Made in China: Created with Blood

I believe in slow fashion ideas, in ethical production, and in giving some additional value to the product other than just appearance and price. So is there an easy solution for cutting out abused workers in Third World countries?

I used to be a fan of Zara, Bershka, and other big names and companies who provide cheap clothes in line with the latest trends. This is a huge temptation as most of us don’t have an unlimited budget but still want to look chic. I used to be a fan of grilled chicken as well until I switched to being a vegetarian, so I guess anything can change with awareness.

With more and more information becoming easily available, we have the chance to make our own decisions. It’s not always easy, but it is possible. I started thinking about ethics in the clothing industry more than ever after watching a shocking Norwegian show that sent fashion bloggers to work in Cambodian sweatshops. Everybody had the same reaction: It’s horrible and inhumane for people to work for $120 per month, producing clothes for only a few cents while the shops we buy them from make hundreds. Of course it’s awful that “normal” for many children is to work in these factories in dangerous and even life-threatening conditions where they have to deal with a lack of any social security support. However, the solution is not as easy as we think.

Having awareness of who makes your clothes is one thing, but influencing factories which mostly work through contracts with external representatives in the middle is very difficult and much more complicated since everybody pushes the responsibility onto others. Very often, big companies don’t even have direct contacts and either don’t’ know or don’t care who is executing the orders. Stopping the whole process by not buying from the big chains will not help, even when we disregard the fact that some clients will stay loyal no matter what. By decreasing production, many of those workers’ families will lose their only source of income. Although the salaries are super low, the people depend on them to survive. Opening markets for the labor force ultimately has a positive impact as the market has a need for people speaking the same language and with local expertise. It helps to grow the economy and begin the transformation.

In my opinion, there some hope in increasing “quality control and regulation” of the big brands. From a PR perspective, it may be very beneficial all around since public trust and good public opinion will increase, which will raise stock market values. If H&M or Mango, for example, can spend million in public relations activities, why can they not agree to improve factory conditions by providing just a slightly higher unit price? One cent per item would allow factories to hire workers in more regulated conditions.

I believe that the customers would change as well; we would start thinking about the process behind the design, just as we’ve become more and more aware about our food over the past few years. Of course, we all still stop for fast food from time to time, but in the long term the information does generally help us make more healthy choices. A change such as this would help us to make “healthier choices” in the fashion industry as well.

 

ps. Join the Fashion Revolution

Today is Fashion Revolution Day. Show your label and ask brands #whomademyclothes? #FashRev http://thndr.it/1BL0dWQ

Competition in the Relationship

Between love, wild sex, and household duties, is there a place in a relationship for professional competition?

From a very ambitious woman’s perspective, I’d honestly never thought about that until a conversation I had with my boyfriend. He was worried that working from home, trying to develop my own start-up, and – let’s be honest – facing frustration over melting savings and a lack of income would lead me to feeling worse than my “more successful” man.

The truth is, the competition women face in the real world simply isn’t present in private life. In business, I am a ball-crusher, but at home, I don’t need to prove my status financially nor professionally. Still, on the other hand, our world expects men to be successful, to earn more than us, because in the opposite situation we may feel that we’ve settled with a loser. I was once in a relationship where I was earning more than him and, at the same time, was soaring in my academics, getting science scholarships and gaining recognition. Meanwhile, he was really good at cooking and taking care of the house (which just isn’t for me). A man has to be strong when he deals with a self-confident, independent woman, because if he’s not, a lack of respect can start to develop between partners. I’m not saying that women should stay in the kitchen as servants, but I do want to highlight that women with ‘balls’ have to be with men who can handle it.

But coming back to the actual situation: When I have no income and spend the whole day at home on the sofa-office or in my workshop, do I feel like I’m not up to par?

