How One Bad Review Turned Into Restoring

Turning a negative into a marketing strategy for internal processes and external sales funnels.

Photo via Garage Magazine Cotillion Editorial Shoot

Photo via Garage Magazine Cotillion Editorial Shoot

We live in a world where one bad review can ruin your business. Platforms like Yelp and Tripadvisor have literally lit a fire under small business owners worldwide. Queuing them to get their act together and customer service is golden. Not only are good reviews a rite of passage for service-based businesses, it now spills into business sales. Platforms like Yelp, Trip Advisor, (arguably) Linkedin are the scorecards of the consumer product marketplace. It’s the new standard yellow pages, operating like a blockchain, the new yellow pages. My experience working with small businesses in the fashion and lifestyle retail space is that Yelp.com is always on the marketing agenda. 

“What can we do to increase our Yelp score?” “Can you leave us a good trip advisor review? We’ll give you a free bottle of champagne?” These are legit phrases owners and executives have asked me, all in the name of a good digital footprint. And so it wasn’t a surprise to me that high-end dry cleaners tasked me with increasing their Yelp Score. An increase in 1 start could yield a 20 percent increase in company revenue. To them, that could meet an additional $1M in sales! So on my first 30 days as a Marketing Lead, I logged into work and got to work. Here’s the story of how I came to oversee the restoration of a Christian Dior gown owned by the one and only Elizabeth Taylor. 

It was a busy day at the factory. Designer clothes were cleaned and pressed to perfection by 9AM. And by 10AM when I walked in, they were bagged and ready to be delivered to Manhattan’s elite. I made my way through the chaos into the back of the factory. As soon as I got to the door of my office my co-worker informed me he found the lady’s contact information in the company database according to her bad review on Yelp.com and that WE were going to call her and ask to restore her Christian Dior dress. 



The bad review read: 

“I’ve absolutely had it with the company! They ruined my vintage Christian Dior dress! I brought it to them to clean and I am now seeing bleach or dye marks on it! I didn’t even think about taking it out of the bag to examine it. I’m livid.” 

And so here we are huddled in a conference room about to call “Mrs. Apple” and ignite a war. People who truly love their clothes, designer clothes, are on another level. Well maybe it’s just Christian Dior because every time I give my Dior over to my own local dry cleaners, I hold my breath - for the entire week. Anyway, back to the story: 

“Hello, this is Jason and Melissa calling from Pristine Dry Cleaners. Is this Ms. Apple?” 

“Why yes, it is. You know you all ruined my Christian Dior dress and didn’t have the nerve to call me back!!!!” 

“And that’s why we are calling you back now. We both just joined the company and following up with valued customers.” 

With hands ablaze, I stepped into the conversation. This dude was not the best at customer service. “We read your review on Yelp.com and feel awful about it. I know how much this piece means to you and the company wants to restore it back to wearable conditions. 

See where this is going? The conversation went on for at least thirty minutes. We scheduled a pick up for that same day. The next morning I came into my office and there was the dress. A Long green dress from like the 1960s. It wasn’t anything someone would wear but let me remind you how conservative the fashion was during that time period. The dress was also purchased at an auction. It was once owned by Elizabeth Taylor. Don’t really know if she wore for TV or for a photo shoot, but it was definitely camp. 

The first thing I did was examine it. I took it out of the plastic to take some photos of it. I called Ms. Apple to update her about the dress and what the artisans intended on doing. She was still fuming from yesterday's conversation. 

“Don’t you dare ruin the fabric.”  “It fits me to my measurements, so don’t alter it.” 

I reassured her that the dress was not in good hands and that I’ll be thoroughly monitoring the process. Let me be clear, that it wasn’t my job to do all of this. But my goal was for Mrs. Apple to delete her Yelp.com bad review and replace it with a 5-star review. The marketing aspect of it was clear and I had to do what I had to do to make it work.  The company had about 20 reviews and 6 of them were between 1-2 Stars. Mrs.Apple’s was a 1-star and it was the most recent bad review. 


