Wednesday, 12 December 2012

This arctic chill calls for merry mulled wine & some toasty jammies!

I can’t quite believe how quickly Christmas has crept up upon us this year... each morning my Pooh Bear advent calendar (oh yes) breaks the news to me that I have one less sleep to go (with ALL my shopping still left to do!), softening the blow slightly with a miniature sweet chocolate surprise. I’m not in a state of panic though... it’s much more fun leaving it a little closer to the day I think, don’t you? I will never be one of those fun-sapping lunatics who buy stuff in the January sales as gifts for the following Christmas and has everything completely sorted before Halloween even hits us. I don’t think the word ‘Christmas’ should pass anyone’s lips until the first day of December. Everyday up until then it should be considered an obscenity. Like ‘Voldermort’.

Anyway – as that epic day draws ever closer, it seems to be getting a tad colder. By tad I mean a HELLUVALOT. Now, I’m used to not-so-distant broke student days where heating was an unnecessary luxury, and our landlord seemed to share similar views on double glazing (and the need for fire escapes, but that’s a story I’ll save for another day); however, I am beginning to feel a little bit chilly even when I’m tucked up in bed with a cosy double duvet wrapped around me. The fact that I tend to still wear shorts and vest tops probably doesn’t help matters. What can I say? I’m a summer baby. The season of winter has never managed to make much of a mark on my wardrobe. But seeing as it is VERY VERY cold, I should probably loosen the purse strings a little and buy myself a proper set of insulating jim-jams. But they have to look good too. Cue: PUNJAMMIES (UK peeps - unfortunately, they currently only ship to the US so I guess my short shorts will have to do for a little longer. Sorry people, these mishaps happen #firstworldproblems).

These special little jamas are created by equally special women in after-care facilities in India who have been rescued, released or escaped from a life of forced prostitution. Sadly, those who are lucky enough to escape this cruel trade are left with extremely bleak prospects since they cannot easily enter the education system, return to their families, or secure jobs to support themselves. This is why after-care centres are one of the best options to help these women rebuild their lives and create a positive and sustainable future. After essential quality medical care and education, the women are trained to sew, and more importantly learn the invaluable feeling of being independent and worthy, proud and strong. And slowly, day by day, she begins to trust again... not only in others, but herself too. That raw pain drifts further away, into a hazy pool of memories, and she starts to believe again that there is good in our world like she did once when she was little, when all of her dreams seemed possible and close. This restored hope is all thanks to the socially responsible vehicle that is PUNJAMMIES. It’s funny how a small, seemingly insignificant new opportunity like making pyjamas is all it takes.

Check out the beautiful fabrics, prints, and colours:

Prices from $25, and free shipping (in the US) for orders over $99. All images from

When one woman was asked about how her life has changed since working with PUNJAMMIES, she said, "In the brothels, I was alone. But now I have sisters." – It’s that money can’t buy feeling and sense of belonging... being part of a family, having a place, and knowing that somebody out there truly cares about you. It’s strange and comforting... our world can grow and advance and change unrecognisably so in the years to come, but when all is said and done, it’s those little kind things that all of our hearts are seeking. It’s all we want. And it’s all that we need.

‘Every pair of PUNJAMMIES tells the story of a woman who was, once, voiceless. When you buy her PUNJAMMIES, you are a key part of her path, out of modern-day slavery, into a life of hope, dignity and freedom.’

Wear PUNJAMMIES. Wear hope.

p.s I recently wrote an article for a new online fashion magazine called CT - about Selfridges' ‘Not Your Usual Christmas’ Campaign led by Bruce Weber, which is all about the spirit of giving something to somebody this year who has maybe never truly experienced the joy of Christmas. You can find it and read it at (pages 10-15) + check out lots of other fashion goodness from upcoming young talent in the industry. 

Thank you so much to all of you still reading! x x x x x

Monday, 29 October 2012

The IOU Project

Mahatma Ghandi said - Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it’

I don’t know about that... I think I’m still undecided.

Either way, I’m glad The IOU Project’s founders had a eureka moment and decided to pursue it, despite knowing whether it would be successful. 

Take a look:

The IOU Project prides itself as a transparent clothing brand, producing handmade apparel that can be traced from start to finish – documenting how and where it transforms from those initial fabric yarns into a beautiful wearable garment, and ends up in your welcoming hands.

All of the fabrics used to make these garments are hand-woven by very skilled artisans in India, using this age-old culturally historic technique. The fabric is then passed along to small manufacturers in Europe where it is turned into an awesome garment or accessory by HAND (no robot-like machines involved). And depending on what item you purchase, you can look it up on the IOU website and see the very journey that your piece of clothing made! You’re not just getting a shirt or a dress people... you’re getting a story, and you are making the happy ending.

