Sep
21
2014

Sustainable Swimwear: Shapes in the Sand

It can be easy to romanticise an entrepreneur’s business journey , especially one that involves moving to a beautiful Queenslander on a mountain slope nestled amongst the trees brimming with natural wildlife. Yes it all seems idyllic. But the truth is, starting a business involves a lot of work. Some of it hard, some of it easy, but all of it necessary to create something of any real significance. Of course, with our foray into organic farming and food production, there has been and will be a constant stream of physical work. On the flipside, there is also a never-ending pile of intellectual ‘work’ involved too. And to add to that, the work can be emotionally taxing too.

Thankfully there is three of us sharing in the responsibility for turning this business vision into a reality. I couldn’t even begin to imagine how it must feel for a lone entrepreneur doing it on their own!

Which is why when I come across the rare individual that is willing to ‘back themselves and have a go’ as my fiancé likes to put it, I am fixated on not just learning what makes them tick, but also tapping into their vibrational energy. One such person is Alexandra Dash, founder of sustainable swimwear label Shapes in the Sand and a young woman undeterred by the sheer competitive nature of the fashion industry.

After completing her studies in Fashion Design and Production, Dash founded the swimwear label with a vision to provide a more sustainable alternative in swim and lifestyle wear that also captured nature’s true beauty. “I have always loved being amongst nature. It’s beauty is endless and it inspires me with each collection I design.” Combining two of her passions together, the natural environment and swimwear, she made the decision to create a label that supported her eco ideals. Dash heavily researched the factors that went into creating a product range that she felt was environmentally friendly but equally of high quality. This is where the idea of making swimwear made from nylon produced primarily from discarded fishing nets and other post consumer waste was born. Dash also found that not only did this recycled fabric feel luxurious, but it was also extremely hard wearing- in line with her sustainability value of making a product to last.

In addition to the label’s environmental credentials, they only use ethical manufacturing processes. All Shapes in the Sand pieces are designed and made in Australia. In fact, with the design studio based in Bilgola on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, it is easy to see where Dash draws her design inspiration from. “I love my home and work space because it looks out into a very tropical backyard with all sorts of wild life.” Enamoured with a family of friendly water dragons who are crazy for bananas and an enjoyer of a relaxed lifestyle, Dash is as endearing as she is talented.

Dash’s new Spring/Summer collection entitled “Into the Wild” inspired by the hidden beauty of the Amazon Jungle where bold colours and tropical shades seem limitless are just a taste of this beauty’s true talents. Having only begun the label last year and already having a collection featured in Australia’s most prestigious eco fashion shows, Undress Runways, this is a young woman to watch. I know I will be – and drooling over her uber amazing pieces too!

Shapes in the Sand swimwear can be purchased online at www.shapesinthesand.com.au. To follow the label on Facebook, click here. You can also find the label on Instagram @shapesinthesandswim

Beware: some of her beach images are so dreamy you’ll find yourself re-gramming with the hash tag #fromwhereidratherbe

Photos courtesy of Alexandra Dash

Sep
01
2014

So You Think You Can Farm?

Starting a business is not for the faint hearted, but starting a farming business? Pursuing this idea is not just on a whole other level, it is in its own stratosphere. Especially with a management team that has no background in commercial farming whatsoever, except perhaps my father-in-law-to-be Paul, who hasn’t farmed commercially per se, but who has a keen interest in agriculture or rather, permaculture, has ‘hobby’ farmed and has at least made a few attempts in his life journey to find real alternatives to a troubled system which has brought him to many a regional community.

And this is exactly why Ben and I decided to move to rural Queensland, to embark on a permaculture farm and organic food venture with Paul. Armed with buckets of enthusiasm, simple values and a yearning for something ‘real’, our pursuit of The Good Life means actively working on ‘being part of the solution and not part of the problem’. This means:

  • a near self-sufficient lifestyle independent of the water and electricity companies;
  • growing our own food, including the humane treatment and free range raising and slaughter of animals (Ben and Paul are not vegetarians unlike myself);
  • building a permaculture farm and food forest;
  • buying less to reduce environmental waste;
  • buying local should we need to;
  • attempting to earn an honest living from working the land;
  • developing a business model that neither exploits the environment or the workers in it;
  • creating nutritious organic fermented food products for market in response to the mass production of poor ‘food’ options currently available; and
  • time for leisure and to be able to pursue our own hobbies such as reading, writing, involvement in causes we believe in and even playing dress ups for a blog if that tickles the fancy (as it does mine!)

