cait +tiff


1 Comment

T / branding the savannah

12---HeaderI promise to stop gushing about Kenya.  This will be the last post. Unless, of course, someone wants to send me there again?

So in addition to tooling around Nairobi for a week, I also got to spend a perfect four days on the Savannah with Explorer Kenya.  One can’t set foot in East Africa without stopping by the Masai Mara.  And we got to spend an amazing four days roaming the Masai Mara National Reserve.  This was the third safari I’d been on and I can say the best. With no tarmac roads and a number of other policies protecting the animals, the animals get close. Close enough to see a lioness’ muzzle covered in blood as she chomps into her prey, or a cheetah nursing her cubs.  Mind was blown.

And while we were galavanting around the park with our brilliant guide George and his keen eyes, I got the idea that the photos I was taking would make some mean branding.  Branding is something I’ve been having fun with lately.  I’ve been helping a friend out with their logo.  But with all these animals running around, I knew I had to making something on my own.  So with a couple of nifty typefaces and these amazing presets for Adobe Lightroom from VSCO in hand, I thought I’d give a hand to branding the Mara.  Here goes!


01---Hang-Out 02---go-get-it-girl 03---scratch-my-back 04---Wait-Your-Turn 05---Go-Prance 06---Know-Your-Tribe 07---I-Like-Big-Butts 08---Circle-of-Life 09---Wait-for-the-right-moment 10---i-believe-i-can-fly 11---know-your-herd


All photos by Tiffany Tsang. Please request permission for use.

 


2 Comments

T / went away / nairobi love fest

Nairobi-HeaderSometimes, the universe conspires to get you somewhere.  Tiny exploding atoms align perfectly and they point you in the right direction.  And that is exactly what happened to me last month. In this case, it involved a partner’s conference, a birthday, more than a few friends who had great things to say about the place, and a curiosity that I’ve been wanting to scratch since a first sojourn to East Africa.  And that is how I got to Nairobi.

It’s a city that gets a bad rap.  I can’t even tell you the number of times I’ve heard “Nairobbery.”  And in recent years, more serious threats have made themselves felt.  I wasn’t going to let that prevent me from visiting a city who’s multilayered tapestry (but literal and figurative) has stimulated so many great writers, artists and rich history.  With a little bit of local intel (thank you Nidhee, Nomusa, Koheun and Mike!), a pinch of risk-taking, a ton of patience (TRAFFIC) and a desire to uncover what the cool kids are up to in Nairobi, I dove straight in. And the fact that Uber is operating in Nairobi helped to speed things long.  Nairobi is a big city, with infinite neighbourhoods, people and the wonderful. I already wrote about how much I loved Nairobi from afar.  This time, it’s IRL.


 

Left: The Masai Market at the High Courts of Nairobi, Right: Maureen and Ryan at Toi Market

Left: The Masai Market at the High Courts of Nairobi, Right: Maureen and Ryan at Toi Market

We arrived at 645am on a Saturday morning, and by noon, my bestie and Nairobi pal Nid, had already whisked us off to the weekend Masai Market at the High Courts in downtown Nairobi. Masai Markets, which are actually a collection of vendors from all over Kenya selling curios and knick knacks, happen all over the city nearly every day, but this one is particularly large, diverse and lively. And there is no better way and no worse way to start a trip to Kenya.  I nearly spent all of my money here.

Haider has the best eye for the coolest linens.

Haider has the best eye for the coolest linens.

And with what I had left, I made sure that I went to one of Nairobi’s famous mtumba (second hand) markets.  This is where stylistas like 2manysiblings get their gear. I made my way to Toi Market, located on the perimeters of the Kibera slum, and went a little nuts on gorgeously embroidered cloth napkins from Europe (priorities past age 30).  The best thing about Toi Market is the curation.  Vendors have already gone to the much larger (and even more overwhelming) Gikomba Market for their wares and picked the best out.  Everything from leather boots to pretty ceramics, the whole shebang. I wish I had given myself more than two hours here.  Or perhaps I was better off that way.