I didn’t quite know if my strategy would work. After all, this dress required some major reconstruction. The fabric had to be re-dyed and this required the company to outsourced this specialty service to a family dye factory located almost 2 hours away. We also had to replace a rare organza fabric, that was to be ordered straight from Paris. That part alone would take 2 months with customs, communicating with the suppliers, and shipping. Of course, Ms. Apple wasn’t happy about this. It was the spring and we told her the dress would take about 4- 6 months to be restored. 

In the meantime, to get better reviews on Yelp.com, I launched a massive company-wide Yelp contest. Customer service reps, seamstresses, drivers, and sales reps were in competition to get their names mentioned in a yelp.com review. Every 4 and 5-star review meant an extra $30 to their paychecks.  As soon as I set out the internal email announcing the contest, my fellow employees got to work. I also created marketing collateral to hang up around the office and factory, created copy for customer service phone scripts - “Leave us a Yelp.com review. Let me walk you through the process for an extra 10% off your bill.”  I also created in-store signage about Yelp.com and programmed an iPad for customers to leave reviews during the pop up events. To say the least, my tactic was overexposure. By the way, this was in 2016, so everything was like ASAP. 

By the end of two months, I saw a quarter of star change on Yelp.com but the 3-star score was not changing. How could this company call themselves the best service when Yelp.com, the bible, said otherwise. I had to understand from a platform’s perspective what it was going to take to move the needle. My meeting with a Senior Sales associate was not necessarily wake up call but a queue that it was going to be harder than expected. 

The sales associate told me that not only did the company have 6 bad reviews for public viewing pleasures, but that there were more shady “unconfirmed” reviews waiting in the queue. Meetings with platform representatives are also so standard. They tell you about the product features and try to sell you on their services. For Yelp.com that meant buying into their Yelp.com platform management system for business for a few thousand a year. Ah, no! Did I mention I had basically no marketing budget?! Then this sales associate told that even if I do go about my strategy of personally reconciling each bad review, the algorithm was going to be harder to manipulate!  

Of course, I didn’t tell the company owner about the platform’s caveat. Instead, I did reinforce the need to get more validated and confirmed reviews on the company’s page. I also pushed for everyone in their company to be on their A-game. You know give good customer service. In the age of technology, it’s expected that the person behind the counter or delivering our shit is supposed to be polite, well - mannered, on time and filled with solutions. Yet, it’s never the case. It does require one to have EQ, as in emotional intelligence. Was I really going to have to teach customer service etiquette classes too?? 



Following my meeting with the platform, I focused on reconnaissance work and Mrs. Apple’s Dior dress. It was now at the Dye factory. This process took the longest. “Everything’s fine Mrs.Apple.” We are waiting for the fabric to arrive from Paris.  I also informed her the dress wouldn’t be ready for another six to eight weeks. By this time it was almost 4 months we had the dress in our possessions. I could feel she was getting annoyed. 



“Ok well. I want to wear it in January to the Oscars! So please have it ready by then!” 



My heart started beating faster and I hung up the phone. That was in exactly 5 weeks. What the hell was this Dye House doing? I needed an update personally. I had been relying on the Operations manager to give me these design updates. Again, I was the marketing manager so it wasn’t my job to follow up on production. When I called this 75- year - old design house, no one picked up, so I left the message. Then, I called back a few days later. Still no response.  An old guy finally called me back and informed me that the dress wasn’t dyed yet. That he was still testing the dye. WTF?! We had 4 weeks to get this dress red carpet ready and this dress wasn’t dyed. 


“Well, how long is it going to take?” I asked this old guy calmly. 


“It will take 2 weeks.” He responded back to me. 

“OK. Well, can we please expedite this process? The client needs it red carpet ready in 3 weeks.” 

To speed up this story. We got the dress done in time but not before I sprouted a few grey hairs and a major cause of anxiety.  At the end of the day, Mrs. Apple gotta wear her dress to the Oscars but honestly not without the drama. And that’s just it, it was too much drama. She was happy with it. From the pictures she emailed me, it was drowning on her, but that was to her liking, not ours. 

A week or so after the restoration was revealed, I called her and brought up the Yelp.com comment again. I offered her 20% off on her next service. She hesitated in accepting it. I needed her to remove her comment. 

“I would LOVE… ``''It would mean so much to me…”  “ On behalf of the company….” 