What makes The IOU Project even better is that each textile piece that is woven is unique, so no item that is produced or sold is the same as another. So you end up with something that is truly special, you’ll look FIERCE, and will be making a statement to all those high street herds of sheep out there who enjoy blending in.

Take a closer peek at IOU:

Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it’

That's what they say.

Ghandi was no doubt a very wise man, but I’m not sure I agree with him entirely. I think what we do matters. Every single tiny gesture or action is a little piece in the puzzle that slowly slots together and makes up a giant picture of your journey here. But a lot of your pieces are also key to completing other people’s pictures, and without theirs, yours would also remain incomplete. Our actions affect others, in a ripple-like way, for better or worse. Sometimes we see those ripples, and sometimes we don’t; though they still happen. You’re here, in this very moment, for a reason. Don’t ever believe that what you’re doing is insignificant; because I can promise you that you couldn’t be further from the truth. No matter how great or small – what you do matters. And more often than not, it’s the little things that hold the greatest value. You probably don’t realise it, but the act of you just simply being you has probably changed someone’s world somewhere for the better.

Whatever you do will matter to those who believe that it does.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Osei Duro: Honourable Magic

If you knew 10 years from now that you were finally going to meet the love of your life, what on earth would you do between now and then? I think I’d probably waste away those precious days just waiting for that moment to hurry along. And what if you knew that tomorrow would be your last day here? I think that would ruin the fun of tonight. Don’t you? What I mean is that while we all sometimes wish we could predict the future, and be calmed by just a shred of certainty and reassurance that our lives are going to play out like we hope they will, it’s actually strangely comforting muddling along here in the unknown. It somehow takes all the pressure away; frees us, and dares us to dive in head first and create whatever story we’ve always dreamed of; because each of us has nothing to lose, and everything to gain. Plain and simple - life is a mystery... and I think that’s one of the greatest gifts that each of us recieves. 

Maryanne Mathias and Molly Keogh are two ladies who know better than most of us that you never know where you’re going to end up or what life has in store for you right around the next corner. But that’s what makes it such an epic adventure, right? These talented designers first met during high school, but it wasn’t until Maryanne flew to Ghana that she found herself wanting to stay and design and create a clothing collection. It was then that she envisioned something far bigger and better, but unable to execute her ambitious vision as a one-woman band, she decided to reach out to an old friend – Molly. ‘I asked Molly to join me as a partner when we were at our 10-year high school reunion,’ Maryanne says.

What was initially meant to be a one-off trip, ended up becoming the socially responsible and sustainable fashion label – Osei-Duro. The two ladies work in partnership with the Dzidefo Women’s Cooperative in Ghana, who are local artisans, and together produce collections that are very unique and flattering, with an innovative use of fabrics and prints that I have yet to see anywhere else. It’s hard to pinpoint the style... it’s a mix of cultures (notably Accra – the capital of Ghana – and North America, the two places where the pair split their time between), and integrates ethnic elements with a strong contemporary urban feel.

In stark contrast to what the high street continues to half-heartedly churn out for us on a weekly basis - each finished piece from an Osei-Duro collection represents many hours of creative collaboration between the dynamic design duo and their talented crafters. ‘There is a lot of back and forth as we develop the prints,’ says Molly. ‘We might request an experimental technique that is new to the dyers, or they might suggest a traditional method they think suits a need. We send samples and sketches back and forth with the dyers and the sewers and the cobblers until everyone is satisfied with the results.’

The name, Osei-Duro, translates to "honourable magic" in Akan. I think that sums up the spirit of the label nicely. It’s built upon a friendship, and is supported by a local community working together to collectively produce something special. It’s about people from different parts of the world crossing paths, colliding with one another, something that wouldn’t have otherwise happened if it wasn’t for these incredible ladies. It’s strange when you think of it like that... when you dare to think about how none of it might have existed if Maryanne hadn’t pursued her dream... It’s like everything that happens in our lives on a daily basis, we all make choices to go one way or the other, and are sometimes left wondering whether we made the right decision in that moment. 

I think Maryanne and Molly made a beautiful choice.

Monday, 1 October 2012

The Mayamiko Project: Bricks of Hope

50p buys a brick. And every single brick counts. That’s all you need to know.

Well, ok, there is a bit more of a story to tell...

So Mayamiko (the Chichewa word for praise) is a Trust created by a bunch of like-minded creative spirits who decided to use their skills to benefit people in the world who are less fortunate than themselves; and you and me. It’s their special way of giving back and spreading the goodness around in a truly unique way. The main objects of the Trust are to promote sustainable development by the relief of poverty through training and employment opportunities (particularly in Africa), as well as promoting and preserving good health through the provision of funds and a variety of services. 