Go-AnimalThe first thing you might see upon landing in Nairobi are giraffes.  With Nairobi National Park right on the cusp of Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, your taxi will absolutely pass by and you will absolutely go “Holy crap, is that a giraffe?”  Welcome to Kenya.  The city itself is also home to the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Elephant Orphanage (open every day for one hour only – 11am-12pm) and the Giraffe Centre, where you can get up close to these beauties.  Or in my case, totally make out with a giraffe.


 

Work-TogetherI know it’s such a tough thing when you’re trying to make a career out of traveling. Horrible.  Thankfully, Nairobi is filled with the hippest co-working spaces. I plopped my bum down at Nairobi Garage for the speediest Internet this side of the Nile.  But there’s also The Foundry and Pawa254 offering opportunities to meet the brightest and the techiest that Kenya has to offer. If you’re more a café worker, then head down to Tin Roof Cafe for a perfect workday on their terrace.


Eat-WellNairobi’s many layers extend to every single part of its culture.  And since I am an eater, I wanted to get as many bites in as possible.

10---Tin-Roof-Cafe---2On any ideal Nairobi day, you could start things off with a chapati with egg at Hashmi’s (which is more well known for its Indian BBQ) in Westlands, followed by a little bit of healthy stuff with the Ottolenghi-inspired salad bar (and don’t forget your tree tomato juice) at the Tin Roof Cafe in Karen.  And when the sun sets, definitely grab a table by the bonfire, and nurse bottles of Tusker while chowing down on injera and kitfo (I like mine rare) at Hasheba.


Find-Happy-HourAfter buying all of the kitenge, stuffing yourself silly, and getting splattered in mud by the most darling of baby elephants, you might need a rest.  Get a proper sundowner.  Nid brought me to her favourite local, Juniper Kitchen, located in the Westlands neighbourhood, to recuperate.  With the crisp air, furniture crafted from re-claimed wood and the best Dark & Stoney. Go here and stay here until the traffic clears.


Listen-UpIf you have to end your night, your last stop in Nairobi should be The Elephant.  We were lucky enough to have tickets for the Cool Waters Jazz Festival, but you can find live music happening there every night.  The best artists the city and the region has to offer, and sometimes artists from further lands. We’re a bit starved for a diversity of live acts in Phnom Penh, so I basically melted into a puddle of music nerd.


All Photos by Tiffany Tsang. Please request permission for use. We are not liable for any chargers incurred from last minute flight bookings to Nairobi.

 

 

 


3 Comments

T / beyond the kitenge

Nairobi-Web-Love-Header

Photo Credits: Top (from left): @mdqbausslady by @tintseh, @truthslinger, and @2manysiblings; Bottom (from left): @joykendi_osk, Katungulu Mwendwa and @adeledejak

I could have written about a ton of things about Nairobi today.  The amazing socially motivated clay pottery and necklace factory I visited yesterday.  The collective of Kenyan artisans and delicious that I spent the afternoon working from.  How in love I am with this city and more than excited about the fact I got to celebrate 31 in it.  But the one thing I was overwhelmed by upon arrival in NBO was the fact that a large proportion of the city’s dwellers belong on The Sartorialist.  And if I were bolder, I would have taken the shots myself.

Newcomers to East Africa are wont to zero-in on the kitenge.  And I’m totally bringing a trunkload home. But today, I wanted to share with you some of the city’s pre-eminent stylistas.  Kenyan designers are pushing their way to the forefront and going global in so many ways.  Today’s collection features a pair of sibling stylists, a metal working jewelry designer with sustainability on her mind, a burgeoning young designer who is going big places (props to @koheunlee for this rec) and pretty much my favourite photogs in the city (thanks to you @mikeygsees).  In a perfect world where I didn’t have just a week in Nairobi nor a head cold keeping me down, I’d be all over these guys.


