Collective Conversations . . . Talking to founder of Emeldo Designs, Emily Dornbusch!

Emily wears our Ikoni blazer, Ndani merino turtleneck and Urafiki high waisted pants. 

At Collective Closets, we believe in individuality, authenticity, and celebrating the power of a woman. As businesswomen, we share the story of our influences and upbringing through our designs and the beautiful textiles we grew up with. We created Collective Conversations to spotlight the amazing women in our community and find out how they share their own stories. This series spotlights members of our tribe, gaining insight into their values, passions, and the drive behind what they do. 

Emily wears our Ikoni blazer, Ndani merino turtleneck and Urafiki high waisted pants. 

This month we're talking to Emily Dornbusch, jewellery maven, creative and lover of all things bold, bright and wonderful. 
After falling in love with a necklace she couldn't afford, Emily decided to make her own – and Emeldo Designs was born. Founded in 2011, Emeldo's really fun accessories range from disco-inspired geometric danglies to '70s rainbow studs.  We spent a sunny morning viewing new designs in the colourful Emeldo studio and chatting in her beautiful Mornington Peninsula home.
A self-made jewellery success, small business owner and new mum to baby Smith, Emily describes herself as chilled, low-key and open-hearted – and she absolutely is. With a personality as vibrant as her jewellery designs and personal style to boot, we're pretty excited to have Emily as this month's Collective Conversations feature woman.
Emily wears our wrap dress, coming out on the 26th of May!

1. Describe yourself in three words? 

Low-key-quirky, passionate, open-hearted.

2. What's the best advice you've ever received, and how has it impacted your life? 

Some very basic advice that we've all heard, but maybe haven't considered properly is to not sweat the small stuff. My younger self heard that, but never took it on–it was so consuming to be worried about things that really didn't matter. You waste so much time consumed with thoughts that are, in actuality, a little pointless. I wish my younger self knew that.

 
Let go of friendships that are no longer rewarding. This may sound bitter, but as I have gotten older (and particularly after having a child) it's become clear to me that I don't have space for everyone in my life anymore. If you're gaining nothing from a friendship, you might be ready to let it go. Sure– it's a bit terrifying, but it will release you and you'll walk a little lighter. After having a child on top of running a small business, I've realised how precious my time is, and if someone else's problems are consuming you it might be time to take a step back. 

 

3. How do you block out your fears? 

By trying not to think about them. If I always thought about what scares me, I would literally accomplish nothing. I often act on a whim and don't think things through (much to my husband's frustration). I find that by doing this, I end up facing situations that would've probably consumed me if I had overthought. I recently found a new studio and I loved it. I was nervous to re-locate studios after being so comfortable, but I loved the space and just said yes! Taking that next step was scary, but I didn't allow myself the time to worry.

4. What's something you get to experience that you previously took for granted?  

Alone time ... since having [my son] Smith in November 2019, I've learnt how much I appreciate alone time (despite the fact it goes too quickly when it does come around)!

Before having a child, I didn't realise how much I appreciated 'alone time' because I was often alone or just with my partner. It's now one of my favourite things! You really don't know how good it is until it's gone (or more limited in my case).

5. Which cause are you willing to fight for? 

Gender equality– particularly equal pay and women's safety. I've worked in large corporations before and it's all too common still to see such an unbalance in power. I can't stand how it's still happening!

6. What's a hard lesson you were grateful to learn? 

Gosh it sounds so superficial, but I learnt the very hard way that you MUST DO YOUR TAX! Don't wait for five years of running a small business and working full time before working that shizz out. It ain't pretty ... particularly when your small side hustle is going quite well. If you don't work it out, at least keep some money aside knowing its going to come around and get you.

Honestly I wish I set Emeldo up properly at day one ... Emeldo was such an organic, gradual process and I didn't set things up properly. It's definitely taught me so many lessons, be they difficult ones or beautiful ones!

7. What did you want to be when you were a child? 

I wanted to work at my favourite shop– Myer. CUTE! After that, I wanted to work in fashion somehow ... but I can't draw to save myself and I thought I couldn't do fashion because I couldn't draw! If I didn't have Emeldo, I'd love to be back in my styling work for photoshoots– I love doing shoots! 

8. Do you feel like wisdom is something you gain with age, or through lived experiences?  

I think wisdom comes from both age and lived experiences. I have no doubt my wisdom is still coming! I've learnt so much by throwing myself into things as the years and meeting people along the way. At the age of 31, I'm sure a lot of wisdom is yet to come– there's always plenty of room to learn and grow.

Emily wears our wrap dress, coming out on the 26th of May!

 

9. What advice would you give yourself seven years ago? 

Pick yourself up and dust yourself off ... the show must go on.

10. What drives you? 

My mortgage currently drives me to work– I need to keep my weekly pay coming in purely so we can keep paying the bills! Also, not working for a big corporation again. I love being my own boss, so much so that I'm probably unemployable now to anyone else. I'm far too set in my relaxed lifestyle now! I'm driven to keep it this way.

11. What's your favourite piece from our WISDOM collection, and how would you style it? 

The wrap dress (coming soon), it's so comfortable and easy to throw on. I'd style it with Emeldo earrings (of course) and Converse! 

Collective Conversations . . . Talking to best friends + the founders of Migrant Coffee, Stacey + Melodee!

At Collective Closets, we believe in individuality, authenticity, and celebrating the power of a woman. As businesswomen, we share the story of our influences and upbringing through our designs and the beautiful textiles we grew up with. We created Collective Conversations to spotlight the amazing women in our community and find out how they share their own stories. This series spotlights members of our tribe, gaining insight into their values, passions, and the drive behind what they do. 

