Zine Update: Journey So Far

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Update on Zine

Violet Summer Zine is in a different place than it was in 2015 and even eight months ago when the team started to form on weekends and on holidays.  Each year I allow myself to be vulnerable as I write what I think is a reflection of the culture - even if it’s a small percentage. There have been over 14 collaborators who really contribute to the overall all vibe of the zine. They always take the topics so seriously and really do their best work! That’s SO rewarding for me as a creator -- for others to also put their passion into your passion. Many of them, I met up with for coffee or drinks to discuss their pieces which make it even more personal and fun.

At the end, VSZ aims to inspire through stories told in an urban chick-lit perspective. I love the Dressing Up & Normcore story ( in issue 2) , A Glamourous Nightmare ( in Issue 3) , I also love our biography about Meghan Markle in Issue 3 as well! Each year the content gets really robust with information.

Also, did I mention it’s very personal? Sanity Addiction is all true. Some of my friends read it and be like “Damn Mel I can’t believe you want through that.” Well, I’ve been through a lot of disappointment that … blah  blah and some of it is my friends and colleagues stories. So that’s why I like Sanity Addicition to be like super honest. Aramide helped me edit Sanity Addiction Part 3… I felt like I had to write at least part of the story. I am thinking about doing like meet up with all these characters in a story.  They all work or have aspirations to be in the fashion industry but like their careers, things get fucked up on the way to success. That’s what I’ve been dealing with and so I just felt like why not tell the story. In 2018, black women and women of color are experiencing a heightened sense of representation in the media community. I hope it stays like that.

And speaking of Black women, I'd love to do a cover shoot production with someone super fierce. So far, it’s just been me on the cover. But I’d love to shoot someone dope for the cover and really plan for it! Issue 5 I’m gonna do it. Someone so devastatingly chic ( Laina Rauma) , she’ll snatch your edges. Either that, or I definitely want a HOT dude on my cover with me in a thong bikini. he he

One area of the zine I’d like to improve is our “research” section. I want to conduct and report on studies about of the moment topics and then compare them to the millennial lifestyle. I get emailed survey results all the time! So I want to look into having a sponsor help me with researching.

Where are we Going:  

VSZ has grown into this urban literary magazine that is read by a millennial to mature audience. When I say mature, I’m speaking of 40+-year-olds that are young at heart or really curious about the millennial interactions and experiences.  Some white dude who is a veteran tweeted me about how he read my piece in Issue 1 and on my huff post column “Black Girls Tan Too” He loved it. VSZ always gets good feedback on the content. It’s still shocking. I want it to always include long realistic fiction articles to advice and pop culture short features that are both trendy, intellectual and feel-good. It is STILL a beach read!

On Social Media:

Our Instagram is definitely growing and videos still are the most engaging thing online right now. That and memes.  Social media in general though is overwhelming. I never know where my audience is coming from and feedback is everything. That’s why it’s important to be like on every platform. It’s exhausting. However, I have so much content from previous issues that didn’t get much play.

On  ISSUU we have 30,000 reads and over 7 million impressions so people are definitely tuned in, ya dig??  When I started I don’t think I had anyone reading other than my family. So keep spreading the good news.

Follow up on new and old relationships

 I get a lot of compelling emails each week that I don’t answer or I am not attentive to. There are literally free products and interview ideas in my inbox, but I just forget or get too lazy to respond. It’s so bad.  I need to stop being super picky about it and realize that it’s an opportunity that other writers may not have, so now I make it a point to answer all emails. A collaborator told me this so thanks Kipenzi.  Even if it’s saying “hey! I’ve love to run a contest!” to “yes, I’ll sample the product for my publication.”

Being Honest makes me totally vulnerable but it’s worth it

 Another reason why I started the publication is I wanted to be honest. But sometimes, I have to be so honest it’s literally nerve-racking to push publish. If you’ve read my work you may have cringed at some lines, but that’s what makes a good story. When I started writing highly suggestive content, friends, family and even dating prospects couldn’t understand my work. Sanity Addiction Part 2 garnered the most press and helped me legitimize my brand and it was also the most controversial. It’s about revenge porn, drugs, sex and out of control relationships. A lot of people could relate but it’s not a story with a fairytale ending. But not all stories end horrible. So SA is written with "a light at the end of the tunnel."  And that’s why I felt so passionate to put it out there because most of it is true. It was a period after I released SA, that I toned down my work. I regret that because the momentum slowed down. I was caring too much of what people would think. That’s until I had another awakening when I realize that people will have their say, but what I say matters.

