Piece | Masters : Chelsea Coffey

We are so happy to have our very first visual story complete just in time for the Fall! Our honored  guest is none other than Houston's own philanthropist, entrepreneur, and creative, Ms. Chelsea Coffey. She let us into the fold to highlight her intimately in our story titled "Risers". Check out the photos and her interview below....

 

"RISERS"

 

Give a glimpse into what your daily schedule is like.

This question almost gives me as much pause as when I get asked what I do for living. Being an entrepreneur is a tricky discipline because I have to build work hours into my week. Most every day starts out between 6:30 and 7am with time of prayer and meditation followed up by getting ready to either start working on my online store, The Coffey Shop, head out to a meeting or the office. 


We’ve talked a lot about the importance of denying oneself and getting up early! Can you delve more into that topic?

I love that you ask that. When I was younger, I relished being able to sleep in. Now that I'm older, there's something so special to me about the quiet time I have with God early in the morning. It's this little sacred window to set the tone of my day before emails, texts and calls start coming in, and I can totally tell the difference from day to day when I don't take the time to find my center and get off on the right foot.

Tell us what Mia’s Closet is and how it came to fruition.

Mia's Closet is my nonprofit, my baby, my passion project. I simply love the work we do. Every quarter, we hosts events for guys and girls kindergarten to 12th grade in underserved communities. At our events, each kid get a personal stylist who helps them shop through donations of new and gently used clothing, and they get to take all of their finds home with them for free. We've been doing it for four years now, and it's such a blessing that I can barely remember the time before Mia's Closet. 

I was employed by a chemical distribution company, and working on my masters when I came up with the idea. I had reached a point where I recognized an emptiness and wasn't sure where it was coming from, so I figured giving back could possibly be the answer. I was totally right, and God has just blown me a away with the success of the organization. It's crazy, and I'm so thankful.

What advice would you give to someone looking to start a non-profit?

Just start. Start giving back. Tell your friends. The right ones will get it, and dive in with the craziest sense of dedication. It's going to blow your mind... So get your chit together. Find an attorney or CPA who can help you apply for 501 (c) 3 status with the IRS as soon as possible. This will allow you to offer a tax deduction form to donors. They'll want to know if you're tax exempt, trust me. That status creates all sorts of opportunities.

Also, research. Research. Research. Research. A nonprofit is still a business, and needs to be respected as such. Identify the things you're good at, and not so good at. Ask questions, and build a team of people who can supplement your shortcomings. Otherwise you might find yourself banging your head against the wall, and that'll slow you down. 

What do you think is the main factor that has attributed to your success?

Man, the list... Prayer. The best friends ever. The most supportive parents that I could have possibly asked for, and clarity. I really feel like the vision for Mia's Closet is a gift from God for me to give back in a way that was uniquely destined just for me. I honor that calling wholeheartedly


Have you ever thought about expanding Mia’s Closet to a international platform?

Yes! lol That was the original intent. To go wherever we're called, whether it be domestic or otherwise. 


What is your definition of a composer? Do you feel as if you are one in your own right?

Hmm. I'd define a composer as someone who walks in the truth of their vision. They see something so clear in their mind that they just know they have to create it. Simple as that. A composer is the visionary who executes. So ya, as long as I'm bringing my visions to life I'd like to think I'm a composer.

photos by: Deun Ivory


Wanna get involved? Mia's Closet is always recruiting for new volunteers!!!

miasclosethouston@gmail.com

Follow Mia's Closet:

IG: @miascloset || Twitter: @miascloset_hou || FB: Mia's Closet Houston

CompoZer Spotlight: Doreen Caven

Meet Doreen Caven, one of three of the fantastic trio behind the budding brand, Caven Etomi. This beauty took time out to speak with us about the brand's inner workings, humble beginnings, and the part she plays in making the garments and visuals come to life! 

What role do you play in the CavenEtomi trio? 

I am a co-creative director of Caven Etomi. Our company is so small that we, the co-founders wear multiple hats. Alongside my partners, I oversee production, brand management and social media management. 


You have spent time both stateside and abroad in Africa, describe the difference of feels both places give you.