This month we're talking to Melodee Malazarte and Stacey Earsman, best friends, first-generation daughters of immigrants and owners of the über-cool Migrant Coffee.

They met in their 20s at a breakdancing competition in New York (of course) and since then, have moved from friends, to flatmates, to business partners. We spent the afternoon with them at the beloved Migrant Cofee, nestled in the heart of West Footscray. But it's not just a cafe – as friends who share a love of culture and joy in daily ritual, Migrant Coffee is an homage to their heritage and home cuisines. Think amazing coffee and New York-style bagels, infused with Filipino, Thai and Island flavours. 

As a women-owned and run business, Stacey and Melodee's ethos is centred around equality, inclusion and celebrating the wonderfully diverse cultures that create their stories. You can catch them at 3/576 Barkly St, West Footscray. Come for the coffee, stay for the stories.

Describe yourselves in three words? 

MeloA confident introvert.

Stacey: Self assured, relaxed, adaptable.

Where do you feel most at home?

Melo: Anywhere sharing food made with love amongst friends. That type of good food that feeds your everything, that I don’t need good posture or cutlery for.   

Stacey: Any social gathering at my home, with family, friends and my dog.

What do you do to nurture your individuality? 

Melo: By trusting in what makes me different.

Stacey: Eat when I’m hungry, drink when I’m thirsty and sleep when I’m tired - These simple steps (or my life motto) fills me with energy to do things that I enjoy. Whether it be, skating, drawing, entertaining at home, cooking, socialising, heading to the ocean, hanging out with my dog, friends and family

 

What do you love most about yourself?

Stacey: My skill to adapt to any situation very quickly. The confidence to make any uncomfortable situation, comfortable. I also really love my hair and my bod. My hot bod under all those baggy clothes I wear - it really does exist (lol)

Melo: I love that I’m here, and I’m healthy and happy. I love that I see the good in every situation, whether that be a win or a lesson. 

When did you last push the boundaries of your comfort zone?

Stacey: 11 years ago when I moved to Qatar in the Middle East. I went there to work as a Private Flight Attendant for the Royal Family and I hadn’t even heard of the country before I moved, I had no friends or any family there. I packed up everything and moved with one suitcase. In recent years I honestly can’t pick a time that I felt out of my comfort zone and that isn’t by choice, it would have to be a pretty drastic or overwhelming situation for me to feel like I am out of my depth or my comfort zone but would wholeheartedly accept and experience it again. Currently I’m in a situation where my awareness and pleasures for a love interest are something very new, which I haven’t experienced before. I’m usually quite quick to react, immediately problem solve and formulate ways that that things can fit into my life - but feelings are a whole new kettle of fish for me and most definitely out of my emotional comfort zone. I am trying to navigate slowly and hopeful things will organically come to a fruition

Melo: I’m practising vulnerability in relationships on the daily. I’m learning to be softer. I’m learning that my Aries way of communicating isn’t always the best or most effective way. But I like learning through discomfort so it’s a welcome process.  

What does it mean to honour yourself? 

Melo: I think of the women in my lineage that came before me and remember that I’m a product of their work. My mama came to Australia from the Philippines - our family comes from dirt floors and selling cacao at the markets to afford a small bag of rice and now I’m a university educated business owner in Australia. That's wild to me. That was her dream for her children - so in one generation she changed the course of her family legacy with straight hard work and determination. I honour that everyday by continuing to build for us and make the most of my time. That means doing my best and most meaningful work. That’s what Migrant is to me. It’s honouring our stories with a space made for our people. It also means taking care of myself. My mama passed away from cancer and my older brother died of suicide, so I have daily reminders that my wellbeing (spiritual, emotional and physical) is priority above all. I see it as a responsibility to live well to honour them.  

Stacey: Sticking to my values and morales. Respecting others and appreciating that everyone has had different life experiences. Being honest to myself and others. Enjoying life to its fullest and living for now.

Melo wears our Xiluva tee and Urafiki high waisted pants.

What have you recently become obsessed with?

Stacey: My dog (I rescued him less than 6 months ago) and those little peaches and cream lollies made by Allens, that you only get one or two in a whole pack, shame.

Melo: Sudoku. I’m very slowly graduating to a harder level and am just about to get into watching How To’s on youtube to get better at recognising patterns and learning tricks. I can see myself improving with each puzzle. Wow, numbers in boxes have really been getting me hyped in 2021.

Where is your favourite place to escape to? 

Melo: One of my favourite places is a dye house in Bali that I have worked with for a few years with my clothing label Home Pacifico. It’s super hard to find, in a rice field that’s about a 1.5 hour motorbike ride from Denpasar and a couple of minutes from a beautiful black sand beach. Everything they do there is a part of a beautiful organic process, from weaving the fabric on wooden looms, to growing the native Tarum plants on their farm (for indigo dye), to the stripping and fermentation process. It’s super grounding to witness the stages from process to product. My fave escapes usually involve some type of creative work, tropical island heat and motorbike adventures.