Dealing With Shitty Relationships  

Since forever, I had to cut off people and people have definitely stopped talking to me for their own reasons. GREAT, SEE YOU AROUND. People don’t ever really disappear especially when you’re in the same industry. So the one thing I’m good at is NOT burning my bridges.  My mentor says, you’ll go farther if you carry less baggage.  


Violet Summer Zine Issue 4 Live

I am so excited to present Issue 4 of my annual summer zine. This year's zine is on Ego and Truth. It was a "light bulb moment" that came to me after a months of cleansing my own ego while observing the ego's of some very public figures, re: Kanye and Trump. Today's culture is obsessed with catering to their egos that their own truths get lost. They keep feeding their egos like it's going to lead them in the right direction but in reality the truth always surfaces in the most unlikeliest situations. Read our collaborator's take on Ego and Truth... Plus, Sanity Addiction Part 3 explores a young black girl's journey to the New York fashion scene while violating trying to navigate relationships... 

I am so excited to present Issue 4 of my annual summer zine. This year's zine is on Ego and Truth. It was a "light bulb moment" that came to me after a months of cleansing my own ego while observing the ego's of some very public figures, re: Kanye and Trump. Today's culture is obsessed with catering to their egos that their own truths get lost. They keep feeding their egos like it's going to lead them in the right direction but in reality the truth always surfaces in the most unlikeliest situations. Read our collaborator's take on Ego and Truth... Plus, Sanity Addiction Part 3 explores a young black girl's journey to the New York fashion scene while violating trying to navigate relationships... 

Rant #3 of 2018: Facebook is history.

This week Facebook announced that it would roll out its new privacy laws for the European Union. But this doesn’t come as a surprise because Europe has been on top of internet privacy since the 90s. Meanwhile, us “users” in the US are still dealing with who “misused” our data to skew the results of the 2016 Presidential Election.

Let me rewing to the moment I got annoyed... 

It all happened on a calm Thursday evening when a notification from NBC News sounded off on my phone with the headline reading “Without data-targeted ads, Facebook would look like a pay service, Sandberg says. “ Like, Seriously? You know what's following... If Facebook offers a paywall, this could honestly be the cure to my unabiding Facebook scrolling addiction. So thanks!

Facebook found themselves in a pot of hot water. They got in tRoUbLe this month for violating our 4th Amendment right to privacy by manipulating our 1st amendment right to free speech, and finally, our lawmakers have managed to summons the jack of all trades without a diploma, Mark Zuckerberg.  (Side note: I've written about Revenge Porn from a first-person witnesses perspective and I was utterly disgusted Read here. ) For two days, 10 hours in total, congressional committee members, grilled Zuckerberg on what exactly Facebook does with our data once we click on stuff and merely write words we think is meaningless on our "status."  For those who don’t know about Cambridge Analytica, it is essentially a digital marketing agency that Trump used for his political campaign, apparently, they also worked on the Obama Campaign too. They have an office in New York and according to their website, they have since deleted the data they received from another third party called GSR. But nothing is really deleted... Cambridge Analytica is also claiming that they did not violate any terms and conditions of whatever opt in pop up message window they are referring to.  DO YOU THINK THEY DID? Which is the precisely the reason why I’m pissed off? I feel like they did! We need someone to blame for why Trump is sitting in the Oval Office. What are we opting- in to anyway? Where is our precious user behavior report really going? And why is it that so many people seem to have access to it? These social media sites weren’t built with any type of morals. Social media platforms only care about feeding our EGOs and which is earning them millions of dollars worth of advertising revenue.  

Anyone with talking points could have said what Zuckerberg said to the dozens of Senators who just logged onto Facebook for the first time last week. Someone on the news has the same opinion.  Literally, I laughed at every Senator stumble to ask appropriate questions that would someone how nail Zuckerberg.  But the technical terms are just too beyond their generation to comprehend. In addition, Zuckerberg couldn’t define“ internet cookies” which  I find highly suspect!! We all have the same Google. Which is another reason why I’m pissed off? Take us back when you could actually delete your Facebook, and hide your Facebook posts from certain groups, and also back when there was only one inbox per user!!!

