Hail the Fashion Giants…

The economic fabric of Africa is seeing a gradual but sure change as young and upcoming entrepreneurs are taking advantage of non-traditional methods to showcase the treasures and talents within the continent. Fashion, which until recent times was considered as a hobby for most, is now climbing to the pinnacle of revenue generation for many talented African designers and artists. The essence of Africa is marvelously being captured by the handiwork and trade of many of these talented designers. The strong culture, untold stories and rich heritage is evident in the cuts, designs, themes, fabrics and colors that make up these fashion masterpieces. Behind each and every piece, lies an untold story…

Come hear the fashion giants roar during the fashion panel at the 8th Annual African Economic Forum at Columbia University in New York city. They are redefining the face of global fashion and giving Africa its own identity in the international market – they are the fashion trendsetters panelists. Tune in  every Wednesday and Friday leading up to the conference date (March 25 -26, 2011) to the Hot Off the Runway section as we showcase each panelist and how they are using fashion to rewrite Africa’s history. Starting today, Friday March 4, 2011, be sure to check in as we shine the spotlight on Ms. Elaine Mensah (founder of SVELTE LLC) and honorable panel moderator. However, if you will be joining us at the 8th Annual African Economic Forum, do make it a point to meet all the panelists in person:

Fashion Trendsetters Panel for the African Economic Forum, 2011

Elaine Mensah – SVELTE LLC (Moderator)

Elaine Mensah is the founder of SVELTE, LLC, a creative consulting and communications firm specializing in fashion and lifestyle branding. As creator & host of Fashion BS & SVELTE Tv, Ms Mensah has interviewed some of the biggest names in fashion including Jason Wu, Lela Rose, Fern Mallis, and Nigel Barker. From 2007-2010, Ms Mensah served as Fashion Director for Fashion Fights Poverty which was named #1 Fashion & Beauty Event by Biz Bash Magazine under her tenure. Elaine Mensah  has appeared in Washington Post’s Fashion Washington, Washington City Paper, Washington Times, Capitol File, and Washington Life Magazine as one of its “most influential DC residents under 40.” Elaine has also appeared as fashion expert on WUSA9, WJLA affiliate program “Let’s Talk Live,” WPGC 95.5FM, and DC area program “As We See It.” She has Bachelor’s in Law and Society from American University and Masters in Communication, Culture and Technology from Georgetown University.

Edward Armah – EDWARD ARMAH LLC

Edward Armah took his first humble steps into the world of fashion about ten years ago in his homeland, Ghana. Through managing a local radio station’s fashion segment, Armah developed an intense passion for the fashion industry.In 1998, Armah travelled to London.  He concentrated on fashion design, while he worked in a custom shop. But soon, he realized that London could not quench his escalating thirst for fashion. By 2000, Armah had made his way to the United States of America, where his appointment was as a personal shopper at Neiman Marcus, New Jersey.  By the time he left the high-end retail store in 2006, he had become a seasoned professional in the customized clothing industry. From Neiman Marcus, Edward Armah moved on to Saks Fifth Avenue, another prestigious luxury retailer in the United States.  Later, he worked for Oxxford, where he spent time with experienced tailors in Chicago. Inspired by his eclectic mix of experiences Edward Armah was ready to embrace his own luxury men’s furnishing business – Edward Armah LLC.

Ruby Buah – KUA DESIGNS

In 2009, Ruby Buah took a bold step by leaving behind spread sheets and financial statements for metals and fabrics. Ruby went from Finance to Fashion! It all started a few years back when she worked as a Financial Analyst at Coca Cola in Atlanta, Georgia.  Ruby, seeking a creative outlet started exploring different forms of art in her spare time. What started as a hobby in jewelry-making quickly became a profitable business.  Fast forward 3 years later, she is in New York wrapping up a degree in Jewelry Design at the prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology and parlaying her experience in finance into running her business. To no surprise, she has built on her jewelry line by adding an equally exciting handbag line. Bringing it all full circle, her cosmopolitan chic jewelry line is reminiscent of her experiences in different parts of the world while her handbag line pays homage to her home country, Ghana. From the humble beginnings of a kitchen table, Ruby is honored to share © Kua Designs.

