Sustainable struggles are driving me mad! Six months ago I set myself the goal of reducing my environmental impact. This included being more conscious of fashion choices and trying to choose sustainable or ethical brands. However high street fashion makes this almost impossible!
Why the heck do we need sustainable fashion?
I recently found out that fashion is the second biggest polluter in the world – what?! Not that I was aware of this when I decided to change they way I use fashion. Essentially, when I went to Guinea, I had one 24kg bag in which to pack everything I needed. Firstly, all of the mosquito nets, bedding and water treatment equipment took up half of this and secondly, anything I took was bound to come back ruined by orange dust. I had shut down my blog temporarily and essentially put style on hold…
When I came back, yes I was excited to have fun styling clothes again (I do have a fashion blog after all) but something felt different. After living in basics for months, I’d forgotten about so many of my clothes. I had so many that I actually felt overwhelmed!
The “crazy” minimalist?
I decided that I didn’t need half the stuff in my wardrobe so I gave everything that I’d forgotten I had, to charity. Following this I recycled anything that didn’t fit me properly. It felt amazing! Why? I was left with things that I loved and I had room to buy a couple of really good quality items.
Living in a third world country makes you incredibly aware of pollution. There are no waste-processing sites. You either bury your rubbish, burn your rubbish, or leave it at the side of the road. You just can’t ignore the devastating impact that your waste has upon the environment. Inevitably this compelled me to start reducing my impact. With fashion being a big contributor, I had to change some things.
Ever since I’ve seriously been struggling! It’s so hard! Here are a few struggles I am facing…
Sustainable Struggle one: looking ridiculously hippie
When I thought about Eco-friendly fashion, I used to think of ‘hippie’ clothing, ‘gap-yah’ students and anything far from stylish… I mean, I do possess a very jazzy cardigan now but since then, I’ve learnt that it can be a lot more stylish and casual too! But, finding more casual items is a challenge.
Sustainable Struggle two: you just can’t win!
After recycling a lot of old clothes (to charity shops) that I didn’t want, I decided that I would only buy clothes that were made from environmentally friendly materials. Also, I was determined to ensure that they were from ethically fair backgrounds ie, they were made in the UK, or fair-trade – not ‘made in Bangladesh’ for example.
Watch this really useful video to understand what I mean by eco-friendly materials!
Anyway, back to the point.
It’s been six months now and it has been a slow journey. Why? The high street has not caught onto this movement! Almost everything is made from polyester and if you do find a 100% cotton, it’s been made in Vietnam… I’ve struggled to stick to my goals and often had to compromise.
I have however been shopping more frequently in charity shops – I found a brilliant Denim Jacket in Oxfam! Of course you don’t need to worry about labels here because all the clothing has been recycled so you are reusing a material that would otherwise become waste.
Gradually I have been reducing my wardrobe to a more capsule size. I have found that having a few items that I love, along with the important basics, still allows me style things creatively.
Sustainable Struggle three: there’s rarely anything my size in charity shops
With the seasons changing and after having missed Autumn/Winter last year, I’ve been in desperate need of warmer clothing. I have succeeded on the “less is more” front by only purchasing one dress and two knitted tops to go with the two skirts, jeans, jackets and abundance of basics that I have. However, yet again, I HAD TO COMPROMISE! I failed to find anything suitable in charity shops – most shops have very few items in size 8.
The dress and knitted tops were 100% cotton but there was no indication of where they were made!
Sustainable Struggle four: their branding sucks!
Why is this so hard? I feel like a suffragette sometimes just trying to search through clothes labels! Why can’t brands just add the information the the price tag?
Recently I have discovered that both M&S and Monki have sustainable ranges including 100% organic cotton denim and recycled cotton basics. But again they don’t openly advertise this – I merely just happened to stumble upon them.
Other brands (often found on ASOS or Etsy) that focus on environmentally friendly fashion can’t be found on the highstreet and are just way too expensive! If it’s going to break the bank, it’s just not going to take off.
It’s going to take a while!