 

2ManySiblings

Photo Credit: 2ManySiblings

2manysiblings are beyond a brother sister duo of stylistas.  They know the way to my heart through the trove of second hand gems they’ve found while trolling through the famous mtumba markets of Nairobi.  Which inspired me to go hunting for some pre-loved goods while I’m here. While they don’t have a brick and mortar yet, watch this space for announcements of pop-ups if you’re around this place.

The Kija Necklace and Hamazzi Choker by Adele Dejak.

The Kija Necklace and Hamazzi Choker by Adele Dejak.

Adele Dejak knows her metal, and her cement, and her glass.  All recycled and all re-fashioned into the prettiest of African shapes and pretty. With her West African roots in Nigeria, she brings together the best of both worlds, working with talented high quality artisans in Kenya.  Her wares can always be found at the Village Market.

Katungulu-MwendwaOnly in this tiny amazing world does this fabulous designer of visuals and beyond go to high school with this burgeoning designer.  Katungulu Mwendwa goes beyond the generally recognized Kenyan prints for a futuristic, yet timeless and minimalist pieces that appeal to also appeal to my generally loud and printed aesthetic.  She’s young and just getting started, but you can already find her designs at the Villa Rosa Kempinski Hotel (aka where Barack Obama recently stayed).  So she’s got some props to her name.

Art Credit: Jay Patel (@jay.h.m)

From left: Mutua Matheka, Asif R Khan. Art Credit: Jay Patel (@jay.h.m)

Last but not least are two of my favourite Kenyan photographers. Mutua Matheka (@truthslinger) makes his daily life as an architect.  But in all the other hours, he’s pretty much taking shots all over Kenya.  Whether it’s elephants on the Amboseli or everything that makes Nairobi the cutting edge in the East Africa Region. Then there’s Asif R Khan (@asayf), who’s photography of urban exploration in Nairobi is thrilling right from your iPhone screen.  From high up above the skyscrapers of downtown Nairobi, he makes the dated architecture look like its way ahead of its time.

Hope you dig these guys as much as I have. tiffsigCheck them out next time you’re in NBO.

 

 


Leave a comment

C / alissa, in two pieces

alissa-header

Ok, Alissa is not is physically two pieces. That would not be cool, and I certainly would never put that on a blog, no matter how much art school I go to. Focus. Alissa, our dear friend who has been seen all over the blog (here, here, here) brought back a bunch of sweet fabric from Tanzania a few months ago. I was so excited about it that I did a whole post on inspirations for it here. We have had a ton of fun going over different style, fits, shapes and designs. The whole process took a long time, because we changed things along the way. (Cap sleeves? No sleeves? Shorter? Longer? Ball gown? Duffel bag?) I am really happy with the two piece that we decided on.

crop

She wears it like a boss, and I love the little peak of midriff that says “I’m sassy, but I am a damn grown up.”

laughing

AlissaGIF

So glad this turned out as it did. I love how relaxed she is in it, and the changes were certainly worth it. It’s really fun seeing friends so happy.

All photos by Tiffany Tsang. Please request permission for use.

caitsig


Leave a comment

C / Studio 189

189-3

I get excited when I see people doing interesting, beautiful things that are good for the world. Studio 189 is a relatively young fashion company that is doing just that. They make unique and modern pieces by using sustainable and ethical practices and I am eager to crowd my closet with them. Studio 189 is demonstrating how to make high fashion in a smart way. It helps that they have Rosario Dawson, a quick and talented actress with a strong eye for fashion, and Abrima Erwiah, Dawson’s childhood friend who comes to the game with an already-strong career in fashion at Bottega Venetta. These two women and their team seem to really understand the value of the work that they can do.

