Surulere, Years of My Childhood: In memory of Mum Juliana


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The earliest memory I have of  Surulere is the sound of Fela Ransome Kuti later known as Fela Anikulapo Kuti blaring from the loudspeakers across the road, even though it was a Saturday morning, the song blaring was 'Lojo Monday Eko oni gba gba ku gbao'  which translates to mean Early on the first working day of the week a Lagosian will not stand being cheated. The next song would be "Jeun Ko ku O, ode, waki and die ode, chop and quench ode"  which was a sarcastic song to gluttons who visited people at home! Fela sang in a mixture of Yoruba (South West Nigerian Language) and broken or pidgin English a dialect of English spoken by a lot of West Africans.  It seemed the loudspeakers where from our neighbours whose children's names were Hans and Anita their parents where a  German/Nigerian couple they lived opposite our house on Simisola as it certainly was not Dr McMolly the Cameeroonian family or Dr Okeke who lived to our right! In those days Fela Ransome - Kuti and Segun Bucknor where the biggest acts in Music and they were "BeenTos" of the highest pedigree by West African standards. Fela Ransome Kuti started his career with the Koola Lobitos however after an American tour and an exposure to the Black Panthers in 1969 he returned with a political message and a new vibrant sound called 'Afro Beats'.
 After receiving the golden fleece my parents had returned to Nigeria from England, it was just after the Nigerian civil war and  they set up home at No 32 Subulola Road Surulere Lagos. The house was on the corner of Simisola Street to the right. At the left end of road was Sam Shonibare and the right end of the road was Ajao Road.
 And so I found myself on Planet Surulere I remember it so well because it was also the same year the Apollo landed on the moon and it was the talk on our brand new box television with special shutters never mind that I was just barely 5 years old!

