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Gbenga Akinnagbe Launches ENITAN

Actor and activist, Gbenga Akinnagbe, enters the world of home decor with the launch of ENITAN, a vintage furniture company inspired by his Yoruba heritage.

A Unique Eye Towards Curation At The Jenn Singer Gallery

In 2015, the Jenn Singer Gallery opened in one of New York’s most picturesque neighborhoods – Gramercy Park. Upon opening her doors, Singer, a gallery owner and curator brought a unique approach to the art world. Trained as a dancer, Singer’s exhibitions are thoughtfully choreographed, inviting, and provocative. We had the opportunity to talk with Jenn and discuss her work as a gallerist, her passion for curation, and the Jenn Singer Gallery’s latest exhibition – Emily Weiskopf: Pixan Paths // Higher Roads.

How did you grow into art curation and eventually into directing your own gallery?

I’ve always been surrounded by art in one way or another – first as a performing artist, and then about ten years ago I transitioned into art consulting with several different galleries, first on the West Coast and then back in New York. During the depths of the recession I was lucky to find a job at a gallery on Madison Ave, as no one seemed to be hiring. It was there that I had my first chance to curate a pop-up gallery in Bloomingdales. I was given a lot of freedom and responsibility to direct the pop-up and loved it. After a couple of years with that gallery, I was hired by a contemporary gallery in Chelsea and worked closely with the owner. He taught me a lot about the business of art and we installed shows together. I learned so much of what to do and what not to do from him – and he valued my feedback and input into the process of curation and exhibition planning.

As a result, he instilled a lot of confidence in me, though I never thought having my own gallery was attainable given the realities of New York real estate and the intimidating overhead. However, in November 2014, I was getting my hair cut next door to what is now Jenn Singer Gallery and asked my hair stylist about the tiny vacant space next door. It all bloomed from that moment in his chair, as I visualized the gallery – it actually seemed possible. The space is less that 200 square feet and presents its own challenges as I curate shows. It’s been fun playing with those limitations. I try to get a sense of the narrative and energy of each artist’s collection of work and let it flow from there. As I install, I try to let it breathe and want the space to feel expansive even though it’s so small in size.

Your website mentions your passion for and commitment to dance. Does your experience with dance inform how you curate?

I’ve been dancing since I was five years old and studied with incredible instructors including Paul Mejia and Suzanne Farrell at the School of American Ballet and at NYU Tisch School of the Arts where I graduated with a B.F.A. Dance will always be a part of me and it’s my home base when I need to center myself – ballet class is more therapeutic for me now than it was when I was performing, though (confession!) I haven’t taken a ballet class since opening the gallery.

During a brief stint of living on the West Coast (a much needed a break from New York at the time), I was offered a part-time job at a wonderful gallery representing California artists in Laguna Beach. I’d studied art history for fun, and always had a secret fantasy about working in a gallery surrounded by art all day. My first day there, I sold an oil painting and fell in love with the process – watching people fall in love with art; knowing that an artist was going to get paid because of people’s desire to live with their art – it was a beautiful thing given that my background was dance (an expensive art form to train in and one of the least supported).

It was an incredibly natural transition into the visual art world. Opening receptions feel like performances to me – I have to be on and I want the audience to have an experience and leave wanting more. I believe the discipline and commitment it took to become a dancer helps me every day in the business of art and keeping the gallery running. And, the exposure to classical music, artistic scenery, beautiful choreography, costuming, etc. from such a young age helps to inform and guide me as I choreograph my exhibitions and put all the pieces together.

From Miriam Cabessa’s evocative paintings to Delphine Diallo’s photo collages, your current contemporary artist exhibition is largely populated by an incredibly diverse group of women. As a woman in the arts yourself, do you receive any pushback from the decision to feature mostly female artists?

No pushback at all! In fact, I’ve only received positive feedback about my female-centric program. I am not anti-male and will not leave wonderful artists that I want to work with off the list just because of their gender, but I do love that I represent so many fantastic, talented female artists. It’s important to me because there is still so much discrimination and misogyny in our society. When I was looking at artists for the gallery, I couldn’t believe how many amazing female artists I’d happened upon that were not represented. It’s personal because when I look at the list of the top-selling artists, biggest galleries, most successful working choreographers, etc, I see a lot of men. I just want to see things a bit more balanced out. A little more yin and a little less yang, if you will.

Pixan Paths // Higher Roads, Emily Weiskopf’s solo exhibition, opens April 30th in your exhibition space. What initially drew you to Weiskopf’s colorful abstractions?