189

In a 15 second clip, Dawson sums up the exact way I feel about fashion. In case you don’t have 15 seconds, or your internet can’t stream video (I feel you, Laura in Myanmar) this is what she says:

“The pieces that we are selling are not super expensive, but neither are they really cheap, you because the idea is that this will actually support the person that made this. You should know that this beautiful thing that you are buying recognizes the value of the person that makes it.

189-2

I see so much value in bringing ethical fashion into the mainstream market. After learning about how companies like Tonlé and Dsenyo operate, I am convinced that it is entirely unnecessary to be evil in order to make beautiful things. I do believe that it is important to have a platform and access to a wide market to get anything done, and I think Studio 189 has that. They have figured out how to be high-fashion and relevant, while still keeping ethical practices and using sustainable resources.

“To use Fashion as an agent for Social Change, turning challenges on the ground into opportunities.”                   Studio 189 Misson Statement 

They are able to create well-paying jobs for women and are starting to provide micro loans for their workers as well. By partnering with UN Women, OAfrica, and UN International Trade Centre, they are measuring impact and making sure working conditions are safe and supportive. They also play well with others and are collaborating with a number of African designers, including Lulu, a Ugandan who studied in Tokyo, who makes these insanely beautiful kimonos with local textiles. I want all of them.

189-5

People are noticing, too. Studio 189 has a ton of press, and a number of famous pretty friends are also pumping up the company. I like that starting an ethical fashion line is now very…fashionable. It’s so much better than the old celebrity trend of falling down outside of LA nightclubs.

So kudos to you awesome women at Studio 189, you are making something special and beautiful and kind, and I can’t wait to see what else you do.

All photos via Studio 189

caitsig


Leave a comment

C / Dsenyo Fair Trade

again

Every once in a while, I come across a company, or a person, who is really nailing it. We have featured a few of these awesome people on the blog before, and because I live and work in Phnom Penh (where safe working conditions and basic human rights are not guaranteed), I think about where things come from a lot more. In the global fashion world, there’s an interesting mix of people, ranging from the über-hip-fancy-pants-snobby-face, to the one that has ticked every ethical fashion box and turns organic dirt and chicken feathers into practical orthopedic sandals that support diabetic dolphins. Dsenyo lands nicely in the middle. This fashion company makes beautiful clothing that you actually want to wear, while creating empowering and sustainable jobs for women around the world.

“Dsenyo (dee-SEN-yo) celebrates beauty and empowerment. Our line of fair trade goods includes fair trade jewelry, handbags, ethical fashion, and fair trade gifts. Each fair trade product is handcrafted by women and artisans working to build a better life and inspire social change in their communities.”

Marissa Perry-Saints founded Dsenyo after living in Malawi in effort to create economic opportunities for women. The company has since expanded into Zambia and Brazil, where they are source local textiles and talent to make their beautiful pieces.

snare2

Right now, they are on another mission. Dsenyo has teamed up with anti-poaching groups in Zambia to create a jewelry line out of salvaged snare wire. In Zambia, snare wire traps are set by poachers to trap animals for illegal trade. Their Kickstarter Campaign is running right now and I highly recommend watching the video and learning more about the project. It is well worth supporting, and a small contribution will score you some beautiful jewelry from wonderful people.

pic

To learn more about Dsenyo, visit their beautiful website. Please support and share if you can!

unnamed

(If you have a problem viewing the video, try it here)

All photos by Dsenyo

caitsig


9 Comments

Go Away / Alissa’s 36 (spare) Hours in Dar-es-Salaam

Since cait + tiff are no good, lazy bums and on vacation this week, we have enlisted a few friends to help out with le blog. dar-es-salaam-alissaOur first guest writer this week is Alissa, who is one of our favorite people in Phnom Penh. She’s has a discerning palate and eye, and we are constantly in awe of her effortless cool. Hailing from Minneapolis, with feet stamped in New York, India, Nepal, Senegal, and beyond, the girl has some serious street cred when it comes to adventure. I mean, come on, her favorite cookie is the alfajor.  Alissa is our first contributor to C+T (!), and she’s taking us to Tanzania. Enjoy! 

