Thursday, 26 November 2015

Thought: Giving Thanks

A delves deep and finds reasons to be thankful this festive season.

Thanksgiving looms. For me, this means looking forward to one of the best meals of the year (a happy tradition in my life now thanks to a very dear American friend) and reflecting on the past year and consciously giving thanks for the good things. This may sound trite, but as I begin to think, I realise this year, said good things are coming to mind readily and in abundance.

Rewind a year.

I have just quit a job that although started out well, in the end was a very unhealthy place to be, I was jobless and pretty hopeless in a city I had fallen completely out of love with. I was not feeling very thankful. Back then, any time I tried to be thankful, my brain would throw up a million reasons not to be.

A year on, after a well-needed time out, and a move (drastic times call for drastic measures and all that) and I am self-employed (some might say jobless) and living in a city, which although I have no extraordinary regard for, it is my home, and I'm hopeful.

You can't just conjure up thankfulness, and I've come to think it's a pretty good indicator for your well-being. Last year, I couldn't even be thankful for the great things I did have; amazing friends; a supportive family; a lovely flat; good health and a fine collection of footwear. This year, you can't stop me being thankful. So I begin to think if you're consistently not feeling thankful, and you're struggling to even name things to give thanks for, maybe there's some thinking to be done.

Perspective helps. Getting away, whether it's for a weekend, a week or a year, physically removing yourself from your life and pressing re-set really does give you perspective and helps you see the good things you've got going on. It may also show some bad things up for what they really are.

Comparison doesn't. A sure fire way to rob yourself of any sense of thankfulness is comparing yourself, your life, your job, your relationship, whatever it is, to someone else's. This just ends up either self-pity and jealousy, or smugness and condescension.

Practice helps. A bit like exercise, getting into good habits really helps. Practicing being thankful develops a stronger thankful muscle.

Self-flagellation doesn't. If you are feeling less than thankful, the worst thing to do is beat yourself up about not being thankful enough. Go easy on yourself, life is not always a bed of roses, and sometimes it really is difficult to discipline yourself to be thankful.

Starting small helps. Aim for the moon, by all means, but sometimes the only place to start is right in front of you. When the big stuff is difficult, be thankful for the cup of coffee you're holding, the lovely light of the changing seasons, all the great box sets available on Netflix...

I hope that whatever kind of year you've had, and whatever kind of year you're looking ahead to, that you find in your life things to be thankful for, things that bring you joy, things that stop you in your tracks and make you glad to be alive.

Happy holidays, everyone.

A x

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Life: Mysource #DoFashionBetter

Mysource are building a platform for designers and retailers to connect with sustainable manufacturers.

Those of you familiar with the ethical fashion world will already know of the EFF, the Ethical Fashion Forum, and the amazing work it's been doing for the past decade promoting sustainable practices within the fashion industry. Now, the team behind the EFF, fronted by founder Tamsin Lejeune are launching a new platform to connect retailers and designers worldwide with manufacturers working with and toward sustainable practices.

Mysource are running a crowdfunding campaign on Crowdcube to fund the launch of their new platform. This - and this is the beauty of crowdfunding - means absolutely anyone can get involved, invest in ideas they believe in, and put their money where their mouth is. No longer is investing solely the domain of VCs and high net worth individuals.

Anyway, I'll let Mysource do the talking...

If you're interested in finding out more about Mysource, check out their Crowdcube campaign.

A x

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Style: A Thoughtful Winter Wardrobe

A gets a handle on dressing sustainably this Winter.

This weekend was my official transition from Summer to Winter wardrobe. Away went the shorts, the sun dresses and the light scarves, out came the jumpers, the sweaters and the wooly scarves. I also got rid of a couple of things that have gone unworn all Summer. 
This is part of my ongoing effort to make my wardrobe more sustainable. Keeping my wardrobe streamlined and organised helps me keep on top of what I actually own, and therefore make use of it, rather than forgetting about it and constantly buying new things. It also means things that aren't worn get recycled, for instance a wonderful gold velvet skirt that will likely get turned into Christmas decorations, or go to the charity shop to find a new home.

The issue of sustainable fashion is still not crystal clear, with mixed messaging from the media, retailers and campaign groups being thrown at us all the time, so here are some simple tips to making a jolly good start at a sustainable wardrobe.

Rules to Dress By

Amisha Ghadiali, formerly of the EFF and board member of Fashion Revolution Day, has created a wonderfully simple poster of rules to dress by. Knowing it's nigh-on impossible to shop completely ethically all of the time, the poster provides hints and tips for a journey toward sustainable style. 