When I initially met Emily in her studio, I was immediately drawn to her use of unconventional, industrial materials – abstract works on aluminum incorporating roofing paint, gravel, tar, enamel, and plaster. She was about to undergo major spinal surgery, as months earlier she was involved in a nearly fatal car accident. Her story, strength, passion and obvious talent sold me on working with her – and her work sold itself.

Why is curation so important to both the artist and the collector?

I see the curator as one who helps interpret and convey the artist’s message to the world. Artists put so much passion and energy into their work – it can get very cerebral and can be very personal. To help decode that for the viewer, allowing room for their own interpretation of the work, is my job. I can speak about the work in a different way than the artist, revealing tidbits, secrets, insights and glimpses into the soul of the artist that the collector wouldn’t otherwise have access to.

Connect with the Jenn Singer Gallery and see their latest exhibitions:

JennSingerGallery.com

@JennSingerGallery

Reuben Reuel

Homes of Brooklyn is a monthly series where we talk with artists, designers and tastemakers in their own spaces in the borough we love – Brooklyn. In episode 2 we take you inside the home of fashion designer, Reuben Reuel of Demestiks New York. We are sincere fans of Reuben’s work. His Dutch African wax print dresses have been spotted in Harper’s Bazaar, New York Magazine, and on some of our favorite celebrities (oh you know, just Queen Bey herself). One step into Reuben’s home and we could immediately feel the space that nurtures his creativity. From a collection of R&B records stacked in his fitting room, to the colorful display of Dutch African and vintage fabrics that are used in his work, his home is a true reflection of the soulful spirit that guides him. Click play to explore the Bed-Stuy home and studio of your new favorite fashion designer, Reuben Reuel.

AphroChic: Homes of Brooklyn: Reuben Reuel

Host: Jeanine Hays
Written By: Bryan Mason
Videography: Mae B. Films
Photography: Erika Layne Photography

Delphine Diallo

Home is a reflection of who we are. Brooklyn is home to some of the most interesting people and eclectic design styles in the world. In collaboration with Mae B. Films, we are excited to announce the launch of AphroChic TV and a new series that sets out to find Brooklyn’s Modern Soulful Style. Homes of Brooklyn is a monthly series where we’ll be talking with artists, fashion designers and tastemakers in their own spaces. Our first stop: touring the home and studio of Brooklyn-based, French-Senegalese photographer, Delphine Diallo. We fell in love with Delphine’s soulful black and white photos on Instagram and PurePhoto.com, and with her pictorial exploration of evolving femininity and global identity. Truly an artist on the cutting edge of photojournalism, we are thrilled to take you inside the space that fosters her creativity. Click play to tour Delphine’s home in Bushwick.

Homes of Brooklyn: Delphine Diallo Slideshow

Host: Jeanine Hays
Written By: Bryan Mason
Videography: Mae B. Films
Photography: Jenn Singer

Style Talk: Deborah Lloyd, President and Chief Creative Officer, Kate Spade New York

Kate Spade New York is one of the world’s most notable fashion brands. Known for a strong dose of color and feminine whimsy, we were thrilled to read the brand’s latest book, Kate Spade New York: Places To Go People To See. One look and we couldn’t get enough of all the beautiful details, from the cover decked out in emerald green and gold, to the stunning images of places we’ve dreamed of visiting (Tokyo and Marrakech are at the top of our list). We chatted with Deborah Lloyd, President and Chief Creative Officer of Kate Spade New York, about the inspiration for this one-of-a-kind travel book and all things KSNY.

A happy belated anniversary on the beginning of your 8th year at the helm of Kate Spade New York. How do you feel the brand has evolved during your tenure?

Kate Spade New York has evolved from a niche designer handbag brand that had one of the first ‘it’ bags when the brand launched, into a global lifestyle brand. With the launch of many new product categories, we now look at all aspects of our girl’s life. Not just handbags but ready to wear, shoes, jewelry, swim wear, children’s wear, watches, sunglasses, fashion accessories, fragrance, stationary and table top. It all comes from good brand DNA and a focused vision and confidence in what we are doing for our girl.

From Burberry to Banana Republic to Kate Spade you have had an amazingly stylish professional journey. What does it take to successfully connect not only with three very different markets, but with the brands themselves?

I’ve always been influenced by branding. I love looking at brands and discovering their DNA, taking that essence and building on it. You have to love what you do and be passionately connected to those brands and have confidence in what you are doing.

