Apr
13
2014

The Introverted Extrovert

Most people have me pegged as an extrovert. They point out the ease in which I can adapt to social situations. My effortless ability to make friends with people from all walks of life. Some will say that my gregarious and confident nature is a sign of an extrovert. Others will say that my extroversion lies in my predilection for wearing crazy prints and styles that are unseen in current fashion magazines.

Indeed I display many of the traits that are often associated with an extrovert. But here’s the twist – I’m also a writer. Being a writer means that I am prone to reflection and introversion. There are also behavioural traits that can be attributed to the “writers selfish gene”, evident in my yearning for company (usually on my terms) and in equal parts, yearning to be in my own company. As if to further highlight this dichotomy, one of my best friends likes to remind me that I am a Gemini, after all.

Ben my partner understands my inner duality perfectly. He finds it amusing that a social butterfly like myself will react with annoyance when my concentration is impeded whilst I’m in my own world – whether I’m trying to research ideas or in the midst of capturing these ideas in written form. Ben who accepts that I am not myself unless I have been able to spend time alone affords me the breathing space I require to explore my thoughts uninterrupted.

This could very well be the reason why I am comfortable in our long distance relationship – unconventional though it may seem. And this may also explain why in Ben’s absence, I actually enjoy living alone – in fact, I relish it. So although I gravitate towards extroversion, I need ‘me’ time to function at my optimal level. And besides, in all honesty, it’s extremely exhausting being out and about all the time.

So if you’re feeling out of balance, I prescribe a healthy dose of time alone. Whether you’re having a relaxing bath. Reading your favourite magazine or a book. Going for a quiet walk or run. Meditating or just doing absolutely nothing, whatever this entails to you. It could just be the antidote you need to nourish your mind and body and feel whole again.

Apr
06
2014

How Upcycled Fashion Can Transform Lives

My wonderful friend Shikha with her upcycled rice bag from My name is Kumar Foundation

As a young woman I knew I wanted to make a difference in the world. This longing may in part be attributed to the countless political discussions I had sat in on at the family dinner table. Or perhaps I was influenced by the many religious sermons I had listened to at Catholic church and at bible study (I’m no longer a religious zealot but this is a story for another day). And then again, I may also have been heavily influenced by the unjust treatment I felt I received growing up as the eldest daughter of very strict parents, who tried to control my every move for fear I would become barefoot and pregnant (although I owned lots of shoes so being barefoot was never a possibility…)

Upon reflecting on my own personal experiences and the reasons for wanting to change this world for the better, I can’t help but reflect on the stories of other humanists or rather, humanitarians. Which leads me to the story of Renee Schreurs, a graduate student in economics and co-founder of the My Name is Kumar Foundation, an organisation with a mission to help change the lives of begging children from poverty stricken families in southern India.

It all began when Renee and co-founder Tim went to India in May 2012 to volunteer for Care Foundation. After 6 months they had to depart, but had gotten emotionally attached to the children they had met. So in July they returned to India. During that time Care Foundation was in financial crisis. The biggest sponsor had pulled back and so the organisation was left with very little options. Either they send the children back to their alcohol addicted parents or find a way to raise money and continue helping them. Thus, the idea for My name is Kumar Foundation was born.

In the first 5 months, Renee and Tim used their own money to help because in the beginning, they were not yet deemed an official organisation and thus were unable to raise money. But looking back, the pair believes it was all worth it. Renee explains, “We send these children to a good school in the city. By sending these children to school instead of begging we break the vicious circle.”

Together with their partner organisation, Care Foundation, the 3 person team at My Name is Kumar (Roxanne a social worker from the Netherlands who also volunteered at the Care Foundation is now a board member) ensure that the children go to school, have a safe home, clean drinking water, food, personal care and provide crucial support in helping them to enter ‘normal’ society. Renee who is also commencing a master degree in International Development at SOAS University in London returns to India 3 times a year for a total of 6 months to help and train the organisation. “We support the Care Foundation not only with money but also with advice to ensure that [it becomes] an independent organisation in the future”.

One of the ways the organisation helps to raise funds for their project is by selling upcycled fashion rice bags. People in India reuse rice bags to clean tables, motorbikes and floors. But given the beautiful colours and amazing designs, the team felt that they were too beautiful to be reused as cleaning rags. So they hired a local tailor named Karthick and decided to turn the rice bags into tote bags, cushion covers and toiletry bags selling them as a way of purchasing food for the children. Selling one upcycled rice bag allows the foundation to purchase one actual 25kg rice bag, feeding 37 children 4 meals each. Karthick now not only makes the bags, but the children’s school uniforms as well.