With the average age of a farmer being 60+ years and in an industry that is notoriously back breaking as well as spirit breaking, even for farming families, a ‘realist’ may call us perhaps a tad naïve. We aren’t oblivious to the challenges ahead of us. In fact, we know the entire idea is a big undertaking. A massive one in fact. But as with most things in life worth pursuing, we understand our journey won’t be easy. But it will be worth it, whatever the outcome.

Vintage lace dress: Dear Gladys Vintage Boutique / RM Williams boots: eBay / Prada sunglasses: My own / Photographer: Ben McGuire

Aug
17
2014

The Paradox of Eco Fashion

Many of my favourite things start with the letter ‘f’. There’s food: organic and biodynamic of course. There’s fun: there’s too many activities to list here. There are flowers: my first choice are orchids followed by dahlias, carnations and peonies. And then there’s fashion: always sustainable, always ethical.

And as an individual who appreciates beauty in all its forms, I have developed a harmless daily activity of flicking through artistic and inspiring Instagram photos uploaded by the various sustainable ‘eco fashion’ brands and e-tailers that I follow. But then a niggling thought hit me several weeks ago that has been bothering me since it entered my mind. That particular thought bugged me so much that it culminated into the act of writing this particular blog post.

The thought was this: exactly just how eco is eco fashion? Viewing Instagram images of models in beautiful organic cotton garments is a more sustainable option yes – but cotton is an extremely water thirsty plant and being organic doesn’t make it less so. It is advertised as a better option, but I know it isn’t. Garments made from hemp and bamboo are much better options.

I also began to question the motives of some of the ‘eco’ bloggers and ‘eco fashion’ brands that I was following on social media. Upon flicking through countless images, I decided to ‘unfollow’ several because the constant marketing bombardment promoted a shopping philosophy that I fundamentally disagree with: one that encourages you to buy more. How can eco fashion be considered sustainable when it relies on the same capitalistic systems and marketing mechanisms that drive unsustainability in the first place? The truth is that the eco fashion industry still relies on unnecessary consumption as much as the fast fashion industry does.

And herein lies the problem that seems to have permanently wedged itself into the crevices of my brain.

Eco fashion and fast fashion are inextricably linked because the industries both rely on people’s unsustainable practice of mindless consumption. Now I’m not saying that eco fashion is as bad as fast fashion. If you were to purchase a garment, indeed an eco fashion choice is by far the better option – at least it attempts to address environmental issues, as well as social and economic issues. What I am merely saying is that eco fashion has its flaws. To really address the underlying causes of environmental destruction and resource depletion involves transforming the cultural buying habits of much of the Western and developing worlds from unrestrained consumption to one driven more by necessity.

True eco fashionistas understand this and adopt shopping habits that are on a ‘needs’ basis instead of a ‘wants’ basis. They are the ones who can see through ‘green washing’ propaganda. They are not afraid to point out that the greenest action people can take – is not to purchase anything at all!

Aug
05
2014

Don’t listen to the elitists – water IS a human right

Men’s shirt: My partner Ben’s / Boots: eBay / Jeans: My own / Photographer: Ben McGuire

Since returning to rural Queensland and living on a country property that is in the middle of experiencing  a drought (I’ve only recalled 3 rainy days in the last 2 months and it’s winter!), you begin to appreciate just how precious water is.  So of course, I find the ridiculous and elitist statements by Nestle Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe back in 2005 totally and utterly deplorable. In suggesting that water sources should be given a ‘market value’ and ‘privatised’ is not only inhumane, but downright abominable. And I don’t care how many of his PR spin doctors are trying hard to prove that that’s not what he meant. Of course they would try and turn it around – millions of dollars of profits are at stake when your chairman has a trigger happy mouth!