Many of the families In the environment at the time were young couples many were "BeenTos" which meant been to England, Germany, USSR, Canada or the USA and many had attended the Yaba Technical school and the New Nigerian Universities of which University of Ibadan was Premier (University of Ibadan was No4 on the commonwealth list of Universities but only offered Art courses at the onset). The chief aim off my parents generation was to get the Golden Fleece (The golden fleece in Greek mythology is a symbol of authority and kingship, for Africans education brings authority and kingship)  for us as New Africans education was as precious as gold as it meant Africans will no longer be subservient to their white colonial masters as many of them had now attended the red brick schools of the colonial masters.
 Many were also young successful traders and people of commerce. A young  Gani Fawehinmi lived to our left at the time. He later went on to become the voice and the conscience of the masses others like him were the late genius Professor Awojobi. My parents and their contemporaries the children of the Nationalists where the generation to take over the rein of affairs from the colonialists in all public and private enterprise. Looking back with perfect vision I realise that our dear country Nigeria may not have been adequately prepared to fill the vacuum left by the colonials.
My Mum Juliana Adekunbi Kanmodi was born in Sapele in the old Mid Western region of Nigeria on the first day of April Nineteen hundred and twenty nine, at the time of her birth her father Joseph Okunyade was a Stock Keeper at the United African Company a company whose sole aim although disguised to look as if they were helping the 'helpless natives' was to cart away the raw materials of Africa to the United Kingdom and other Western lands, like our timber and plywood, cocoa and commodities too numerous to mention while leaving us with second rated institutions and infrastructure. My grandfather of the Nationalist generation  major aim in life was to ensure his children captured the 'golden fleece'(The golden fleece in Greek mythology is a symbol of authority and kingship, for Africans education brings authority and kingship) to ensure that they will not be enslaved by the colonials forever. My grandmother  Elizabeth on the other hand was a trader of all and sundry which meant that my mother had to help to sell her wares in the morning before going to school in the afternoon. For this reason her education was delayed by a few years. Each day as a child must have been long and hard, such is still the life of many an African girl child today and many do not have the opportunities afforded to the girl child in the  Nigeria of I940's today in 2019. It is this background that made my Mum the strict disciplinarian and informed her to teach us to cope with the high and lows of life.  This is indeed the background of many African Children of my generation which gives us the ability to cope and stretch ourselves  in difficult circumstances.
Our home was a haven of safety, joy and music but it was run with military precision there was a timetable for meals and chores. As the Yoruba say 'Inu ile latin ko eso rode' which simply means charity begins at home this was the unspoken mission statement at 32 Subulola! My Mum insisted on structure and we all thank her for it. I can hear her voice saying in Yoruba "Ko Omo re yio si fun e ni isimi" which is from the Bible Proverbs29V17 and says Discipline your children, and they will give you peace; and bring you the delights you desire. 
I remember when I was 7 my Mum bought me a real Bible, the reserved standard version it was red in colour, I was so excited I think it made me feel like a real grown up I carefully printed my name with my new fountain pen the ones that you use quink ink for (at the age of 7 you were given the licence to use a pen and in my school you used a fountain pen you also needed something called blotting paper), my Mum called me to the kitchen where she was frying chickenimg_6135 she casually said to me learn by heart Psalm 23 so I can give you some of this chicken! by the end of that day I knew Psalm 27 and 121 off by heart and today even though that version is no longer popular, it's the version I know.
Saturday was the day for  household chores each of us had our duties within the house, there was no need for the Cock Crow at dawn, the happy neighbour will wake you up with Fela's music and you might even find yourself singing and dancing along. One of the chores I remember doing was brushing the  carpet with a miniature brush and dustpan. I also remember dusting our National Cabinet television that came on at 4 O clock and  the radio gram  the Grundig set that my Dad would play his Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Frank Sinatra and the unforgettable Dave Brubeck  (Take Five)and put me on his feet to waltz around. It was in this room that my life long love for jazz music was developed. I picture the room vividly in my mind,the carpet was maroon and black , the giant 3 sitter settee was maroon it also doubled as a sofa bed for extra visitors when the guest room was not sufficient. There were 2 single sitter blue leather chairs which were also swivel chairs my sister Seke and I swung ourselves round and round on these when our parents were not home.  On the front facing wall above the radio gram was my Dad's 2 golden fleeces a plaque from the University of London and a plaque from the Queens University of Belfast. In our home no one told you to excel in school, the plaques on the wall were the only message required! Every Friday evening we submitted our blue report cards to
my Dad this card detailed your progress in each subject and your general conduct which said 'teachers remarks' my Dad would sign the card to acknowledge it's receipt.
During the week we went to bed at 7 O clock the sun had not even set and inside the mosquito net I could still hear the plantain seller hawking her wares crying "Agbo son O, Agbo son ogede agba agba O" which translates too Buy my ripe and big plantains please! The vegetable oil seller would also be crying "Olo ro ro egusi re Olo ro ro egusi re O! which means please buy my vegetable oil made from melon seeds please.  For some, the activities of the day were just starting, but at No 32 the main actors were inside their mosquito net! Sometimes I sang along with the hawkers until I fell asleep.
 At the weekends we stayed up to watch Bar Beach show with Art Alade and Village Headmaster a soap opera about a village school and its environs. In those days Ted Mukoro was the headmaster and his children came to the same school as me, Angela and Stan. 
You see, my Mum from the onset started us out the way she wanted us to continue. One person will set the table complete with serviette in serviette rings and one person will pack the table and sweep the floor after the meal. I do remember once asking my dad why the house help could not do the job and I was promptly told that the house help  was a person like me too. Saturday was also a day when we had our hair done, during the holidays we sometimes had our hair straightened with what was called a "stretching comb" and curled, for this special treat we would be taken to as saloon known as Elegant twins on Ogunlana drive, the ladies looked lovely in their white mini uniforms and wigs.
On school days we had to have our hair plaited there were several ways 1."irun didi" or corn rows of which there were several styles like 'kolese', ' panumo', 'ipako elede', ' ajan le oso' , 'koroba' 2. "Irun Kiko" or thread plaiting, some of the styles were 'iyawo gowon', 'eko bridge' 3. Hausa plaits this was usually done by the Mallam's wife.
img_6134Photo credit Ethan&Harriet