As it currently stands, the My name is Kumar Foundation helps 37 former begging children from 27 families. One of the biggest challenges they face is overcoming the parents resistance to accept their help and who often use what little money they have on alcohol. Renee admits that they are only willing to help the families if the parents agree to stop drinking but so far only one family has achieved this. There are many reasons why this is a condition, one of which is the child’s safety. And whilst the team understand that there are extremely complex systemic reasons for the economic and social inequalities in India which can’t be changed overnight, they don’t feel disillusioned in their efforts. In fact, they are extremely hopeful. And so am I.

To donate or learn more about Renee, Tim and Roxanne and the My name is Kumar Foundation, visit http://www.mynameiskumar.org/

To purchase an upcycled rice bag, visit http://www.buyriceback.com/

Thank you also to my wonderful friend Shikha who not not only introduced me to this amazing organisation but for reluctantly accepting my suggestion to model for the shoot. Your beauty resonates from the inside out and I really appreciate your friendship and your help in creating awareness of this cause xx

Upcycled bag: My name is Kumar Foundation / Model: Shikha Sachar / Outfit: Mode’s own / Images courtesy of My name is Kumar Foundation

Mar
18
2014

It’s All About Ettitude

If you ask my mother, she will tell you that when I was growing up, especially in my teen years, I had what she referred to as an “attitude”. Of course we had a difference of opinion. If an attitude meant that I didn’t conform to the cultural Filipino norms of blindly following orders dished out by my elders and openly disagreeing with my parents on various issues from religion, dating, music (rap lyrics are poetic!) and everything in between, then yes, I had an attitude.

Fast forward more than 15 years later and I’d have to admit, I still have a bit of an attitude. Or rather, an ettitude. Now instead of going toe-to-toe with the parental units, I am openly challenging our society’s unsustainable lifestyle choices. But instead of going on a verbal rampage, attacking the system and all of its flaws as I may have done in my youthful self righteousness, I’d like to think that I have refined my communication style so that it is less aggressive, and a little more diplomatic (I hope). Besides, arrogantly telling people how to live their lives isn’t how I do things anyway. I for one don’t respond well to ear bashing (or bible bashing for that matter) so I refuse to put people through the pain and suffering. I prefer leading by example and writing my colourful experiences down in the form of funny anecdotes that I post on this blog, on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google Plus and Flickr!

So recently I was invited to network with other like-minded individuals at the opening party of ettitude’s pop up shop as part of the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival (VAMFF), I couldn’t turn it down, even if it meant that I went out on a week night past my 10pm bed time (suppressing that inner rebel is tough!)

ettitude Pop Up Launch Party - VAMFF 2014

ettitude party goers

And luckily I did. I was able to get some time alone with Phoebe Yu, founder of ettitude and all round inspiring woman. She had started the online business in 2008 providing eco friendly organic bamboo bed sheets, bed spreads and blankets. The talented green entrepreneur explained “I wanted to create a brand to show people that you could still live a beautiful comfy lifestyle without being a burden to the Earth”. She explained that working in the importing and logistics industry was eye opening and from there decided that she could create a sustainable economic business that offered beautiful and environmentally friendly bedding that were functional and still beautiful.

One for the wedding gift registry perhaps: Ettitude Organic Pure Bamboo Bondi Sheet Set

Phoebe chose to use certified organic bamboo because it is not only better for the environment, much more so than organic cotton, but because Phoebe also heralds from China where bamboo is plentiful. “And comparative to other materials”, says Phoebe, “bamboo is anti-bacterial, hypo allergenic and versatile”. She then went on to say something that I could firmly relate to: “I wanted to show people that you can live well and look good without sacrificing style and harming the Earth”. Due to customer demand, Phoebe decided that the next logical step was to create casual yet stylish bamboo clothing. Having witnessed first hand the ettitude clothing line on the backs of glamazons at the launch party, it confirmed that although I have the spirit of the tie-dyed hemp wearing hippie, my fashion aesthetic is much more refined. I guess that’s why I call myself an Eco Warrior Princess.

Gorgeous models wearing ettitude bamboo wear

Anyway, had I known about ettitude a few years ago, perhaps I could have avoided spending hours of my life in an overly crowded shopping centre on the exasperating hunt for eco friendly bed sheets and towels (which I later found at Adairs with a price tag I’d really rather forget). But at least I now know that luxurious sustainable alternatives exist. And now so do you.

