Toke Makinwa and the Scarf that Ties Her to a Crowd

September 9, 2020

It’s a beautiful thing, Toke Makinwa’s new vibrant scarf. It would remind you of a classic design by the prestige fashion house Hermés. 

I doubt, though, that to make Toke’s Vistosta Scarf, any convoluted processing techniques were employed by her factory. Hers might simply be a screen print of a crowd-sourced pattern. 

Which doesn’t in any way mean it is a flimsy item. Even Hermés, as far back as 2013, employed freelancers to design its $1000 scarves. It is what it is. And, for the price Toke offers the new polyester twill Vistosa, you could still say her product is globally competitive. 

Toke Makinwa’s scarf goes for N9,000 aka $19, just like what you would find on handmade goods sites such as Etsy. And Toke’s scarf looks pretty nice just like those international ones. So it begs the question: who is buying Toke’s scarf and why do they see the need to spend their money on a piece of clothing bearing her signature? They must really like her, you’d think.

If you’re not up to date on pop culture, here’s an abridged version of an introduction: Toke Makinwa, 35, started from radio. She used to present, with Nanya Diali, the Morning Drive on Rhythm FM Lagos. These days, she anchors the Late Morning show on the same network. The radio gig, however, is outside her budding career as an actor, YouTuber, fashionista, socialite, and designer.

There have been a few skirmishes around Ms Makinwa’s person, one of which was a splashy divorce that might have become quite embarrassing or career ending but which she parlayed into a bestselling book — On Becoming — and a launchpad to her next level of fame. She has also had some job done on her derriere, and while some may hide the fact due to cultural stigma, she flaunts it on her Instagram (3.7m followers) and teases the imagination of many a fickle and drooly man. 

Then she became a designer of luxury — or luxury adjacent — fashion items, beginning with a handbag. Today, there’s a scarf, the Vistosa. In Spanish, Vistosa means colourful, ornate, flamboyant, gorgeous.

Speaking of why young ladies and their boyfriends may choose to hand N9000 to Toke to wear her name on their heads, we all know it is not because of the scarf. It is because of the idea. 

Why do people pay $10K for Louboutins? Is it for the whimsical red bottoms? No. Apart from the fact that reviewers say the shoes can be uncomfortable, the soles themselves don’t last forever. They’re incredibly expensive to maintain and repair shops like the Leather Spa make a killing resoling or repainting up to 10,000 pairs a month, according to a report by American TV network CNBC. 

When Mr Louboutin was asked in 2013 why his shoes were so expensive, he replied that it was costly to make shoes in Europe. But you would think thinking consumers would elect to buy cheaper yet well-crafted and stylish footwear in their backyard instead — but no, they wouldn’t. They’d want the red bottoms and they’d want them for what they represent: immediate recognition. The ultimate status symbol, the shoes have been called.

Toke Makinwa in that vein may represent a status symbol for the up-and-coming urban Nigerian female. You could live vicariously through her. She is fearless, feisty, forceful. She is sexually fluent. 

On top of these, she is an indication of what direction the pendulum of new power swings. For every currency of influence to gain momentum, leaders must emerge to lead. As it is for Black Lives Matter, so it is for metrosexual ladies. The leading lights must shine bright and unrelentingly. 

Thankfully, Toke is in possession of the tools for the 21st century opinion shaper. A platform with a wide reach. A shocking, different, spectacular story to tell. A service to sell the world. And a thick skin. 

When people say you have a face for radio, they euphemistically mean you’re ugly. But you could argue that Toke didn’t start from radio because that was where her face fit. You could instead say she started from radio because that was where she found, 10 years ago, the opening to her dreams. 

And now, it will be interesting to see what legacy she builds with this powerful voice she has found. It will be interesting indeed. 

This article was first published in The Guardian (Nigeria) on September 19, 2020.

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