one, relationship with God; no traditions, judgements or directives would stand between them. In spite of her many questions, defences and fear that her scars would "mess things up," Caron knew she had zero vested interest in being right. She only wanted love.
To receive this love - in a healthy manner - Caron committed to an absolute accountability for her thoughts, beliefs and actions. "There is NO SUCH THING as being a victim unless one receives that role." Caron told queeniebrownmagazine.com in a late night interview.
In it, through it, because of this committed responsibility to her personal relationship with God, Caron gained the freedom to be who she actually is. This meant embracing the understanding that: it's O.K for each of us to believe differently; it is necessary to respect the journey of others, and it is unnecessary to form judgement about others or how they choose to live their lives.
This letting go - Caron's 100% knowing that God has you whatever the situation - allows her to live a "fearless life " with intention. In times of doubt, fear is no longer immobilizing; when her task list is extra long, stress is cast aside as she prioritizes one task tackled at a time; when she needs help with or has a vision about her business, she trusts, help will appear to accomplish her goal. Caron admits, continually needing to remind herself of this Zero Fear commitment (100% Knowing) is necessary, but she accepts this is early in the game; soon the process will be as natural as brushing her teeth.
Once peace was made with her dedication, life changes began taking place. The first of which was becoming an entrepreneur. A friend presented an option she could not refuse, and Caron left her "stable" job for another she admits she knew nothing about. "We are never too old, too broke or too inexperienced to achieve our dream; we can only be too closed." Caron says.
In her new general manager position, establishing a high end coffee bar from scratch, she built an understanding of the industry which facilitated her helping a friend. This help lead to another opportunity "that came out of no where." This opportunity became her coffee business, BIRDY'S DAUGHTER™
To say Birdy's Daughter™ is a retailer of Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee beans would be enough for many. To Caron, Birdy's Daughter™ is coming home. Developing a passion for the world's most traded commodity next to crude oil, began with a friend sharing stories about Caron's homeland and its beautifully talented, independent farmers on the Jamaican Blue Mountains. The more she heard the more impressed and in love with the people - her people - Caron became.
Today, she has added another popular world love: chocolate, to her coffee selections. Her inspiration to combine these faves, prompted Caron's introduction to Michelin 3-star Chocolatier, Calvin Wat - of course. Through their relationship, Caron is negotiating the offer of her wares at KANDL Artistique, located in Toronto's top destination for affluent shoppers, the fashionable, Yorkville area.
Instead of putting her faith in man, institutions or organizations, Caron puts her faith in herself. As if to validate that message, her Mother's Day Launch was a bit of a let down when her packaging support turned out to be a no show. But, she assembled her orders - alone - utilizing even her overstock. Then, right on cue, help "appeared from no where." Every order was packaged and delivered as promised.
Caron has many plans for her Birdy's Daughter Blue Mountain Coffee.(click pink for site) "I see all my loves culminating in this one venture." Caron shared. She summarizes her recent years as, "What you can handle on your journey (the struggle, the pain, the confusion - doing things "your way") can so lovingly prepare you for tomorrow's dream come true."
Can struggle, pain, and confusion be more beautifully articulated than that?
Pay Attention to the people infront of you
The World's Most Traded Commodity Next To Crude Oil.
105 and STILL Running
On the Cover!
Shanelle Nyasiase wearing @johannabramblecreations turban
and fabulous @thediarrablu dress 2018 photoshoot with Adele Dejak Black Girl Magic Series.
Jewelry by Adele Dejak
check out this story by Innocent Ndlovu from May 10,21; originally appeared in Industrie Africa
Jewelry designer Adele Dejak is on a mission to build a global powerhouse brand and she’s well on her way. Over the years, Dejak has become a trailblazing luminary in Kenya and across the continent, paving the way for fellow designers like Ami Doshi Shah who has followed in her footsteps. “Her bold and unapologetic aesthetic has redefined cultural norms and [she] has also been inspirational when it comes to working with locally sourced materials and artisans,” Shah says about her role model.
Dejak developed a deep interest in beadwork, African textiles, and the art of adornment as a child, growing up in the Kano region of Nigeria, the country where she was born. “My love for African fabrics and beadwork started at a young age and I remember going to the market to shop for fabrics and observing Hausa artisans who were skilled in beadwork and leatherwork,” she says. “I was fascinated by how the [North/West African] Fulani and Tuareg ethnic groups dressed and adorned themselves,” she continues. Through her mother, whom she describes as one of her earliest fashion influences, Dejak spent her early years learning how to sew while sharing a mutual love for beads with her grandmother.
Dejak initially intended to study art, a dream that her parents strongly opposed. After attending boarding school in England she went on to pursue an LLB Law degree from Middlesex University in the late 80s and then a decade later, still determined to fulfill a creative career, graduated with a Higher National Diploma in Typographic Design from the London College of Communication. Her unlikely path to the creative industry she says, “laid a foundation” for her passion.
Her short lived career working in typography design in England and Italy in the early 2000s, became a stepping stone for the next stage of her life. She launched her eponymous accessories label in 2008, three years after moving to Nairobi, Kenya from England. Her label is known for its chunky, armor-like, handmade statement pieces with a raw finish, crafted from recycled brass and Ankole cow horns found in the pure breed of cows native to East Africa. Her line of handbags is made from a mix of cowhide, brass, and Kitenge cloth (a wax print fabric). Dejak’s pieces are created with purpose, to empower herself, , a self confessed reserved loner as well as people like her, who need a courage boost. “Being an introvert my bold statement pieces are crucial in giving me the confidence to step out”, she says.
YOU’VE SAID THAT YOU ARE INSPIRED BY PHOTOGRAPHY BOOKS AND NATURE. WHO OR WHAT IS INSPIRING YOU RIGHT NOW?
I am especially inspired by Malian photographers [like] Seydou Keïta. [I think] powerful photography is important, not just to capture the essence of my work, but because I am genuinely passionate about photography and the ability to tell a story.
African heritage is the foundation of most of my collections although I make slight modifications to incorporate some Italian elements. My husband is Italian, and I have also been influenced by Italian designers and artists. My favorite Italian artist is Alberto Burri. There are specific periods in his artwork that I think would make amazing sculptural pieces. I am also inspired by architect extraordinaire Zaha Hadid. I had the pleasure of meeting her in London and I think her architecture is amazing. Before she passed away, she had started designing jewelry. I am toying around with the idea of [collaborating] with artists for my collections.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BIGGEST LESSONS YOU’VE LEARNED ABOUT ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND THE BUSINESS OF ACCESSORY DESIGN?
I have learned many lessons over the years, one of them is to trust your gut feeling. I am extremely naive and I am constantly giving people the benefit of the doubt and that often comes back to bite me. [Secondly], you have to make sacrifices. When you become an entrepreneur, you take on the responsibility of providing for your employees [and] that means ensuring they are paid on time.
For the complete interview, please visit https://industrieafrica.com