Kate Spade New York’s latest book, Places to Go People to See, is a visual feast. What is the message behind this unique travel book?

The art of travel has always been a huge inspiration for the brand. While it is wonderful to travel and experience these places, we have been curating what we feel to be a colorful journey through the eras that have most influenced us. The message is that inspiration is all around you, you just have to look for it! I hope people enjoy the book as much as my team and I have enjoyed putting it together.

“I’m one of many Kate Spade New York girls, the brand is very close to my heart.” -Deborah Lloyd

In the introduction, you mention both your inspiration to travel and the inspiration that you and your team glean from seeing and experiencing more of what the world has to offer. Is there one place that you’ve been that has inspired you more than any other?

Paris is the place I’ve been endlessly inspired by. I first visited as a child and my love affair with the city started there. I lived in Paris for six years and I still miss it. I visit twice a year and always find something new to do and see.

You speak about your grandmother in the book, and how she brought pieces home for you during her travels. What do you bring home from your own travels today?

My home is a record of my travels. I collect art and photography from all over the world. Bankseys from London, Gruaus from Paris, Peter Beards from New York. It’s rare that I will return from my travels with an empty suit case. A favorite pastime is combing the beach for shells and sea glass which I keep in glass jars.

With two beautiful books behind you and a growing brand, what’s next for Kate Spade New York?

We have many new projects on the horizon! The work we do at Kate Spade New York is never finished. We are constantly looking to find new ways to reach our consumer and fulfill her life in everything that she does.

Images from ABRAMS and Fast Company. Click on the arrows to enjoy the image gallery.

Inside Genevieve Gorder’s Royal Loft Suite For Royal Caribbean

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FUpGykWuw_w]

Last month we had the time of our lives touring Royal Caribbean’s newest ship – Quantum of the Seas. Interior designer Genevieve Gorder, Royal Caribbean’s new Quantum Experience Advisor For Design, took us on a tour of the 2500 square foot Royal Loft Suite she designed for the most high-tech ship sailing the blue seas. Press play and enter this one-of-a-kind jewel of a loft suite filled with some pretty lovely Gen sprinkles.

Style Talk with Taj Hunter Waite

Miami designer, Taj Hunter Waite has an eye for what’s on trend in the world of interior design. Her newly launched Global Woman Collection is a celebration of the brightly colored batik prints that are so popular on the African continent. Taj has launched her collection with social justice in mind. Proceeds from the sales of the Global Woman Collection will go to disadvantaged women abroad and locally. This South Florida designer has a mission in mind, and is talking with us today about All Things Taj.

AphroChic: Style Talk With Taj Hunter Waite

You have been an interior designer for more than a decade. At what point did you begin to feel the need to combine your activism with your work?

I had been working at a design firm, The Architects Hall in Miami, in 1994 and didn’t even know interior design was a profession when I started. I was focused on fashion and wanted to go into merchandising. At that time, in Miami, there weren’t many outlets for aspiring fashion careers, so I was referred to a firm which was primarily architecture. The principal architect, Neil Hall, was heavily involved in both interiors and fashion, and he became a mentor during my tenure. I learned design, space planning, selection of materials, contract negotiations and so on. I finished my undergrad in business and decided afterwards to go to the Art Institute for Interior Design. 

Fast forward to 2004, and while still at the same firm we were doing a lot of projects and the firm had strong attitudes towards featuring handmade crafts from the continent of Africa. We moved our offices into the courtyard of a very artsy dining and shopping hub, and at the front of the offices were 15-foot oversized glass windows that we used to showcase art we started to collect, it was like a gallery. I took a lead role with the principal and began to find women cooperatives around the globe that were developing innovative business models to not only help these talented women get their crafts to the western market, but also to be paid fair wages, and to learn business acumen for self-sufficiency. It had a very deep and emotional impact on me. 

Personally, my mom passed away from breast cancer when I was 8 years old. Since then, I have been fighting towards achieving that same self-sufficiency. I became very sensitive to the challenges these creative tribes and communities faced. From a design perspective, I grew a deeper appreciation and love for handmade items. Now a mother, I feel even more connected to these women. I see that we all share the same drive as mothers to care for our family, and to protect and provide opportunities for our children.  

AphroChic: Style Talk With Taj Hunter Waite

How has that need for activism shaped the development of your company?