I grew up in Lagos, Nigeria and moved to the U.S at age 16. I have lived in America now, almost as long as I did in Nigeria, I would say that both places feel very much like home right now. Nigeria has such a strong sense of family. I would say that being home you interact so much more with people around you that are not your immediate family. There is that strong connection between people- even while out here you have that same kinship when you run into fellow Nigerians. That feeling of comradery is something that you don't find as much here in the states.  


What were you doing before you decided to develop your line of clothing?

I was in grad school, getting a Master's degree in Epidemiology. I also was a Fashion & Lifestyle blogger for The4acesdate.com.


What is one misconception people have of you?

I am an introverted extrovert. I am a social person among my group of friends and social media captures that aspect of my personality. Most people meet me and expect me to be more outgoing and outspoken, and I am mostly just shy, quiet and reserved. I get "You are not what I thought you would be" ALL the time. 


Which collection has been your favorite up until now? Why?

 Our IDIA collection has been my favorite and it's because it was our first introduction to creating the brand, Caven Etomi. We spoke about creating a product all the time, but had no idea when we would  have the time to do it since we really all had very different lives and lived in different cities (D.C, NY & Lagos). We wanted a desirable trendy product that had African influences and something that would be appreciated by both Africans & International fashion lovers alike. Creating our first samples of the IDIA collection was a very awesome moment for us. We had no idea if people would love it, understand our concept, or if they would be moved to actually purchase it. We had no solid ideas on how to promote it, we at the time only had our own personal social media accounts. We uploaded a selfie wearing the T-shirt to all our accounts and we had multiple orders that day. We didn't even have a website or a way to purchase it. It galvanized us to realize that we had a shot. We went back to the drawing board and constructed a business plan and decided on how we wanted to produce, distribute & brand our company using this first collection, and the rest is history. 


If you guys could collaborate with anyone on a particular product, what would that product be, and who would it be with?

I would like to collaborate on a line of African inspired Apparel for a huge brand like H&M or Target. I think it would be amazing for an African designer to have that opportunity to be the storytellers of contemporary African Fashion in a global market.


What is your favorite part of creating a visual from a simple thought?

My favorite part is seeing it come to life. From a mockup design to holding a finished sample or a campaign concept to seeing it in print, I just love seeing an idea come alive. 


What is your definition of a composer? Do you feel as if you exhibit those characteristics?

My definition of a composer aligns with my definition of a creative. I am a creative so yes, I feel like I exhibit those characteristics. Making desirable ideas come to life is a huge part of working for Caven Etomi. 

You can find out more about Caven Etomi here:  cavenetomi.com

Follow Doreen in IG: @doreencaven

CompoZer Spotlight: Ndidikanma Emefiele

Very rarely do I get startstruck. However, I have been completely captivated by the artistry of Ndidikanma Emefiele! I am so gracious that she has allowed us to get to know her! She is one of West Africa's freshest sensations and is definitely putting Delta State (Nigeria) on the map. Ndidi gave us the opportunity to speak with her about her journey and training as an artist and even how she feels about social media in conjunction with her brand. 

Give us a few sentences on your professional background and/or training.

I am developing my practice both in the studio and in my academic pursuit. I'm currently running a master of fine arts at Slade in University College London. I do have some exhibitions lined up so I keep working basically, I love making arts. Immersing myself in the intriguing world of art it's informing and transforming. Its beauty worth engulfing oneself in.


When was it that you truly started to take your creative talents seriously?

Seriously was quite early. It was when I began participating in local art completions, realizing making art was something I didn't grow tired of doing, even at my lows. I was truly passionate about it and it was imperative so I sought to pursue it long term. Emerging top place at the most prestigious art competition in the federal capital territory when I was in my last year in secondary school sort of solidified my reason and was the confirmation for my parents to pledge their full support.


What are your origins/roots? Are you a Nigerian? From which state?

I'm 100% Nigerian. My both parents are from delta state.


Of all the places (studios) your art has been shown, which one would you say is your favorite? Why?

Hmmm.. that would be most recently at Woburn, which is the research and development centre at Slade. Where I had a painting of a woman's naked body covered with a transparent floating tulle skirt pinned to the floor by tubes of paint. It certainly wasn't my usual way of displaying my work, I had always stuck to the conventional. Being at Slade is definitely challenging some of those notions and ways of doing so I will be trying a bunch of things in the coming months.