Not at all! First, having high self-esteem and knowing what I’ve achieved in my life is a strong argument. Why should I feel bad when I graduated with the highest marks in my graduating class, or when I’ve been on my own since I turned 18? Why shouldn’t I celebrate the face that I’m crafting jewellery that will last even after I’m no longer on this Earth? I’m a woman in a society where I can be whoever and whatever I want to be. I can deal, negotiate, and even use beauty to raise myself through the ranks. Maybe I’m not yet earning as much as my man, but this is only a temporary situation, a transitional period which will turning into living the dream and making money from it.

In my case, I’m happy that my partner is achieving something and that he’s starting to be recognized on an international level because, quite simply, he’s fucking good in his field. It makes me proud, not envious, because my dream for my success is situated in a different place. I would never be happy in a corporation like he is, although he’s still a very independent person and that’s great. Even though he travels a lot, having thousands of experiences and a long list of countries he’s visited, there’s no place that makes me feel bad. I’m proud of myself even when I’m working in a robe like I’m doing at this very moment. I love myself and my life, and I’m working hard to make it even better. Soon enough, I’ll be going against the real competition out there – those who are geniuses at crafting creative jewellery and selling it – and I have no doubt that both my boyfriend and I will find our own success.

 

Source of image: http://alphanextdoor.com

Great thanks to Ellielove for proofreading

How to Not Kill Mr. Perfect

Nowadays, we believe that we deserve it all. Anywhere you look, the sky is the limit and success is only a matter of getting up and trying again. Still, we feel that we deserve what we want now, and the process should be better, faster, and easier. We’re under constant pressure to own expensive toys, an exceptional look, a perfect body, to have our dream job and ideal love life. This attitude of deserving only the best is a curse to our population, not just an individual feature as I initially thought. In such a fast-paced world, it’s easy to become confused, to demand the supreme of every facet of our lives, to expect pure happiness, and to be unable to decrease our own demands without becoming frustrated.

But when talking about love, is it really a matter of having it all? As someone who is naturally demanding, I expect a lot from myself and those close to me. I have to admit that it truly is a pain in the ass, and I sometimes feel annoyed by myself, but it is what it is. I need to learn to deal with it, and in the meantime, try not to lose the people who are worth being kept. I am admitting that, from the perspective of a woman with a very analytical brain, I was looking for the secret recipe for a great relationship with the perfect life partner. I tested quite a few, but my conclusions were always a bit blurry. I ended up with the understanding of what I don’t want, but still not a clue of how Mr. Perfect looks. And here starts our trap, where we put a huge pressure on ourselves to meet this guy from our dreams.

Demanding an ideal husband seems as natural as the social pressure of having the latest iPhone, a collection of trendy clothes, the newest shoes, a super-fast car, or a clever self-cleaning hoover. We all want a man who we can call our best friend, someone with whom we can share our deepest secrets. Someone who will challenge us mentally with never-ending contemplation about life ad our place on Earth. At the same time, we expect a faithful lover with a romantic soul. A man who helps at home, who can cook and knows how to iron. An open minded person who will never feel jealous and will love us unconditionally. We want someone who shares our passions and a constant fire between each other… But what happens when we don’t get it all?

The most common solution for this kind of “issue” is to find a new model. We all know how unsatisfying life can feel when we’re denied the newest version of something, or at least an upgrade with fixes to all the problems. Let’s be honest, when that happens, we complain and start to feel disappointed. In fact, I sometimes feel betrayed, as if I had earned the right to have only the best in my life. So perhaps it’s not a matter of being unable to find this Mr. Perfect. Maybe he is somewhere out there, like a diamond without blemishes, although we never found him.

The truth is that building a good relationship means focusing on only the things from the list which are most important, and if your man has them, stop bothering yourself with the unfulfilled points that won’t really bring you happiness. Imperfections exist in everyone and everything on Earth, no matter how carefully crafted, and you’ll only find happiness when you stop looking for something better and realize you’re perfectly happy now. I know how difficult that can be to keep in mind, especially in a society that constantly tries to convince us that we need to have the very best right away, but don’t break your own diamond in the name of chasing one that only might exist, and only might be better.