With the exception of Cory Booker ( D- NJ) and Kamala Harris ( D- CA), every Senator struggled to ask a question that was somewhat related to the issue at hand: Data. There was this one Senator who asked a question about how Facebook segments data into different buckets, which she called “categories.” Don't ask me her name because I totally ignored. I think she was trying to ask what happens to the data once it’s inputted into Facebook, how is it stored, who has access and is it really deleted, etc. But the lady Senator just couldn't get out the aforementioned words. Furthermore, Mark Zuckerberg wasn’t going to help her decide what she wanted to ask him. And why would he?

This was a time for all those millennials working on The Hill for these Senators for dirt cheap to actually help their bosses stick it to the man. In this case, the man is Mark Zuckerberg.  

Friends, I am truly concerned with the state of our privacy and the lack of security protecting who we are as a society. If data can manipulate human behavior, the future has a lot in store for us, Re: the NYT article below.  We’ll be carrying around terabytes like diamonds on our fingers and stuck in a real-life black mirror episode that won’t end if we don’t wake up.






Rant #2 of 2018

The postal service sucks and it's ruining the online shopping experience. 

Have you noticed how horrible of a job the USPS/FEDEX/UPS services are doing with delivering packages that you paid so much money to be delivered? No? Well, I have because as a business owner and an assistant and a traditional human being, I often find myself waiting in line at the US Post Office in Harlem or in Midtown Manhattan. In fact, I've spent hundreds of minutes waiting in line to send and retrieve packages from all over the world. And I'm sick of the horrible customer service ( an exception with the lady with the long nails at FDR Station building)! Why even waste ink on my receipt to ask me "How Are We Doing?" in a survey that you're probably not going to read. These past few years, it has been a struggle trying to conduct business when there's always something going wrong. 

First of all, sending the zine out to buyers has been like a game. When I started distributing the zine, I often found myself at the post office in mild panic attacks. My first zine was printed by a company in Philly and when it was time to ship the final product, not only did it cost be $40 due to weight but also due to inflated expedited costs. I was lucky enough to be home all day to receive the package but it was still a headache trying to get my first zines in my sweaty hands. The years following the foundation of the zine, it has been nothing but "oh no's." Some buyers never received their zines, USPS takes weeks to deliver packages abroad, and UPS doesn't have an empathy when it comes to plants delivered in boxes. 

Let me take another paragraph to explain the time my monthly fresh follower delivery was sent to North Brother Island because I wasn't home to sign for the package. Because don't you know it was a Friday and the UPS people sent my fresh flower shipment to a warehouse this is closed over the weekend?! So when Monday finally rolls around, my fresh flowers that have been boxed without sunlight for at least 4 days finally get to my hands. I think I took off work to make sure I'm home. The flowers look OK thanks to Enjoy Flowers, past client of mine. 


Rant #1 of 2018:

Fashion is becoming less fun.

Fashion is fun and simple. Stop trying to make fashion sound so intellectual, because the greater majority of people only choose to wear clothing because we would be absolutely breaking the law if we weren't in clothes. Recently, I skimmed through an interview featuring a trendy streetwear designer and this person said something about "the dialogue between the clothes and the customer." And I thought to myself, "What conversation did I ever have window shopping with a designer at Barney's?" I surely do not consider myself in relation to the designer and the products that are hanging on hangers. Then it dawned on me: fashion is so private and personal, and in this day and age, we spend so much on things! Gucci is selling tee shirts for $800 and creating this vicious cycle of "trendy" poverty that I'd rather just spend my money with a small, cool designer who needs it to pay their bills. That's what makes retail for me fun- supporting business owners who still have a touch to their products. I can care less about the ideology behind a luxury product that only less than 1 percent of the world will get to wear and "cherish." If it's moderately priced, I will consider it. It bothers me that some blogs and magazines talk about fashion in ways the general public can't really relate to and it's taking the fun out of fashion.  Fashion is being wrung out to dry, picked apart thread by thread until it's no longer for the public, an elitist idea that only people who go to "fashion week" think they have power over to control and dictate. Well, how about get a life. lol. 

