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 Guinea. 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 Guinea is a beautiful country slowly developping. The spirit of the people we met is one of wanting to learn and grow.
Guinea 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 Guinea 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?
If you have been following Distinctivemode from early on, you will know that in November the blog will turn four years old. As I write this I am speechless – quite literally! How on earth has it been that long? Not only this but I myself have changed considerably and I do hope that the blog has reflected that somehow.
Four years is a heck of a long time. I still remember the first few days of blogging in 2013, when the site was purely a fashion communication platform and I’d read articles from Bazaar and Vogue, then blog my thoughts about them. Initially Distinctivemode was my step into fashion journalism. Then as I changed, I strayed from this and started to expand: inspiring thoughts and faith. As I grew up, I started to creatively explore different avenues and see how we could creatively journey to “become the person we want to meet”- as we used to say!
We’ve seen a year of Give Save Love in 2015, Grace Cherish Go in 2016, and now 2017 is a year to throw off all boundaries and let adventure unfold. Looking back I see a timid girl with little confidence and a big dream. Now I see a woman stood on a cliff edge about to jump into a very different dream – a much greater dream!
So far this year has been filled with crazy travel opportunities and day by day my heart grows for more – I’m curious to see the world and that means getting outside of my comfort zone. It means going beyond the reach of media for a little while.
Something I have mentioned a few times on the blog is that over the past three years, I’ve dreamt about taking a gap year, seeing something new, and growing in the knowledge of who God is. Now, I’m about to embark on just that. It’s been a challenge to study hard, blog a lot, plan for this year and still live the spontaneous adventure of life with Jesus! But in prayer I have managed it. There have been times when I’ve come close to giving up on the blog. I had so much to do but I’m incredibly thankful for the team of readers backing me, being patient and encouraging efforts. We made it to four years – together!
But it’s time that I did step down – just for a little while. Over the next 9 months I’m running off to experience Africa! To serve God, to work in a brilliant team and to grow in faith. I’ll grow, I’ll change and I’ll see a lot more of creation! I need to be fully present in this – not sidetracked by other things. It’s time I laid down all other responsibilities to commit my all to this.
So until the end of March there will be no more posts on Distinctivemode due to no internet. After this, I do hope to update you on my period of journeying but I know I will be incredibly busy and unable to resume our usual Sunday and Wednesday schedule.
So until the summer of 2018, I wish you all the best. Take time out to adventure. Take time to grow. I’m about to leap from the clifftop – perhaps you’ll join me in that adventure?
I’ll see you when I see you – refreshed, full of stories and ready to grow a little more!
Happy four years,
Got your coffee? Great lets go!
Whilst all previous Coffee Times have incorporated lessons learned from books, as we step into September I want to discuss visual media also. Over the past month I have encountered and experienced so many influential things however there was one spectacular and inspiring moment that stands above it all… Kynren.
Kynren is a 90 minute outdoor show directed by the Olympic ceremonies veteran, Steve Boyd engineering a cast and crew of 1500 volunteers to tell the story of the history of England, with a particular emphasis focusing upon the surroundings of County Durham. Starting at sunset, you are immersed in a timeline of tales complete with scenery, live animals, music and fireworks. It’s incredible and certainly indescribable. So indescribable that the best I can do to explain is link to the trailer, here.
But what was so inspiring? Kynren not only contains amazing visuals but also incredible lessons. First of all, stories and scenes transition fluently, all linking with the aid of large props and stage sets, hidden under a water reservoir ready to be elevated in time. Although I previously studied history, I have always struggled to piece together the whole time line of British History and the 29 scenes for me were that final Eureka moment. I found my mind was able to process all stories from monks, saxons, vikings… up until the first and second world war.
There was a valuable message amongst all of this. The show follows a young boy called Arthur, who travels in time through all of these generations and grows older as he transitions throughout them. He comes into contact with “the old Arthur” early on whilst still young and as he moves throughout history, he is counselled. The message? To learn from previous generations of leaders, lead your in present generation and make way for the new generation of strong leaders to come. The fundamental in all of this, is simply: let generations inspire you!
There have been some incredible forces of change in our country including Saint Cuthbert, Julius Ceasar, Shakespeare, Queen Victoria, Winston Churchill… All of these people we admire – but may we dig deep. Let us research them, read their stories and think about the things that they brought about. From this, may we hold onto the influences that we find, allowing them to raise us up as great leaders also. All historical figures came from ordinary backgrounds. Likewise, new generations will rise up – and we can be a part of that! Yet all generations must also step down – may we gracefully make way for the new, younger Arthur…
With this I ask, is there a historical figure that you admire? Why? How can they influence your decisions and actions? Or perhaps, could you learn something by digging in and being curious about a figure you’ve never really listened to?
Kynren is an old word meaning “generations.” So lets learn from Kynren this September!