Stacey: A beach house, villa, camping, anywhere near an idyllic body of water, although if I could, I also love Marrakech and would go there to escape at any given time. I also love my house. My backyard and everything about it, it’s my most favourite place to escape, whether it be with others or on my own with my dog

What are some things that you are leaving behind, letting go of, or unlearning in order to move forward? (These could be beliefs, attitudes, emotional blockages, habits, even relationships)

Stacey: I moved on a very long time ago from caring about what others think. Not getting involved with anyone who create a negative space or feeling. Trusting my intuition. I’m learning to be more in touch with my feelings/emotions, I have always been the type of person who can very quickly and very easily detach. This is definitely due to the fact that I went to 15 different schools, lived with different family members, moved around a lot (rebellious tendencies as a teen), traveled a lot - so I never got attached to specific people, towns, I always new it was never going to be permanent. It was a sure way for me to not have to sit with how I feel inside but I know now that this plays a huge part on your being, your true self and allows you to grow. Being more vulnerable in relationships and not being so guarded, letting go of past negative experiences, learning from them and being consciously aware of how these can effect personal and shared growth.

Melo: The need for things to be (my perception of) perfect. I don’t believe in compromising on quality when it matters, but I’m letting go of applying this to everything. Did the fitout for Migrant need to be my perfect? To me, yes. Does the slice of cheese on my bagel need to sit totally symmetrical to the edge of the bagel? No. Move on, Melo.

Stacey wears our Xiluva tee and Urafiki high waisted pants.

When was the last time you laughed so hard you cried?

Melo: Stacey and I spend a lot of time together and find humour in the darkest of places, so we’ll find something to laugh at no matter the situation. So yeah, we cry-laugh everyday. 

Stacey: Last night - Most days that I spend with any one of my friends this always happens. When we get together, tears of laughter and sore abdominals, for others, happen all the time. It often happens to me when I’m on my own, I’ll think of something, or something will pop into my head that I find absolutely hilarious and laugh at myself because I have no-one else to share it with at the time.

Where can we find you? 

Visit us at 3/576 Barkly St, West Footscray! Follow us on Instagram here or visit our website here.

Collective Conversations . . . Talking to Writer, Editor + Activist, Sasha Sarago!

At Collective Closets, we believe in individuality, authenticity, and celebrating the power of a woman. As businesswomen, we share the story of our influences and upbringing through our designs and the beautiful textiles we grew up with. We created Collective Conversations to spotlight the amazing women in our community and find out how they share their own stories. This series spotlights members of our tribe, gaining insight into their values, passions, and the drive behind what they do. 

 This week we're talking to Sasha Sarago, a writer, filmmaker, activist, director, and the founder of Ascension Mag, Australia's first-ever digital lifestyle platform for women of colour. A proud Aboriginal woman of the Wadjanbarra Yidinji and Jirrbal clans of Cairns, Sasha has dedicated her creative career to raise awareness around diversity and equality in the industry for women of colour. We visited her in Sydney and headed to (almost) Marrakesh at The Grounds of Alexandria with incredible photographer + creative Yasmin Suteja. Despite the overcast sky, we were vibrant- the backdrop was beautiful, the colours were rich and Sasha's passion and enthusiasm never wavered. A former model, she became tired of the lack of representation in the fashion industry for women of colour. In an effort to change this, she founded Ascension in 2011, opening a new dialogue of cultural identity and self-representation. Currently, you can support her work through Ascension Mag and their store, or watch her inspiring TEDxSydney talk "Pretty Hurts: It's time to decolonise beauty" here.

1. Describe yourself in three words? 

Inquisitive, Truth-Teller, Lovable.

2. Where do you feel most at home?

Home on my traditional lands in the rainforest of Far North Queensland.

3. What do you do to nurture your individuality? 

I carve out time to explore new things that pique my interest. I engage in conversations and visit places that take me to new territories. 

4. What do you love most about yourself? 

My ability to feel, heal and love. It’s taken years to stop running from myself and to honour this gift.

5. When did you last push the boundaries of your comfort zone? 

Writing and delivering my TEDx Talk Pretty hurts; it’s time to decolonise beauty. The process stretched me emotionally, intellectually and professionally.  

6. What does it mean to honour yourself?

Speaking my truth and listening to my intuition.

8. What have you recently become obsessed with?

Building my fashion collection from scratch. I love this new version of who I am, and I want to express her to the world through bespoke pieces that have a story - like me. 

8. Where is your favourite place to escape to?

Books. It’s been a while since I’ve had quality time to smell, carefully flip – reflip a page to re-read a passage. The library is another great escape: it’s nostalgic – I was a bookworm as a kid. My library card is my pass to freedom.

9. What are some things that you are leaving behind, letting go of, or unlearning in order to move forward? (These could be beliefs, attitudes, emotional blockages, habits, even relationships)

Saying goodbye to the pressure ‘to do the most’. Quality over quantity. Establishing and maintaining boundaries.

10. When was the last time you laughed so hard you cried?

Speaking to my sister and father on a 3-way call. Talking to my family is joy, and therapy all rolled into one.

11. What's your favourite Collective Closets piece at the moment? 

The Zamani jumpsuit! I love this print so much.

You can follow Sasha  on the Ascension Mag Instagram here, visit their website here or watch her TEDx Talk "It's time to decolonise beauty" here. Some of her previous work that we love includes her article on SBS Voices, her documentary "Too Pretty To Be Aboriginal" and her article for The Guardian, "Don't tell me I'm 'too pretty to be Aboriginal."

 

Collective Conversations . . . Talking to Journalist + Filmmaker, Santilla Chingaipe!

At Collective Closets, we believe in individuality, authenticity, and celebrating the power of a woman. As businesswomen, we share the story of our influences and upbringing through our designs and the beautiful textiles we grew up with. We created Collective Conversations to spotlight the amazing women in our community and find out how they share their own stories. This series spotlights members of our tribe, gaining insight into their values, passions, and the drive behind what they do. 