I was putting in work. Three weeks later, I saw logged into the Yelp platform and saw that her comment was removed and that a new comment was replaced. I was ecstatic. Of course, I told the owner as soon as I had the chance. The company’s Yelp Score was now 4 stars. When I started with the company it was like 2.5 Stars. We gained more business but not solely because of her Yelp score. It was a combination of other marketing campaigns. Still, it was a successful campaign and became embedded in the company’s sales strategy.  

Overall, the cool thing about this whole ordeal was getting to restore a designer dress once worn by an American legend. The lady who purchased it was equally interesting. So New York! 




Violet Summer Zine Issue 5 is now live

Issue for is on self care and wellness. It is meant to contribute to the overall conversation on health and wellness! Thank you to Ashley Uzer, Naria Symone, Genail Mckinley, Kendall Alexander and Chandler Ponti for contributing such beautiful writing pieces. Thank you to photographer Morgan Mosley for shooting the cover girl / model / poet Swaizi Vaughn. Thank you to Raina Asid for slaying the graphic design and layout! Thank you to Angelica Fuentes and A Complete for sponsoring the collaborator commissions.


10 Things To Highlight In ‘Becoming’ By Michelle Obama Book


New Yorkers have been reading the MO book and there’s so much to highlight and discuss with your friends, family and colleagues!

Photo Credit: New York Times Magazine

Photo Credit: New York Times Magazine




This morning on my own MTA commute, I couldn’t help but notice handfuls of young women, dressed devastatingly chic probably on their way to work, with their head down in the pages of the former First Lady’s new book Becoming by Michelle Obama. Seriously, it seems like everyone has the book and there hasn’t been a viral book like this in a while.  It’s giving me major Chicken Soup Soul type of vibes. It’s enjoyable across genres.




The memoir begins with a preface about where she is at the moment in relation to 2018. We get realness from the jump; Mrs. Obama writes about making herself a cheese sandwich in an empty kitchen with the dogs. She confesses she feels lonely with no children to look after years in the spotlight. Admittedly, I was sure she was a hot second from putting in a bid for her presidency, but boy was I wrong!! Chapter One takes the reader way back to a 4-year-old Michelle Obama, who was known as “Miche.” From there we learn about the first time she fucked up in school, to how she dumped her boyfriends and my favorite part, how she fell in love with our 44th President of the United States Barack Obama! I really do miss the Obamas! Every 10 pages, I found myself emotionally overwhelmed with tears of sadness, happiness, empathy, and love because that’s how much I related to her stories. As a young woman in her twenties trying to sophistically navigate the keys to a successful career, family and love life, this book brought me reassurance as well as hope. Here are 10 things that I learned from Mrs. Obama’s memoir that want to use to get through the rest of my infamous twenties.  




Michelle Obama wearing a Cushnie et Och dress at the 2017 ESPY’s.

Michelle Obama wearing a Cushnie et Och dress at the 2017 ESPY’s.

  1. McDonald’s / Fast Food Joints serve better food because of Michelle Obama. Throughout the book, she talks about her vegetable garden and how watering plants lead to measurable change in politics, from decrease childhood obesity rates to major fast food companies pledging to improve the quality of food they offer their consumers. As I walk past an McD’s today, I can’t help but have a better opinion about the infamous restaurant. I don’t feel guilty for indulging in their McDoubles because I know I can also order fruit parfait on the side.

  2. Take care of my family and close friends. Mrs. Obama talks deeply about the deaths of people in her life that really affected her emotionally that made her become a better person. I cried when her dad, Mr. Robinson, passed away a few months before she got married to Barack Obama. I felt for Michelle Obama when her best friend Suzanne died in the midst of her busy career as an attorney. It was as though she spoke right to me when she expressed how guilty she felt for not being there for her friend but still valued and cared about her. In my early twenties, I’ve had friends who passed away because of illness, as well as gun violence and I always felt bad because I didn’t give enough of my time to them while they were alive. But how could I when it’s already tough just trying to make it through? Towards the end of the book, when Mrs. Obama was deep into her First Lady job, she talked about attending and speaking at the funeral a young girl from the Southside of Chicago who was killed in gun violence while hanging out at a park. Perhaps this was her reconciliation for her own friend Suzanne who passed away as well as her own way to stay connected to the hood, but it moved me. I learned that family and friends are everything and I have to make time for who I love.