You have such a unique aesthetic and a lot of your paintings give such a realistic but abstract depiction of women. Are you inspired by any particular person to create these images?

I'm inspired by real experiences, often I employ themes of fantasy derived from facts in questioning the representation of women in diverse context. As a woman interaction with other women enables you to see from different perspectives on the pressures women are often confronted with the social, cultural to religious, often very constricting and raising questions of identity, enslavement, empowerment . I like to use images, collages and forms to reframe the image of the woman.


How much influence do you think Africa gives the entire art world from photography, sculpture, painting, ect?

Africa plays a major role. African arts has an immeasurable depth, it spans through centuries unaccounted for,imbedded with history and cultures of a people so dynamic it has been a resource and inspiration of artist of old including the great Picasso.in fashion as well, it has been a good resource.african and tribal prints is currently the biggest thing on the runway,brands like Burberry, Galliano and so many others have incorporated that into their designs. Some of the most iconic photographs of national geographic were taken in Africa. You wouldn't find culture so rich and diverse else where. Nigeria alone boast 250 ethic groups. Africa has an enormous reserve from which you can continuously draw and has long served as an inspiration.


What message could you give a budding artist or any creative wanting to truly pursue their craft?

l'd say let your passion for it motivate you, it should be the driving force. A fellow artist given a talk once said "if you struggle to make art,then stop it. Find something it else to do".let your art be a true representation of you and your ideas. It should be self expressed. A lot of younger artist fall into the boat of trying to paint like some one else or making copy arts. Let others inspire you as you find you.


Are you a fan of social media? How do you feel it can hurt or help get your art out there for people to view? 

Social media has been instrumental in building and breaking careers. Although more of the positive I should think. It's an awareness tool ,and I cant say I have used it effectively in projecting my works. I'm a little old school and there's just too many social media platforms to keep out with. You are not done trying figure out how one works and it gets overtaken by another and unto the next. I'm active on Facebook as that was the first I got onto. Partially active on whatsapp, dormant on Instagram, still can't figure twitter out. I think social media is as good as you use it.

Me getting my life in front of an original at Nike Art Gallery, Lagos

Me getting my life in front of an original at Nike Art Gallery, Lagos


What is your definition of a composer? Do you feel you are one in your own right?

Well, may be now that you put it that way. I have never thought to consider making in relationship to composing. I have thought of my studio as the fitting room, a lab and many other things.thats where it all comes together. Perharps if one consumes or engages with the art as music then may be the artist becomes the composer. I remain an artist though.


CompoZer Spotlight: Stephen Small-Warner

There is nothing more powerful than witnessing a creative individual support and avidly work to build up another creative. This action is been revealed on countless occasions by this weeks #CompoZer, Stephen Small-Warner. We had the pleasure of chopping it up with him on a few of his philosophies about artistry in the realms of photography and film... 

Compozition: Professionally, what title would you give yourself?

SW: Im the worst person to ask that question honestly. But if i were to give myself a title I would say Director and Photographer.


Compozition: What projects have you done in the past year that you are most proud of? 

SW: I am proud of all of my projects but I think Stoop55, Five on 55, and F5VE . These three were very important to creating a basis as a director something I don’t believe I had before then.


Compozition: You are quite the world traveler. What have been your top 3 cities that you have visited and why?

SW: Hahaha….. I wouldn’t call myself a world traveler at all. There are so many countries that I would like to get to that haven’t yet. But from the traveling I have done, I would say Berlin, Thailand, and Hong kong. 

1. Berlin- While I didn’t care for some of the racial tension in Berlin. I did appreciate the lifestyle. It is a very calm place during the day. A place where there seems to be no rush for anything, contrary to NY. You know? And don't get me wrong I absolutely love my city but it's not easy to find balance here. Anyway, Berlin was cool during the day and then at night it was like a different city all together. I mean they have parties all weekend, like enter a club on Friday leave on Sunday, crazy.  Just to touch on that racial tension comment: there was a kind of subverted racial tension you would feel in the US. Definitely with the African diaspora but also with the immigrants from Turkey. 