 This week we're talking to Santilla Chingaipe, a journalist, award-winning filmmaker, and author whose work explores migration, cultural identities, and politics. She's a regular contributor to The Saturday Paper, a member of the Federal Government's Advisory Group on Australia-Africa Relations, and is currently working on her first book. We spent the day stepping into her world at beloved Northside Records, where Santilla took us through an eclectic vinyl discography, a mix of West and North African records, 70s gems, hip-hop, and her favourite: jazz. Recognised at the United Nations as one of the most influential people of African descent in the world in 2019, Santilla has solidified herself as an internationally recognised key player in the journalism and media worlds. Currently, you can catch her hosting the fortnightly series The Future Of, an exploration of the cracks in our systems and how we can all create positive changes in the way we live, learn, and play.

1. Describe yourself in three words? 

A curious pan-Africanist storyteller.

2. Where do you feel most at home?

When I’m around the ones I love. 

3. What do you do to nurture your individuality? 

I’m a professional observer and question-asker, so anything that exposes me to different ways of seeing, thinking, and being nurtures my individuality. 

Besides, Maya Angelou once said, “If you’re always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be”. So, I try my best to be courageous, and pursue things that fulfil me – spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically – even if they go against convention or the status quo. It’s not always easy, but you only get one shot at this life thing and I really want to spend every second enjoying my time here. 

4. What do you love most about yourself? 

My sense of self –It’s taken a long time to get here, but I’m liking the woman I’m becoming. 

5. When did you last push the boundaries of your comfort zone? 

Everyday! I have a career that, fortunately (or unfortunately) exposes me to new ideas and ways of thinking and looking at the world. That requires me to push myself out of my comfort zone and not let fear get in the way of living life to its fullest potential. 

6. What does it mean to honour yourself?

Telling the truth, always. To yourself, and to others.  

8. What have you recently become obsessed with?

Naps. Can’t get enough of ‘em!

8. Where is your favourite place to escape to?

Anywhere without a Wi-Fi connection. Give me a good book, great company (and a cocktail), and I’m happy.

9. What are some things that you are leaving behind, letting go of, or unlearning in order to move forward? (These could be beliefs, attitudes, emotional blockages, habits, even relationships)

Anything that doesn’t serve me, or where I am at this stage of my life. I’ve learnt the importance of boundaries and doing what’s right by me; Self-preservation is how I see it or in the words of the late, great, Toni Morrison, “You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.” 

I’m trying to get better at sleeping earlier – I’ve been writing a history book for the past 3 years and generally go to bed around 3am. Hoping to hit the hay a bit earlier in the new year – ‘hope’ being the operative word. Sigh. 

10. When was the last time you laughed so hard you cried?

With all the crazy memes on the internet, it’s practically every day. The ShadeRoom is also an undeniable source of uncontrollable laughter. 

11. What's your favourite Collective Closets piece at the moment? 

The Uzuri Dress! I love linen, this is like my everyday uniform.

You can follow Santilla on her Instagram here, visit her website here or catch her on "The Future Of..." here. Some of her previous work that we love includes her festival "Not Racist, But..." her SBS show "Date my Race"  and her short documentary series, "Third Culture Kids."

COLLECTIVE CONVERSATIONS . . . TALKING TO FOUNDER OF TALKING SHOP, VICTORIA LATU!

In a period of time when we're inundated with what feels like consistent bad news, we wanted to put some emphasis on the positive. This is another installment in "Collective Conversations," a weekly series focusing on a woman we think is awesome + what she's all about. This week we're talking to Victoria Latu, founder of Talking Shop, style writer, businesswoman, mum, and all-around fashionable lady. Victoria uses her platform Talking Shop to share advice and start conversations about both business and style, helping women grow their brands by becoming more visible. A lifestyle guru for the modern millennial, Victoria dishes out the best advice- and looks amazing while doing it, too. Today we talked to her about motherhood, balance, and not giving a damn what other people think.

1. Describe yourself in three words? 

Go-Getter, Dreamer, Doer…

2. What does heritage and tradition mean to you? 

Tradition is everything … because how do you know where you are going? If you don’t know where you are from? These insights, backgrounds, ideas… inform us and our journey forward, either we are aware or not. 

3. Who do you most admire? 

It’s still Ms. OPRAH… her way with words and her ability to communicate and spread a message that cuts through is like non-other!! Communication is that way, is a big passion of mine…

4. What is a weekly/monthly/fortnightly ritual or tradition you do for yourself? 

Allow myself an hr to journal or read something that feeds my soul. It’s a game-changer for me.

5. What is something you’re proud of? 

Trying to juggle motherhood and work… it’s no small fit to try and do both and I keep at it although it is extremely difficult at times… especially now in lockdown!

6. What's something you do to be kind to yourself?

Not pay any attention to what people are saying or assuming about me haha!

7. What are some traditions that you’ve adopted from somewhere or someone else?

Apparently Halloween!! Haha since kids apparently it's now a big tradition in my household! Someone please helps!! We are not even American! Why is it now a thing in Aus?

8. How do you align and connect with your intuition?

I pray… I am what black people call a “praying woman” haha – but no joke. 

9. What's an assumption others make about you?

To be honest… one thing that I am grateful for is that I spend not one second thinking about what other people are thinking or assuming about me … not one… For it's really none of my business…you know…

10. Is there an item that you would like to see from Collective Closets in the future? 

Sunnies by Closet Collective would be all kinds of fly!!!