  3. Search for your most authentic voice. More than ever, I feel pressured in society to have it all at the same time. On social media, we are praised for being a girl boss and entrepreneur, but side-eyed if we have nothing going on at the moment. In the book, she writes, “I look back on the discomfort of that moment now and recognize the more universal challenge of squaring who you are with where you come from and where you want to go, I also realize that I was a long way, still, from finding my voice.” In relation to school, there’s always a sense of who belongs and who doesn’t but i do believe school allows you to find your voice.

  4. Be nice to the younger generations. The Biden kids were SO nice to the Obama girls and this is how it should be between any generation. There’s going to be times of inevitable collaboration with people older and younger than you, but the main thing is to be open. Unfortunately, there have been instances where my skills and my friends’ skills and talent weren’t taken seriously in the workplace. Especially when it comes to new technology. Yet some baby boomers and those older would rather work with someone they are familiar with in age. And it sucks when you are experiencing this!  Mrs. Obama offered a lot of encourage to those who are trying to take the higher road. I feel like her encouragement matters because even her team while First Lady consisted of all young female millennials who were understanding of motherly duties and childcare. Very often I work with mothers who have busy schedules and I feel it's my obligation to give these women certain privileges. I’ve always been maternal at heart and I don’t think trying to separate it from the “professional” space is worth it, but I take it in small doses. In regard to Mrs. Obama, she wrote a few times about how in awe and thankful she was for their talent and ability to adapt. Yes, the goal is adapting and everyone can bring something to the table.

  5. Which leads me to my daily reminder for 2018: F*ck what other people think of you. Do you!  I loved how the book reinforces self-reflection and unapologetic enlightenment. In regard to the “What do you do? Or want to be?” question kids are always asked, Michelle Obama says that clouds the true vision. “This may be the fundamental problem with caring a lot about what others think: It can put you on the established path - the my-isn’t -that-impressive path - and keep you there for a long time.” It’s to say...yes,  of course, we should all have flawless resumes, but its OK to fail and fall hard. I felt so horrible knowing that I failed at working in the editorial space after being laid off after 6 months of hard work - coming in early and leaving late. Deep down though, I just wanted to work at the reputable publication instead of focusing on my own. Which in the end is all I had and it worked out because Violet Summer Zine has been my saving grace.

  6. Negotiate your salary and ask for more. I’ve had a few experiences with salary negotiation. During one salary negotiation experience, I woke up one morning with my face swollen! I was stressing over the situation for weeks and I guess it was too much stress for my body. Days prior before my blow up, I started itching violently at night and I don’t have a history of irritated skin. So when I finally sent the email to even discuss my salary to my boss, I was sure I’d pass out from fear. My heart skipped a beat when I finally sent the email. An email!  To be clear, my salary anxiety had developed from past bosses frowning upon me asking for more. Then I read how Mrs. Obama negotiated her own salary in her late 20s/early 30s and it made me upset, angry and also enlightened. Angry, because my salary inquiries came out of a need, not a want or a sense of entitlement. Yet, I was made out to be some ungrateful millennial on more than one account all because I needed money to live. Mrs. Obama recounts when she too had to ask for me, she says, “it became clear that if I wanted to join the tribe, I’d have to negotiate my way in, asking for exactly for what I needed in terms of salary...I couldn’t be shy or embarrassed about my needs.”  Yassss I absolutely love this part so much I highlighted the paragraph with a pink marker. She basically told her employer how much she borrowed to attend her prestigious universities and how she really needed to live on a certain amount that equated to a salary in order to do the job and excel at it. In the end, her employer gave her what she negotiated and she worked twice as hard knowing her employers valued her worth. After reading that, it made me feel better I too had done the same thing when negotiating a raise!

  7. It’s OK to ditch mediocre boyfriends.  For whoever needs to hear this: dump abusers and overusers! The young doyenne of black style taught us early on that it’s okay to date and if you don’t really like the person, dump them. She reminded us that marriage is ideal but if you don’t get that feeling of love then why waste your time?!

