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

Heartland: The Agbogbloshie Story

There comes a time in life where during the search for inspiration you find the very thing you were least expecting that changes your outlook forever. This is what photographer Kevin McElvaney and I share. I stumbled upon his striking visual story of the people of Agbogbloshie in Accra, Ghana a year ago and was completely floored. The people of this region are currently undergoing immense effects of the processing, burning, and dumping of electronic waste from all over the world. Their land has become a primary location for all of the old iphone, TVs, ect that are no longer of any use to us. As a result, e-waste is emmitted into the land, atmosphere, and water which produce alarming health risks to the inhabitants. Kevin's ability to capture the rawness of the people in the midst of their deplorable situation was masterful. After research and mustering up my confidence to reach out (which took a year's time mind you lol) I was thrilled to learn that the mind behind this piece was willing to open up about his journey and how his story is fostering global support to make a difference for the people of this village. For more information on how to do your part as well, read on......


What inspired you to pick Agbogbloshie as your focal point despite all the other areas you could’ve chosen in Accra?

Agbogbloshie just fit perfectly into my projects I want to work on in future. As a young photographer I try and want to work on projects, which I also want to work on in future. Agbogbloshie and the e-waste problem is one of them. At first the scenery you see in Agbogbloshie caught my eye, so I began to work on specific ideas, stories and pictures. After I made my research I realised, that this is such an important topic and I had to photograph it: its an ethical, socio-economical and environmental disaster. So after knowing all this I contacted local and was planning my trip. I wanted to come back with more portraits and personal stories, instead of describing the vicious-cycles and the illegal dumping again. Thats why most pictures show the boys, girls and men in the center of the pictures and I came back with small stories about all of them.


What message would you like this story to speak on to the masses?

I tried to put the person and individual in the center of each picture. I don´t like it, if a person in such a poverty scenery is just a symbol for the poorness and conditions. Too much info is missing in such a picture. Thats why all people in the photos look into your eyes and staged in the center of the pictures. I also wanted to know exactly the conditions and circumstances of each individual: where do they come from? why do they (have to) come here? what do they expect? future plans? and so on. I am able to tell you a story about everyone of them and thats also the main heart of an Exhibition I created about Agbogbloshie - which is available to everyone, everywhere by the way.

I hope people also see the proud, beauty and power in each picture, because even if these people live under bad conditions we shouldn´t display them in a bad and disadvantageous way.


What reaction did the people give to you once you began to shoot them? Were they open to your camera?

I think I worked a bit different then other photographers before. I went straight through them and asked questions first, get to know them and after a while I asked them to be part in the picture. No one was forced and no one was photographed without his notice, which is clear by eye-contact and the standing on a case/ monitor I think. There was just one guy, who denied my call. He had a wound near his eye, which was looking pretty bad and he didn´t like the idea that people look at him with that - so for me this argument was absolutely understandable. All the other ones seemed very interested to me and respected that I asked them first. Most of them just see a photographer from a few meters, who takes a random shot an leaves. I also gave everyone a Polaroid Picture, what they really liked.


You’ve had the opportunity to capture people from all over the world in such a raw way. Who are your best subjects?

The best pictures result from real stories I guess. Often photojournalist are not allowed to show a strong interaction and relation between them and the subject, but I like that. People should see, that I´m not invisible and in the middle of something. If people allow me to do that, thats special to me and it happens almost everywhere. None of these people are models, so they don´t act that much and show themselves after a few minutes. So the best subjects are those, who don´t pose and let me enter their world, thoughts and allow me to capture it.


Please let us know more about the Pure Earth Benefit Ball and the efforts to raise money for the people of Agbogbloshie.

The reasons why I´m joining the Pure Earth Benefit Ball are diverse. At first I (accidentally) met their local partners those days in Accra and know their work. Another one is, that the US is a big exporter of these unfunctionable electronic goods and its important to raise the awareness about this fact. I denied to raise money for Agbogbloshie for a long time and for example don´t collect money with my Exhibition, because in the long run we can´t solve a problem somewhere else, if we produce it in our own countries and export it = we should make sure that we recycle our e-waste and that just usable electronic goods get shipped to Africa, because just that is what they need!