As far as my career was concerned, the primary pursuit was no longer on projects. The drive and excitement I once had for doing floor plans and selecting materials became secondary. My deepest desire is to assist disadvantaged women. I want to contribute in whatever way I can, from within the industry I love, which is design. Activism in fashion brands is everywhere, however it’s not as present in interiors and home décor. I want to be more involved.

AphroChic: Style Talk With Taj Hunter Waite

In addition to your commitment to international activism you’ve been deeply involved with the art and design community in Miami. What do you feel are some of the key aspects of Miami’s culture and how do you feel that they have influenced your designs?

It’s cliché to say, but Miami is truly a cultural melting pot. It’s funny when I hear it but most people feel they’re in another country when they visit. Culture is such a powerful thing. It’s binding and alienating at the same time. 

Miami is predominantly influenced by the Latin Caribbean and South American culture. We are modern in style and attitude. We celebrate mid-century design, and South Beach is art deco too. You see Spanish Colonial or traditional design as well, but it’s secondary. As a multi-racial woman of Caribbean decent, I can’t imagine living anywhere else. Miami is a chic metropolitan and modern city where you can have the feel of island living depending on where you are. This is where we differ from Los Angeles and New York. All of this influences my personal style.

AphroChic: Style Talk With Taj Hunter Waite

With a successful career as an interior designer, what made you decide to move into starting your own businesses and creating your own products? 

It was very much a natural progression.  The Urban Collective – that gallery in the front of our offices – was born in 2004 out of the excitement that came from learning the stories behind the hand-crafted objects we were collecting. My first design was fashion inspired. It was my first cause-driven campaign and we used West African Adinkra symbols designed with Swarovski crystals that were sold on ladies black tank tops. I have now founded All Things Taj as my outlet to be creative as a designer and support the causes that are important to me.

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Tell us about The Urban Collective. How did that project come about and how would you like to see it develop in the future?

The mission of The Urban Collective is to promote the high aesthetic of African art and craft in a modern context. It all started happenstance back in 2004, and it ignited a passion in me. I asked my then boss and mentor to be a partner. It was a career shift and my time became fully consumed with the store, sourcing unique objects and traveling to trade shows. Since 2011, the brand has been producing ArtAfrica, the first art show during Art Basel Miami to feature galleries and artists directly from the continent. 

AphroChic: Style Talk With Taj Hunter Waite

With a blog going into its second year, a home decor shop and your own pillow brand you are clearly a woman with a lot to do. Do you see each of these outlets fulfilling a specific need?

I started the blog because I have a perspective about social consciousness within the design industry that I want to advocate. As designers, we can create serious and wide-reaching change without it being a heavy or serious thing. All Things Taj is purpose-driven with a specific focus on uplifting disadvantaged women. I’ve found my way of making activism fun and exciting for myself and I truly hope my blog shares that sentiment. 

AphroChic: Style Talk With Taj Hunter Waite

What’s the next step for All Things Taj?

Creating, creating, creating.  I have now started to search for stockists for The Global Woman pillow collection. Partial proceeds of this collection are designated by the buyers’ selection from a list of causes at the time of purchase. And, I’ll continue to create more cause-driven collections. Essentially, I want to bring philanthropy to home décor. 

 

AphroChic: Style Talk With Taj Hunter Waite

 

{Images furnished by Taj Hunter Waite}

Behind The Pic: Our Favorite Dads on Instagram

Instagram is one of our favorite ways to connect and be inspired online. Every time we look we see amazing images of moments captured and shared in beautiful detail. And every time we find ourselves wishing that we knew a little bit more about the person who took the picture and what inspired them. In our new series, Behind The Pic we get to ask. This week, since Father’s Day is just around the corner, we’re going behind the pic with some very cool modern dads and sons. They let us know what’s special about the relationship between father’s and their children:

Leon Shipp Belt @beltway13: “Brooklyn definitely keeps me on my toes. I’m learning Spanish to keep up with her bilingual skills.”

Tyler Wisler @nydesignguy: “Paolo is the perfect combination of my husband and I… The snarkiness of Adrian and the goofiness of myself! He is my reason for being. And he enjoys a good burger! Like Father, Like Son! I am thrilled to be his dad!”

Bryan Mason @aphrochic: “My dad is the person I admire most in the world. He’s taught me so much about how to look at life and approach its ups and downs. I’ve rarely had or seen a problem that he didn’t have a solution for. Best of all, he’s not just my dad. He’s been a dad to his kids and grandkids (and great-grands) and to anyone else who needed it.”