Memkoh Meetup, Lagos was a dream.
The planning was in my previous post; hope you didn't miss that. For your ease, I have broken down this Meetup Review into:
- The Drinks
- The Food
- The Conversation
- The Conversation Intensified
- The Closing
- The Aftermath
- The Attendees
- My Vote of Thanks
This time last week in Lagos, I was sitting in a little corner of a restaurant both with new faces and old minds I had connected with but never met in person.
The restaurant we chose was Casper and Gambinis in Victoria Island, recommended by my foodie friend, Ivie. It had just opened 10 days before we made our reservation and for a restaurant that new, they sure pulled a good crowd. The atmosphere was perfect for an afternoon meetup with our table next to the tall window. Everyone loved the ambience as well. Temperature-wise, it was a little too warm due to issues they experienced with the air conditioner that morning. The blinds went down to ward away the Lagos sun so we could be cool for a little bit.
I had woken up very early partly due to nervousness and mostly due to the sickening feeling in my stomach. I couldn't eat breakfast and my hands were trembling as I made a necklace for whoever was going to win the contest we were going to have. What contest? I had no idea. But I knew a gift would be nice. Some minutes before noon, Henry, my co-host and I were on the phone. I'm not sure he noticed I was having a minor panic attack but I was. He seemed calm and re-assured me up to when we got out of the car that things would go well and we would work with how our guests are feeling. We arrived in time, before any of our guests showed up. The setup was amazing! I was blown away by the simplicity. Our cameras started clicking. I used my camera for portraits and details while Henry got the wide angle view of the entire setup. I'll upload more pictures in a separate post when he sends them. Here
A few minutes later, we had our first guest, Folu Ajayi. Remember the Memkoh x Folu Ajayi Breast Cancer Awareness Styling / Illustration post? We hugged like we had known each other many years before. Then she sat down and told us something. "I brought my sketch book. Let's sketch your guests as they arrive". Whaaattttt???? That was the last activity that crossed my mind. I was so grateful that she came ready to add value to our event. I remember telling her as I sent her an invitation, that I was open to suggestions.
Our next guest was Jason Porshe, menswear and now womenswear designer. His work had been previously showcased here. I like how clean his designs are and because he is young, I think that's a sort of inspiration for younger guys who think suits are too serious and are only for Wall Street guys. Jason walked in looking sharp and relaxed at the same time in a self-label navy blue blazer with subtle stripes, a pair of jeans, hat and fun print shoes. He is totally the embodiment of his work, dressed up and down as needed. Then came Yetunde, a friend and a great writer. She runs her blog in silence (link at the bottom). Yetunde looked very classy and business-ready as she walked in with a black, pencil skirt and black tee with a little front slit and an extra hand bag. Her style is very functional and easy to go from work to play and vice versa as she described during the segment where we discussed our styles. Her pictures are on Henry's camera.
We took pictures of our new guests while Folu sketched away in minutes. It was like a bonus for those who came early because once food got involved, the sketch book was put aside.
Around half past two, I began to be restless. We had just been sitting down and making small conversation the entire time, without food or drinks. As the host, I found myself staring at the empty seats on the remaining 3 tables we had reserved and mentally comparing it to the list of confirmed guests I had (12). I noticed my guests who came early were feeling a bit uneasy too so I went to talk to the manager who sent the waiter to come and take our order.
Drinks (under N2000) were complimentary for all our guests. Henry and I had decided to pick up that tab a day prior so we came ready to leave holes in our pockets. It was fun reading out the names and guessing what the drinks would look like. We were all pretty indecisive. Our drink orders came in a variety of colors. I exclaimed when I saw my green drink and everyone laughed at me. "What did you expect? It's called Flying Grasshopper for a reason!". I sipped painfully on my drink, knowing that I had passed the limit of being adventurous. Jason and Folu stayed safe and got Chapman. Yetunde got an interesting blue drink - Electronic Lemonade (thanks Tuke! Got that name from your post).