  8. Barack Obama. Do I have to write anymore? In this book, the reader gets a full glimpse inside of the genius that was our 44th President of the USA. He is smart, kind, and a family man. But Michelle lets us know that she’s running the ship. She’s that black mom that does everything for her family and is unapologetic when it comes to her girls. I love that she made her children’s bedtime at 8:30 PM and stuck with it, even if her husband was running late. Not to mention, the way he proposed! Ahhh! It made me think about how this family is aspirational as they too financially struggled and was not shy at moving in with parents to catch a break with rent!

  9. Am I good enough? Yes, you are. As a recurring mantra in Mrs. Obama’s narrative, readers are forced to step into her shoes. She truthfully recounted situations were the “aim I good enough?” question tried to block her from her full potential. She basically says she wouldn't have succeeded as First Lady had she not had hardships. With a career, it was finding something that she could be happy doing every day. At home, she wanted to give her girls the same love as her parents gave her growing up. The “Am I good enough?” question proposition is REAL. It’s a question that everyone’s had to deal with at some point. It’s unavoidable.

  10. Her style evolution is BEYOND. As the First Lady, Mrs. Obama knew she would be scrutinized for everything she wore, yet she stayed true to what she knew best choosing items she knew would send a unique message. Her commitment to wearing up & coming designers was rewarded amongst magazine editors and she also lifted these now family but then new designers and brands’ notoriety. I thought it was gossipy to read about the intricacies of what went on in her dressing room, yet I loved it! A dressing room just sounds so chic and old world! We witness how this cinderella woman becomes a real princess that has morals and courage and strength.  

Louis Vuitton Objets Nomades Cocktail Dinnatoire at Cecconi's during Art Basel 2018



Louis Vuitton celebrated the new Objets Nomades collection during Design Miami/ 2018 at Cecconi’s Soho Beach House on Tuesday, December 4th.  Guests in attendance included Michael Burke (CEO/Chairman of Louis Vuitton), designers of Objets Nomades including Alberto Biagetti and Laura Baldassari (of Atelier Biagetti), Humberto Campana, Patrick Reymond (of Atelier Oi), as well as Bailey Beckstead, Nathan Browning, Carolina Daur, Isaac Hindin-Miller, Sue Hostetler, Poppy, Olympia Scarry, Fiona Scarry, and Beau Wrigley.

For Design Miami/ 2018, Louis Vuitton exclusively introduced three new objects: Italian design studio Atelier Biagetti’s Anemona Table, Atelier’s Oï’s Serpentine Table, and Tokujin Yoshioka’s Blossom Vase, along with a selection of existing objects. In addition to these brand new additions, new variations of two select Objets Nomades were also presented: The Campana Brothers’ Cocoon swing chair and André Fu’s Ribbon Dance chair. The new collection of Objets Nomades and Les Petits Nomades are showcased at both Design Miami and our Miami Design District store alongside a special curation of our most exquisite and one-of-a-kind exotic offerings. 

  

 

 

 

 

Photo Credit: Louis Vuitton / David X Prutting / BFA.com




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New York to Nairobi: Recap of #CFKNY2018

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I didn’t know an email and a small goal to cover fashion in Africa would lead to curating a workshop and press trip in Nairobi Kenya. As vague as that reads, here we are, three months later, flying to Kenya on Kenya Airways first direct flight from New York to Nairobi. I was tapped to host The Core Fashion Kenya’s inaugural cross-continental collaboration with a handful of creatives in the fashion industry. What materialized was a network of passionate people supporting each other’s craft, dozens of mentorship opportunities for Nairobi’s fashion students, and a fabulous travel diary for everyone on the internet to view at #CFKNY2018. It was more than a dream to experience what fashion culture is really like on the continent of Africa alongside my favorite professionals.



Palm trees and lush plant life provide the ultimate getaway for the paved and dirt roads that make up the vibrant city of Nairobi. As I stepped out of the plane on to a red-carpeted runway, I breathed in the summer air of the motherland. I was greeted by dozens of smiling Kenyans and airline officials, eager to welcome me and my colleagues to their country. Little did they know, we were so much MORE excited to be there with them.