However most times my sister Seke and I had "irun didi" corn row it lasted two weeks and no one could pull it loose like "irun Kiko" in case there was a fight in the playground in school. On the Saturdays we were asked to go and do our hair in "irun didi" my sister and I would be so happy because we trekked to Adegoke street to the "Iya Oni diri" (Woman who does hair) it was a chance to play along the road from Simisola to Olufemi, Olukole branch at Bola Benson supermarket,  on some days we will get home early and some days it will be late. My Mum had been watching these proceedings quietly then on one Saturday she tricked us, she said to my sister and I that she was taking us to Lennards in Lawanson market to buy some shoes but alas I found myself in the barbers swivel chair! Need I say more ! the true disgrace was going to school with "pongbe style"(when your hair is shaped round the edges like a boy). Such was the discipline of my Mum. Needless to say as soon as the hair started to grow we started to plait it again I had learnt my lesson the hard way, I now went to Mama Rasaki who made hair on our neighbours drive on Simisola I don't know if she was their relative but she had a baby called Rasaki whom she will lie on her knee, cup her left hand to his mouth and pour cornmeal pap down his throat, my sister and I watched in incredulity as the child swallowed and choked. As she force fed this baby she will bust into a song which goes "Rasaki polongo O, to ba Dagba yio Gbe ya wo, abimo polongo" which translates too Rasaki my dear son very soon you will grow too and take a wife and have a baby like yourself. My sister Seke and I soon changed the song to "Rasaki polongo igbe polongo igbe  po" which translates too Rasaki the poopoo baby. Looking back now Mama Rasaki was just another African single mother trying to survive on pennies, she had neither feeding bottle nor Lactogen milk, she had no terry nappies she used mere rags living in a society that has no social services for the poor but she did my hair perfectly well.
My mum used to go to morning, afternoon and night duties she did her initial training as a nurse in Eleyele Ibadan in the Western region of Nigeria she worked as nurse for close to 45 years of her life on going through her resume from St Teresa's college Ibadan through so many diplomas I am convinced she could have gone higher and become a Professor however she was only allowed to get her Golden Fleece after her younger brother had completed his initial training in medicine. Such was the opportunity cost in many families of her time, the girl child may be held back for the boy child. On the occasion my Mum went on Afternoon duty it meant total joy for my sister and I. Our meals were usually prepared before we got home from school and set on the table by our help, we were meant to eat lunch then observe a strict siesta for two hours after which we go to lesson (In most middle class homes we had extra lessons after school to prepare for the common entrance at 11 there were no Private secondary schools in Nigeria we all went to Grammar Schools). On this particular day Eba( boiled cassava flakes) was prepared with okro and red pepper stew with beef off course since my Mum was not there we ate the meat and proceeded to make shapes like plasticine with the Eba, we left the table in a mess and played away (sere lo) to my friends house Sobeye Princewill she lived on Adebisi close at the bottom of Eniasoro Beyioku we had only been there for a short while when we saw our mother in her white uniform cap and all we were whisked back home! I don't remember getting any smacking on that occasion ,  she must have been tired as she had trekked home from work and then trekked to our friends house although she had a car, a Toyota Mark 2 bright Yellow in colour with black leather seats number plate WL8485 my Mum preferred to walk everywhere within Surulere, she walked to idi Araba every day.img_6136 And the cars duty was to bring us back from school with her driver "Broda Mukaila" I will not go into that it's the story for another chapter
We once had a lesson teacher that came to our house and our Mum sat through every lesson with us sometimes she will be eating garri (cassava flakes) and epa (peanuts)  with about 10 cubes of sugar! Of course I was day dreaming about the day I will be able to drink garri freely and never concentrated on the lesson. My Mum never allowed us to drink garri the only place I was allowed to drink garri was at my great Aunt Akinnibosun's place in Yaba, Ondo and the accompaniment was eja din din (fried fish) from across the street. My Mum may have keeled over if she knew what food we had on holidays in Ondo!
Another lesson teacher we had was Mrs Adelekun, she had a habit of always eating beans (black eyed peas)! And to me as a child beans was disgusting, she was a teacher at the University of Lagos staff school but she lived on Falolu Road in Surulere. My sister and I both went to this lesson but my friend Funke Fasoyiro who lived on Sam Shonibare also came with us, as we crossed to Ogulana drive we always took a short cut to Falolu. On this short cut there were sacrifices of dead chicken we always ran stepping on stones to avoid any sacrifice as we ran we would sing "Ebo Elebo pada leyin mi" clicking our fingers over our heads! Some of my year group in the lesson where Seni Akinlade, Seye Morgan, Doyin Gansallo and Tola Olurombi the latter 2 went to the same primary school as me and the former 2 were staff school children I think remember the boys as one was a rough and the other was "Orobo" which means chubby.  Thinking about it now I am not sure why we took this short cut! and one wonders why people who lived in such beautiful homes (most of the homes on Ogunlana, Falolu, Ekololu were new then) found the need to throw sacrifices after all many of them were ardent church goers!
Surulere was my Kingdom and were I formed the strong identity of confidence of whom I am today. Surulere informed my world view  that I can be anything. As Ake is to Wole  Soyinka and Isara to Olanihun Ajayi so is Surulere to me! It  was the place I made my first friends some of whom remain my lifelong friends