 

Source of image: http://www.mid-day.com

Great thanks to Ellielove for proofreading

Sun, Fun, and… Anxiety Attacks

Although it may be in bad form to start my post with “although”, I think I need to clarify a few things. I’m currently working on my self-esteem, which is a bit hard since it’s not something you simply have from one day to the next – it’s a way of being which needs to be worked on every single day. I really do like myself, and I feel very confident in my own skin. I could never imagine wanting to be anyone but myself as I am my own best friend.

Nevertheless, I do suffer anxiety attacks from time to time. In the beginning, I didn’t know what they were since, in my country, it wasn’t even listed as a health issue; instead, it was only thought of as nervousness or hysterics. This is not an easy experience and isn’t often understood by others. Even I don’t want to accept it many times, explaining away all my issues with a temporary bad day.

But still, it is true that I have moments where several factors come together in my life, and my body starts to react with panic. Thankfully, it only happens when I’ve undergone a high level of stress from several sources for a long time. Even so, I’m not always aware of when an attack is going to start. I usually only notice when it’s already too late, and since forcing your body to stop the anxiety can only make it worse, the best thing to do is just let it go.

My last one started when a security alarm rang out in a store where I was shopping. The sudden noise made me feel very uncomfortable, so I decided to leave ASAP and go back home. I knew that I need a safe place to calm down. For 20 minutes after, I felt more and more scared, my stomach twisted, and my skin broke out in goose bumps. My heart began beating very fast and irregularly, and I worried that I would faint on the street. The sensation of being in danger quickly gained momentum. I felt paralyzed by being surrounded by so many people, even though it was quite natural seeing as I was in the middle of the city. I kept going as fast as I could to get home. Arriving at my stairway did help me to calm down quite a bit. When I’ve been under tension for too long, I naturally react by crying, so as I pushed the button for my elevator, I couldn’t stop the tears. I recovered lying in bed in my room, where everything was familiar and I knew I was absolutely safe.

In the moment when it’s happening, I am absolutely aware of it; this awareness, however, does not lessen the attack. The only way I see which might help is physical exercise which, besides relieving mental and physical stress, helps me to keep my breathing and thus my body under control. The only thing is that I used to train 2-3 times per week, but now it looks like I should consider training every day. That’s nothing to really complain about, though, because as my body gets better, so will my brain.

With that said, my advice to anyone else dealing with the same problem is to simply allow your body to go through it. Recover by finding a “reset” spot where you feel safe and comfortable. Then, do some activity that will help you to relieve tension still hidden in your body. Above all, remember that it will pass, and you will stay just as awesome as you were before!

 

photo by Katarina Wolnik-Vera 

Great thanks to Ellielove for proofreading

Do You Need Family Recognition to be Happy?

The other day, I found myself watching a movie where the main character became very emotional over a lack of family recognition for his achievements. It made me think about myself and my moments of glory.

From a child’s perspective, the feeling of being accepted or admired is one of the most important things, and is vital in helping them to grow up with proper self-esteem. Even if the kid isn’t perfect, and if his or her performance is actually quite poor, acknowledgement of their hard work is crucial. Now that I’m big enough to understand and put some order in my life and experiences, I realize that I didn’t have the best role models.

From the very beginning, I tested myself in many different fields, even if they weren’t for me. I tried to be valuable, to be good at something, especially since I was the youngest in my family. I felt less sporty, less smart, and less popular than my siblings, so the pressure was huge. Words like, “Well, your sister could do it…” became a regular part of my childhood.

Under these circumstances, it’s only natural for a child to want to be admired for something. My family, though, always tried to protect me from being rejected by my peers due to my failures. They never believed I was capable of achieving something, so they preferred to not allow me to even try.

