BROOKLYN, NY — It’s a rare thing to find someone who fully understands, supports, and relates to you. It can be hard to find that connection in a friend and even harder to find that in a romantic partner. But every now and then, you’ll spot a few rare gems — if not for you, just kindred spirits who’ve found each other. In a classic love story about a photographer and writer, meet Kamau and Lesley Ware — a creative couple. The two met 10 years ago in a Pittsburgh art gallery and now own their own gallery called Warehouse. The creatives currently live in Brooklyn with their cat Nina Bean. Kamau is a history enthusiast who uses his photography as a medium for storytelling. Lesley, the quirky other half, is a fashion educator, blogger, and now author. I first met the pair back in 2010 at Lesley’s launch party for her blog, The Creative Cookie. Back then they were just dating but you could sense this eternal chemistry between them. Now a married couple, Lesley and Kamau are taking on greater creative endeavours as a team. Just a few days before Thanksgiving, I caught up with the Wares at their cool Bed-Stuy apartment. Their home is likened to an art gallery; stunning artwork covered the wall, vintage one-of furniture and collectibles stationed perfectly, all enhanced with eclectic details. My favorite portion of their home is their his & hers bookshelf. Lesley’s side is feminine full of bright and soft colored books about fashion, sewing and art, while Kamau’s shelves are occupied by darker colored history books and unique liquor bottles. A true reflection of their relationship, the Wares’ home highlights each partner’s individuality while still providing a design of cohesive and beautiful oneness. According to Kamau, “Lesley’s main muse if fashion, my main muse is stories.”
We caught up over rum and cokes and falafel. Our meetup happened to fall on the night Lesley received her first copy of her first book, Sew Fab. As we waited for her book to arrive, I asked the couple about their history, their relationship and what keeps them inspired.
Their Love Story
“I was new to town,” Lesley reminisced. “I had taken a job at a foundation and I asked one of my coworkers where I could buy art.” Back in 2004, Lesley moved from her hometown in Michigan to Pittsburgh. Ready to start a new life (and a new art collection), she followed her co-worker’s advice and checked out a Pittsburgh gallery called Urban Space and asked for a man named Kamau. “I was nervous because I was like, I don’t know how to say this name!”
“I remember she had on flats,” recalled Kamau about his now fashionista wife.
“I was very conservative. I had a relaxer and I use to wear business suits and flats. But I don’t think I had on a suit that day. I was like, ‘hey I’m here to see “Kamoo.”’ I know I like butchered your name. He came upstairs and then we just started talking. We had this three week process of him finding the right piece for my apartment.”
What I call one very crafty (and artsy) courtship, Kamau calls “good customer service.”
“I was accused of flirting!” Kamau exclaimed about his prolonged offer of assistance.
Through their three-week art consultation blossomed a friendship. After Kamau installed the final artwork in Lesley’s apartment, the two would meet for coffee. Coffee dates soon became romantic dates and on April 30, 2011 the couple wedded in their new hometown, Brooklyn. “It was a brunch wedding. Brunch #11,” Kamau shared. The Wares sure know how to throw a party; they are known for their Drink n’ Draw nights and especially their brunch series. When thinking back to that special day, Lesley recalls she and her hubby wrote their vows together at 5AM, just hours before the wedding.
A few years after they started dating, the pair moved to New York City to be closer to Kamau’s son, whom he has from a previous relationship. It was in NYC that Lesley fully immersed herself into the fashion world and Kamau began a new chapter in his photography career.
“My current lifelong synthesis is a project called Black Gotham,” Kamau shared. The photographer has reawakened an old passion and has turned it into a profession. Back in his 20s, Kamau and his friends would sit on the bridges of Pittsburgh and document the everyday happenings in a collective project called Bridge Spotters. He found himself doing similar work during his time working at New York’s Tenement Museum, where he would educate visitors about the stories of European immigrants. Frustrated with the lack of stories centered around the African diaspora, Kamau started his own project that would fill the gap. Black Gotham started as a seasonal walking tour about black history in New York City and will soon become a book. “Using photography in a graphic novel format, that is my pinnacle of visual stories,” Kamau explained.
Before Kamau releases his book, he and his wife must first focus on Sew Fab. The couple prides themselves on being a team that not only inspires each other but also fully supports each other, even if that means planning a project around one another’s. Lesley’s book Sew Fab, which released February 10, came about after she started teaching young girls how to sew. After endlessly searching for a book to aid her lessons, Lesley discovered that she would have to be the one to write it. “Kamau gifted me with 90 minutes of his consulting time,” Lesley said. “We were sitting around his parents table; it was Kwanzaa. I didn’t know what to call the book and Kamau’s mom suggested ‘Sew Fab.’ It was a cute moment; he helped me work through finding the right concepts for it . I just started the new year writing the book. I trust him because he’s just been at it. I learn the ropes from him and what it means to be an independent artist and creative.”
Inspiring Each Other
“Lesley inspires me because she is a very, very, very fast learner,” Kamau said. “Being an entrepreneur is not something you just quickly learn. Les is one of those people, you say ‘ok honey, over time maybe you can write a book.’ Book is done within a year! Seeing what Lesley does is like advice for myself. I’m like ‘shit, let me move a bit faster myself.’ I definitely feed off of her ambition.”
“I love a lot of things about this man,” Lesley gushed. “One of the most striking things is how brilliant he is. He is so smart. The amount of stuff that are in his brain just fascinates me. He has emotional intelligence. The ability to put together flavors and spaces and curate things — he’s so smart. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who has so much knowledge about the world and so intellectually curious. You can ask him anything and he knows something about it. He’s like a computer/human!”
Lovers and Friends
The lovebirds appreciate their relationship not only for the romance and creative support but also their die-hard friendship. “The best part of working with your partner is never having to ask ‘oh so how was your day?’” Kamau explained. “It’s nice to have same team, same dream.”
“I love that we share spaces and I love that we give each other space. I write alot from home and Kamau does all his editing at the studio,” Lesley said.
“We realize we have so many ideas but we have finite amount of time when it comes to having dinner together, having a drink together, going to bed around the same time,” Kamau admitted. When they aren’t busy creating, the Wares enjoy hanging out with their mutual friends and going on day dates.
“I’ll be like ‘yo it’s like fucking Wednesday,” Kamau offered as an example.
“Let’s go to the movies!” Lesley exclaimed.
“Theres something about going out before 4pm.”
If you don’t believe in soulmates, spend a few hours with these two. The Wares are true definition of #RelationshipGoals. The love and support between Lesley and Kamau is so admirable. The two are constantly sharing, liking and retweeting each other’s happenings on social media just as much as they support each other in real life. Lesley is currently working on her second book while Kamau prepares to relaunch his Black Gotham project.
The Wares’ adorable kitty Nina Bean passed away by the time this story was published. Rest in peace angel.
Learn more about The Wares by visiting the links below:
Lesley Ware links
Purchase Sew Fab
Kamau Ware links