2. Bangkok-  I had a lot of fun in Thailand. I went out there with a film camera and just shot my entire experience. There are so many great places to travel in Thailand with various experiences. From watching a fight in Bangkok, to relaxing on one of the Phi -Phi islands. Every place I went I always found a cool local and had them show me some more of the day to day spots. Even if they took me to tourists spots, from their perspective it was different which showed as a quiet undertone of what I capture in the experimental film I made with the footage. 

3. Hong Kong- I actually intend to have a place in HK . It has the New York vibrance I need in a completely different world. Oh …...and the food in both Hong kong and Thailand is amazing. In Berlin the Turkish make something called a Don er  and its different than the one in Turkey which is considered dry, the wet diner in Berlin is amazing- definitely a bite to try.

Photo By: Stephen Small-Warner

Photo By: Stephen Small-Warner


Compozition: What's next on your travel bucket list?

SW: Well I’m not intending to travel until I finish my first feature film. But the very next place I’m going to hit is the continent of Africa (as many countries as I can). Which you know I will be calling you about. Just to go to a place where they haven’t grown up with a double consciousness will be an experience alone. In my travels I use to feel slighted by Africans( particularly Nigerians) when they didn’t exchange “the nod” haha … I mean everywhere I went I would shoot another person of color the head nod and they would shoot it back. But Africans never did it. I soon realized while speaking to a group of Nigerians when I was in Singapore. I asked them about the head nod I explained it but they just didn’t get it. I realized then that the head nod is really a non verbal acknowledgement of double consciousness and being from somewhere that you have no need for it , its not a gesture that is understood


Compozition: As a black man, what trials have you faced trying to break into the film industry (if any at all)?

SW: Well … I know I keep changing your questions up but I consider semantics to be important. I'm in no way trying to break into the film industry. I am an artist and film is one of my mediums. I will always be a filmmaker with or without an “industry”. With that being said. I do think that some of the trials that I face are being faced amongst many. One of the major problems is building a village to support our black artistry. This is not just in film but all forms. We are in a time where bigger structures are being broken down and therefore it gives many more people the opportunity to grab their audience.  If everyone is grabbing, nothing will be left but if we focus on building and growing then we are all fed.

More artist are becoming aware and taking the lead. You see it in music heavy. Nipsey Hussle building 'All Money in No Money Out', Jay-Z purchasing Tidal, and Ryan Lesie launching Disruptive Media. In film its happening too- Ava Duvernay with AAFFRM, Oprah (OWN), and of course Spike's 40 acres and a Mule & DDB. They are building structures around artistry and I’m taking notes. Mind you, people I mentioned have also supported each other. We need this kind of support across platforms and a focus on growth in all industries especially artistic. From parents encouraging their kids to follow a passion of sneakers like Troy and Chase Reed, to schools and universities creating better models of education like Finland with their “topic less” reforms. Its bigger than me or any one person in any one industry.  So, thats is what I’m doing, building a base of work with a core team and growing from there. The problems surrounding that are balancing art, business, and life which is common for anyone. 


Compozition: Describe your film school experience. Would you recommend the program to someone like yourself in the future?

SW: My film school experience was slightly different than the normal. I went to NYU TISCH ASIA  as a creative producer. I was in an innovative program to create the future producer. The producer that can take one story and tell it on various different platforms. Take a film and create a video game, an interactive website and a comic book for example. The program was amazing as it allowed us to consistently think outside of the box. Im a big fan of design (in another life I would’ve went to design school). But my attraction to design helps me think of 'form over function’  and the mediums we use to tell story. The program
 allowed me to play with different vehicles for story . For example, the recent short film I released you need to subscribe to get the password. But the password is also a clue to the name of the film. Just google it. Doing stuff like that is fun for me and is a big risk in a lot of ways because I’m not leaving all of the engagement(or story) within the film. But what do I have to lose? 

If there is someone thinking about going to film school out there make sure you know why your going. I wouldn’t go for the knowledge of making a film, the best way to learn is making a film, the knowledge is free. But the connection and team you can build in film school is certainly worth it. I now have 9 producers , and options of crew (directors,gaffers,dp’s,etc) around the world I can reach out to, thats a powerful network to be apart of.


Compozition: What is your philosophy on promoting people of color within your industry as a director?