When I was around 10 years old, I wanted so badly to take part in a mathematic contest. Of course, it was not the easiest one and I would need some adult help studying to cover all of the requirements. My family, though, after a quick review of my abilities, convinced me that it was a bad idea. It took them about an hour to explain that I wasn’t smart enough to join the contest, even though my teacher had said I could. They told me that my classmates would laugh at me. I have to admit, it was a painful experience, and I think it left a mark on my life and put me on a very difficult road of always underestimating myself.

That’s just one of many similar stories. I understand how difficult it can be to have the courage to dream of reaching the top when nobody else believes in you. I understand the feel of a never-ending need to prove yourself slowly burning you from the inside out. But honestly, I don’t blame my family for it. Even though it was wrong, it was the only thing they knew to do.

Going back to my original point about having family support during important moments, I didn’t really experience that, either. Even on my most triumphant days, such as high school graduation where I received numerous academic awards, they weren’t around. The same happened when I received a prize from the mayor for achievement on the national level. Even when I finally found my sport and won international shooting championships, none of my relatives were there. I know that they were proud of me, and I hope they still are, but they simply don’t believe in a better life nor better achievements than their own.

So what I wanted to share with you today is… you don’t need a crowd to be happy and proud of yourself. It’s important to have a loving and supporting family, but you can be whoever you want to be, even if your family is far from encouraging. The most important thing is to never give up on your own dreams. Always work hard and go for it, and don’t even dare worry about the people who don’t believe in you!

 

photo by Katarina Wolnik-Vera 

Great thanks to Ellielove for proofreading

Are All Homeless People Drunks?

We all know the stereotype: the old homeless man begging for a few pennies so he can buy another beer. The truth, though, is that being poor many times is not the result of a rational choice, but is driven by circumstances beyond our control. The homeless are not always alcoholics or drug addicts. Sometimes, their life flipped upside down on them so fast that the next thing they knew, they were spending a lonely night out on the street.

For me, living around so many poor people is like a never-ending moral hangover, especially when I have days where I complain about not being able to afford some luxury bag while the people I pass by are struggling to survive another night. Many times, we forget how blessed we really are. My hangover never quite fades because, even if I’m sharing or helping those people, I still feel the sting of remorse that I didn’t do enough. Although I am part of the consumeristic world, I can’t walk away from the local problems I see. This is so deep inside of me that I can’t stay away from a life affected by injustice. I have the urgent need to change it.

I guess it’s all related to my childhood. After my dad passed away, my family suffered significant financial problems. Thinks like buying expired yogurt that was drastically marked down became quite normal. It didn’t bother me too much; I was happy just to have something. Looking back, I’m amazed that my mum could manage the family’s measly budget so well. Now I spend more in a regular week of grocery shopping than what we had for a month’s worth of food, utilities, clothes, and books. Coming from a place like that made me understand what it’s like to be poor, to struggle, and how drastically life can change due to random and unexpected events. Although I still don’t have much, it’s a lot more than many other people have, so I feel obligated to do something.

I am helping, but even writing about it now makes me feel ridiculous because I’m not changing the world. I’m simply trying to change the reality of those around me in the small ways that I’m able to, especially in these days where my old sweater that means nothing to me might mean being warm for the first time in days to someone else.

I don’t believe in posting my good will on social media by taking a selfie with the people sleeping on the street. Doing a good deed shouldn’t be a reason to get special attention, at least in my opinion. I want to help people, not sell myself. Besides, it’s not about us – it’s about those who need an extra blanket or old jacket, those who stay overnight in ATMs, on old benches, under bridges, or in building recesses to keep the cold winter wind from cutting into them.

