Thursday, August 22, 2013

East Meets West: African Jewelry Designer Thérésa Adhiambo talks Emeraude Chic

 NAISIAE necklace from Emeraude Chic's New Maasai Line

In honor of my excitement about Kenya POWERED by Rare Customs, I'm giving away one NAISAIE necklace from jewelry designer, Thérésa Adhiambo of Emeraude Chic to a lucky new subscriber to our mailing list! To join the list, visit and subscribe. Yesterday I had the chance to talk to her about the inspiration behind her new Maasai line and hear some interesting tales from the stunning polyglot.

Rare Customs (RC): Where in Africa are you from?

Thérésa Adhiambo (TA): I was born and raised in Cote D' Ivoire to a Kenyan Father and Mother who is French and Guinean.

RC: Wow, that's a bit of an African United Nations!

TA: Yes, it definitely was. One day I ate Ugali (a traditional Kenyan dish), the next day my mom was making crepes. We spoke French and English in our home and have cousins all over the continent so I was pretty Pan-African from the start.
 Thérésa Adhiambo of Emeraude Chic

RC: You went to an HBCU (Historically Black College and University), what did that mean as an African woman?

TA: My father was the first to go to college and we moved to the US when I was 15. He pushed education early on but also wanted us to know our history. I wanted to really understand the African American experience as an African in America and really just wanted to absorb it all. Going to Morgan State really gave me a stronger sense of pride in who I was and really has served me well. It prepared me to perform well and even better than my counterparts.

RC: So let's move on to fashion! You're a biologist by training - what made you design a jewelry collection?

TA:  I actually started making jewelry for for my mom when I was a kid. As I got older I started making jewelry for myself and people would compliment me all the time. Then it turned into a hobby and I was doing bridal showers and things for friends. Eventually my hobby turned into my business.

RC: Why did you decide to do the Maasai line?
Maasai woman and jewelry

TA: My first line was Sankofa and was very much West African influenced. I am still inspired by the melting pot that my family is and wanted to create a line that bridge the gap between East and West Africa. I love the spikes and colors and richness of East African culture and the strength of the Maasai people. That's where the inspiration for the line came from.

RC: Who is your biggest fashion inspiration?

TA: MY MOM! She used to make her own jewelry. She would go into the jewelry store and carry her own sketches and materials with her. That's actually where Emeraude comes from, it's french for Emerald, her favorite stone and green her favorite color. I remember the jeweler making pieces she'd designed and then replicating them for other customers. My mom taught me everything about style but also taught me about compassion and service. She still gives me input and even comments on my Instagram!

RC: Last question, if there is one place in Africa you'd like to visit, where would that be?

TA: Senegal and Goree Island. I think Wolof sounds so beautiful, it's almost like people are singing when they speak. Even though my family isn't slave descendants, that history is very important to me. I am a very spiritual person and I feel like visiting Goree Island is a way of honoring my African ancestors who went through that experience.

The beach in Saly, Senegal  Thérésa's dream African destination

You can have your very own Emeraude Chic creation and be on trend by visiting their website or following EmeraudeChic on Twitter, Instagram, and Pintinterest.



Friday, August 16, 2013

Black People Travel + Have More Money Than You Think...Here we come Africa???

I don't know about you but I love a good infographic. My company Rare Customs is doing market research on the luxury trends in the Black American travel market. We are especially looking at consumer patterns, international departures, and age. We found some useful info and wanted to share!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

How to move up like the Jefferson's in NYC for under $40

Two months into my first NYC summer I realized a few things pretty quickly. $$$ = poop bc you pay a ton to eat out, scoutmob/living social/nonsense nyc and pretty much every other workaround to full price is your friend, and that sometimes its better to stay inside of your $2.5K/month brownstone apartment then to venture out into the cash suck that a NYC social life can be.