On the High Street
More and more high street retailers are investing in sustainable and ethical fashion. Marks and Spencer have just released their second Limited London collection which is inspired by and made in London.
Topshop Boutique is a mark up from regular Topshop ware, higher quality and with a focus on style and design rather than fashion and trend, this collection will work harder as part of your wardrobe and much of it is made in the UK.
The Ethical Consumer site provides reports about retailer practices across various industries, including rankings of some high street fashion shops.

Ethical Online

If you're looking for brands that are committed to developing ethical practices, the best place to look is online. Sites like Master and Muse (founded by model and actor Amber Valletta) and Rev en Vert bring together well-curated collections of ethical fashion, in an easy to browse online boutique format.

An Oldie but a Goodie

You all know it, but a charity shop is a great place to shop sustainably, recycling and supporting a great cause at the same time. This time of year is especially good for charity shop shopping, as they are a treasure trove of knitwear! If you're not brave enough to venture into one, Oxfam even sells online (so no excuses!)

Fresh Ideas

There are amazing advances being made all the time in ethical fashion, and one of the most exciting at the moment is the 30 year sweater. An indiegogo campaign started by designer Tom Cridland to fund the production of a superior quality classic crew-neck sweater, with a guaranteed lifetime of 30 years. This is a novel way to launch a fashion idea, but one that seems to be popular, as the campaign is already almost 40% funded.

Get Creative

For ways to recycle your no longer worn clothes, just look to Pinterest. Search for winter upcycling and you'll find a thousand ideas for turning scarves into cushion covers, or jumpers into slippers, and plenty beside that.  

Further Reading
To really get to grips with the issue of ethical fashion, Lucy Siegle's To Die For is the best place to start. Siegle is an expert in the field and has been researching, writing about and campaigning about ethical and eco issues within the industry for years. Her regular column for The Guardian is a great way to keep abreast of the latest issue and advances in the field.
Andrew Morgan's film, The True Cost, highlights current issues across the fashion industry, and is a must-watch. You can rent it direct from the website or stream it on Netflix.

A x

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Life: In Praise of Being Slow

R slows down and contemplates the speed of life.

Excuse the irony, but I learnt a thing or two about slowing down on my recent trip to New York. Granted, I think this sense of slowing down only occurs in NYC when it’s in contrast to London – but you’d be surprised at how the spacious slowness of NYC can get under your skin.

We were in the big apple for two weeks and during that time it felt as if the city really was our home. We stayed for most of the time in Brooklyn, commuted into Manhattan, did supermarket shopping, cleaned our apartment etc. Once the initial “WE’RE IN NEW YORK AND IT’S TOO EXCITING” subsided we reached a happy routine of seeking out indie coffee shops, hunting down Dough doughnuts, wandering Central Park, visiting galleries and generally not doing anything we weren't exactly inclined to do. Now of course, it’s very easy to slow down when you have nothing to do, but the intricacies of daily life really did start to affect me:

  • The subway is slow. And I mean slow. They arrive every 15-20 minutes and then proceed to crawl around New York at a lackadaisical pace.
  • The subway is big. The trains themselves are tall and wide, meaning there’s less of a struggle to get on or find a seat. Even in rush hour, while you may have to stand, you stand with enough space around you to do your morning sun salutations. 
  • The pavements are huge and straight. This means you can walk hand in hand with your other half without having to dodge anyone, without checking you’re turning the right corner or without running because a businessman is biting at your heels.
These things while small and seemingly meaningless had a huge impact on my day, my mental health and my energy levels. 

I have arrived back in London determined to maintain this sense of slowness. I'm flicking back over 'In Praise of Being Slow' by Carl Honore, being inspired again by his cult of slowness and the benefits of adding breathing space into your day to day. 

Suddenly life seems so unnecessarily fast. Why do I push to get onto the first tube when I'm not running late? Why do I sigh at the sight of a coffee shop queue when my boss couldn't care less if I'm 5 minutes or 15? Why do I repeatedly cook quick noodle based meals when I have the whole evening at my leisure? Why do I rush to bed like an Olympian? Why do I cut nights with friends short to make a head start on cleaning up? What exactly am I rushing towards? 

There is a sickness of speed over me, my family and friends, my colleagues, London and beyond. I often wonder how deep this really goes. For example - the running revival we're enjoying at the moment. Most serious runners have suffered an injury of some sort or are at least vaguely aware of the potentially damaging effect of running long distance a lot. But the thought of giving it up for a slow yoga practice is almost sneer worthy. I think this comes from a genuine love of running, which I understand, but I do wonder whether it's also something bigger than that - a need to satisfy a sense of speed and generate an feeling of progress. Maybe the appeal of quick, fast and speed is just a sense of achievement? 

This is topic that has led me from the rolling avenues of New York to the crowded streets of London and I'm not sure I'm done with it. For now, I just hope my new pause-filled take on life will continue and the frantic lifeness of life won't overtake me too soon. 

R x