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Surprisingly the quality of bespoke tailoring in Brazzaville is probably the best in the whole continent of Africa. Lagos in Nigeria probably only comes a distant second. Surprisingly Cape Town is not even in the top five. One reason could well be dressing up just happens to be national hobby of most Congolese. They take tailoring very seriously in the Congo. I happen to own a coffee plantation in Guinea, that I visit twice a year during summer. The quality of the clothing in my wardrobe is really really good...I am not even talking about first tier tailors...these are clothes makers who just operate on the road side underneath a tree. But it's fair to say, the quality of their workmanship puts most Malaysians tailors to shame. Generally, I am appalled by most Malaysian tailors even the so called good ones are nothing more than a bunch of liars - they're very lazy and their philosophy seems to be - if I can pull the wool over your eyes and get away with it....then it's fair game. That more or less sums up the tailoring culture in Malaysia. Most of the time, they get away with shoddy tailoring as the customer is equally ignorant and seems only to be overtly fixated on material and very little else. But in the Congo, because there is a sort of an arms race amongst the tailoring community where they are in constant competition - and also because they refer to it as a national 'la game.' It's a sub culture that has been around for the at least a century - young men would dress up in their finery every weekend and parade around in bars. They call themselves sapuers. I

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What I especially find endearing about Africans is they don't suffer any hang up's whenever they see a well dressed man, it's not like in Malaysia where people will look at you like you're some dengue stricken freak strutting around a in a suit under the tropical heat. That if you didn't know just happens to be a reflection of their sartorial insecurity and immaturity. In Africa, a landowner is expected to dress like a landowner - it's de riguer man - it's even expected, hence it was very normal for me to dress in a creme linen summer suit complemented with a silver cane, close weave Montecristi, spectator shoes complete with a shouldered holstered 1911 ivory handled pistol. Whenever Africans see me, they would gather around and soon a carnival mood will take over with Dada Wembe rap music playing in the background. When this happens, the landowner is supposed to do a jig of sorts, while the crowd chants Harare Harare Harare! By then the spirits taken over him - it was a very different way of doing business. One where black magic is always in the background - I once showed a man a button from my waist coat, he asked me, it's unusual...I whispered to him, it's human bone.

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Whilst not related to luggage in any way, these posts about Africa are fascinating.

 

Cant wait for the next installment uncle chongers.

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I can imagine the scene of a dictator throwing a man off an helicopter being part of a hollywood thriller.

 

Come to think of it... it was in a Taiwanese movie starring Tony Leung.

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Don't be unduly excited. In Africa aircraft parts are usually in rare supply. So when I say, I saw a dictator throwing someone out of a helicopter...it may not necessarily be airworthy or even airborne at all. I know it sounds awfully strange to Malaysians, but as a rule of thumb Africa is a continent filled to the brim with unbelievable theatrics that makes Chinese opera look like a bad rerun of Sesame Street - just to give you all an illustration of theatrics, my first concession of a 1,000 hectare Bauxite mine in Guinea was actually secured thru an emissary of Alpha Conde who was at that time vacationing in a jungle palace owned by the late Mobuto sese seko smack in the middle of nowhere! The curious thing was this emissary wasn't too interested in whether I had any mining experience...in fact, he was so enamored by my Parisian experience as a shoe artist. The ministry of agriculture and livestock actually specified in their concession agreement that I part of the agreement required me to dress shoes. I was taken to this palace which believe it or not even had a replica of the Taj Mahal and the Forbidden City, thought I never actually saw Mobuto himself. I did dress a dozen or so shoes. They were very happy with me and when I eventually left, I was even conferred the title of a Chieftain...a Shahidi. Like I said, my shoe dressing skills have opened up more doors in life than I can possibly elaborate.

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This illustration is most instructive and perhaps even indicative of why so few individuals these days ever see the wisdom of dedicating themselves as craftsmen in malaysia and Singapore. Tailoring and shoe dressing is a craft that requires apprenticeship. But if you look at most tailors in Malaysia and Singapore, they seem to take no pride whatsoever in their craft. There seems to be no impetus to go beyond what they're accustomed to doing day in and day out. It's as if they cannot seem to discover a reliable way to prosper. Part of the reason has to reside in ignorance and a failure of imagination on the part of the customer. By this I mean where you don't have eclectic and informed public who is able to appreciate the services of the craftsmen - you are also likely to end up with people who don't mind wearing lousy mass produced shoes and only buy off the shelf clothes. Given time a sort of chelating and dumbing down is likely to occur - that is why you care to observe very few Malaysians know how to dress well. And given more time since the standard of tailoring will deteriorate further, overall the quality of dressing IQ is likely to fritter away. But if you notice it is the opposite in countries where the craftsman his art is held in high regard and esteem. In those countries where there is a critical mass of appreciators, people don't mind paying a premium for the services of a craftsman. There is pride, dignity of labor and respect...and so the spirit of the craftsman thrives and grows from strength to strength.

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IMG_20160615_121234_zps2pfczbhf.jpg

 

I realised a few days ago that instead of stuffing my pants pockets full, that a small manbag of sorts would be better for some days. Something to hold my phone, wallet, pen, clip-on sunglasses and a slim power bank. I thought of Peak Design's field pouch, which I subsequently bought (RM190). Attached to it is my Peak Design "Slide" strap. There are times when you are bag-free, and times when you have the smallest feasible bag like this, times when you carry a tote, times for a messenger/briefcase, times for duffel, and etc. It's about having the optimal tool for the occasion.

 

https://youtu.be/B2rVYkHaLI0

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IMG_20170905_205746.jpg?raw=1

 

Tenba DNA 11. The most functional compact messenger so far. Meant to be a photo bag, but transforms into a top quality messenger when you remove the padded insert. The strap is curiously comfortable. I would pick this over a Billingham. As pictured today in Sg. Kedondong. Sony A6300+Nikkor AI 105/2.5

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DSC03130-01.jpg?raw=1

 

It went with me to Bangkok and performed better than I had imagined it would. Sony A6300+CZJ Biotar 58/2

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