Kibonen Nfi – KIRETTE COUTURE

Kibonen Nfi, promising fashion designer hailing from Cameroon, is co-founder of KiRette Couture, which is considered to be a fashion revolution. With her partner Anrette Ngafor, Kibonen is using KiRette Couture to bring Cameroon and Africa to the fore front of the fashion industry. Hatched in the New York chic bubble, KiRette Couture is mainly inspired by the “toghu” (also known as the Bamenda gown) – a colourful and intricately embroidered fabric typically worn, on special occasions, by the people of the North West and Western provinces in Cameroon . Although the “toghu” cloth is KiRette Couture’s signature fabric, designs are not limited to it. In true edgy and funky style, this one-of-a kind label aims to create a new fashion language which transcends racial and cultural borders by exploring, experimenting with and fusing various textiles. Our sourcing and manufacturing arrangements span across Africa, representing different African styles and cultures. In addition to her creative contribution to KiRette Couture, Kibonen continues to expand her portfolio as a fashion and social entrepreneur through her involvement in numerous ongoing projects including founder of Cameroon Fashion Industry Common Intiative Group, promoter of Cameroon’s Next Super model and board member Africa’s Next Super Model.

Jacqueline Nwobu – MUNALUCHI BRIDAL MAGAZINE

Jacqueline Nwobu is the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Munaluchi Bridal Magazine, the leading authority of bridal inspiration for women of color. Multicultural women are major contributors to the $160-billion wedding industry,however, their presence is visibly absent in most bridal publications. Munaluchi Bridal fills this void and provides the truest example that love comes in more than one shade. Nwobu launched the first issue of Munaluchi Bridal in January 2010.  Sincethen, the magazine has been distributed in all 50 states and internationally in Canada, Nigeria, Ghana and the United Kingdom. Ms. Nwobu has been featured in various media outlets discussing topics such as the many differences in cultural wedding traditions, interracial marriage, bridal fashion and Munaluchi Bridal’s “Pearls of Africa” feature which highlights the importance of raising Africa’s profile as a premier travel destination. Interview credits include WPIX NY, ABC, and NBC. Prior to becoming Munaluchi Bridal Editor-in-Chief, Nwobu worked within the Biotech and Pharmaceutical industries at companies including Johnson and Johnson.  Nwobu is a member of the National Association of Black Female Entrepreneurs and the American Society of Magazine Editors.  She resides in New Jersey with her husband and their three children.

Naana Tennachie Yankey – COCCOLILLY

Designer Naana Tennachie Yankey was born in Ghana. Her formative years were spent in the United Kingdom where she attended boarding school and later ventured off to Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. While living in the US, Naana made a dramatic switch from business to fashion, to cultivate her creative spirit. Her longing to be part of the fashion world came to fruition when she apprenticed with Marc Jacobs in New York. Naana later moved to Montreal to study Fashion Design at Academy of Arts and Design in Montreal, Quebec and then worked under Eve Gravel, before starting to sow the seeds of her own line, Coccolily. Through her diverse travels and colorful heritage, Naana`s approach to fashion is sensual, edgy and bold. Coccolily is infused by European flare, since Naana loves to work with original haute-couture fabrics from mainly Italian mills. Naana believes that a woman deserves to be draped in luxury; to have her body enhanced with special clothes. Coccolily is a daring yet playful line of couture lounge and eveningwear that brings out the edge and sexuality in every woman.

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I am a Giant…Hear Me Roar!

What do you get when you convene industry leaders, talented professionals, aspiring students and insightful academia, with a common goal to promote candid dialogue and share information, to one of the most prestigious higher learning institutions in the country? You get the annual African Economic Forum!

The 8th Annual African Economic Forum is jointly being hosted by the SIPA Pan African Network (SPAN) at the School of International and Public Affairs, the African Business Club at the Graduate School of Business and the African Law Students Association at Columbia Law School

Don’t miss the opportunity to be a part of this revolutionary event, as we, descendants of a rich culture, a strong people and a determined will find a voice to celebrate our predecessors, join our leaders and map our future!

This year’s conference, rightfully dabbed Roaring Giant: Africa’s Economic Ascent, will provide a forum to discuss and share possible challenges and opportunities stemming for Africa’s steady economic growth despite the recent global recession. Conference format will include a number of insightful panel discussions on various booming industries and interesting topics including entrepreneurship, women in leadership, film, private equity, fashion, healthcare, sports just to mention a few. During these panels, come meet, greet and pow-wow with exceptional experts, trail blazers and leaders within the different industries. Entertainment during the conference will include a high society fashion show showcasing lovely designs of upcoming and prominent African designers and a high profile gala dinner with concert event. For a more robust listing of panels, confirmed panelist, keynote speakers and for general conference information, visit http://aef2011.com/

And now a message from the conference organizers:

Africa has been hidden in the shadows for far too long! Come hear us roar as we re-ignite the burning torch of our ancestors!