Fear not my friends, I like many of you, am not committed to giving up my social sally, dora the explorer ways BUT I am committed to doing it a bit differently; case in point my Upper East Side outing yesterday with my good friend Chisara. Now Bed-Stuy and UES (is that a thing?) are like night and day, so I had to get over my initial shock but I came to in just enough time to give you dudes and dudettes a few tips on how to do a fancy day or date in NYC, impress your friends or beau, and still have enough money to pay the rent! Here they go:

1. Find things that have one price, regardless of how many people. The Loeb boathouse in Central Park charges $12 for up to four people (perfect for a double date) to spend an hour in a boat. Need a little extra smooch time? Each additional 15min is $3. TIP: Head to the ATM before you go it's cash only.
She smiles beautifully while I wonder how I ended up rowing first

We probably sucked 15min just getting off the dock lol

Nothing like a selfie with sunglasses on

Chisara looking like a GO NYC ad

Selfie #2 con sunlight

Chisara getting some sunlove

I was a bit excited to reach the bridge

You couldn't pay for these views - well you could but you'd be silly

2. Time your day/date for parking. Now I know most peeps aren't driving in NYC but in the event that you do, take into account that most Manhattan street parking restrictions end sometime between 4PM and 7PM. Arriving within the 15min before the restriction ends gets you a sweet free spot and an unhappy parking attendant. Win = You.

3. Incorporate dessert rather than dinner: Chisara and I had the bright idea that we wanted to nom on something sweet before we hit the rowboat. Thanks to Foursquare (also your friend) we discovered a beautiful place that everyone but us already knew: Lady M Cake Boutique. Now this isn't your average bakery, this place was F-A-N-CEEEE Fancy. I mean beautifully decorated, handsome foreign servers to explain each dessert with an accent, and mind your vehicle so you don't get ticketed. They even had a menu outside. But the beautiful thing was all the pomp and circumstance did not mean uber pricey. We got a slice of Green Tea Crepe Cake and a slice of Banana Mille Feuille for $5 each. That's heaven on earth for Foodtown prices!
I don't know what's better in this pic, the beautiful bags or the free parking space

Tasted like sex, but better "Banana Mille Feuille"

I must admit, I didn't think this would be so wonderful "Green Tea Crepe Cake"

4. Lastly, for the folks who need something to wash this awesomeness down with, time your day to end around Happy Hour. We rolled out of Central Park and over to Blockheads in just enough time to catch a $4 margarita which in NYC is either like gold or tastes like water. This place had the former. For $1 more you can add flavor:) We split some nachos (another great tip, sharing seems more intimate anyway) and rolled out feeling both tipsy and full for less than $25 alltogether.
Ever the religious architecture lover, I snapped this right after happy hour

Our total money spent: $12 rowboat, $5 fancy dessert, $25 dinner + drinks = $42/2 = $21 each
That's about the same price you spend to wait in a long ass line at some skeevy LES nightclub and not have nearly as much fun:)

I hope this post is helpful for people ballin' on a budget, I know it made me smile just thinking about the next time!


Friday, August 2, 2013

In Pursuit of the African $$$ - Why the Barclay's/UBS/Citigroup Growth Strategy is Alarming

Aliko Dangote - Africa's Richest Man
Bloomberg posted an article today about big acquisitions of African wealth accounts as a primary growth strategy for some of the largest banks in the world, namely Barclay's, UBS, and Citigroup. As Europe and the US continue to struggle with the ever-lasting recession, Africa's growth and wealth prospects are high. "The number of Africans with at least $1 million of investable assets climbed 9.9 percent to 140,000 in 2012, according to a report published on June 18 by Cap Gemini SA (CAP) and Royal Bank of Canada. That was the fastest rate of increase outside North America."

Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and Mauritius are leading the pack. Wealth disparities aside, I am all for Africans building wealth both individually and that which trickles down into communities however the involvement of large European banks stinks of the 1600's. Barclay's as some of you know was handed one of the biggest reparations fines in history and was one of the first banks to explore opportunities on the continent at the beginning of the recent boom. They have largely been successful in acquisitions of business because they know the terrain. Let's not forget that pre-colonial Africa was doing quite well with the Ashanti tribe and others holding what today would be millions of dollars in gold and other assets. Barclays, as has been revealed time and time again was one of the most active banks involved in the slave trade and has had some presence for quite some time.

The vestiges of that history was evidenced by then State Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries in his opposition to the naming of the Jay-Z endorsed Barclay's Center in historically black Brooklyn.  I don't claim to be a conspiracy theorist or a financial scholar but I do know that fire need only to burn me once. As Africa's wealthiest build their legacy's, I hope their eyes are open to who they are leaving it in the hands of.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Happy Born Day Madiba & 18 Reasons to Visit South Africa

I long for another week of South African Summer. Two years seems like an eternity from my beach hopping, road tripping, party thumping trek across that beautiful nation. Today I attended the Congressional Celebration for the 95th Birthday of Nelson Mandela and was reminded of all the reasons why I want to go back and why South Africa should be at the top of your travel bucket list!

