Fangirling at Africa Fashion Week 2017

This Concierge has been having a ball this week as two major fashion events rolled into her town; Africa Sourcing and Fashion Week and Hub Africa. Events, pop-ups, exhibits and runway shows, there’s been plenty to keep an Addis-based Nomad busy. The fashion scene in East Africa is incredibly exciting; there are tonnes of passionate, creative and sickeningly talented people with a great vision for serving the men and women of the region. I did not keep my chill. Read about some of the exciting designers I discovered this week…

This Concierge has been having a ball this week as two major fashion events rolled into her town; Africa Sourcing and Fashion Week and Hub Africa. Events, pop-ups, exhibits and runway shows, there’s been plenty to keep an Addis-based Nomad busy. The fashion scene in East Africa is incredibly exciting; there are tonnes of passionate, creative and sickeningly talented people with a great vision for serving the men and women of the region. I did not keep my chill. Here are some of the exciting designers I discovered this week:

With Ethiopian designer Fikirte Addis at the helm, Yefikir takes elements of traditional textiles and design to create international fashion and professional wear. Fikirte is passionate about the incredible quality and beauty of fabrics available in Ethiopia and works together with other designers on building the social consciousness of the industry in Ethiopia; initiatives like a child labour free commitment and certification.Vivo Activewear, a rising Kenyan brand for the modern professional African woman, was co-founded by Wandia Gichuru. She believes that women in East Africa are under-served by the fashion industry and is on a mission to change the way that Africa sees herself through fashion. With 11 shops and counting, Vivo provides ready to wear and accessible fashion options, even available online.

Naked Ape Style, the vividly name brand from South Africa’s Shaldon Kopman, began as a bespoke brand, and is working towards sustainability as a business and promoting craftspeople from the continent, utilising only African makers. Having dressed the likes of Samuel L Jackson an Barack Obama, this menswear label is high fashion and eminently dapper.Ye Tseday Design is an Ethiopian brand that uses bespoke handwoven materials, hand-crafted in Ethiopia. The collection on display as part of ASFW combined high-quality and glamorous material with flowing and flattering silhouettes, with subtle nods to Ethiopian culture, such as a halterneck using a mix of material and traditional jewellry.

Of course, some of these designers are high fashion and shopping with them is more studio-based than online shopping cart, but here are some ready-to-wear items from Vivo Activewear and my stalwart favourites, Zaaf and Sole Rebels.
Africa Fashion Week 2017

 

New Openings & Discoveries in Addis Ababa

Highrises are shooting up the city over, the stadium is taking shape and there are a blissful number of new cafes and restaurants opening in Ethiopia’s capital. Here’s my September roundup of the newest or hottest spots in Addis Ababa.

Highrises are shooting up the city over, the stadium is taking shape and there are a blissful number of new cafes and restaurants opening in Ethiopia’s capital. It slightly lessens the blow of beloved institutions that are no more. And it’s great fun checking them out! Here’s my September roundup of the newest or hottest spots in Addis Ababa.

Lime Tree Bole

Bole Rwanda

Lime Tree has returned to Bole and in almost the same spot. The new location teams its inspirational quotes & calligraphy with dark walls and high tables, giving a more modern and chic  interior. The inside is spacious and relaxing. The ever evolving menu of refreshing juices, wholesome and safe salads and fun theme days is exactly what you’d expect if you’ve been to the Kazanchis location. The antipasti selection is a steal and the falafel wrap also highly recommended. A great addition to this area of Bole.
(Same building as Boston Day Spa, directly behind the spa, entrance on the left-hand side of the building).
A plate of salad and antipasti at Lime Tree Addis Ababa

Steam Cafe

Opposite IEC, Old Airport

It’s not brand new but Steam Cafe is a rarity in Addis and definitely warrants some space on this blog. This small boutique type cafe is something straight out of the pages of a design magazine. There’s even a powder blue coffee machine. It’s not style over substance though; the coffee was first rate and the fasting banana muffins too tempting to resist. Rumour has it an outside deck overlooking the river will be ready for the end of the rains. Some well needed green space in Addis.
The lovely interior of Steam Cafe Addis Ababa

Revolver Restaurant

Top of the Intercontinental Apartment Building, Kazanchis 

Though the interiors are nothing to write home about, the views and food are what really make this new restaurant a stand out. We arrived at opening time so we’d get views across the city in both the light and the dark. A full loop of the gently revolving platform which all tables sit on takes a little over an hour. The international buffet features an excellent salad and antipasti bar, a live wok / pasta station and a solid variety of tasty hot dishes. The dessert table was almost too pretty to dig into, but we did and were glad. Go quickly before everyone finds out about it. Particularly a good spot to take visitors.

Olivia’s

Tele Bole, next to Eastridge Church Addis / Addis Fine Art

Opened at New Year, Olivia’s is a large, stylish cafe, right by Edna Mall on a blessedly quieter side street. Masses of windows and fabulous lighting makes this new favourite light and airy. The pastries were top notch with thick custard and a fruity top and they serve a good strong and smooth macchiato. The cinnamon rolls were delightfully sticky. The colourful petit fours selection was very tempting, were it not 10am on our visit. As a nice touch, your bill comes in a blue and white enamel mug. Snatch a sofa spot and you won’t be moving any time soon.
Olivia’s has opened with a focus on doing coffee and cake well but plans are to soon expand to a full cafe menu. The planned breakfast includes waffles, french toast and omelettes and lunch will follow shortly after with pizza and burgers. We will definitely be back to try.