So here I am, still trying to love fashion and love the environment. I have come so far in six months but definitely have further to go! I have even resorted to making my own clothes (check out the fair-trade outfits I designed and had a tailor make for me in Guinea), but honestly, it’s stressful and not everybody’s solution.
Does anyone have any tips? Although I shall not be buying anything for a few months now!
I’ve discovered the best way to have a good morning. Bold as I may be to claim this, it’s really worth a thought. I feel good, productive, and calm!
In the past few months I seem to have slipped back into the UK norm. The things that I learnt to prioritise whilst living in Guinea now just sit at the back of my mind. Do I feel guilty about this? Sometimes. Does it feel as though I’m wasting precious life lessons? Definitely!
A good morning is one without Wi-fi
One of the greatest influences during my time overseas was the lack of mobile phones. I’m not going to stand and say that before I left last October, I was addicted to my phone. That just isn’t true. I did however spend a lot of time on social media. I had Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram,Time-hop, Pinterest…
A good morning was one without wi-fi.
I used my phone for 30-60 minutes a day in Guinea. If I wanted to chat to someone, I phoned them or visited them. I lived in the moment and didn’t think about recording it. Call me a recluse, but I delighted in the idea of a few days’ “disappearance” at a time.
Now I use Pinterest and Instagram – these are the only social media apps on my phone. Facebook gets checked every few days for the sake of blogging and university updates. Why? I got so used to having real life interactions! I stopped caring what people think of me. I realised that I don’t need to update the world to qualify a good happy moment.
Getting my good morning back
Lately, I’ve been reaching out for my phone again. I’ve been scrolling endlessly rather than uploading, checking and leaving. I get distracted and then I feel like I haven’t done anything today.
So I’m finally forcing myself to seize back the reality that I’ve recently lost.
Every morning when I wake up, I leave my phone exactly where it is. I get up at 8am, put on some clothes and go straight downstairs. I make a good morning breakfast (granola, eggs, pancakes, porridge…), grab a coffee and eat slowly. I then spend time reading a good book. Often I find this time a great opportunity to study my bible but I also love a good novel or creative article! I’m working my way through the summer reading list!
What’s so good about this morning?
- It fuels my day with good words!
- I don’t feel rushed.
- In just 1 hour I have eaten well, read something good and can be ready to leave the house!
- It creates a boundary between your real life, and the life that all your friends are viewing.
- It sets you up for a positive day.
By 9am most days I feel like I’ve already done so much – that is a brilliant achievement. When I eventually switch airplane mode off (my new favourite setting) I no longer have the desire to scroll through everything that everyone posted last night. In fact, once you go without your phone for a while, it is surprising how rubbish social media appears!
I have always been a morning person but I haven’t always felt good every morning. Now I feel amazing and this one little change carries itself through the day. One boundary leads to a day’s discipline. Yes I still post. Yes I still love Instagram! But my relationship is healthier. I enjoy it but real life memories always come first.
If I’m waking up, I wake up. If I’m watching TV, I watch TV. If I’m with friends and family, I ignore messages.
And all of this starts with a good morning! Forget waking up on the wrong side of the bed – wake up on the right side of a screen!
Try it! You’ll feel in control of you and your day.
If you want to read more about my Guinean Adventures and lessons learnt, you can find it all here.
Top 10 Tips for Living Together
It’s time that I introduced you all to my “housemates.” Meet Team Guinea! Seven months ago I met three wonderful girls for the first time and flew across the world to live with them for six months. I left all my other friends behind and quite literally, ended up stuck with them…
Lauren, Cara and Mhairi have been the best team mates I could have asked for! We worked together, lived together, cooked together and pretty much didn’t spend any time apart for six months! In some ways this has been incredible but of course, living together does have challenges too and we have learnt to navigate our way through all of these things together – ups and downs. Most importantly, I’m incredibly proud of these three girls and all that they have accomplished this year.