11. Something that you’re passionate about? ​

Art and Expression, Creativity…

You can follow Victoria on her Instagram here, or visit her website here. 

COLLECTIVE CONVERSATIONS . . . TALKING TO FOUNDER OF OVAZANIA JEWELLERY, REFILOE KHOBANE!

In a period of time when we're inundated with what feels like consistent bad news, we wanted to put some emphasis on the positive. This is another installment in "Collective Conversations," a weekly series focusing on a woman we think is awesome + what she's all about. This week we're talking to Refiloe Khobane, the wonderful woman behind the contemporary, African-inspired jewelry brand OvazaniaOvazania has been featured in our West Melbourne store from the very beginning, constantly turning heads with vibrant colour, bold shapes and unique design. Born and raised in South Africa, Refiloe draws on traditional Ndebele geometric patterns and Zulu designs for her inspiration. Today we talked to her about therapy, heritage and trusting yourself.

1. Describe yourself in three words? 

An insane dreamer.

2. What do heritage and tradition mean to you? 

Being South African heritage means everything, it’s a way of keeping connected to our past and present identities through our hybrid of cultures and traditions. We even have a public holiday Heritage Day dedicated to celebrating the rich, vibrant, and diverse cultures.

3. Something you're passionate about? 

Creating by any means necessary.

1. Describe yourself in three words? 

An insane dreamer.

2. What do heritage and tradition mean to you? 

Being South African heritage means everything, it’s a way of keeping connected to our past and present identities through our hybrid of cultures and traditions. We even have a public holiday Heritage Day dedicated to celebrating the rich, vibrant, and diverse cultures.

3. Something you're passionate about? 

Creating by any means necessary.

7. What's something you do to be kind to yourself?

Starting my therapy has been the best act of kindness that I have done for myself.

8. What are some traditions you've adopted from somewhere or someone else?

Cleaning with a fire playlist and of course, always cooking delicious meals, always reminds me of home.

9. How do you align and connect with your intuition?

As a spiritually ‘inclined’ person I believe that your intuition is always a part of you, you don’t have to connect with something that you inherently within you, I guess the best way to describe it would be to say; Go Within and Trust Yourself.

10. What's an assumption others make about you?

That I have it all together haha, I wish! But that’s probably the imposter syndrome in me that makes me oppositely view myself.

11. Is there an item that you would like to see from Collective Closets in the future?

Oh yes, definitely bespoke homewares, in the style and aesthetic of Collective Closets. Bold prints and one of a kind ornamental pieces.

You can follow Ovazania on Instagram here and visit their website here

 

COLLECTIVE CONVERSATIONS . . . TALKING TO FOUNDER OF A'SIKA JEWELLERY, ELLA BADU!

In a period of time when we're inundated with what feels like consistent bad news, we wanted to put some emphasis on the positive. This is another installment in "Collective Conversations," a weekly series focusing on a woman we think is awesome + what she's all about. This week we're talking to Ella Badu, designer, storyteller, and the woman behind the amazing A'Sika Jewellery. We have been lucky enough to have A'Sika pieces in store from the very beginning. The brand was born in Ghana in 2018 when Ella began exploring the country's rich cultural history and artisanal workmanship. With a background in sustainability, Ella uses primarily recycled or reclaimed precious metals to extend product life through design, recycle and redesign. Today we talked to her about the importance of a creative outlet, being authentic and letting go. 

1. Describe yourself in three words? 

Down to earth.

2. Where do you feel most at home? 

Waking up on a Sunday morning at my parents’ house to the smell of my mum cooking breakfast and my dad dancing to soul train. It’s like clockwork!  

3. What do you do to nurture your individuality? 

This has been a journey of letting go of an idea of what I “should be doing” and making time to explore what I am passionate about.  For many years I didn’t have a creative outlet and it showed, mainly through “unprofessional” colour schemes on my Excel spreadsheets. Now I dedicate time to projects, experiences, and people that inspire and energize me. Creating A’Sika was a big part of this journey and creating jewellery has become an extremely nurturing way to express myself, while sharing the stories I have learned about my cultural heritage along the way. 

4. What do you love most about yourself? 

I love that I am adaptable, while still being authentically myself. 

5. When did you last push the boundaries of your comfort zone? 

I like to push the boundaries of my comfort zone quite a bit, some may say too much. I must admit some haven’t been the smartest boundaries to push, but I have either learned from them or walked away with one hell of a story to tell. I don’t know whether it was turning 30 this year or the fact we have been living a majority of the year out of our comfort zone in isolation,  but I’m starting to be a little more selective as to which boundaries I push these days. 

The last time I felt wildly out of my comfort zone was exactly this time last year. I had been boxing for a few years and I decided it was time to enter my first fight. The thought of getting knocked out in front of my friends and family plagued me every day for two months. It pushed me to train hard and get in the best physical condition of my life. In the end, it was less about the physical preparation and more about the mental– being disciplined, controlling your thoughts, and consciously replacing self-doubt with confidence.  After wanting to pull the pin more times than I care to admit, I made it into the ring. I copped a fair amount of punches, but I won!

6. What does it mean to honour yourself? 

Being honest with yourself. Recognising your perfections and imperfections. Acknowledging your disappointments and celebrating your triumphs. 

 

7. What have you recently become obsessed with? 

Trying to figure out how I keep killing my green babies. My plant cemetery has well and truly reached capacity!  