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Custom made Jumpsuit in Ankara 1








Traditional African Print fabric (Dutch Wax) made into a Jumpsuit. Jumpsuit I really love this fabric for its movement and it's colour pink, beige and cream diagonal patterns. Definitely keeping one for myself! I am making this style in Uk 6 to 18. Model is wearing a UK14 or US10

Please let me know if your size is not on my chart let's start a conversation.

I will show you how I make this jumpsuit in the next video.

click on this link to see more of this piece:>see more


I got my life back by Tomi Rotimi

I got my life back

I love what I do now but it wasn't always this way. There was a time that when I thought of work I got a headache just thinking about it. My brief stint in  the "collecting fabric/bespoke" world saw my typical customer engagement looking like this:

I get a call or visit from a desperate customer.She needs her outfit urgently and isn't willing to pay express charges. Then I head to the market and start looking for fabrics ,trimmings,zips etc to service her order. A few times I come up with a masterpiece but she misses her fittings, and insists on sending her driver to pick up because she is just too busy to show up. Driver picks up ( without my balance) and she gets her dress.

Usually one of these four scenarios happen after she recieves her order

A.She gets it but has changed her mind and chooses to wear something else ( after all that stress)

B. She finally tries it on the morning of her event and bombards me with calls expressing her disappointment  ( at odd hours , yelling and screaming )

C. She loves it,it fits right but.....I am warned never to replicate the design again and she has now labelled me her emergency bespoke tailor.

All 3 scenarios belittle the reason why I left a thriving banking career to start my fashion brand. This is why I transitioned to ready to wear. I was tired of complaining and sharing war stories with other bespokers,the fact that we were all suffering didn't console me. I chose to do something about it and honestly relaunching Xclamations as ready to wear has been one of my best life decisions and I have never looked back in 16years.

So now it's your turn. If you want to take back control then you need to take the course "How to start a ready to wear label in Nigeria " it's an investment you are making for your life,your mental health and your brand. It must be a priority for you just like it was for me to create the course.