So I´m just interested in a long-term solution on a political and international level. But this Pure Earth Benefit Ball could be a start and another signal to change things quickly. On top of that less risky solutions for a proper recycling in Agbogbloshie and other places are barely needed. If there are good solutions in Agbogbloshie we could also use them somewhere else and a main problem is that African Countries don´t have recycling and don´t know how to deal with it. But again: the long-term solution should be a different one. We have to do our homework and stop these exports in our harbours.


How can people or become involved in helping as well?

My best advice is to reduce your own consumption of electronic goods. We don´t need a new smartphone and laptop every year and its quite easy to understand, that if we don´t produce problems, we don´t have to solve them. Its crazy that we know about the risks and consequences, but in the end still produce them. So I guess this is one thing we can change in our everyday life-decisions to make a difference. Besides that we should learn to repair and reuse again, should buy quality (long-life) products, which are more sustainable and make sure, that we give these products at the end of their lifespan to authorised scrap courtyards. By doing this, we automatically show manufacturers and politicians, that its more important to act in such a way and can introduce a change.

Orange Culture presents "Alex"

When I think of Orange Culture I immediately reflect on youthful innovation. Youthful in its approach of relaying a message; in that it's distinct and clear while always remaining fresh and energetic. This brand has been able to capture the very essence of beauty because they highlight the magic in the details. 

Here we take a different #CompoZers approach and highlight an actual composition- the newest photo story from the brand titled, "Alex". Founder, Adebayo Oke-Lawal breaks down the visual and bring us into his realm. 

What inspired the title?

The idea that two people with entirely different characteristics could be totally tied together by a name . Both models for example - both their names are Alex. From two entirely different worlds and interests but in that moment when someone says the name Alex - they are one.

Give us more info on the theme of this story.

We wanted to explore the idea of youth . The freshness of individuality in youth. The choice to explore the softness of youth as a man and how beautiful it could be . We wanted to explore the art of soft masculinity in youth and how beautiful it could be. The idea of loving art , loving flowers , loving beautiful things as a young African man - all those things should be beautiful even as a man.

When you are deciding on the visual for a lookbook or campaign for Orange Culture, where do you start first?

I start with a moodboard really . I pull what I call inspiration journals - which you can sometimes see on my tumblr - images, music, words that paint a picture of what I am feeling and I present that to a photographer - if he feels the emotions I feel when I see those things - gbam! - the relationship to build that visual begins.

Do you have more fun creating visuals such as Alex or designing the clothes?

Nothing better than creating clothes . Visuals do excite me but the stories I tell through creating clothes cannot be replaced

Do you feel “Alex” is a composition? Why?

I do because I feel it composes of so many different pieces of Orange Culture / so many aspects of what inspires and builds orange culture as a brand - Alex is a composition of one of the pieces of the puzzle that is orange culture. Hopefully that makes sense. 

photography: The Bisbol Man

Follow the brand:

Website: orangecultureng.com  ||  IG: @orangcultureng

SXSW presents "Sounds of Africa/Caribbean"

I’ve been fortunate enough to see some of the best acts during SXSW over the years. However, the Sounds From Africa/ Caribbean showcase was one for the books! This year SXSW held their first ever lineup displaying two stages featuring artist from around the African continent and the Caribbean. Some of these acts included Nigerian artists Davido, Ice Prince, and Emma Nyra paired with Ghanaian musicians Sarkodie and Samini, and Serge Meynaud from the Ivory Coast while Morgan Heritage and Gyptian brought the islands to West Texas in major way. 

I am THRILLED to see this happening on such a major platform for the diaspora! I'm certain that the event will only get bigger and better every year. It was completely and utterly bananans!! 

S/O to Afrodisiac TV for the great clips from the Afro Pop stage!

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