8. Where is your favourite place to escape to? 

Usually, the beach or anywhere I can get a glimpse of the sunset. They both have a fantastic way of making you feel like you are on holiday. During lockdown my housemate and I discovered we could escape to our roof, again pushing the comfort zone, but totally worth the sunset!

9. What are some things that you are leaving behind, letting go of, or unlearning in order to move forward? 

I’m leaving behind relationships that don’t nourish me. 

I’m letting go of fighting to be understood. 

I’m unlearning what I thought I knew about racism.

10. When was the last time you laughed so hard you cried? 

I have a dark sense of humour, it’s probably not appropriate to share.

11. Is there an item that you would like to see from Collective Closets in the future?

I’m dying to see Collective Closet prints on a beach towel or picnic rug!

You can follow A'Sika Jewellery on Instagram here and visit their website here

COLLECTIVE CONVERSATIONS . . . TALKING TO FOUNDER OF TOKO! SUSAN HARDJONO!

In a period of time when we're inundated with what feels like consistent bad news, we wanted to put some emphasis on the positive. This is another installment in "Collective Conversations," a weekly series focusing on a woman we think is awesome + what she's all about. This week we're talking to Susan Hardjono, graphic designer, curious cook, wearer of all hats, and founder of toko!, a Melbourne-based, eco-friendly label that carries basics for home, beauty, and travel. We fell for toko! about a year ago when we started stocking their Buka bags + Tali totes in-store. A Goop favourite, Susan and toko! have made waves with their simple, stylish, and functional designs. Today we talked to the woman behind it all about good food, setting limits, and BTS. 

Susan on holiday a few years ago.

1. Describe yourself in three words? 

Good at procrastinating. 

2. Where do you feel most at home? 

As a Cancerian, my sanctuary is my home in Northcote — even during this challenging year. I’ve found travel through cooking, it’s very therapeutic.

3. What do you do to nurture your individuality? 

I don’t feel pressured to do certain things,  so I guess it comes naturally, I don’t think it’s a conscious thing.

toko! favourite, the Buka drawstring bag.

4. What do you love most about yourself? 

This is a hard one, but I guess I must enjoy my own company because I can spend hours alone and feel completely happy. Probably why I'm also a great procrastinator.

5. When did you last push the boundaries of your comfort zone? 

Finding my limit when it comes to work. I can’t do the hours I used to so I’ve accepted that things can be done later and not all at once. Which brings me to the next question.

6. What does it mean to honour yourself? 

That it’s ok to choose yourself first. 

Our dog Alfie, he's 9 years old and has recently been diagnosed with cancer. It's been a tough year but it's good that we got to spend extra time with him. 

7. What have you recently become obsessed with? 

Seven South Korean kpop stars, BTS. There, I said it.

8. Where is your favourite place to escape to? 

Wherever the food and company is good.

Therapeutic dumpling-making.

9. What are some things that you are leaving behind, letting go of, or unlearning in order to move forward? 

I thought being introverted was a weakness in my personality but I’ve come to realise that it isn’t. 

10. When was the last time you laughed so hard you cried? 

Probably in the chats I’ve had with friends over BTS and how we’re all way too old to be acting like teenagers. The descent into my second adolescence has been a slippery slope! 

 

Susan at home during COVID-19.

11. Is there an item that you would like to see from Collective Closets in the future?

Socks! 

You can follow toko! on Instagram here and visit their website here

COLLECTIVE CONVERSATIONS . . . TALKING TO ACTIVIST, BUSINESSWOMAN + CREATIVE MA-MUSU NYANDE!

In a period of time when we're inundated with what feels like consistent bad news, we wanted to put some emphasis on the positive. This is another installment in "Collective Conversations," a weekly series focusing on a woman we think is awesome + what she's all about. This week we're talking to Ma-Musu Nyande, a proud Sierra Leonean girl,  activist, writer and business owner. Now residing in Adelaide with her beautiful family (mama and sister pictured below), Ma-Musu is using her platform to instil confidence in black and African women through open conversations about self-worth, beauty and strength. Her dream? To make life easier for African women in Australia, to help the next generation gain the confidence to occupy spaces without fear. Needless to say- she's pretty incredible. We talked to her about identity, knowing your worth and the importance of family. 

 

1. Describe yourself in three words? 

Empathic, Loud, Purposeful

2. What do heritage and tradition mean to you? 

It means identity and knowledge; a sense of self. Heritage and traditions hold symbolic references to how I see myself and how I choose to present myself to the world. Moving to Australia aged 9, I had never been confronted with the idea of not belonging and being part of a minority group. I went through various identity crises and trying to unpack and figure out who I was and wanted to be. During this time I took my first trip back home to Sierra Leone, and it changed my life. Reconnecting with my family, having access to a daily representation of my heritage and traditions changed the way I saw myself. This trip was a rebirth. A rebirth of self, a rebirth of identity and understanding of heritage, family values, customs, and traditions. Heritage and tradition are identity and knowing self, understanding my people's historic past ensuring my children, the girls and women from my country always know who they are and the people they come from. 

3. Something that you're passionate about? 

My greatest passion is uplifting and supporting black and African women. It creating spaces where we feel seen, loved, understood, and are left to thrive in our magic. This includes holding conversations on mental health, self-awareness, financial literacy and so much more. My passion is to build a community of successful, self-sufficient, independent, joyful black, and African women. I just want to see us win. 

 

4. Who do you most admire? 

I admire and adore my mama JoJo. She’s my best friend, my partner in crime, and my biggest supporter. She encourages and uplifts me daily to be my best and do my best. There might be times where she would share her own story, but from what I know and I have experienced, my mama embodies everything that I aspire to be. She’s carried our family on her backs, she lost herself several times trying to ensure we don’t. She is my dream come true. I am thankful daily that God chose her to be my mama. 

