Out of Africa: Afro-Guyanese Fashionista Janelle Grimmond Showcases Pieces Inspired By the Continent

Seasoned fashion editor, Janelle Tomeko Grimmond walks us through some of her favorite African-inspired looks of the season through an intimate photo diary.

DIASPORA—From bright beads to bold prints and beautiful colors, African fashion continues to inspire the world. No one knows this better than seasoned fashion editor, Janelle Tomeko Grimmond. The Guyanese-born, New York-bred editor has spent the last decade working for major brands in fashion and media as diverse as Ralph Lauren, Vibe Magazine and Nylon.

What’s the one fashion lesson that those experiences taught her?

“Everyone is inspired by the continent.”

In fact, since as far back as the early eighties Western fashion brands were heavily looking to the continent for inspiration. From vintage pieces at Halston and Norma Kamali, to trending printed wrap dresses at Donna Karan. In even more modern times, coutouriers like Jean Paul Gaultier have paid homage to the continent with a collection, literally titled “Hommage a L’Afrique.”

“Every time I visit a showroom to select pieces for a shoot, all I see is Africa,” says the Guyanese native who has traveled extensively through the continent.

To celebrate her stylish perspective on African fashion. Grimmond has hand selected ten special pieces that pay tribute to Africa, available for purchase right now, by leading designers.

Take a sartorial journey through Grimmond’s intimate photo dairy of each piece, as captured by Ghanaian photographer Kobina deGraft Johnson and enjoy her musings on the meaning of each as a Caribbean woman with African roots.

Leather elements necklace and leather beaded necklace, both from Urban Zen by Donna Karan.

“African jewelry is known for its beautiful handmade beadwork so of course this leather trimmed beadwork necklace by Urban Zen made the cut. Worn across all African cultures and based on long standing traditions, this piece is both timeless and genderless.”  

All-white wrap dress from Urban Zen; Metallic platform sandals from M. Missoni; Gypsy earrings from Swarovski.

“I feel good when I wear white. It’s a great contrast for my skin tone. The color symbolizes transition, seeking new direction and new beginnings. When I saw this wrap and tie shirt dress it made me think of the Afro-Caribbean Spiritual Baptist churches that are tucked away all over the globe and in specific Brooklyn neighborhoods. The practice is a mix between ancient African beliefs and the American Baptist religion. At the prayer services everyone follows a strict dress code primarily of all white. The women wear white blouses, long skirts and headwraps.

I feel like i’m channeling a part of mom in this look.

Open toe sandals are preferred in the Caribbean for obvious reasons. The mix metallics and wood used to create these M. Missoni platforms are a cross between new age style and traditional function. Before becoming a trendy style everywhere, wooden platforms were worn in East Africa in places like Tanzania and the Congo. Besides adding height, it signified a high social status and helped to avoid the muck on the roads—these stacks had a purpose beyond style.”

Earrings and bracelet from Swarovski and Mehary Jewels.

“Gold is my standard and Guyanese gold has always been a major part of our culture. Imagine being able to adorn yourself in your country’s own natural resource.  I grew up seeing people design one of a kind pieces like these deco earrings and tassel warrior cuff from Mehary Jewelry. This cuff reminds me of the style in which the Ashanti people of West Africa adorn their wrist with layers of sold gold."

A black tassel blouse from Urban Zen.

“I’m in love with the detail on this Blouse. The Kaftan reminds me of traditional African men's attire. Made using linen, silk and other fine fabrics, the two piece set is light weight, usually designed with embroidered details and can be seen worn on gorgeous African men throughout the continent.”

Kimono wrap from Urban Zen.

“I grew up surrounded by textiles and every piece had a story to tell. Traditional African tailors didn’t make clothes simply for appearance sake—each symbol, color, and even the shape of the clothing held a specific purpose or meaning. Minus the symbols, the tricolored wrap from Urban Zen makes me think of Bògòlanfini (aka mud cloth). The handmade fabrics from Mali are dyed using fermented clay. The gold, red and black swatches used to design this piece are commonly used colors in Africa and the Caribbean.”

Sheer blouse, shirt and sandals from M. Missoni

“While it may not be beads, the collar on this blouse from M Missoni makes me think of the beaded collars made by the Maasai women of Kenya. The women wear layered collars in everyday life and in ceremonies as a sign of wealth and beauty."

Inspiration comes from many sources, for Grimmond it comes from her birth place, her travels and the places where she grew up. Stay tuned this month for more features on stylish folks from the diaspora who embody the spirit of Afrofuturism.


Courtesy of Jojo Abot.

Let Jojo Abot's New Afrofuturistic Video Hypnotize You

The Ghanaian artist releases the new video for "Nye VeVe SeSe," an entirely iPhone-recorded track.

Jojo Abot is rounding out a strong year which has seen her tour South Africa, release the NGIWUNKULUNKULU EP and work with institutions like the New Museum, Red Bull Sound Select and MoMA on her art and performances.

Jojo is now sharing her latest music video for "Nye VeVe SeSe," a song featured on her iPhone-only production project, Diary Of A Traveler.

"Nye Veve Sese is an invitation to let go of the burden of pain and suffering that keeps us from becoming our best and greatest selves," a statement from Jojo's team reads. "Asking the question of why pain is pleasurable to both the one in pain and the source of the pain. Often time the two being one and the same."

Watch her new "meditative piece," which was shot in Bedstuy, Brooklyn, below.

Jojo Abot will be playing her final US show of the year in New York City alongside Oshun on October 26 at Nublu 151. Grab your tickets here.

A Nigerian Label Is Suing Nas For Not Delivering a Good Verse

M.I and Chocolate City filed a lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court claiming Nas didn't deliver the verse they wanted.

Nigerian star M.I and his label home Chocolate City are suing Queenbridge legend Nasir Jones.

In the lawsuit, which was filed in the New York State Supreme Court, Nas and Mass Appeal Records' Ronnie Goodman are accused of ripping off Chocolate City after they'd paid the rapper $50,000 for the verse.

According to the lawsuit, back in 2013, Nas and Goodman agreed to contribute a verse to a track from M.I. The stipulations were that Nas was supposed to mention "M.I, Chocolate City, Nigeria, Queens, New York—NAS's hometown—, Mandela, Trayvon Martin, and the struggles of Africans and African Americans" in his verse.

Nas did, in fact, deliver a verse but it didn't mention any of the subject matter Chocolate City had asked for.

The Nigerian label requested that the Queens rapper to re-record the verse, which now three year later, has never happened despite them delivering the $50,000 payment. Hence, that's why they're now suing him, they mention.

It's not all fighting words, though, as Chocolate City is very complementary to Nas in the lawsuit calling him "a highly respected lyricist in the music industry" and writing that they wanted a verse from him "because of NAS's exceptional talent as a lyric writer."

Unfortunately that talent and lyricism was no where to be found in the verse they got, in the eyes of Chocolate City and M.I.

Revisit M.I's "Chairman" above.

Photo courtesy of TEF.

5 Things We Learned From the TEF Entrepreneurship Forum

Over 1,300 African entrepreneurs, business leaders and policymakers attended the 3rd Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Forum in Lagos—here are the highlights.

The Nigerian Law School in Lagos, Nigeria, was transformed into a buzzing enclave of substantial conversation, intentional encouragement, and unbeatable energy.

The third Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Forum was the most inclusive gathering of African experts in business, entrepreneurship and policy, where all 54 African countries were represented with more than 1,300 attendees. These entrepreneurs and thought leaders are innovators across a diverse array of sectors like agriculture, technology, healthcare, fashion and energy/power generation.

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