Coolie High Cats…


The 1975 movie Cooley High, is story of a group of friends – a band of brothers – and their journey through life, overcoming obstacles, succumbing to mischief and through it all, building a stronger friendship. Well, this is our story… our Coolie High… – Midnight

With one common goal in mind, this lyrical duo found a unified voice in music and is preparing to take the music industry by storm! Their musical chemistry, consisting of the lyrical interpretation of Treasure Chest and the vocal talents of Midnight, provides a listening experience guaranteed to keep audiences bobbing their heads and to promote a different perspective of music.

As residents of Atlanta GA, Treasure Chest and Midnight, share common passions – growth and success – and have employed their music geniuses as possible outlets to achieve these. Their debut musical collaboration, Coolie High, is the cross roads and the meeting  of their different mindsets and music genres.

“The fun thing is that our minds work so differently but we end up meeting right in the middle”.

The Coolie High project is representative of innovative, yet natural music that appeals to all music lovers.

“We don’t try too hard to come up with music. ‘The creation of a song should not be forced. Expect something dope. Something your ear drums can thank you for. Something all the way coolie”.

The future is promising for this talented duo as they navigate their way up the musical ranks. Check out their debut musical collaboration… Coolie High.

The Prodigal Child Returns…

As dwellers in the Diaspora (for lack of a better word), there comes a point when one is faced with that decision to return to ones stomping grounds…a decision that for some, requires meticulous calculations whiles for others is a no-brainer! Whatever the case, it is always refreshing to see the youth returning to their roots – a typical story of the prodigal son/daughter returns. However, is it not necessary to return with the formula of success and the burden to effect change or is it okay to blend into society and conform to the status quo? The latter is always tempting but sometimes we do have to fight for what we believe in and not compromise what we have become used to and what we have been taught! Check out my new post on working together as the Generation Renaissance

Test Drive Rue 107…

2011 is all about throwing caution to the wind and taking the bold approach! Well, don’t leave your closet in the past…put a little sizzle in the drab, put a pinch of fierce in the mundane…and turn up the sex appeal a notch higher! Dare to take this challenge, well let Rue 107 be your highway to fierceness! Check out the hot young fashion designer Marie Jean Baptiste and her brainchild Rue 107 as you look for a slamming alternative for your fashion closet. Join in this fashion explosion and as Marie Jean put it herself…add some ‘BOOM’ in 2011! Check out Hot Off the Runway with Aj and take a ride on Rue 107…Highway for the Fierce & Bold…

This is to my number one…

Happy New Year and many thanks to you, my number one fan! Cheers to you for making 2010 worth while and remaining a loyal visitor of the Hot Spot! 2011 brings with it a lot of prospects for the Hot Spot and my only wish for the year is that we continue to nurture a healthy readership! What part do you play in this? Well if you enjoy the Hot Spot, its my guess that your friends would too, so lets make that connection…my part of course is to keep you entertained and you best believe, I’m all over that!

Now for a little re-introduction: during 2010 the Hot Spot went through a couple of minor changes, nevertheless it still remains the popular spot for news, views, fashion and whats hot! The Hot Spot with AJ is the overarching name for three other blogs – Blazing News & Views with AJ for (my personal rumblings on things that make you go hmmmm!), Hot off the Runway with AJ for(whats hot in fashion) and AJ’s Cupid Corner for (fun internet lounge, where we talk relationships and meet the personalities of the month).

2011 has in store some very spicy topics, intriguing themes and hot discussions! But remember Hot Spot is not only about me and what I think; lets continue to make it interactive guys. Would love to hear from you more often – your opinions, comments and even what you would like to read about! Help me entertain you! Lets make history in 2011!

All the best for 2011 and looking forward to being part of your scheduled entertainment for the year! This is for you…my number one!

All I Want for Christmas…

Oh the weather outside is frightful…but the boots are so delightful!!!  Ladies for this gift giving season, please make sure your wishlist is equipped! Join the boot revolution and remain fierce this season. A sizzle in your closet is definitely what the fashion doctor ordered this winter season. With endless selections in styles, colors, heels and appeal, don’t get left behind! Boot up and strut your stuff ! The memo is officially out – this season is all about Giving Christmas the Boot….(more)