We are back again for the third edition of Coffee Time! By now you should know what to do: grab a coffee and let’s get started!This month I had to choose Wilde Like Me by Louise Pentland. Whilst I’ve read other books this month as well, sometimes you can’t beat a good novel – especially when it hits number one bestseller! Besides, within this book you’ll find challenge, memory, fairy tale and a very important lesson to learn.
The book is incredibly easy to read and makes the perfect Summer novel – I couldn’t put it down. The main character is Robin Wilde who is a single mum to Lyla Blue. She starts out in a phase of sadness, insecurity and loneliness that she calls “the emptiness,” but gradually overcomes this by focusing on the happiness of her child. She goes on dates that fall, and lives in the fear that she isn’t a good enough mum, that Lyla is emotionally scarred from the parent break up and that all the “posh school mums,” are all secretly looking down on her.
I don’t want to give spoilers so I’ll skip past the middle and ending. Rather I want to share a very important lesson I’ve learnt by reading Wilde Like Me…
People are too busy thinking about themselves, to care about you. What Louise Pentland means by writing this is that often, we may think that somebody has a very low view of us, but in reality they actually look up to you. Rather than judging others they are too busy judging themselves. We all do it. Therefore we ought to have more confidence. In the book Robin Wilde spends so long feeling like a nobody when actually the school mums were admiring her the whole time! This truth is fundamental. Perhaps you often worry that your friends don’t really like you, that you aren’t good enough or that being different means social failure – wrong. It’s time we all said no to this voice inside us and held our heads high!
Power of Positive Thinking. Throughout the novel, Robin Wilde is portrayed as a motivated woman, battling with optimism. After bad days she starts afresh with a lot of positive thinking. What stands out the most is how she declares optimism: “today will be a good day,” “I can do this,” “This is a new day.” Even in her emptiness, Robin Wilde battles to climb up out of it. Whilst reading this novel, I had a bit of a bad day myself and inspired by this lesson, I put the power of positive thinking into practise. All day I told myself, “today is a good day,” and it completely changed my attitude – in fact I had one of the best days ever!
Wilde Like Me is such a wonderful novel! I can’t help but feel proud of the main character Robin Wilde and I have learnt some incredible, much needed lessons. In my opinion, everyone should give it a read! If you find yourself in the same boat as Robin, feel a bit stuck in your current phase of life, or not, it’s a great eye-opener into the struggles of a single mum as well as a kick-ass pick me up full of motivation and encouragement!
Have you read Wilde Like Me? What have you learnt in your own reading?
P.S. Buy Wilde Like Me here
Ready for our second monthly Coffee Time? This month I challenged myself to do a lot more reading. One book particularly stood out as interesting, informative and a little intriguing. So let’s grab a coffee and get right into it…
We Are What We Think by Jame Geary is an excellent introduction to the lives and principles of many famous philosophers. The book details a range of mini-biographies that are centred around the aphorisms written or spoken by such philosophers. In fact the book is described as “a journey through the wisest and wittiest sayings in the world.”
Unfortunately before discussing it’s successes I must criticise a few things. I realise that I am no philosopher however in the first chapter of the book, Geary outlines the principles of various religious prophets / preachers in order to give a grounding to the later aphorisms. Within this, I found that Geary is quick to look at something and make some bold assumptions or statements. Some of the interpretations of Jesus’ words were far from an accurate representation of the Christian faith. Consequently, I found myself reading sceptically through the remaining book.
Despite this, I still couldn’t quite put the book down! It’s set out in chronological order and since it’s composed of mini-autobiographies, it’s really easy to digest. I had never really looked into philosophy before and I found the structure brilliant for a beginner. It’s not all religious prophets either – Dr Seus even gets a mention!
Today I want to share 3 aphorisms from the book:
- It is the greatest of all inconsistencies to wish to be other than we are. Arthur Schopenhauer was a genius and reasoned that happiness can’t be based on risky possessions but rather on personality. “It is a harmony which produces an agreeable and rational character; and for the simple reason that everything which makes the man and gives him his mental and physical qualities is nothing but the manifestation of his will; is, in fact, what he wills. Therefore it is the greatest of all inconsistencies to wish to be other than we are.” Although Schopenhauer concluded from this that life is mostly misery and that we should expect no victory in a personal growth battle, I myself find this has the opposite effect. Such an aphorism reminds us that we are who we are, and therefore should not look to the right or left, wishing to be someone else. It reminded me of our journey to be distinctive and to become the person that we wish to be.
- Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve. Benjamin Franklin founded the first public library, demonstrated that lightning was a form of electricity and invented bifocal glasses. He was a man of many virtues including “resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.” This completely caught my attention: I am a firm believer in performing to your very best whilst ensuring that what you are doing is good, and has a beneficial effect. Reading this during exam time was particularly relevant – I resolved to study as best as I could and sit exams without failing to do justice to my ability. It has moral with “what you ought,” and reminds us to consider the effect that our actions have upon the world around us.