Exclusive Photos Of Rihanna's Diamond Ball Afterparty

Last night, the A-List came out to support Rihanna's 3rd annual Diamond Ball to benefit the Clara Lionel Foundation that took place at Cipriani's in New York City. The star-studded crowd then headed to 1OAK for a private after-party hosted by Rihanna to continue the celebration. Richie Akiva and Ronnie Madra greeted guests including Diamond Ball host Dave Chapelle, Calvin Harris, Jamie Foxx, and Victor Cruz.


Rihanna Diamond Ball After Party at 1OAK

Models Taylor Hill, Petra Nemcova, Toni Garnn, Jasmine Tookes and Lais Ribiero let their hair down and danced to sounds by Chase B. Cardi B then got on the mic performing her hit Bodak Yellow, as her boyfriend Offset of Migos along with Trevor Noah, Fabolous and EJ Johnson watched from VIP. Guests sipped on D'usse and Armand De Brignac as legend Lil Kim surprised the crowd with an unforgettable performance of her classic hits including Magic Stick, No Time and Not Tonight.

The night was not one to be missed as Rihanna thanked her friends and family for supporting her foundation.

Tosheka Designs

Tosheka Designs is owned and operated by Lucy Bingham. With a thriving production process in Kenya and wholesale business in Philadelphia ( with clients like Anthropologie), the future of Kenyan fashion is sustainable. 

Photo Credit: Travel Nairobi 

Photo Credit: Travel Nairobi 


What season or period are your products produced?

We work with a farming community, and therefore our spinning, weaving, and bag making production activities by producer groups are planned around their agricultural activities. We have two rain and farming seasons. The first and major farming season is during our short rain seasons which start around late October to early / mid-November. Our producers are therefore not available to produce from about the third week of October to the first week of November when they cultivate the land and plant their crops. After this we only have a month before we start our holiday season around December 12, Kenya’s Independence Day holiday to Christmas and New Years Day. The long rains start Mid March to early April, again during this time our producers take time off to cultivate and plant. Therefore we plan our production especially for the producer groups around May /June and July/August/ September. Coincidentally the other months October, November, December, January and stretching all the way through April are a good time for our local sales, for the holiday season, and back to school sales when our school calendar year starts in January.

For the Eri Silk production, we depend on the availability of the castor plant leaves. Between February and April and then September thru October (before the rainy season begins), the leaves shed off. At this time we will reduce Eri Silk Production because of the leaves but our egg production unit where we can irrigate our castor plants we will maintain the Eri worm production.

Explain the Eri Silk Worm patent? How is the silk extracted without killing the worm?

Tosheka Textiles currently has the only and first permit to commercialize the Eri silk worm production in Kenya. Although a patent for the Eri Silk Worm already exists in other parts of the world, we may consider licensing the processes that are unique to our Kenyan product development.

We are currently in the course of developing our standard production and operating procedures from our experiences since we started early 2016.

Unlike the mulberry silk, which requires the boiling of the whole cocoon, intact with the pupae to extract the silk and as a result the pupae are killed through this process, the Eri silk worm has an open mouth on the cocoon that allows the butterfly to emerge from the pupae inside the silk cocoon. This process is why the Eri is considered a peace silk. Very little water is used to produce the Eri silk, and it has zero waste. Because is food source needs very little water to cultivate, and the plants can survive drought, it can be practiced and sustained in dry lands. The end product of the Eri Silk fabric has excellent thermal properties. It keeps you cool in the hot season and keeps you warm in cold weather.

Does Eri Silk Cotton feel different from regular cotton harvested in the cotton community? 

Eri Silk feel is very similar to our cotton but it soft and fluffy.

How long does this process take? Are there any specific tools for this process?

Our cotton producers who harvest cotton annually can now produce Eri Silk after 19 to 26 days depending on the weather temperatures. It takes another ten to 14 days to create the Eri silk Eggs/seed worm that is distributed to farmers to provide the cocoons. To initiate the process of rearing the eri silk worms: farmers require a shed that is designed to ensure the worm is safe from its predators. This is not as sophisticated as it sounds. The farmer may use an existing structure within their homestead. For farmers who have minimal structures in their homes, we have designed a rearing unit for their homes. This is one of the issues we are addressing to minimize the start up costs of the farmers. The on going rearing process requires very little and minimal costs. Tosheka has established a ‘grainage ‘ facility to produced the disease free layings’ of eggs/worms that are sold to farmers to produce silk cocoons. The grainage is designed with equipment to facilitate the process of creating the disease free layings.