5. What is a weekly/monthly/fortnightly ritual or tradition you do for yourself? 

My weekly tradition is taking a day for myself. It’s me either sitting on my bed reading a novel, going for a walk, or just catching up on sleep, but it is always time I give back to myself. I listen to traditional musicians and cook my favourite Sierra Leonean dish (Casava leaf).

6. What is something you're proud of? 

I am proud of the community I have built online and in my real life, but I am most proud of the PEACE I have. Peace of mind, peace of purpose, and direction. To be in a place in my life where I am extremely comfortable with my direction. With everything going on in the world and coming from a space where my emotional and mental health was a shit storm, being in this place where I go to sleep at night feeling peace and waking up with peace is amazing. I am really proud of the emotional work I have done to get here. 

7. What are some traditions that you’ve adopted from somewhere or someone else?

One of my favourite traditions is eating together from the same bowl/plate. I adopted this from my parents. It's a communal style of eating and bonding. I remember as a child how much I hated sharing my food, but as an adult, I’ve recognised how fundamental those small traditions instilled and encouraged me to have a voice and speak up, especially when I wanted the biggest meat in the bowl lol. 

8. How do you align and connect with your intuition?

I align and connect with my intuition when I am my most vulnerable. This happens when I am transparent, honest and when I share my truth. I find that having these conversations online and sometimes in person, it allows people to recognise that we don’t always have together and that I also have bad days. 
 

9. What's an assumption others make about you?

A lot of times people assume I am Ghanaian. It makes sense because I am west African and spent a large chunk of my childhood in Ghana, but I am Sierra Leonean Girl. 

10. Is there an item that you would like to see from Collective Closets in the future? 

I would love to see your own range of African Masks. 

11. What is something you do to be kind to yourself?

I’ve started speaking kinder to myself. Since being diagnosed with endometriosis, my body has changed drastically. This is the heaviest I have ever been and I didn’t like it. I went through a time where I spoke poorly to myself because I didn’t like my reflection. I had to relearn and teach myself new ways to love me at every stage. On days where I don’t feel my best self, I speak kindly to myself and point out things that I love about myself. From my lips and hips to my smile to my ability to uplift others, these are traits I adore about myself and it doesn’t hurt to say out loud- it doesn’t hurt to recognise and praise it. 

You can follow Ma-Musu on Instagram here and visit her website here

COLLECTIVE CONVERSATIONS . . . TALKING TO FLORAL ARTIST KATIE BURGHAM!

In a period of time when we're inundated with what feels like consistent bad news, we wanted to put some emphasis on the positive. This is another installment in "Collective Conversations," a weekly series focusing on a woman we think is awesome + what she's all about. This week we're talking to Katie Burgham, florist extraordinaire, artist, nature-lover, and long-time collaborator of ours.  She's built the blooms for Melbourne's best, from brilliant bouquets to delicate flower crowns. She has a passion for sustainable sourcing and is setting the trend by encouraging more florists to utilize local farmers. We talked to her about why she loves what she does. 

1. Describe yourself in three words? 

Creative, kind, optimistic ....or at least I try to be!

2. What do heritage and tradition mean to you? 

When I think of Heritage and Tradition, I think of family and friends that become family! My Nana is Austrian and left Austria after she married my Grandad who was an English soldier. They moved to New Zealand when my Mum was a teenager so we have these kinds of made-up traditions, like always having Sauerkraut on Christmas eve. Christmas is a big deal in my family and usually involves lots of food.

I think traditions morph and change and we sort of collect and add to the ones we already have along the way.

3. Something that you're passionate about? 

Flowers! A big focus in the industry at the moment and in my practice is supporting local growers and avoiding imported flowers. It seems crazy that we import roses from as far away as Kenya and Ecuador when we have incredible growers here in Victoria. 

4. Who do you most admire? 

I am so lucky to have so many incredible people in my life who I admire, like you two!! Flower-wise, I really love Constance Spry. She believed flowers should be for everyone, and she also wasn’t scared of breaking rules. She used flowers that florists at the time didn’t use, like autumnal hydrangea, grasses, and berries. In the 1930s, she created a window display for a perfume company using kale leaves and red roses, it attracted a crowd so big the police had to come and direct traffic. If I am ever feeling low on inspiration I read her little book "How to Do the Flowers."

5. What is a weekly/monthly/fortnightly ritual or tradition you do for yourself? 

Sneaking off to my local nursery and spending way too long and way too much on new plants (pre covid!). Going out to eat, trying new places, either with my partner or friends, also pre Covid!

6. What is something you're proud of? 

Following my passions and becoming a florist.

7. What are some traditions that you’ve adopted from somewhere or someone else?

About a month or more before Christmas my Nana would start baking all of these delicious Austrian biscuits called Vanillekipferl, she would also make actual buckets full of fruit mince pies. A lot of these would be to give to neighbors and friends. I would make Vanillekipferl with my Mum and still try to now around Christmas time.

Also having oysters and champagne on my birthday!

8. How do you align and connect with your intuition?

Spending time in nature, gardening, or going for a long walk. I find if I am doubting myself or feeling overwhelmed this can really help. I think intuition plays a big part in creative jobs such as floristry, sometimes I just need to remind myself to ignore everything else and listen.