So what do you do now? Click the link to take the course now and please also click on my podcast to listen to my episode on "my problem with bespoke".
Listen to the podcast here

Lesson: Try



Lesson: Try.  I was quite afraid to start wearing my pieces and taking my pictures myself, I thought hmm I need a young muse, skinny and all and besides I don’t know how to take pictures even though I have a top of the range Nikon and all the equipment, my good friend Didi said try try and try again if you fail you fail forward. So I sat on YouTube for hours learning how to work the camera (still learning) I looked for mentors doing similar things to what I’m doing I found Mimi G and ‘That Black Chic’ Success is not a destination, it’s a journey of twists and turns. It’s how you forge ahead even when there’s nothing, it’s how you get up, re strategise and push. You have to decide which part is not working and move without fear. There is always a way you have to find it.

  #startup #women #womeninbusiness #womenempowerment #dontstopbelieving #dontstop #womenentrepreneurs #saturday #girlboss #womenbosses #womensupportingwomen

Lesson: Trust your instinct


Lesson: Trust your instincts, I had seen the beautiful Airforce Blue glamour satin so luxurious to the touch in my local haberdashers and so before the close of Saturday business I rushed in to get a few metres. I was so eager to transform the fabric but I knew I did not have the correct interfacing material(interfacing is something you iron on to stabilise areas of the fabric) I had forgotten to buy the correct fabric interfacing for this piece. I tested a piece of the fabric and I knew deep down that it wasn’t that ok but my eagerness got the better of me! I also knew I should not put pockets but again I did not trust my instincts! I hung the piece up at midnight on Sat feeling very happy. It looked alright on the hanger! On Monday I tried it on and I saw the ripples of the wrong interfacing and the lines of the pockets! I did not want to post this unclear pic but I followed my instinct. Instinct must never be discounted 

 #womenempowerment #womeninbusiness #girlboss #nevergiveup #digdeep #instinct #women #lifelessons #womenentrepreneurs #womenempoweringwomen

How to sew an invisible zip

Fixing a zip right is one of the major skills you will need as a DIY sewist I like to use invisible zips for skirt and dress closures. I use normal zips for trouser fly closures Invisible zips gives a nice and professional finishing. In this short video, I show you three sewing feet. One for straight everyday sewing, one for fixing normal zips and an invisible zipper foot. You can use an ordinary zipper foot to sew an invisible zip but you would have to either iron open the zip groves or hold them down as you sew to get as neat a finish as possible.

How to sew a Skirt 2 Sewing



This is the sequel to How to Sew a Skirt (Cutting) here I show how I put this circular pattern skirt together. I fix the invisible zip and sew in the lining

Cutting An African Inspired Bomber Jacket


Here is one of my first attempts at recording a video which I did with my iPad
I decided to make a bomber jacket with African print which is cotton.
To make it meaningful for Autumnal Winter weather, I decided to put a wadding interfacing
To make it warmer.

How to sew a Circular Skirt 1: Cutting





So I finally decided to get my videoing act together instead of using my iphone or iPad to record as I had done before.
attempt at using my Nikon DSLR 3400, no extra lights! Watching the video back I realise that it was not high enough and so it did not capture all I was doing!
I now need to teach myself to use a video editor. In this new age of the internet and social media marketing, an entrepreneur must master all the areas and multi task, as the business grows one would be able to employ others to do the areas they are not too good at.

70s Silhouette Lace Dress

I love the babydoll A Line Mini late 60s early 70s silhouette with the bow detail. 
Mary Quant was a great influence in the late 1960s psychedelic fashion .
Her style moved away from “grown up fashion” to playful “youth” driven. Her shift dresses were short, very short, and her prints were bold and colorful “mod” prints. Her fashion, her personality, set the tone for the rest of the 1960s as “fashion-is-fun.” Mary Quant takes credit for the "Mini" and "Hotpants"



 I have a nostalgia for this era as my Mum and Aunties wore them in mini and psychedelic colours. I made my piece in a more sophisticated corded brown lace and lined the bodice with chocolate coloured acetate. Dress is a mini at 36" but could be made into a micro mini if  desired. I made trendy  fluted sleeves which are here to stay. 
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