Lucky winner of an ettitude raffle prize

With my sister Jennilyn at ettitude pop up shop opening party wearing a vintage plaid dress from Dear Gladys

Photo credit: Rocky Liang Photography

Mar
05
2014

Don’t Palm Us Off

I have this second hand Melbourne Zoo tee that I picked up from Savers (surprise, surprise) that I’ve been wearing a lot lately and could have something to do with my recent obsession with Jane Goodall, the famous primatologist who is planning to visit Melbourne in June. What I like most about the tee is the orange slogan that declares “Don’t Palm Us Off”, a statement I adore not only because of the play on words, but because it reflects my own attitude which my partner Ben likes to describe as feisty.

The faded black tee fits well but is loose enough to be casually comfy and teamed with my black vintage shoes from eBay, vintage leather tassel bag from Out of the Closet New & Vintage Clothing (Brunswick St, Fitzroy), handmade recycled wood necklace by RAT and shaggy cropped hairdo, I’m fairly certain I’ve perfected rock chick chic.

Anyway, back to the t-shirt.

“Don’t Palm Us Off” refers to the plight of the orangutans, a species who’s survival is being threatened due to the world’s insatiable demand for palm oil. The orangutans’ habitats are found in South East Asia and are currently being destroyed for purely economic reasons – to make way for palm oil plantations.

Palm oil springs up in the most unlikely of consumer products, with about 50% of all baked goods, confectionary, spreads, body products, cosmetics and cleaning products found in supermarkets containing palm oil. According to Borneo Orangutan Survival Australia, Indonesia and Malaysia have now lost 80% of its rainforests. And with Tony Abbott and the coalition ready to strip 74,000 hectares of Tasmanian rainforest from World Heritage Listing, I’m beginning to think that the human species all around the world are being led by some short sighted twits indeed.

It’s easy to concede defeat when we’re dealing with companies and people with deep pockets masquerading as our governments, ruining our natural world in the name of ‘progress’. But then I stop and remember to take a leaf out of Jane Goodall’s book:

I too am obstinate and I don’t want my antonganists to win either!”

T-shirt: Savers / Vintage shoes: eBay / Necklace: RAT available at Eco Warrior Princess / Vintage bag: Out of the Closet / Jeans + sunglasses: My own / Photographer: Ben McGuire

Feb
17
2014

Undress Runways Melbourne 2014

Playing dress ups is fun. But there’s nothing like getting undressed and baring it all that really gets me going!

And that’s exactly what happened at the Undress Runways Melbourne sustainable fashion show. Stripping away the harmful layers of fast fashion and showcasing ethical and sustainable fashion designers, Undress Runways have successfully put eco-friendly and socially sustainable fashion on the Australian map. After several sell out shows in Brisbane, Edda Hamar, founder of Undress Runways and her team, brought Australia’s largest sustainable fashion show to Melbourne – arguably Australia’s fashion capital (although as a local, you won’t get an argument from me!)

Boasting a mix of some of Australia’s emerging and established sustainable fashion designers and timing the event perfectly with the Sustainable Living Festival, Undress Runways Melbourne was a triumph, wowing the tough Melbourne fashion crowd whilst providing an education in the art of sustainable style. Having attended many a Melbourne fashion show myself, I was impressed not only with the selection of eco-fashion on display from men’s wear, women’s wear, sleepwear, undergarments and evening dresses but also the event coordination, from the venue choice – Thousand Pound Bend – to the after party at Campari House.

I brought my best friend and plus one along to the event, Belinda Ponczek, a fashion stylist in her own right and a person with a style aesthetic that I admire, as I wanted to compare outfit notes with somebody who understood my obsession with fashion. She was impressed with the designer talent, as was I, and she is no stranger to the cause given she had worked her own magic behind the scenes at New York’s largest sustainable event, Eco Fest. So we sat there front row and center, giving our nods of approval to the garments and models we particularly liked, whispering quietly about our thoughts, both sipping red wine whilst I busily snapped away with my camera like a wannabe professional photographer, trying to look somewhat sophisticated (read: trying to keep my knickers from showing!) in my short strapless 80′s number purchased at Dear Gladys.

So a spectacular event enjoyed by many, but especially by this eco fashion blogger and her plus one who continued the night at the after party inspired and ready to change the world – at least through our wardrobes anyway. And my designer pick of the night? It would have to be Cameron & James, an eco-friendly menswear label producing small quantities of urban clothing with a minimalist simplicity that appeals to my penchant for androgynous chic. Should these Melbourne designers wish to produce a range of women’s clothing, I won’t just put my name down on their VIP mailing list, I’ll be front row at their next show as well!

Undress Runways Melbourne Sustainable Fashion Show

Neisha

Etiko

Moonbird

Studio Jux

New Model Beauty Queen

New Model Beauty Queen

Sinerji

Sinerji

Cameron & James

La'Or

Founder of Undress Runways, Edda Hamar

Front Row at Undress Runways Melbourne

Older posts «