The Mayamikans (as they like to be known!) are planning to build a new sustainable skills and production centre in Lilongwe, Malawi, as part of The Mayamiko Cotton Project. At present, the disadvantaged women – affected by the HIV pandemic or are carers of HIV orphans - who are trainees and tailors, learn their crafts and work outdoors. The aim of the production centre is to provide a sheltered environment and improved working conditions for these women while they’re hard at work trying to build a future for themselves and their families. The project has already trained groups of women in many different textile processes including weaving, knitting, cutting, sewing, and tailoring, all the way through to finished garments, some of which have been featured in Vogue, Grazia, Cosmopolitan and The Guardian! So it’s clear that this is a life changing opportunity for these women to create a sustainable and flourishing living.

Along with a necessary skills centre, the Mayamikans are hoping to build a nursery where the ladies’ babies and children will be looked after holistically, fed nutritious food and taken care of lovingly; and in the future they hope to build a fashion school where technical and creative talents can be nurtured and developed for sustainability and growth.

Malawi is actually one of the poorest countries in the world, with a life expectancy at birth of just 41 years, and over half of the population live in extreme poverty. However, studies indicate that lifting women out of poverty has amazing effects on reducing the under-5 mortality rate, and that it increases the chances of offspring being healthier and being sent to school and receiving a vital education. Evidence shows that when women have a steady and reliable income, which is what this project aims to achieve, that money mostly goes to the benefit of their children, the family, and the community- and that my friends, is how a ‘virtuous circle’ begins.

Malawi grows cotton that is exported raw for very low prices. Cotton is the fourth biggest export commodity but accounts for next to nothing of the total export value of the country. So the project aims to source some of the precious cotton grown in Malawi, and use it locally to manufacture products with added value for the internal market and for export. 

And guess what? YOU can play a part in realising the Mayamikans dream by buying bricks for the new production centre. Mayamiko have set a target of 200,000 bricks, each brick representing 50p; and don’t underestimate how much every single brick donated helps.

And there’s an added bonus on offer too! There are a number of different gifts that will be sent to you with compliments depending on how generous your donation to the project is. Donating 100 bricks (£50) will get you a Mayamiko cotton drawstring bag and oyster card made by trainees in Malawi; all the way up to if you donate 20,000 bricks (£10,000) a room will be named after you in the Skills and Production Centre, and you’ll become a lifetime patron of Mayamiko, listed on the website. £10,000 is a LOT of dough, so don’t worry, there’s plenty of other unique gifts on offer for smaller and more affordable contributions! Click here to visit the Bricks of Hope project, and make a life changing donation today.

There is a Chichewa saying that goes:

“Phukusi la moyo sasungilana”

I have no idea how to attempt saying it, but this translates literally as “Do not let another keep the valuables of your life” – but what it is really saying is that you need to look after your own destiny. And this is exactly what the Mayamikans are trying to offer to the women of Malawi – the education, skills, and fair wage to be in control of their own destiny in this world. Everyone should have the right to pursue something that they want, and create a life for themselves and their families; a life which they are proud of; a life that is full of meaning and purpose. 

That’s not asking too much, is it?

Friday, 7 September 2012

Raven + Lily: Empowering women through design

Best buddies Kirsten Dickerson & Sophia Lin are the brain power behind Raven + Lily, which is a socially responsible ethically natured brand dedicated to empowering women worldwide through design partnerships and sustainable economic opportunities. Both ladies are extremely passionate about fashion and ethical design, and so Raven + Lily was the perfect platform to channel both of those passions and change the lives of women in the process. Sometimes, fashion does find a heart.

Current collections are lovingly made by the hands of artisans all over the globe from North India to Cambodia to Ethiopia. All of the jewellery and accessories are contemporary and organic in design, eco-friendly, and reflect the unique beauty and culture of the amazing woman who made it. And each item arrives with a special gift tag attached that tells you the journey of just how that purchase has ended up in your hands, and who is responsible for putting it there.

The Ethiopia Collection is comprised of statement necklaces, earrings and bracelets crafted with handmade beads + charms from melted bullet casings and vintage silver coins. This collection empowers HIV-positive women in Ethiopia.

The India Collection features gorgeous recycled cotton papers, hand-carved wood journals, metallic leather jewellery and hand-milled natural soaps. This collection empowers marginalized women in Northern India.

The Cambodia Collection includes eco-friendly bags and t-shirts made with hand-loomed, natural-dyed, and remnant materials. These hand-printed pieces are made with love by HIV positive and formerly trafficked women in Cambodia.

But Raven +Lily don’t just create sustainable economic opportunities for marginalised women, oh no – they are firmly dedicated to returning proceeds to their partner communities to fund education, healthcare, and micro-loans. So when you purchase any of these fantabulous pieces from R+L, you are making yourself a part of breaking that poverty cycle, and transforming the lives of women and their families.

I always try to remember to tell myself that there are 3 important things in life. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind. That’s all you need to remember.