When it was time to order food, we took our sweet time yet again. At the time, we were 5 and 4 out of the 5 wanted suya. No! No!! No!!! As a bonafide, unashamed food taster at dinner tables, I couldn't let that happen. We switched the order around severally till we had 2 suya orders (1 beef, 1 chicken), 1 chicken under brick, 1 chicken escalope and 1 beef tenderloin. Aha! Now we're talking! The amazing thing was that we shared every single dish. You were free to taste from as many plates as you wanted.
As the food arrived, we had more guests. Henry had invited Cj and Ifeanyi. Cj is a lawyer who'd attended law school in Abuja, Nigeria and was currently practicing. I signaled to Folu across the table, who although is into designing and illustration, is currently a law student. Her eyes lit up! I was loving this mix of creatives already. As we talked, Cj who came dressed in black denim and a black inscribed tee confessed that he did not tend to a particular style neither was he a "creative" but he was invited by a friend and was curious to meet people. I told him creatives will one day need lawyers anyway, to which he wholly agreed. He sat and listened a lot of the time and I made conscious efforts to make him speak. :) Ifeanyi, who he came with is a medical student and male style aficionado who blogs at IfeanyiOkaforJr.com. He had just started his blog a week prior to attending this meetup, very much like my New York meetup where the only lady in attendance had just started blogging less than 3 months prior. It's always nice to see emerging creatives. Ifeanyi, though is no new bee to the style world. He'd just finally accepted the nudge by his audience to start a blog.
More Food - See Complete Food review on Tuke Morgan's blog.
Cj and Ifeanyi ordered just drinks which took a while. More food came and out came the cameras again. "Click click" and Tuke Morgan walked in. Tuke is a saxophonist (hire her for your next event) and blogs at Tuke's Quest (link at the bottom of page). I stumbled across her page when she moved back to Nigeria and began her NYSC journey, a national service scheme for recent college graduates. As we chatted, she told me that was 2 years ago. How time refuses to crawl! She had now fully settled in Nigeria and was doing well for herself and her blog. She came just in time and took many amazing pictures and has blogged about the Memkoh Meetup plus a food review if you ever find yourself in Lagos. Oh one more thing, as I introduced Jason to her, she exclaimed "Wait! I just listened to a podcast with you on it last night where you shared your story as a designer". Yes, Lord!
My camera went off before Folu's Beef Tenderloin came out.
As we ate and drank, we talked about so much. First, it was the basic introduction as people came, which I just did above. Next, I found myself asking people what their style was like. We had started discussing this way before food and drinks and continued now that we had more guests. I enjoyed hearing the variety of responses from Tuke's "I just wear clothes" to Folu's "I like to look really glamorous and somewhat 50s" to Yetunde's "I can throw on heels with this outfit and I'm set for work or a meeting. My clothes need to be able to go from work to happy hour and vice versa" and Jason's "I like my clothing choices to reflect my work. People see my suits and ask if I make menswear. It's a conversation starter". We laughed after Tuke's one line answer and demanded more but it was just that. She rocks whatever fits and she does a great job at that. I turned to Cj and asked if his choice of black was affected by his career (law) and amazingly, it wasn't. He was more into wearing not just black, but darker colors because they complement his skin tone. Hmmm and he says he doesn't have "Style". That's style - knowing your body and what works. Although if I'm to style him, I'll put him in a bright color and see if he squirms. (Hi Cj! Haha).
Ifeanyi started describing his style as "I'm still figuring it out but I tend towards the 90s...". The best part of hearing Ifeanyi speak was Jason's reaction after. Jason, the designer clapped because he had been following Ifeanyi on Instagram for a while and although he just met Ifeanyi in person, Ifeanyi's description matched what Jason's perception of his style was. Very remarkable! I didn't catch all of Ifeanyi's style snapshot because I got a call from my friend who was to attend. I felt I needed to take it in case she needed directions. Turns out she wasn't able to make it due to certain reasons. It was nice of her to call. If you recall all Ifeanyi shared, please share (or Ifeanyi if you're reading this, please share more about your style).