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Like I said, I was in Kenya to celebrate Kenya Airways inaugural direct routes from Nairobi to New York. I want to say that again because it’s PIONEER TALK.  I knew this day would be filled with colorful banners, picture taking with dignitaries and lots of food and wine after getting a taste of the airline's party skills at a gala hosted a few weeks prior to this day in late October / on the eve of November.  Because of this, I made sure to handpick a list of New York’s top creative forces in the fashion and media industry who were not only enthusiastic about their job but also sharing what they know with young Nairobi creatives. Including editors and media influencers Tanya Christian, Claudia Rondon Torres, and De’von Johnson, photographer Bellamy Brewster, fashion producer Mariana Cantu, branding executives, Natasha Roberts, Suzie Wakobi and Diana Opoti, as well as fashion designers and Stylists Anyango Mpimga, Mi Mi Plange, Brian Babu and Iris Barbee Bonner.   Confession: I went in thinking we were going to be giving history lessons about fashion and quick tips on using proper SEO words. You know, workshopping. The experience turned out to be truly unforgettable. It was an exchange in culture, a connection to our roots, and reawakening of our own mission to what we want to go in life. We were much more than the "Americans" in Kenya. We were a vessel of inspiration, confidence, and proof that if you are passionate enough about your goals and have a plan, you can accomplish anything. This is what the students at the workshops valued the most. The overall mission was Collaboration Not Competition.

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At first glance, the city of Nairobi is eaten up by tons of traffic. There are cars, buses, and matatus going with the flow of traffic but it can be consuming. Especially after a 14-hour long flight. There's the city's metropolitan vibe and then around the corner,  the dirt roads and fruit markets make it feel like the Caribbean. Which may explain why there's an economic campaign to built up the city of Nairobi by 2030 so the entire city is literally under construction. It’s #8 in the continent’s ranking for most developed countries. Fashion presents an opportunity for entrepreneurship and this city has countless ways to get involved. Is it just me or was I the only one who naively viewed developing countries as a no man's land for business? This is definitely not the case in Nairobi. In retrospect from my week long experience, I can vividly see the potential.

Day One  - Nairobi

Linda Murithi was our group leader, a Kenyan who has established her fashion roots in Nairobi and is the founder of Core Fashion Kenya. Hours after our flight landed and not quite over jetlag, our adventure with a local began at Capital FM Nairobi radio station.  Capital FM is located in the business district of the city and occupies the penthouse space with a dope view of Nairobi's cityscape. We gathered in the conference room to have coffee and tea before chatting with the host of the Morning Show live radio.


The radio is still a powerful means of communication and in America, podcasting and playback TV totally devalues this medium. Going on air was like talking to all of Nairobi, saying a million "Jambo" to the people. I don't know about the rest of the group, but I felt like a celebrity. LOL.

It was exciting to speak about my background in content and why I chose to collaborate with CFK to produce a three-day workshop. Of course, I didn't expect anything less than amazing from onlookers, but bringing an idea into fruition would also be thrilling.  And it is was.

I didn’t know how exhausting it would be to answer questions and speak comfortably about fashion and editorial to people who are genuinely curious about what I do and how it can be beneficial to Kenya’s fashion scene. Gratefully, though, this is why we are all here. Which made the trip as it progressed even more meaningful. After a day, we were comfortable with navigating the foreign, yet familiar, landscape thanks to Uber. Besides the workshops, the itinerary included attending some sponsored dinners but for the most part, we had a lot of free time.  In the evenings, we went to dinner at places like The Village Market’s Local Grill and went for a nightcap and chill bar scene at a popular spot called Mercury Lounge.

Day 3 to 5: Workshops


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Day three to five included a mix of workshops, travel and fashion collaborations. On the days leading up to the workshops,  I got to know designer Mimi Plange on her profession as a designer in the corporate space and also an owner of her own atelier in New York. We were going to be on a panel together so this unscripted 1-1 time made our forthcoming conversation natural. Plus, I got the tea on what it was like working for some of the hottest brands of the 2000s.  She spoke candidly about her time working for Rocawear and Beyonce’s iconic denim line House of Dereon, as well as what it was like to have a 6-figure salary at 24 when all your friends are still broke. My motive wasn’t to expose the dramatic parts of her career but find ways to educate others on her journey that ultimately provide career intel for people who are also trying to make it.