I know how difficult and uncomfortable it might be to interact with someone who hasn’t had a bath in days, or who behaves a bit different than we’re used to, but keep in mind that it’s not always their fault. Living outside of society never makes your life easier or more sociable. You start to forget how to communicate decently, so before judging, we need to try and understand one another. For us, the easiest way to ignore the reality is to degrade the homeless, to think of them as nothing more than a drunk, no one worthy of our attention. This helps us to not feel guilty and to keep our conscious on a leash. But I believe that by leaving our comfort zone just a bit, we can change lives. If we change the small, local things, it will all come together to make a big difference.

So next time you’re about to throw away last season’s fashions, think about me. I could be on the street just as easily, but I was a bit luckier. I could be the one who has nothing, who is freezing at night because I have nowhere to go to stay warm. Right in front of your eyes, there are so many touching stories that can be improved by simple human gestures.

 

 

Great thanks to Ellielove for proofreading

High-fashion Model Fantasies: How False Imagery Can Destroy Self-Confidence

When I was little, one sentence nearly single-handed destroyed my confidence, happiness, and self-acceptance: “When you’re a bit older, you could be a model, but you’ll need to lose some weight.” Those words were like a saw to my heart and childhood carelessness. To be clear, it wasn’t said by a model scout or someone already in the business, but by very close members of my own family who would often point out how fat they thought I was.

They did have a point: at that time in my life, I wasn’t a slim child, nor was I tall with Kenyan marathoner legs. In all actually, I was a chubby kid who loved sweets and had no idea about rational eating or keeping a balanced diet. I wasn’t aware of what it took to be a model, the kind of hard work and luck you needed to achieve something in the industry. Nobody ever explained to me that being a high-fashion girl was more like winning the lottery than an actual job with a set career path. If you were one of the lucky ones, you’d have to be a very strong person able to resist constant comparisons and comments about your own body.

With those arguments, I would rationally say I chose not to be a model, but then again, I didn’t need to choose anything. I was far from being the model type, with my genes and facial features not being the kind the modeling world typically looked for. Still, I took this “good feedback” seriously and began comparing myself with girls on the Fashion Channel, which slowly chipped away at my confidence.

I remember being so worried about how I looked and how big my belly was that I started wearing oversized t-shirts to hide in. I was so ashamed of my body that I refused to show it to anyone, even my boyfriend. Even with this self-doubt, I wasn’t doing anything to change it. I was expecting perfection without any work. I remember eating a huge bar of chocolate, then breaking down in tears, mad at how fat I was. I hated myself for being so weak, so powerless.

With time, my body started to transform. I became more proportional and boys noticed me more, which helped me to understand that I wasn’t as ugly as I’d thought. Even so, it took me over 25 years to really believe it.

I began acting like a self-confident woman who liked her own body and felt sexy, highlighted by my “too small, too short” clothes. It was a public image, though, and when no one was watching, I was very aggressive with myself. I’ve always seen a fat person when I look in the mirror, even when I looked unhealthily skinny. My opinion about myself didn’t change from positive comments because, on the inside, I was the same kid who knew she needed to lose weight to become a model, to be loved, and to gain admiration.

I have to say – thank God I never was a pretty kid. I was able to focus on myself and my studies rather than my looks. I had to work hard instead of falling back on my appearance, which allowed me the chance to graduate from one of the best Universities and gain respect among my coworkers. With time, the attractiveness came, but I already had a strong mindset of who I am and awareness that being pretty is just a temporary thing. There will always be someone younger and more attractive, but who cares? When you really love yourself, when you know that you deserve to be loved not because you are skinny but because you’re a great person, you can shrug off stupid comments about how imperfect you are. Imperfections make you alive. I learned how to take care of my body and my soul, how to be balanced with myself, and it’s something far more important than being a model (although I do love to pose for my friends).

I know that all of us have the power inside to start loving ourselves, not for how we look, but for who we are. We’re able to treat our own body well by exercising to keep in shape and far from the pharmacy. Being a balanced woman who loves and believes in herself is far more attractive than someone who just happens to be pretty.

photo by Monika Glod – blogger

Great thanks to Ellielove for proofreading