After learning to live alongside each other as a team, we are now best friends and whilst its was definitely difficult at times, we certainly are glad we did it. Today I’m sharing our top ten tips for team living, whether you are currently about to live with flatmates for the first time at university, or are working in a team of colleagues.
- Have give and take. Living with house mates or team members really can be a challenge. If you think about your family, you don’t always agree with one another, or be kind to each other. Families argue. They contrast yet have grace for each other and are built on love! If your family doesn’t always get along, your house won’t either! Accept that, choose which battles are important to fight, and leave those that really won’t matter in the long term.
- Cook good food together! As a team in Guinea, we found that cooking together was such a relaxing and enriching activity. When we all came together to share ideas, tastes, skills, we didn’t just manage to cook something incredible but when we shared it, we could all enjoy the reward of our creation. Our favourites were curry complete with homemade naan bread, pancake brunches, lasagne, stews, soups…
- Laugh together, cry together. This was one of our team values! We had to understand that sharing in good times was just as important as accompanying one another in tough times. Having this as a grounding allowed us to support one another, to encourage each other and have a deepened understanding of each other’s emotions, circumstances, joys and tribulations.
- Be quick to forgive. Seriously – grudges are no good for team living! Anything unsaid can build up to cause explosive arguments. If something was upsetting us or annoying us, we would honestly tell our team member, resolve the problem and then move on, forgetting it happened. We all make mistakes and living together is difficult! I definitely learnt to be patient with my team.
- Share the roles. Now it’s not a healthy team if one person is carrying a heavier load. It’s vital that you share roles and each take up a fair amount jobs. It’s not just about getting a fair rest but also learning to serve your house mates, proving that you care for and value them as individuals. In our house we decided to create a “day off” rota so that each day, one team member would be excused from all cooking and washing up. This was brilliant! There were still three people to share the load, and we’d all get the chance to put our feet up twice a week.
- Employ each other’s strengths. It’s pointless forcing the quiet team member to stand up and present a whole lesson to a class of 80. Likewise it’s silly to ask the outgoing, active one to just work on the sidelines and do all the administration. This applies to living together too! Pick out one another’s strengths and delegate roles based upon that. For example, I am strong in Mathematics and was encouraged to manage our team’s finances and food budgets. Lauren however was really good at coming up with social activities to do on an evening, so we’d often get her to plan a film night or worship night whenever we needed some down time…
- Celebrate each other! We all love to be built up! So celebrate each other’s successes as friends and compliment one another’s efforts.
- Find a mutual activity. You can’t just live together and never socialise together. Discovering mutual interests or trying new things together is an important for bonding and also maintaining a good relationship with your house mates. In Guinea this looked like watching films, playing games and journalling together. Now in the UK, it’s going for walks and even doing crazy things like going to a trampoline park to destress for an hour!
- Take the short straw. There will always be jobs that no-one wants to do. Sometimes you just have to big yourself up and do them because if you all stand around, you’ll be there for ever! I hate to admit it, but I even had to unblock a toilet and kill a mouse for my team! These things need doing and if you just get it over with, you can move on as a team. Your housemates will really appreciate you for serving them in that too!
- Have hyper moments! Sometimes you just need to scream hysterically at each other or dance stupidly around the house. It’s these crazy memories that really build a happy team – you’ll remember wild nights forever!
We are still living together and learning to navigate through life together… We are now spending eight weeks travelling around the UK, talking about our trip and meeting one another’s families. With this comes new challenges and these ten lessons still play a huge role in our team!
What tips do you have for living with house mates?
West African Wax
Welcome back to Distinctivemode! Today I’m sharing my newfound love for West African Wax fabric. Whilst living in Guinea, I came across so many bright and colourful fabrics that were sold at market stalls, to then be taken to a local tailor and made into all sorts of things. Whilst I did have some more culturally appropriate outfits made to wear in country, I visited my tailor just before I left with some of my own western designs.