One thing Mimi shared is that salary negotiation is a HUGE factor with women asking for more. For her roles in executive positions,  she hired an attorney to liaise on her behalf for her salary, contract guidelines and intellectual property. Another career insight she expressed is to never burn bridges because the fashion industry is small. By the time we got to talk on our panel in front of an audience, we were like best work wives. I was able to reference our side-line conversations about negotiating your worth as a designer, the lifecycle of a garment and the struggles of a small business owner. My panel was followed by a native Kenyan and young business owner Diana Opoti, who gained popularity when she announced on social media that she was going to wear only African designers for an entire year.  That publicity stunt landed her on the Business of Fashion’s Top 100 People in Fashion list and drive to open her own store selling products from various designers in Africa.

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Day 2 of the workshops included lessons on photography, branding and carving your niche with Natasha Roberts, Suzie Wakobi and Bellamy Brewster, and others. While these two young dynamos gave the audience lessons on advertising and branding, the majority of the group went on a Safari and to visit elephants and giraffes in their natural habitat. Everyone met in the hotel lobby at 6 AM dressed in devastatingly chic as fuck safari outfits. How could this fashion group disappoint?!  Regrettably, I didn’t put much thought in my own Safari outfit. It was too early for me to think about what to wear from the two suitcases I schlepped across the world. But my go-to black wax leather pants, white tank top, olive green trench coat, and Chelsea boots were perfect! I was grateful to have traditional safari bucket hat from KQ's merch and basically, the whole group wore the same hat that day too. So I was in trend after all. Although our wildlife excursion started with a heavy downpour of rain, I was convinced it was a prelude to the perfect "This is Africa" experience. By the time our huge bus rolled through Jurassic Park, the roads were hella muddy and well you probably can guess the rest.  

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One minute we were gawking at water buffalo, the next I'm praying I don't have to use the emergency top secret number in my phone. Our little fashion adventure got kicked up a notch when our driver took a turn for the worst! He’d been doing a great job until he tried to bust a u-turn on a narrow and muddy pathway in one of the back parts of the national safari park.




The bus literally got stuck mid-u-turn that ended up blocking any other vehicle that had our same plans of venturing off the course in search of animals.  Thirty minutes later and totally freaked out, some dude in a more appropriate jeep pulled up beside our van with a meager 10-foot wire string and a metal shovel. Everyone on the bus thought this wire was a joke and kept saying, "what's that going to do?! Absolutely nothing at all. But A for effort! After several attempts to use this weak wire to pull a full van of us out of the mud, the gentleman kindly left. He muttered something in Swahili to our driver which I presumably interpreted as, "you'll have to dig yourself out." Hence, the shovel. Everyone, including me, laughed at these attempts to get us out of the mud just to keep from panicking as Americans do so naturally. About an hour or so later, another proper Safari jeep came speeding down the muddy road to pick us up and continue our safari experience. Excited to be getting out of the van, We naively stepped onto the dangerous, wet, muddy terrain, ignoring the road sign just meters ahead that read “ Do Not Get Out Of Car.”  For obvious reason, that a lion can sneak attack you! duh! Needless to say, my Zara boots I wore for two seasons in a row were laid to rest after spending less than five minutes walking to our “new” car.



Apres Safari:

I didn’t know I could work up such an appetite observing giraffes, and herds of zebras and water buffalos in the wild. Since the national park is located in Karen, we ate at The Talisman, African and Morrocan inspired restaurant that occupies its own little ranch. The outdoor/indoor restaurant includes seating for at least 150 people and features little private alcoves to host large groups like ours. I couldn’t help but notice the other people also eating at this restaurant.


There were several groups of maybe humanitarians discussing strategy, little Australian families enjoying lunch, as well as a few locals huddled at the bar with sipping on a dark color drink. Although the food and service were to the utmost, admittedly, I got sick (probably from the cheese) and was out cold for the rest of the day. I missed hanging at the private giraffe manor,  dinner at a cool local spot and clubbing at Kizu! ugh! Wizkid was partying in the private VIP space that night too.