SW:Well that goes into what I spoke about before ( building a structure behind the work) a bit. I think promoting people of color means providing as much opportunity as you can and as an artist of color staying true to yourself. I remember I was the creative producer on a project that involved a white Executive Producer and and black Director. I would be in between both. We were making this story about a terminally sick kid who thinks he’s a superhero. The EP had wrote a casting call to find the kid and before he sent it out, he sent it to the team. It read something like: looking for a kid 9 to 13 casusian male. Now at first I thought the director would respond to this but he didn’t. Now I’m not saying the kid should be black, thats the directors choice (and truthfully would’ve been my choice too) but the oppurtunity should never be taken because of unconsciousness. So I ended up sending out an email that said something like : I think we should broaden our search and look for all ethnicties, this would give us a better pool to work from.

Contrary to popular belief creative people aren’t always open minded or aware. Thats why you need a solid team of people around you. As far as being a director goes my stories will always be base within truth. My blackness is a big part of my truth so while the protagonist may not be always black, the world they are within will reflect my world. 


photo by: Stephen Small-Warner

photo by: Stephen Small-Warner

Compozition: What is your definition of a composer? Do you think you are one in your own right?

SW: I think a composer brings together people/elements in order to communicate a theme using a common language.  Yes, I would consider myself a composer. As a director I’m bringing a group of people together who know the visual language in order to communicate a theme. Getting everyone on the same page, on the same note, is the difficult part. As a photographer I find or create elements within one frame to communicate the theme. 


Compozition: If you could give any words of wisdom to a random stranger in this very moment, what would you say?

SW: The last step to any creation is to give it to the world it was made for. If your not putting out your work your not completing the cycle of creation. Put it out and let it go. We are a vessels of creation, it is not up to us to control what happens after we give it to the world. Its something to be thoughtful of but not controlling of. Give it to the world however you’d like .. but give it and the world will give you back even more. 

CompoZer photos provided by: James D. Malone

 

To check out more of Stephen's work:

Website: smallwarner.com  || IG: smallwarner

CompoZer Spotlight: Denola Adepetun

Denola,  or Denolagrey as the world knows him is on the brink of reaching the highest levels of media personalities in the diaspora. Get to know him for a bit now because he's coming to a TV screen near you! 

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CompoZition: How would you describe what it is you do to a random stranger?

DA: Essentially I am a men's style and fashion enthusiast that blogs his personal style and has now taken it a step further into being a media personality . I generate content for shows I am part of which usually pertain to men's style. I am also a freelance fashion consultant 


CompoZition: What are the perks of your job that you enjoy the most?

DA: I am in charge of my schedule and I get to have fun and make a living just by being myself 


CompoZition: You were raised in Nigeria but attended university in the states, how do you think that has shaped your outlook on fashion?

DA: I think I was formally introduced to my fashionable self in the states .. It has and will always be influenced by trends that come out of the states . Also because the states is such a melting pot of different cultures , I have a less myopic view about trends and fashion risks .


CompoZition: Which designers from the continent (Africa) should we be on the lookout for? Why?

DA: Orange Culture , David Tlale , Laurence Airline. This is because these three brands have used innovation to put out collections that actually make people excited about fashion again. They're all bold in their resolve and it shows in the execution of their respective collections .


CompoZiton: Do you think you would have progressed this much in your career if you were to have stayed stateside?

DA: I think for what I'm doing it is pretty saturated there. Here , I can confidently say that I am the first of my kind . Would I have loved to do what i   doing now , in the states? Of course!!but it's easier to get international recognition from here .. It's all about supply and demand .


CompoZition: What is one misconception you feel Americans have about Africans in the industry?

DA: I feel that they do not rate  our ability to create our own designs out of innovation. I think they feel like we are not as fashion forward as they are which in all honesty is very far from the truth . The average nigerian is a peacock. He/she loves to look good . We stay on top of trends worldwide and in our own backyard .


CompoZition: What is your definition of a compoZer? Do you think you exhibit some of those characteristics?

DA: I think a compoZer is someone who is chill and has reached a level of self awareness to where they are confident in their outlook on things and are able to create under any circumstance. Indefinitely thing I am a compoZer .. I don't take myself too seriously , but I am also confident in the kind of person I have become . This has helped me advance significantly 

Want to keep up with Denola?

Website: www.denolagrey.com || IG: @denolagrey