One of the most popular fabrics is this blue material with motifs. In fact, it comes in all different colours and most Guineans own something in this fabric. Blue is my favourite so I purchased a fair bit of it! The first thing I designed? A scalloped pencil skirt with buttons. Originally I’d hoped for it to be made in the locally dyed indigo fabric however the tailor got a little muddled so I was surprised to say the least… But once I’d styled it with a white v-neck t-shirt, I fell in love with it!
Speaking of locally dyed indigo, you can’t step foot in the market without spotting hundreds of uniquely printed or tie-dyed sheets of indigo! There are so many patterns all hand crafted. I had a shirt made in one of the tie-dye designs and have hauled piles of different patterns home with plans to create even more – I’ve already made a skirt and am working on a little top to go with it!
The best thing about wearing African fabrics? You can inject a little bit of colour into an outfit and the indigo gives you the opportunity to be more subtle, pairing with denim. I am definitely a convert! Wearing these fabrics is like a home comfort to me now after wearing traditional clothing in Guinea for so long. It’s also completely ethical since you not only pay those who have crafted the indigo, or locals selling imported wax but you have the opportunity to employ a local tailor and support their business.
I also had a dress made and it feels incredible to wear something made to fit! Whenever people comment on it I have the opportunity to share the story of my local tailor friend, relive an experience and inject a bit of culture into someone’s life. It’s a truly distinctive dress – one I designed myself!
Head to Pinterest and browse West African Wax fabrics – it’s an awesome new craze!
There’s something about riding sideways in the back of a jeep watching a landscape go by that pulls at heart strings you never knew you had. I just spent six months living and working in West Africa. Each time we left our home and drove out of town I’d sit fascinated by the country before me.
West Africa used to be a tragic poverished spot on a map. Now it’s a population of welcoming people yes in need, but human and struggling just like westerners. Now to me, West Africa is a home where I am welcomed…
Alongside retreats in mountains watching monkeys swing in trees and exploring islands off the capital, I experienced some tough things. I experienced what it is like to have no water for weeks when city supply is cut; the frustration of teachers struggling to control huge class numbers; the devastating truth that first aid is limited and hospitals not reliable; the value that children lack; underlying superstitious fear that results in FGM…
Yet all the same this nation is a beautiful country slowly developing. The spirit of the people we met is one of wanting to learn and grow.
WA became normal to me. My house felt like my home. Whilst I knew it was temporary, I embraced it all: food, routine, language… I can’t even imagine a night’s sleep undisturbed by the islamic call to prayer or a tarmaced road leading to a house that doesnt require three turns of the key to unlock. Cleaning teeth with tap water is a no go and what on earth is a hot shower?
Yet underneath the surface lies something deeper. Living in West Africa has changed my heart. My perspective upon what is necessary has completely changed my desires and priorities. My unwillingness to leave the comforts of a western life and western career no longer exists and my eyes are open to what mission really is: living alongside others.
Six months have been transforming and whilst my identity remains in Christ, my character has been radically shaped. It’s not something that I can pin point and neither is it something anyone will ever understand. That’s so hard for me to process right now as I return to my old life with a completely different outlook. As I relaunch this blog I can only try to explain part of that. It’s almost as if I’ve moved to a completely new place when in fact these places and people are incredibly familiar…
I am excited to reunite with my readers but I ask your patience and understanding. My return brings new perspectives, new desires and a developped character attatched to the same identity.
How have you been growing since October?
Why “Down Periods” Really Should Be Labelled “Up.”
Sometimes, life simply slumps, and takes a pause; whether you want to or not, things just seam to go slowly. Perhaps you discover yourself amongst a challenging situation, end up in unplanned rest, or simply just struggle to process things. Often, at this stage it’s easy to label it as a “down period,” but why do we do this? Do we not realise that these times are indeed very positive?
Three weeks ago, I finished my AS level exams, and since then my body has been on shut down. My mind has struggled to think creatively, my emotions have been all over the place, and I’ve slept like a log… During this, it’s proved difficult to create the content that I usually create (even now I write this at a much slower pace) and to be as pro-active as usual. Again, extrovert has screamed introvert, and I’ve had no option but to simply pause…
Sometimes, just sometimes, the fast pace world can exhaust our lives, without us realising. We question: why do I feel like this? Why isn’t everything working out? What’s wrong with me?