Work travel is a mixed bag. On the one hand, it’s a fantastic opportunity to visit a place you would otherwise not have the chance to see, but in reality you are so busy you don’t have time to see much. But traveling for work does not preclude you from exploration! Being a ‘worker-tourist’ does mean you are short on time, but it also opens the doors to seeing another side of a city/country that you’d never experience as a ‘tourist-tourist’. My advice is to make use of 2 precious resources: 1) weekends and 2) the expert and insider advice from colleagues.

36 (spare) Hours in Dar-es-Salaam.

Dar-es-Salaam is Tanzania’s largest city of over 1 million people. Dar-es-Salaam aptly means ‘harbor of peace’ and it is home to many a type of Tanzanian; people of African and Indian descent, Christian and Muslim, tribes from all over Tanzania, living together harmoniously in this city on the coast of the Indian Ocean. The official language is Swahili, which I declared to be the best language ever. I can’t really describe it, but the cadence and pronunciation make it a really fun language to speak. While the traffic is a beast in Dar, the city is generally walkable, full of trees and flowering plants, and Dar-es-Salaamers are friendly and with an excellent sense of humor.

What To Do

fabricAs a self-diagnosed textilephile, I knew one of my first free days in Dar would be spent fabric shopping. Having promised some bright bolts to the lovely founders of cait+tiff and wanting to replenish my own cloth stock, I headed downtown one Sunday morning. While I quickly found out this was the worst day to go (almost every store owner closes shop on Sundays), a colleague and I made the most of what was open and as we elbowed our way through available vendors, we couldn’t even fathom what the crowd flow would look like on a regular day. We first hit Uhuru Street to visit fabric wholesalers who don’t bargain but offer loads of variety, and then ventured on to nearby Kariakoo Market to weave through the maze of shops in Dar’s largest market.

batik-and-kitengeThere are 3 main types of fabrics available: kanga, kitenge, and batik. Kangas are ubiquitous in Tanzania – colorful wraps that tout a Swahili message, often religious or political. They are commonly given as gifts, handed out at weddings and celebrations. Because they display messages as women wear them, these mobile billboards are often used to promote during political or health campaigns, displaying messages varying from ‘Vote for this guy!’ to ‘Take your child for a measles immunization!’ Rumor is there was even a kanga made with Obama’s face on it during his visit to Tanzania. Kitenge is also very common in Tanzania. They tend to be a bit higher-quality than kangas, and are used to tailor outfits – dresses, skirts, one of our enumerators even had a sassy kitenge romper. The patterns are bold, bright, layered with intricate patterns and geometric shapes. Finally, there is batik, with which I had a love affair in Dar. These are hand-dyed fabrics, often with just 2 or 3 deep, vibrant colors and a bold pattern created in the dyeing process. Unlike kitenge, which are mostly imported from Nigeria, Ghana, etc., batik is often produced locally in Tanzania. From my experience, batik and kitenge are comparable in price depending on quality, and kangas are a bit less expensive. These fabrics are all sold in bolts of 3 or 6 meters, so buy what you like and share with friends back home!

mbudya-islandGorgeous Mbudya Island is just a mere 20 minute boat ride away and provides all the beachy splendor one needs to rejuvenate if weekend travel to Zanzibar isn’t possible. Colleagues and I caravanned a few bajajis (autorickshaws) and headed north to the White Sands Resort where one can access ferries to reach the island. After trudging through the low tide, spotting lots of sea slugs and bright red-pink starfish along the way, we boarded a wooden fishing boat, painted the same shade of turquoise as the waters surrounding us. The boat and entrance fee to the marine reserve that is Mbudya Island is around $25 total, and it is worth every Tanzanian shilling and more.