The Conversation Intensified
Up next, Henry asked what trends we wanted to stay and the ones we needed to leave right that minute. I noted who said what, but for the sake of world peace (because we threw quite a bit of shade on that table), here are the things we agreed to go and stay.
Trends to Stay - Creativity, honesty and ingenuity among designers, designs that tell stories, more emergence of ready-to-wear clothes, vintage pieces.
Trends to Go - Culottes, bodycon / ill-fitting clothes, excessive color-blocking, better quality of clothing, really flashy looks, design replication without due credit to the designer, wanna-be Nigerian minimalistic brands, crop tops, sheer clothing, "couture" brands on every street in Nigeria.
We also lent our ears to the on-rising fashion scene in Nigeria and inevitably, the emergence of "the cool fashion kids". We talked about the exclusivity scene, which I had noted from overseas.lol.It was great to know that I didn't make that up and listening to everyone's genuine take on the matter gave me assurance that there were few sane ones around. I genuinely enjoyed all our conversation as they spiraled up, down, left right with no barriers.
Speaking of no barriers, we discussed other things like social media trends, a.k.a the fake deep trend that plagues Instagram. Agreeably, the better alternative to being fake is getting out of your house, away from your usual circle of friends and into the midst of strangers like what we had around the table. Style was in focus most of the time but since Henry and I had agreed to go with the vibe of our audience, we did just that and watched as conversation after conversation, we didn't stop.
In the closing segment, I beckoned on all creatives in attendance to tell us what we could expect from their brands in this new year that had just peeled. The responses came from really humble but hopeful minds while still exuding the confidence and relentlessness creatives should posses. We then exchanged contacts and started taking final pictures and at that moment, 2 new people walked in. We gave them a warm welcome nonetheless. It was great that they did not look at the time and decline the invitation that was extended to them. So we all stayed a bit longer, chatted with them and stopped in our tracks to take more pictures every time we headed for the door. At this point, the Memkoh Meetup: The Lagos Edition was officially over. What was now going on was a seamless continuation of the connections that had been built over the past 5 hours. I can't accurately describe how I felt - overwhelming joy and gratitude.
We finally got into our cars and left. Because life likes to take interesting turns, something happened on my way to drop two of my guests. The traffic light on Ozumba Mbadiwe, a major street on Victoria Island was turning red. Confident that I could make it, I sped through and ended up running the lights. The boys noted what I had just done and as soon as I uttered the words "They (the cops) will be alright, I saw a flashlight pointing in our direction. Oh noooo! The police? I was in the left-most lane and that made it easy for them to stop us. "Madam clear, clear". I did and the officer who rode the bike told the second officer to ride with us to their office. He ordered one of the boys out of the passenger's seat. "Drive! Turn here and drive straight. Can't you turn? Which driving school you go to?". I was a bit nervous and shaky to cut through the traffic, past another red light and onto the road they wanted me to turn in, even with the officer's directions. I eventually made the turn, amidst crazy bus drivers and lots of honks. Then I parked on the right arm of the rickety road and we got out to talk to the officers. I did not argue when they told me my offense, lest they double the fine. The next words scared me: "Eh na, so we will impound this vehicle for 6 months! 6 months, madam, and you will pay 50 thousand Naira". Before all of this, the lead had already told his subordinate "Do not take any money from them. I am not supporting all this corruption in this country". "Ahhhhhh! I am finished" I thought in my mind. I had absolutely no money. I thought of using my U.S cards but I left them in the negatives and ran home to escape this American life of bill payment indefinitely. If I ran home to eat free food, what makes you think I have N50,000? We negotiated 30,000 Naira. My friends in the back were somewhat willing to pull money so we could go. The officers kept shouting that I should drive to their office. The one in the passenger's seat told me we should beg the other guy because things would spiral out of our control once the matter is taken to their office. We obliged. I thought of the little money I had that was for shopping Nigerian brands and how taking out of that money would mean no support for said brands. I told the nicer officer we could go to the ATM and pull money and he refused to let us. He had become impatient too and at a point, I nudged him and felt his bullet proof vest instead or whatever hard thing he had on. "Oga please na, you sef you are not helping us beg your oga". He had become tired of the other man's excesses and wanted to leave the scene. Remember my friend who couldn't make it to the meetup? She called and I told her where we were and what had happened. "Just hold on for me, she said. And don't give them anything more than 1 thousand Naira. I'm coming".