- Insist on yourself; never imitate. Ralph Waldo Emerson has been referred to as “the prophet of nonconformity.” For some reason this idea of insisting upon yourself captivated me, perhaps reassuring and acknowledging that being your own individual isn’t always easy but that it’s what we are obliged to do. Another of his aphorisms is, “It is easy to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after your own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.” Encountering crowds is something that our modern society knows full well and this is an excellent reminder of the importance to enjoy the presence of others, yet still hold onto our own virtues, looks, opinions. It can be easy to either follow the crowd or refuse to associate but as Emerson rightly pointed out, what truly brings success is to achieve a perfect balance.
I have definitely enjoyed reading around some of the wisest and wittiest sayings in the world! It has it’s limitations but if you want to read something that constantly causes you to stop and think, this book is for you!
I hope you enjoyed this second coffee time! What have you be reading recently?
I have wanted to create a Draw My Life video for a while now and when I finally got round to it, it was such a fun, creative project that allowed me to reflect upon all my best memories. I also would like to think that when I’m older I’ll be able to watch this back and be reminded of so many happy times! I guess it’s also a way for you all to get to know me on a more personal level.
Enjoy it – what memories make up your life?
P.S. I tried my best to include everything. To my family and friends: I’m sorry if you were missed! You all mean the world to me!
Say hello to a brand new series on Distinctivemode! Previous to relaunching this blog, something I was never able to share was my love for reading. Yet it’s reading and learning that has been a major influence upon journeying with Distinctivemode, as well as developing my character. One of the first things that I did when I sat down to think about what I wanted to change, was find a way to incorporate these influences and affairs.
I came up with “Coffee Time.” Coffee time is a monthly opportunity to sit down, grab a coffee, and discuss what we have been learning. Personally, this will be a chance to review the books that I have read, the world affairs that have perhaps taught some valuable lessons or simply words that have inspired. It’s a time set aside to reflect upon the things that have captivated us, shaped us and enlightened us. For learning is valuable – discussing what we have learnt in forums even more so! It’s a chance to celebrate our influences!
Grab a coffee and let’s get started!
This month I have journeyed through the awesome, inspiring and intellectual autobiography by Chris Hadfield titled, “An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth.” To this day I have never read anything so informative, intriguing and influential (aside from the bible of course!). In summary the book walks us through Hadfield’s career as an astronaut: his first tip toe steps, his setbacks, space flights, and small neutral moments.
I want to share three points from this book that stand out completely as inspirational:
- Dream’s are possible. This seems like such a cliche but immediately I can reassure that this in no such thing. Hadfield starts his book with a flashback to his childhood, 1969, when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. From that moment, 9 year old Chris Hadfield set his heart upon becoming an astronaut. However from day one he knew that it wouldn’t be easy – he never spoke a word about this dream to anyone knowing that he wouldn’t be taken seriously at such a young age. Instead he set his mind upon doing whatever he thought may prepare him for space should the opportunity arise. This started small, by simply asking, “would an astronaut eat vegetables or potato chips? Sleep in late or get up early to read a book?” later leading to pilot training and a degree in mechanical engineering. He sweated the small stuff – just in case. When the opportunity did arrive, he was as prepared as he could be, providing him with the very best chances – and he made it! It took years of “just in-case” preparation, but he succeeded. Reading this has motivated me to never waste a moment, to constantly question and to always be looking to learn more! Then I may be ready to run at all the opportunities and adventures that present themselves in the future!
- Aim to be a zero. Throughout his book, Hadfield refers to a personality scale, centred around a neutral. Simply put, you can either be a -1, 0 or +1. The minus one is somebody who causes setbacks, brings negativity and who is simply no use to a task in hand. The plus one is everybody’s goal however in reality, those who make themselves known as a +1 genius, contributing massively and standing as most important, often end up being seen as a -1. Nobody likes a self-obsessed personality. Zero however, is completely neutral. They neither add to a situation nor detract. They balance the scales. For example in space, a zero astronaut neither mistakenly reduces progress, nor acts arrogantly, controlling all advances. Effectively a humble zero will be seen as a plus one – but only because they have aimed to be a zero. This lesson has humbled me to aim to be zero in all that I do.