The truth is, that when we feel like this, our body is taking a holiday for us. When bad things come around, and we find ourselves caught in the middle of it, not knowing where to turn, it’s a gracious sign – limbo. Just stand, in the middle of it, neither turning to the right nor the left. Use this time to reflect, to be good to yourself, and to separate yourself from all that’s pulling your strings…
Recently, I’ve found myself caught in the middle of it all – people, decisions, and achievements… All in the blink of an eye, I found myself hibernating, talking myself out of things, and simply just pausing. Do I view this as a downfall? A weakness? Of course not: in the past few weeks, I’ve been so, so good to myself! Although I may have been caught up in a lot of things, unable to make decisions, this pausing has allowed me to grow.
That’s the thing about trial – we may want out of it, but what if we just sat in it? What if we waited to see how it would grow us for the better?
In the past few weeks, I’ve also found myself surrounded by the support of friends; people have prayed for me, talked to me, and mostly just let me know that it’s okay to not know how I feel about certain situations. Boy have I grown – so much so that I’m actually quite proud of myself for the decisions that I have made!
Whether friendships, future decisions, exams, tiredness, or health (the list goes on), it’s okay to want to shut out the world! It’s okay to go on a mind-vacation. As you go slow pace, you’ll discover a lot of things – the positives will come through!
With decisions made, college over for the year, and body recovered, I cannot wait to see where Summer leads! With a happy heart I encourage you all to go take some “me-time,” have a vacation, and stop rushing around!
New Year Exclusive : Finding Our True Identity
With a new year dawning and the excitement of a whole new season filled with fresh spring delights, we all look towards a new us; new styles, new lifestyles and renewed mind…
With two days of 2013 remaining, we strain to make the best of the year we’ve had. For me, this year has not only been an exciting roller-coaster but also the year that I have managed to finally discover those big dreams that I could never quite distinguish amongst everything else in my life. In my opinion, I would say that this year, I found my true identity; I discovered my unique style, My talents and I became happy with who I am!
But how can we really attain our true identity? The thing is, for me, I have kind of come across my identity in different situations along the year however I guess through all situations and experiences, I have discovered more about the person I don’t want to be, and more about the sort of person I’d love to be. 2013 brought many opportunities and I took them all on with courage – for example, a few weeks ago I went out of my comfort zone and sang in front of my whole year group (eek!) However now that I’ve completed this, It has shown me the satisfaction I get from being on a stage! Distinctivemode is another example – Back in October, I went to an art careers event, taking the opportunity to have a break from school. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made! It gave me such a clear view of the opportunities out there that I could be involved in, using my flair for creativity. During the event, I sat in a lecture about fashion careers – wow! Inspired, I went home full of ideas; I had finally discovered the dream that was hidden beneath all the other things that had been happening in my life. A few weeks later, I set up Distinctivemode and I will never look back! Therefore – I encourage you all to step into 2014 and take all the opportunities placed in your stride…
Moving onwards, I fully believe that the human brain is entirely biased towards ourselves and sometimes even against. Therefore, as I have suggested previously, the only way to discover out identity is to ask a loyal, trustworthy companion (or three). When I turned to my three girl-friends, they reflected my dreams back into my heart and I realised that I am truly happy with who I am – A random, crazy, coffee loving girl who is friendly with many folk. Someone kind, with a backbone to stand up for the things and people I love, who has great knowledge of style and a wonderful sense of humour. Finally, one of my beautiful friends came across the key to my identity: A woman who has all of her toes! I feel this demonstrates just how crazy I and my minions really are!
With the new era of 2014 creeping closer, I urge you to continue on this journey I am taking – work towards finding your true identity and becoming the person that you would love to meet! Distinguish your dreams and work towards them! But most of all, be happy with who you really are!
All the best for 2014 – Will you join me in finding your true identity?