How do you work with the Kenyan Community?

We collaborate with the Akamba community in Makueni County located in the Eastern part of Kenya. This community exists under the umbrella of Wote Community Development Organization (WCDO) registered under the ministry of Youth, Gender and Social Services as a community-based organization. The Akamba people are known for their traditional basket weaving and wood carving skills. Tosheka has utilized these skills to produce contemporary basket and bag products using clean recycled plastic bags and cotton. Tosheka has now introduced Eri Silk as a new fiber for the production of handspun yarn and hand weaved fabrics and rugs. The introduction of this new fiber is also an alternative to the rain fed cotton that has not been very beneficial to our targeted communities. Eri Silk has the potential of addressing the poverty levels in the community we are working with. Tosheka is targeting 3,000 households who will increase their income by 30 times. Cotton provides a merger of annual income to the farmers. Whereas Eri Silk will provide monthly revenue that is more sustainable. Our mission is to empower disadvantaged communities through trade. In partnership with Marafiki Arts, a US- based organization we have had exchange programs where artisans can build their trade and sell.

How much does Eri Silk cost?  

It cost can range for $ 25 - $ 40.

How much does regular cotton cost as per the fibre directorate?

The minimum price was 42 Ksh per KG and we were guaranteed at planting the framers 100 Ksh per KG to stimulate the participation. 

How does the political climate in Kenyan affect your work as a social entrepreneurial focused on sustainability?

Kenya National and local governments like many globally are not at the forefront of supporting local business and social enterprises. There are a few stakeholders that participate and support the work we are doing. We currently enjoy the support of the Kenya Agricultural Livestock and Research Organization, who are providing the research aspect of the Eri Worm considering it is new in this country. We also have the support of the Kenya Plant and Health Inspectorate Service who keep an audit of our Eri Silk production and ensure that the process is not detrimental to the agricultural and environmental attributes.

Are there any specific regulations related to the textile industry and trading that you have helped establish in Kenya?

Tosheka has been instrumental in the cotton growing and now the introduction of Eri Silk production in Kenya. Previously cotton farmers depended on the world prices to determine what they would fetch for the cotton grown. That means they would grow the cotton without knowing how much they would fetch for their products. Through Tosheka’s initiative, the government passed legislature for the Cotton Authority (now the fibre directorate) to set a minimum price for cotton so that farmers were aware of what they would reap from the cotton growing. The introduction of Eri Silk provides the farmers with an alternative to cotton growing that will generate more income and is more environmentally beneficial. Cotton is referred to as a dirty crop because it requires a lot of pesticides, whereas Eri’s food source requires no pesticides.

Have there been challenges? If so how did you overcome these problems as a business owner in the fashion industry?

Our biggest problem is nature of the business that we have purposely decided to do. That is taking on the role of Government and their ministries to establish viable textile industry by supporting the production of natural fibers ( organic cotton & Eri Silk ) in sufficient quality and quantity to revive the National textile industry. Our business would be very profitable if we could focus on our core ability’s which are textile design and printing verses starting from producing fiber. A company that empowers the disadvantaged through trade, a green textile business bearing in mind the effects of textile production to the environment. Price is very much a key factor for most people who may purchase any product, and textile products are very competitive. We are challenged with producing handmade textile products that are aesthetically attractive, high quality, and competitively priced, as well as provide a sustainable income to our producers. The fact that this business is female owned it has been challenging to get substantial credit without matching collateral. However, through the very competitive Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund, Tosheka was able to secure significant funds to initiate the Eri silk production.

What's on the horizon for your garment and accessory production?

Because of the lack of availability of quality cotton other natural fibers and textiles in Kenya we began producing bags from recycled plastic, local cloth, and leather in Mali to supplement our income. My husband Herman has become our accessory and bag designer and has well established this line in the high-end market.

Our plans are to concentrate on the accessory, home furnishings ( rugs, place mats, etc) and printed and knitted textile production. Our mission is to increase Eri silk production; I believe this has the potential of impacting the income levels of the communities we target to work with and can be replicated to other parts of the country and the region.