- Coming down the ladder – reading this book unleashed such a passion and interest into space exploration! There is a whole universe out there full of stars, galaxies and wonder. Reading about Hadfield’s experiences and the small quirky changes to life in the ISS fascinated me greatly. So much so that I found myself dreaming of going to space myself – as a British Woman with poor eyesight and no flying skills/scientific degree what so ever, I have extremely slim chances! But as he concludes his autobiography, Hadfield discusses his retirement. As an astronaut he found his job roles changing often, and more often than not, this involved climbing down the ladder, rather than up. Something Hadfield mentioned towards the end of his book, is that he had to learn that his time in space was over and that he had now accomplished his dream. But that didn’t mean that he should be fearing, “what if that was all there is?” It really made me think – we may not have the same once-in-a-lifetime opportunities as everybody else, but there is always joy in the small things! I will never get to space myself but I can still fuel such an interest through books, research and artistic exploration! One day like Hadfield, I’ll unknowingly experience the best of my days. That doesn’t mean the rest of my life will no longer be valuable – every moment is precious!
I cannot recommend this book enough! If you want a little motivation to run at your dreams, some tips on achieving success or simply an insight into what life in space is really like – from toilets, to research, to spacewalks – then this book is definitely for you! You wont be disappointed!
I hope you enjoyed the first of our Coffee Time explorations.
What have you been reading, learning or thinking about this month? Let’s discuss below!
Remember a distant post back in 2015? In a post called, The Fear Excitement of Adventure I discussed how my future plans and ambitions were beginning to change. At this point in my life, my childhood view of how my life would pan out was rapidly changing – I no longer knew what I wanted to do with my life…
Although this was a rather positive post and for most of this period I viewed it as a wonderful adventure, trying new things, enjoying great memories and exploring options, there was always something in the back of my mind that said, “Eleanor you need a plan.” Often it was something along the lines of, “don’t waste your life – do something worthwhile!”
I guess my self-pressure to become successful has always been a wonderful thing: I rarely say no to opportunities, I enjoy learning new things and have been able to cherish valuable life experiences. However my definition of success has changed incredibly! There was a time when I thought that being successful meant passing all of my exams, climbing a career ladder, being awarded an OBE (very unlikely but who knows, maybe one day) and simply being admired. In a way, success does still mean this. However the difference, is that all of these things are a result of success and not success in themselves…
I guess what I am trying to say is that some of the most successful people in life are incredibly humble and only do what they do because it makes them happy! They didn’t necessarily do it to be recognised nor did they imagine what they would accomplish previous to doing so.
As I’ve grown older (and I hope a little wiser) I have come to realise that happiness is key! Yes I still strive to take part in as many things as I can. Yes I still study incredibly hard for exams. Yes I still want to go to university. But only because I enjoy learning new things and am passionate about new experiences!
I now have a plan for the next few years of my life and funnily enough I will be going to university after all. However no longer will I be studying art – from now on it’s architecture and I am definitely looking forward to it! Despite this, I know to that going straight to university will not be the most successful step for me. In my opinion, as a young person with no responsibilities or career strings, there is no time like today – I want to see the world, gain experience and also make a positive contribution. I have spent 18 years being showered with love, education and other blessings. It’s time I gave something back.
September will bring another type of success as I embark on a gap year to India, taking part in mission work with BMS World Mission Action Teams. There I will grow as an individual whilst making a positive contribution to the world. Perhaps it does mean postponing my future career by a year – but how much more valuable will this year of personal growth and culture be?!
Success is yours – do with it as you wish!
It’s me again and today I’m here with a bit of a weekly round up! I’ve travelled 600 miles, been on a number of coffee dates and partied hard! That’s what school breaks are for right? I wanted to share one particular highlight with you all…
On Saturday my friends and I were able to get together for my friend Chloe’s hen party. Poor Chloe didn’t know what to expect as I drove to her house to pick her up. She’d simply been told to look nice and bring a swimming costume. Whilst Alice (maid of honour) worked incredibly hard (thanks Alice – we love you!) to organise the day, decorate Chloe’s parent’s house and sort food, I took Chloe for a mystery drive. The first destination? Afternoon tea with cocktails!
Disclaimer – mine was non-alcoholic since I was driving!
We were showered with freshly baked sandwiches, scones, cakes, banana bread, cocktails and tea! It was a lovely afternoon and Chloe loved having some girl time. Following this I put Chloe back in the car, drove her along the seafront for a little while and then back to her parents’ house where the other girls were ready to great her with champagne ready for a Disney themed hot tub party! We partied, played games and enjoyed each other’s company well into the night!
Celebrating with your main girls is always a wonderful thing – especially on such an occasion. In 6 weeks we will be walking Chloe down the aisle and we couldn’t be happier for her! But whether there’s an occasion or not, I’ve learnt over the past few years that girl nights are crucial! Who doesn’t want to get together and enjoy treats after more treats? You can always count me in for a social!
I want to say a huge congratulations to Chloe and another giant thank you to Alice, Zoe, Chloe B, Dianne and Katie for all your hard work organising the day – and everybody else!
Who do you love to spend time with? Get organising something girly!
P.S. Credit to Alice who took some of these photographs!