Upon landing at a tiny island of white sand paradise, spotted with wispy little pines, we scoped out the options of thatched bandas where we would laze away the day. After selecting one with optimal shade and ocean view, we laid out our towels and plopped down. The mantra of the day was swim-splash-eat-catnap-repeat. From our banda heaven, we were able to order lunch, options being grilled fish, octopus or tiger prawn. Those of us who opted for octopus got to see our meal arrive wriggling from the hands of the fishermen who plucked them fresh from the sea. You can also bring your own snacks and beverages and picnic in the banda. Between the fresh seafood on Mbudya and all the amazing locally produced snacks in Tanzania (banana chips seasoned with chili, fresh roasted cashews, fried salted cassava) you are bound to happy and tanned belly by the end of the day.

Eat

Dar is a meat lover’s paradise. And also a starch lover’s paradise. These two components make up many a Tanzanian dish, in a multitude of combinations. The meats range from roasted beef, goat, seafood to tomato-ginger stews with chicken to the infamous and the too, too delicious mishkaki. This delectable meat treat is a skewer of perfectly grill meat chunks, essentially a shish-kabob with less of those pesky veggies. Again through the insider-knowledge of a colleague, I was introduced to my first mishkaki at a local joint called Lukas on the Msani Peninsula. This peninsula is where many expats live and many ‘worker-tourists’ stay, but Lukas was a mix of Tanzanians and foreigners, all enjoying the savory delight of mishkaki. My meat-of-choice for the evening was beef, but chicken, fish and goat were also on the menu. For just a couple dollars, you can eat your fill of some incredibly tasty red meat. Another favored meat of Tanzania is nyama choma, grilled meat, often goat. It is so loved that there is even an annual Nyama Choma Festival! After skillful roasting over an open flame, the meat is chopped up into chunks and served with a starch of your choice. And what are the starch choices? Oh, the options astound. French fries (aka chips), cassava chunks, fried banana, boiled banana, ugali (stiff cornmeal porridge), or rice. For those that need a vegetable accompaniment, load up on the fresh and spicy kachumburi salad – chopped up tomatoes, onion and lots of chili peppers. And if it’s not spicy enough, request a side pili-pili – Tanzanian hot sauce.

donutStreet snacks also abound in Dar, serving as a quick and delicious fix. On the road, I favored picking up a newspaper-fashioned bag of freshly roasted (still warm) peanuts, conveniently sold by vendors weaving through the bumper-to-bumper traffic in Dar. Another common and sinfully good snack is mandazi, which is kind of like a doughnut… but so much more. These pieces of fried dough, often set in cast iron circular molds, are best when still piping hot and with a slight sweetness from the addition of coconut milk.

zanzibari-mixThere was one street food that I had heard murmurings of for weeks from several sources, and knew I needed to try before my time in Dar ran out – Zanzibari Mix. A snack only found in Tanzania, and Zanzibar of course, this dish is a great representation of the mixture of Indian and African cuisines in Dar. It’s essentially a combination of little fried lentil dumplings, potato dumplings, onion, coconut chutney, more fried crispy things (perhaps garlic), all in a coconut milk-lemony broth. Desperate to give it a taste before I departed, I obtained directions to one of the best Zanzibari Mix vendors in the Upanga neighborhood of Dar and off we went. Winding through the streets of Dar, we stopped outside a nondescript gate. Peeking through the metal we could see a sea of people bent over tiny bowls, and the Zanzibari Mix maven at work in the front, vigorously dishing up the snack. It was well worth the hunt, this dish is unlike any other thing I’ve eaten, a zesty combination of bright citrus, mellow coconut and savory, salty tidbits. Unfortunately, the directions to this particular shop are lost to me, but be sure to ask friends or colleagues in Dar and seek this out!

Finally, though my timing didn’t work out, I would recommend that every traveler to Dar-es-Salaam try to schedule a visit to coincide with the Goat Races.

All photos by Alissa.  Please request permission for use.

Thanks Alissa!  See more of her beautiful pictures from all of her adventures here!