1. Deep House Music: If you're like me, the only African music you're familiar with in the US is likely from Nigeria or Ghana. And while I will "Ashowa" with the best of them there is a certain smoothness that comes with South African Deep House. Check out my favorite track by my friend Nutty Nys - "I've Been Waiting" and transport yourself to Durban this instant.

2. Township parties and BBQ:The last time I was in Johannesburg my friends were DJ'ing a party in a nearby township. This place was a literal hotbox of sweat and good tunes but the icing on the cake were the grilled meats right outside of the "club" (I use that loosely) - even the best halal chicken has nothing on this.

3. Civil Rights Flashbacks: South Africa is similar to the US in many ways, apartheid = segregation, youth led civil rights movement, etc. However, the one way they have diverged is in their use of the word "colored" - it happens all the time, among everyone although the usage is slightly different.

4. Rooftop Parties: It is easy to lose yourself and think you are in Brooklyn when in Johannesburg. Rooftop parties are always happening and with an eclectic mix of artsy folks are guaranteed good times.

5. Accents: A weird mix of British, Australian, and well "African" the South African accent is pretty distinct but awesomely lovely to listen to.

6. Poppin' Pino: South African wine is absolutely deeeeelish. Something about that climate makes these grapes go crazy. My favorites are a red regional grape called Pinotage and South African Gewurztraminer.

7. Roadtrips to Lesotho: I know you may be thinking that a country entirely within another country can't be that great - but you're wrong! Lesotho has three things going for it...skiing, sausages with french fries on top, and funny semi-asian looking hats.

8. Big Ass Lions: While I hope you spend most of your days with actual people, one cannot escape the magic of Kruger National Park. Don your linens and cap - you're headed on a safari!

9. Florida Rd.: Looking for a strip that feels like a mix of spring break and a Diddy video? Stroll along Florida Rd. in Durban and you'll get the best of both worlds, and maybe a good bite to eat. Need a night to soak it in? Stay at the Quarters Hotel - four Victorian homes converted to a place to rest your head.

10. Xhosa Lessons: Unfortunately many an African stereotype tried to mimic the clicking sound of the Xhosa people. See the real deal and learn about the important heritage of the Xhosa people along a backdrop of dolphins, golf resorts, and horseback riding.

11. Re-create the Dance Scene in Sarafina: Visit Soweto, the most famous township in all of South Africa and feel the spirit of the uprising there. If you visit during the warmer months, be sure to stop at a local shebeen for a cool refreshment.
12. The African Rodeo Drive: The Victoria Wharf Shopping Centre will quickly remind you that there is MONEY in Africa. From Louis Vuitton to other retailers the shop smells of extravagance.

13. Stars: Yes you can see stars from anywhere in the world but none are quite like the ones in the Southern Hemisphere. Unless you're planning an antarctic trek, this is as south as it gets and it is beautiful. On a clear night it looks like you can actually touch the stars.

14. Bunny Chow: No trip to Durban is complete without this famous curry. Get it in lamb for the best, most authentic taste and have a sample of the cities Indian heritage in your mouth!

15. World Cup: I know that the days of the first FIFA in Africa seem long gone but the vestiges are certainly ever lasting. New, world class football stadiums dot cities across the country and let you indulge in the world's most famous sport up close and personal.

16. South African Airways: A member of the Star Alliance, SAA will feed you even on domestic flights under an hour. Beyond that perk, you get the benefits of a global airline with direct flights to the US and some local flavor.

17. The Radisson Blu Rooftop Pool: Located in Sandton, one of Johannesburg's most swanky neighborhood's this rooftop pool is open all night. Trust me, I know from experience what kind of fun this pool and a few cocktails bring.

18. It is the birthplace of Madiba - that actually is enough:)

Friday, March 15, 2013

36 Hours of Bubblin' in Dublin

Jay-Z sure knows how to make a city sound exciting and Dublin didn't let me know. I had a two day stint in the home of Guinness and had a good time, even if the skies were gray (cues Method Man).

Jet-lag and meetings left limited time for sightseeing so I did most of my touring at night which turned out to be pretty cool. I went down to Temple Bar for dinner and drinks and heard about The Boxty House from one of Rachel Ray's specials on The Food Network. I soon realized how much pride the Irish have in potatoes...and drinking. Boxty pancakes and other fried potato delicacies were fantastic! Paired w/ arugula and an Irish Ginger Beer my meal started off wonderfully. I ended up sitting with an American father-daughter pair that were visiting Ireland to choose a veterinary school and enjoyed a delicious trio of stews and my favorite a fluffy slice of Bailey's cheesecake with blackberry compote.