 

48 hours in Nairobi

Nairobi might not be the most convenient weekend getaway, unless you’re in the region like us, but if you’re planning a Kenyan safari or trekking trip, it’s well-worth scheduling in a relaxed weekend in Nairobi. Relaxed, you say? In Nairobi? Despite the traffic and the hustle and bustle, I’m here to tell you that a zen state is possible, and here’s how, dear readers.

Nairobi might not be the most convenient weekend getaway, unless you’re in the region like us, but if you’re planning a Kenyan safari or trekking trip, it’s well-worth scheduling in a relaxed weekend in Nairobi. Relaxed, you say? In Nairobi? Despite the traffic and the hustle and bustle, I’m here to tell you that a zen state is possible, and here’s how, dear readers.

Arriving on Friday night, arrange an airport pick up with your hotel and head over there. Instead of picking a spot downtown, plump for the leafy suburb of Karen in the South-West, where the green space and plethora of bon-vivant venues will equip you well for a weekend of kicking back. The Nomad’s Concierge loves The Purdy Arms for a mid-range option, or the inimitable Hemingway’s if you can stretch to it. In any case, once you’ve unpacked and freshened up and made sure you’ve got Uber on your phone, head to Hemingway’s for a relaxed cocktail amongst the tufted leather seats and marble fireplace.

On Saturday morning, head over to The Purdy Arms for a hearty brunch that’ll set you up for the day. The veranda looking out over the hotel’s luscious garden is perfect for people watching and getting a sense of life in Kenyan suburbia, as there’s always something on. The sports bar inside usually provides the right amount of banterous background noise. There’s a whole range of fun activities from paintballing to archery hosted from the gardens but they’re perhaps not in line with the relaxation aim. However, don’t leave without visiting the artisan shops that flank the drive. I fell in love with the quirky BBQs in the shape of buses and all sorts, but after 20 minutes making no headway on how to get one home, I reluctantly admitted defeat. Some day, BBQ, some day.

From there, head to the Giraffe Centre to get up close and personal with the most graceful of beasts. You’ll be given a handful of feed that you can offer up to a giraffe for them to extract from your hand with their extravagantly long tongues. A totally unique experience! The place isn’t huge, so no need to schedule more than an hour there and be warned, there’s no WiFi here, so don’t rely on Uber for your return trip unless you’re free and easy with roaming charges.

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At the Sheldrike Wildlife Trust, you’ll meet orphaned elephants, who you can see playfully jumping about and loving their safe and cared for life. At 5pm each day, you can visit to adopt one of the elephants, committing to financial supports its care in exchange for photos.

Stop by The Hub shopping centre, choosing one of their large range of restaurants for some lunch. We opted for Picazzo for tapas, churros and sangria in stylish surroundings. The shopping centre itself has many global brands alongside some fabulous local shops for souvenirs you’ll actually use in your home. My favourite of these was Blue Rhino, where I got some great candles, batik style placemats and had to resist any more of the beautiful handmade soft furnishings.

An unmissable Karen experience is Escape Room Kenya, around the corner from The Hub. If you don’t know the premise of an escape room, your group will be thrust into a locked room and you have an hour to solve the puzzles and escape. The Karen version is very well done. It’s not high-tech but the scenarios are fun and convincing, the plotlines get you in the mood and the puzzles are well-thought out and really enjoyable. Best of all, you can play from two players to a bigger group. And the props for the photo at the end are fabulous. It’s good, clean fun.

As night falls, the perfect Karen dinner spot is The Talisman restaurant, right next door in the same compound. Book an outside table ahead of time, where you’ll be supplied with blankets and your own fire in the shape of a rot-iron frog. The restaurant has a sumptuous menu of gastro-delights and a whole separate sushi menu to choose from. This is relaxed elegance at its finest.

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Sundays are made for hiking and being at one with nature, so after fuelling with your hotel breakfast head over to the Ngong Hills. A well-prepared Nomad would be wise to take water and snacks and beware it can get quite cool and windy. After hiring a ranger / guide for peace of mind at the front gate (or KFS opposite the Ngong Police Station), you can set off along the seven hills, which will take about 2.5-3 hours to reach the furthest point (Kona Baridi). Arrange a car to pick you up there – after all, this weekend is about relaxing, not exhausting, ourselves. Of course, there’s no need to go the whole way if you prefer to walk a little way there and back. In any case, along the way you’ll chat with Maasai herdsmen and spot buffalo, all the time with a stunning backdrop.

After earning your lunch, head to Matbronze Museum to visit their well-served café, before wandering around the fabulous array of bronze animal sculptures set amongst pristine gardens.

Depending on how leisurely your day has been and the timing of your flight, perhaps there’s time to fit in the nearby Karen Blixen Museum, the well-preserved home of the Out of Africa author. Much of the film adaptation was set there and it’s an intimate look into the author’s life. The Coffee Garden restaurant comes well recommended too for some refreshment.

And that is your 48 hours in Karen, Nairobi! I’d love to hear how it goes, Nomads, and any of your other discoveries. Let me know in the comments section below!