And let’s not forget that he also stated very clearly – on film and unedited unless his PR guys want to try and spin that in his favour too – that he does not believe that what nature provides is necessarily better. In fact, he states in the film that organic is not better and identifies with pro-genetically modified foods, stating that no one has become ill from eating GM foods EVER. As I recall, DDT was presumed safe. And so too was asbestos. Of course, only time will tell (and let’s face it, how objective ARE these lab tests anyhow?) The truth is that companies exist to make a profit. Not to be socially responsible. We have seen through history that people are dispensable when there’s even a hint of making a profit.

Truth be told, I had been worried about Nestle for a number of years. I actually have video footage taken on a holiday trip to Thailand several years ago with me and a bottle of water ‘produced’ by Nestle. In the film, I commented specifically on how weird it was to see the Nestle brand on the bottle of water. Since that time I learned that Nestle is the biggest manufacturer of bottled water depending on nearly 800 million people without access to clean and sanitary water to rely on their products. Sounds like a massive conflict of interest if you ask me.

It is clear even back then that I was worried about the multinationals and their insatiable appetite for profit. What often comes to mind when companies try to take ownership of everything provided by nature is the beautifully insightful film Avatar. The film’s clever social commentary, depicting the ego of people, the greed of companies and the lengths that they will go to all in the name of ‘profit’ is a perfect reflection of what is happening in our world today. You only need to have an inquiring mind and an open heart to realise this.

Nestle is now just another company amongst a list of other companies that I have already boycotted, along with the likes of BP and Coca-Cola Amatil. Luckily for me we are aiming for a country life that is close to being as fully self-sufficient as we can manage. And if Nestle or any other company is granted a crooked okay by the governments to privatise water, it is then only a matter of time before they will try and outlaw rain water tanks too. And if that happens, they’ll have to try and remove the tanks over my dead body.

Jul
21
2014

Mixing Organic Business With Raw Pleasure

When you think of a fashion blogger, the picture that comes to mind is likely to be of a girl dressed head to toe in this season’s fashion carrying her well-rehearsed pout, perfectly coiffed hair and highly impractical footwear, unashamedly taking selfies regardless of where she is and with whom.

This image that I describe is probably the reason I don’t go around calling myself a fashion blogger. For a start, I don’t fit the stereotype. I reject fast fashion preferring clothing of the sustainable and ethical kind and my ‘outfit of the day’ isn’t contrived. Secondly, I am not a show pony and loathe selfies. But most importantly, I don’t just write about fashion and style. My interests are much more varied in that I explore social, political and environmental issues on my blog as well. Thus it is more apt to call me an eco blogger.

And now I am taking this label one step further. Aside from moving back to regional Queensland, purchasing a 120 acre rural property north of Gympie that is entirely off the grid, has 30 varieties of edible plants and trees, its own quarry and surrounded by a state forest, I will be trying my hand to an activity that I would never have dreamed of, much less considered as a young girl: running an organic farm and raw food business.

Of course I’m not at the helm of this operation – before last week I had never even seen a cattle tick and only just learned that I have an extremely strong reaction, an almost allergic reaction, to midge bites! My partner Ben and my father in law Paul are leading the way and I am providing my assistance wherever possible, which at the moment has been mostly in the way of cooking, baking, cleaning and weeding. Mastering these skills will prove beneficial in the longer term when we eventually have wwoof-ers (for those of you who are not familiar with this term, it stands for Willing Workers on Organic Farms) come to stay and work on the farm – I will be initially responsible for accommodation and meals. Having drawn up some vague timelines for the business, much of my skills in marketing and PR won’t be required until a year or so down the track once the farm has been established and the factory built and properly fitted. Which suits me just fine because between you and me, I’m really enjoying playing the role of Domestic Goddess and amateur MasterChef as I know the painstaking tasks of planting and harvesting is in my not too distant future.

Indeed another exciting journey undertaken by this risk-taking, optimistic Eco Warrior Princess. Stay tuned for the highlights, lowlights; the fun and frustrations; the successes and the learnings and of course, my take on country style, as we embark on a business venture and eco lifestyle that is truly aligned with who we are and what we care about.

Vintage jacket: The Mill Markets Daylesford / Men’s jumper: Salvos Gympie / Jeans, gumboots + sunglasses: My own / Photographer: Ben McGuire

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