I went to beg the lead officer on my own and I heard him communicating over his radio. He had reported the issue. Next, I heard sirens. They were definitely coming for us. We jumped into the car and I zoomed off. I cleared again and we got out to beg. This time, a few tears were coming out. "Oga please now, we have accepted our offense, abeg help us. We are students. We don't have money. This is the only vehicle my family has". What didn't we say? Then from 50k and 30k, they asked for the 10k we said we would pull out. Someone from the back started this story and we all chimed in. "Ah oga that friend on the phone just now has refused to pick again after we asked her for money". I added "You know how people are when you need them". In my mind, I was wondering "I thought you were not in support of corruption and didn't want us to go to the bank then. Why now?". I cleared yet again and the boys went to beg one officer while I went to beg the other. We got in again because the road we turned into was quite busy. I started opening every openable compartment in the car to find money. 70 Naira. Then I asked the boys to help me check my bag. 100 Naira. They emptied their wallets and we had a total of about N2,200. The officer in the car asked us how much we had and we told him. Then I overheard him say "Nothing" over the phone. You obviously know who he was saying that to and why he said it. Next thing, he told me "Clear clear" and got out. Oh my God. THANK YOU!!!!
That whole ordeal took about an hour, because we left Casper and Gambinis before it got dark. Now, it was pitch black at 9pm. I turned around, thanked the boys and went to drop them off. Then met up with my amazing friend who practically saved us from carting money away to the police officers. I was happy she had made the effort to see me that day although she couldn't make it to the meetup. I understood. I filled her in on what had happened at the meetup, we caught up on each other's lives then headed home. Her outfit was a stunner by the way.
It was hard to face my family who had no idea and still have no idea my night ended like this. I couldn't tell because of the consequence - I wouldn't be allowed to go out again. That night, my friends were meeting up in a restaurant. I shouldn't have gone home because the tiredness that engulfed me was so much I couldn't eat dinner and get ready in time to leave. I slept like a baby.
- Henry Uduku - Men's Style Blogger at FashDiaries, an amazing collection of bloggers who blog together/share their passion and experiences in one platform | Budding Designer (on the dl) | Stylist | Avid multi-tasker a.k.a the only young Nigerian I've met working multiple jobs.
- Folu Ajayi - CEO, House of Dabira | Winner, Zinkata Red Carpet Challenge | Memkoh x FAI 12 Days of Fashion Instagram: @folu.a
- Jason Porshe - CEO, Jason Porshe Bespoke | "Nature is my constant source" Instagram: @jasonporshe
- Yetunde Durotoye - Writer, In-Threes | Avid Traveler / Collector of experiences Instagram: @isiwharkome
- Ifeanyi Okafor - Fellow Stylist (Yaayyyy!) | Men's Style Blogger at IfeanyiOkaforJr Instagram: @ifeanyiokaforjr
- Cj Uwandu - Our Lawyer
- Tuke Morgan - Blogger at Tuke's Quest| Saxophonist | Read her Post on the Meetup and Food Review. Instagram: @tukemorgan
- Chidi - Artist | Photographer at The Lex Ash @thelexash
- Michael - Soft Skills Trainer, Andela Instagram: @curiositycomplex
- Memkoh - Your Host / narrator | Stylist | Blogger Instagram: @memkoh
My Vote of Thanks
To everyone - my co-host, Henry and my friend who introduced us, all attendees, those who confirmed but could not make it, venue organizer, everyone who shared my invitation posts, those who invited / came with a friend - you all made my 3rd Memkoh Meetup: The Lagos Edition a tremendous success. THANK YOU!
Stay tuned for details of my next meetup next month (February) in Washington DC. More To bring the Memkoh Meetup to your city, email email@example.com