On the last day of the workshops, the entire group of mentors made sure to be back on site at The Movenpick Hotel. It was another opportunity students and local fashion enthusiasts could ask questions and request last minute critiques of their current projects.  In general, I was over the moon that over 100+ students attended all three workshops days. They had notebooks full of tips, tricks, and lessons, and most of all they were not afraid to wait their turn to have their own private little sessions with us!



To summarize the magic that took place, I’ll end this blog post with a quote from one of the young Kenyan bloggers who writes about her city from the perspective of a plus-size blogger. In her own recap blog post she wrote, “the creative atmosphere was so relaxed and unpretentious, the mentors were so open to mingling and networking with us, the attendees, that it was an embarrassment of riches the amount of advice and information availed to us! I could tell they were equally as excited and impressed by our offerings. From our fashion expressions to the styles and even caliber of offerings, I knew that it was a truly collaborative space of which I am certain will bear fruits of collaborations, inspirations, friendships and who knows what else! For a peek into their adventures, check out their respective pages for their perspectives!”  As I answered her email hours after I landed back in New York City, I knew that #CFKNY2018 was truly awakening for black culture and necessary for cross-continental relationship building.


























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Photo Credit: Miron Crosby  ($895-$2195)

Photo Credit: Miron Crosby ($895-$2195)

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Sanity Addiction Part 3 is dedicated to domestic violence and the issue that is still taboo in the urban community.

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Sanity Addiction Part 3  tells the story of a young black girl from Philadelphia named Princess who is at a turning point in her life. She is presented with a new opportunity to attend fashion school in New York so she takes it with the financial help of her boyfriend, who gets sent to jail for presumably selling drugs. Princess ends up ghosting him, quickly adopting a whole new life in New York. And you know that means, the young inspiring fashion stylist starts dating the wrong guy even though at face value he is charming and has a respectable job; he ends up becoming her abuser. I was inspired to tell this story from my own upbringing and having women share their own stories. When you’re in an abusive situation, it’s ultimately a struggle. I’m most interested in the reasons why these individuals stay in the “relationship” until it “gets better” in their own eyes. In general, their strength is as identical to many women in history who have stayed quiet. However, in the #MeToo era enough is enough.

It has become increasingly important to talk about issues that are affecting all of us as more of us go public. It is these stories that I feel most empowered to write about in Sanity Addiction, which is published in Violet Summer Zine. According to a report released by the Hotline.org, “females ages, 18 to 24 and 25 to 34 generally experienced the highest rates of intimate partner violence.” Just this year, I knew it was still a big issue because of the many young women in my network have either experienced or know someone closely experiencing violence in their personal lives, me included. I have also connected with women who have created nonprofits like BMoreLoved.Org, founded by a young woman who is passionate about helping women navigate the complex legal system when dealing with domestic violence situations. She, too, has also experience domestic violence and was able to escape the situation before it was too late. TIME IS UP. The more we talk about this nasty truth currently plaguing our community, the more it will help put an end to misogyny.

Lastly, domestic violence is ultimately ruining and limiting women to live up to their full potential at home and in the workplace.  4 in 5 victims are females experiencing abuse from their male intimate partners. We already know that it is a huge issue but why isn’t anything being done to stop it? It’s a cultural phenomenon. And more importantly, I would like to know why this issue isn’t serious until someone dies or someone’s life is on the line?? Rihanna is one celebrity I admire because she went through a very public domestic violence situation and she never went back to her abuser. Sadly, a large percentage of women do go back due to financial reasons as well as a mental block disguised as love.

Yes, statistics show that nearly 33% of women killed in U.S. workplaces between 2003-2008 were killed by a current or former intimate partner. Growing up in Philadelphia,  I knew a woman who was murdered by her supposed boyfriend at a nightclub. I was at her home the night her life was taken by a jealous boyfriend. She left behind a small baby and a 6-year - old daughter who became very angry at her mother who was not around anymore. So it’s not a joke when other people’s lives are involved and there needs to be stricter laws that deal with not only the abuser but also provides mental counseling for the victim.


For more information please visit https://www.thehotline.org to get involved and learn how to approach and deal with various domestic violence situations.

Read Sanity Addiction for Princess’s story.