Let's Talk: Zainab Sumu

One of the things that was always in the back of my mind last year was to have more interviews on the blog. It's quite clear what I think about the continent through this entire blog, but I always love hearing other people's impressions. I also am quite fascinated by other people's stories, the things that inspire them, their passions, etc. While this idea lingered in my head forever, one excuse or another always found me not flexing my little wings and branching out to others. Well, 2010 is a new year and certainly a good time to make changes and what I think are improvements! Moving forward, you will find me virtually chatting with creative types, business owners and more from Africa as well as others who may not be from the continent but are clearly passionate about the place as much as the rest of us. I will aim to get at least two interviews on here per month, but will definitely strive for more as there are so many people that I'm interested in connecting with and sharing a little bit of their story with you.

To kick things off, I am so excited to talk with Sierra Leonean native, L.A.-based, boutique owner Zainab Sumu. Her boutique, Zainab, has been featured in magazines such as Los Angeles Magazine, Elle, Vogue, and Lucky and is known as the place to go for a latest fashions to separate you from the rest of the crowd. She collects unique and hard to find pieces from designers such as Ann Valerie Hash, Gregory Parkinson, and Duro Oluwu (who I've blogged about here). She recently moved from an appointment-only set-up in her apartment to her first store-front on 7021 Melrose Ave. and the buzz has just been growing and growing. In addition to the stunning clothes that she sells in her boutique, what really grabbed my attention was the beautiful artwork that sits side-by-side with these great clothes. Her boutique totally seems like the place that you can go into, relax, check out the clothing while looking at great art and books from Africa. Needless to say that I was very happy when she so graciously agreed to answer a few questions from me not only about what Africa means to her, but also just sharing her experiences and inspirations. So without more chattiness from my end, here's what Zainab had to share with us:

What are the first five words that come to mind when you think about Africa?
Laughter, Breathtaking, Passion, Untouched, Joie de vivre

What is one of your favorite memories from time spent in Africa or around other Africans abroad?
Dancing and camaraderie

Is African art/culture/history incorporated into your business (either in it's interiors or through you)? If so, how?
Africa is in me so it is in everything I do. I love the food, art, design, architecture and high fashion. I grew up in Africa, Europe and the U.S. My store is a reflection of who I am and the design (by J. Jean Claude Samuel) was done to reflect a sensibility I call "Primitive/Modern". All art work, books in my store is African, the racks, table and mirrors were custom made by French Sculptor Pascal Giacomini reflect that as well.

If you could go to one place on the continent right now, where would it be and why?
Sierra Leone. I have not been home in a while, it will be great to return to my source and re-energize and appreciate that which I left behind.

What is your favorite part of owning your own business?
The freedom to create and see my hard work finally blossom to more than just a dream.

When you are not running your store, what do you like to do?
To be honest the past two years have just been about my business; when I am not running the store I am running around doing something or researching but I love what I do and it is my passion so it really does not feel like work. I love having dinner and drinks with friends and vegetating with a good book.

Where is your favorite hang out spot?

What is your personal soundtrack of the moment?
Sade's Soldier of love!!! I also have Fela, Les Nubiennes, Vieux Toure, Sarah Tavares, Doc Gyneco, Yssour N'dour, Oliver Ntukudsi, Daby Toure, Salif Keita, Amie Koita, and a host of other African musicians on constant rotation on ipod at my store.

Who or what has been your greatest inspiration?
My dad, he was successful, humble, kind and the most loving person I have ever met. He trusted my judgment since I was a little girl and will always let me know that whatever I choose to do will be the right thing. I am fearless because I grew up believing I can.

What has been your proudest achievement?
Opening my store; creating something so far away from home that will be a source of inspiration for others

What is the best lesson you've learned so far?
Always trust your instinct!

What is your favorite meal?
Poisson Braisee and Aloko- Any seafood with Plantain ha!

What is a favorite saying of your mom or dad?
"Always be prepared for the rainy day"- Dad. I never really paid attention though..

What book and/or magazine are your reading right now?
L'espagnol d'aujourd'hui en 90 lecons et en 90 jours- I got this book when I was living in Paris and I have decided to pick it up again and improve my Spanish.

I hope that you have enjoyed the interviewed as much as I have and that you get to check out Zainab online or in person the next time you are in L.A. I'd also love to hear you thoughts on this interview and what you'd like to read about in future interviews.

Thanks you so much Zainab for taking the time to speak to us!

{Photos: Zainab & Los Angeles Magazine}


Dana said...

Awesome interview. You've done a great job with interview #1. I now want to check out the store. In person. I look forward to reading more in the future.

31 everything said...

I LOVE that massive floor mirror - just stunning!

enisio said...

Great interview and STUNNING pieces!! They are works of art!

Loveely said...

Thank you so much Brandie!
It is an honor to be featured on your blog...
Thanks for the lovely comments and hope to see you all in LA!