A Calling to do Good
“Born to Do This”. Yes, I am quoting Joan of Arc, but she just happens to be one of my spiritual mentors. Ever since I was little, I was made aware that God had planted a little justice-oriented GPS system. For me, my calling was centered around women’s empowerment. How did I know it was a calling? Well, there was no other way for me to explain why, at the age of seven, I was crying because my male cousin didn’t respect the women’s movement—or why I was voted, “most likely to become the first female President” at the age of 18. I tried my best to listen to this calling, though I did not yet know my path.
Upon graduation from high school, success was defined through the left side of my brain—the academic, the pragmatic, defined by rules and held up by laws. I spent 10 years of my life working to become extremely competent. I got my BA in Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan, interned in the Canadian House of Commons for a female MP, burnt out my adrenal glands getting a record number of 18-35 year-olds registered for the 2004 election, and am still paying for my MA degree in International Law in which I wrote my thesis on “The Theoretical and Practical Approach of Feminist Peace Theory.” I was the youngest adjunct teacher to teach Intro to Gender Studies and Women & Politics in the US and present Women as Peacemakers at two international peace conferences. The wonderful Kimberly King recognized my passionate calling and asked me to serve as a Woman Saving Humanity where I attended the United Nation’s CSW Conference and was honored to meet and hug Jean Shinoda Bolen among other divinely called women peace-makers.
Advocating Through Art:
I am called to serve as an environmental and social activist gone fashion designer. You didn’t see that coming did you? You’re not alone…neither did I! I thought I had to be behind a desk to be an activist, making phone calls, networking, writing my thesis, teaching at university—what I discovered is that a revolution of the heart can come from anywhere, including through the art of fashion. Everyone wears clothing and it can make a powerful political statement. I am a fashion (re)designer. The difference between myself and other fashion designers is the concept of my label name, “(re)”; reuse, reduce, redesign, rethink, reinvent, recycle. My entire creative design process is unconventional from start to finish. I thrift for my materials instead of buying new fabric yardage and I marry wedding dresses with table runners and garters with suit coats. With no material off limits, inspiration can come from anything, creating truly extra-ordinary clothing and diverting tons of ‘waste’ from landfills. Plus, the perceptions of women’s body image that are fed to us must absolutely be redefined.
Educating consumers is a huge part of my business and getting my message in the media is a goal. I want models on the runway of all sizes, I want people talking about what/where their clothing came from on the Red Carpet rather than who it was made by, I want to revolutionize the Fashion Industry to be the leader of sustainable design, I want women in rural communities given sewing jobs and paid a fair wage, I want more local manufacturing that strengthens our communities. Although my path may no longer look political, it surely is.
This is why in 2013 I packed my sewing machine in my car and drove to Los Angeles. This wasn’t about ME becoming a star though… it was about [RE].
[RE] is the name of my upcycled clothing label – which shows people the possibilities of creative reuse of materials in the form of Red Carpet clothing.
Approaching the fashion industry from an ethical standpoint is, unfortunately, outside of the box. We are in an era of fast fashion—pump it out as fast and as cheaply as you can so that profit is king and people/planet lay in the background. Ego is a big thing in Los Angeles, especially for a designer—it’s all about YOU. It’s easy to get so caught up in the glamour of having the next big trend that issues like where you source your fabrics, what dyes are polluting what rivers, and under what working conditions things are made don’t matter so much. But what if we had different standards for ourselves—so that your design AND your ethics are what people look up to? Well, this was why I was eating ramen noodles in a small studio apartment in L.A.
Even Joan of Arc didn’t want to go into battle, but how will things change if we don’t have the courage to go against the mainstream?
I have more stories to tell – like being the only designer to have an upcycled look (out of 50+) at a big Red Carpet even hosted by Kathy Hilton…stay tuned…