I checked out grafitti and other pubs in Temple Bar and hailed a taxi to see the sights. The Irish are a warm bunch,  hearing the words "lad" and "mate" often made me smile. I liked my driver so much that I paid him to take me around and get photos which turned out wonderfully. He showed me where U2 met, where Bono got his name (a hearing aid shop), and also the neighborhood an Irish Soul Band made famous in the 1991 film "The Commitments". He then proceeded to tell me that the Irish are the blacks of Europe, Dubliners are the blacks of Ireland, and North Dubliners are the blacks of Dublin - hence the soul band I guess lol. After a long session of hop out, take a photo, hop in - I was exhausted and headed back to the hotel.

The next day I decided to spend my final hours in Dublin at the Guinness Experience which was actually pretty cool! I am a spirits, ciders, lambic kind of girl but learning the process was dope and the smell was pleasantly aromatic. The constant "taste experiences" were a nice touch. My favorite was a small booth where they paired different stouts with yummy apps like smoked salmon, dark chocolate, and roasted vegetables. After I learned all I could about the importance of hops, yeast, and fresh water I headed to the Gravity Bar for an awesome 360 view of Dublin and my very own fresh pint of the good stuff.

I'd def suggest a stay in Dublin during your next trip to Northern Europe - be sure to hit some places I missed, including the famous Copperface Jacks, Europe's busiest club open and packed 7 days a week.

Ciao for now!


Dublin from the Gravity Bar
Approaching the Guinness Storehouse

Beware of Imitations!

The Dublin Concert Hall

Pubs on Pubs on Pubs

St. Patrick's Cathedral - the largest church in Ireland

Trinity College (Older than the USA)

Entryway to Temple Bar

I'm a fan of concentrated places to imbibe

Electric Culture Graffiti

Dublin Lights

Yummy Bailey's Cheesecake
Boxty Potato Pancakes
The Perfect Pint

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

"Started from the Bottom": Top Ideas for Travelling the Bottom of WEF's Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report

Name this beach scene. I'll offer some hints: It's not in the Caribbean, you can get $5 lobster, and the music nearby will have you on your feet in no time. Give up? It's Tokeh Beach in Sierra Leone, a country in West Africa most known for being mentioned in Kanye Wests' Diamonds song and for any discussion on child rebel soldiers.

I just read the World Economic Forum's 2013 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness report and the findings are telling if not altogether surprising. Guinea, Sierra Leone, Burundi, Chad, Haiti round out the bottom 5 of an 140 country list of places to vacay. The report doesn't tell me something new but it does present both problems and opportunity.

The problems are both real i.e. lack of infrastructure, past political or environmental unrest, undeveloped services sector, as well as perceived i.e. lack of knowledge about amenities, the safari or "aid" complex surrounding Africa and also countries of its diaspora, and a complete series of purposeful media misinformation on the actual pace of development.  Not far off from the bottom 5 are some of Africa's economic powerhouses Nigeria and Ghana, and even South Africa the longstanding "gem" of the continent is fairly low on the list, not even breaking the top 20.

As you read in my last post, Lagos as a place to relax, unwind, and enjoy life should be on the top of anyone's must do travel list - but you wouldn't know it if you asked your colleagues who have labeled it a danger zone. Freetown, while lacking in 5 star resorts, is not lacking in charm and sheer beauty. For anyone who has ever been to "Old School" you know that Freetown is also not lacking in the realm of laughter and entertainment. The list goes on, my good friend just visited Gabon and his pics at sunset were unbelievable.

Tourism is an important indicator of a country's progress on the world stage and as nations grapple with important issues like roads, energy, and food security they should not leave this important industry sans financial support and professional know-how. I encourage entrepreneurs on the continent and in the diaspora to use the knowledge shared in this report as an income generating opportunity. What does tourism market development look like, how can your business develop the fledgling but much needed tourism industry, and how can promotion of these lower placed destinations be done differently?

I've got ideas and plans and am open to collaboration. In the meantime check out these shots from around the web highlighting some things to do in the bottom 10. Ciao for now!

Hit the slopes in Lesotho

Explore the maizes of Maritunia

Deep sea dive in Madagascar

Soar the sand dunes in Chad

Volcanos in Burundi
Architecture walk in Yemen?

Soak up the sun in northern Haiti