9. What's an assumption others make about you?

Hmm . . . I'm not sure about me personally, although a lot of people assume floristry is a relaxing and stress-free job. It actually can be very physical and stressful at times but also incredibly rewarding.

10. Is there an item that you would like to see from Collective Closets in the future? 

Just keep the incredible collections coming so you can keep being my dream clients and collaborators!!

11. What is something you do to be kind to yourself?

A big glass of wine and a long bath.

You can follow Katie on Instagram here and visit her website here

COLLECTIVE CONVERSATIONS . . . TALKING TO AUTHETIC STORYTELLER KEMERLIN RICH!

In a period of time when we're inundated with what feels like consistent bad news, we wanted to put some emphasis on the positive. This is another installment in "Collective Conversations," a weekly series focusing on a woman we think is awesome + what she's all about. This week we're talking to Kemerlin Rich, authenticity guru, scholar, blogger and writer. She's Liberian and Southern Sioux, and values her rich and diverse lineage. Kemerlin uses her voice and influence to teach others about authenticity, communication and honesty. We talked to her about her favourite quarantine drink, her heritage and inutition.

1. Describe yourself in three words? 

Authentic, stylish, engaging.

2. What do heritage and tradition mean to you? 

Heritage is the pathway that shows us present-day joys and sorrows. Tradition is beautiful as long as it’s helping me to grow and not remain in a weakened mindset

3. Something that you're passionate about? 

I am passionate about being effective & purposeful in what I do; which includes my life in Christ. 

4. Who do you most admire? 

My Pastor and mentor Dr. Gertrude Stacks I admire most .. not for the position she holds but for the love and service that she gives that goes without recognition. . I admire her for the dedication to helping develop  people at whatever stage they are in their lives. Her care, concern and  attention is given to each  without partiality. To me.. that makes her service to God the more effective, genuine.. authentic. And because my goal is effectiveness and genuineness in my daily living… it is impactful to my life; which is why I admire her most. 


5. What is a weekly/monthly/fortnightly ritual or tradition you do for yourself? 

During this pandemic, it’s been to drink green-tea matcha daily. But as we’re getting settled (unfortunately) into pandemic life… I think it’s going to start being secluded getaways. 

6. What is something you're proud of? 

How I’ve grown as a creative.

7. What are some traditions that you’ve adopted from somewhere or someone else?

Ummm, let me think. Well, it would be my mom and the way she makes cornbread. You can’t tell me that mine isn’t better now. And please y’all don’t tell her. But the way she cooks with so much intention and excellence even when it’s just tuna. 

8. How do you align and connect with your intuition?

By listening. Because I am in Christ, my intuition is a barometer that God uses to speak and guide His children. If we listen, we become more keen.. if we don’t, we become dull. So I guess I’m saying obedience is how I align and connect to my intuition.

9. What's an assumption others make about you?

Ummm, that I am hard to approach. I guess intimidating. I am the kind of person who thinks about cake with a straight face. So it’s my disposition. But I’m also aware of my heritage. I am Liberian Bassa. And my lineage is Mende and Esan. We were warriors. So yes, I guess that can be intimidating. But I’m so cool it’s not even funny. But my intuition is sharp.

10. Is there an item that you would like to see from Collective Closets in the future? 

I’m thinking maybe jogger sets… It could be sporty /chic. 

11. What is something you do to be kind to yourself?

Spend time alone and hang up the phone.. (That rhymes.. lol)

You can follow Kemerlin on Instagram here and visit her website here

COLLECTIVE CONVERSATIONS . . . TALKING TO ACTRESS + FILMMAKER MIRIAM AGWAI!

 

 

In a period of time when we're inundated with what feels like consistent bad news, we wanted to put some emphasis on the positive. This is another installment in "Collective Conversations," a weekly series focusing on a woman we think is awesome + what she's all about. This week we're talking to Miriam Agwai, a self-professed "Jill of some trades" who is humbly talented in quite a few areas of the artistic world. She's an actress, model, producer, filmmaker, and storyteller- in her free time. She plays Grace in her latest film, The Things in Between, and has chronicled her production work on the platform STORYMAKEHER. We talked to her about birthday resolutions, kindness, and how important her hair-washing ritual has become. 

1. Describe yourself in three words? 

Empathetic, resolute, honest.

2. What do heritage and tradition mean to you? 

To me, heritage is the sum of all your history, all who’ve come before you - what they carried, what they lost, what they gained, culture and stories preserved and told. I think heritage is more fixed than tradition. Tradition can very much be reflective of your heritage, and it also encompasses all you are learning and experiencing in the light of your culture and heritage. I think tradition is the hand that connects the past to the present and can be extended into the future in ways that can either hinder or free us. Tradition can preserve our heritage while seeing us through the present and into the future. 

3. Who do you most admire? 

There are truly too many people to list, and I’m so afraid of even starting that list because I don’t want to forget anyone. I will say the list sometimes changes and fluctuates depending on what season of life I’m in, or the things I’m holding space for. There are historical figures, public figures, and people in my life. I just try to be mindful of my admiration, in that I want to make sure I’m leaving full space for people’s humanity and not unintentionally deifying them. I try to communicate my admiration as best as possible, specifically to the people I know personally. 

4. What is a weekly/monthly/fortnightly ritual or tradition you do for yourself? 

Wash day for my hair has become a ritual I do for myself that brings me great joy. It was hard to make a ritual of it before because there haven’t been a lot of hair products on the market that cater to the beauty and health of Black women. Though I wish it had happened sooner, the tide is slowly turning, especially as we’re seeing an increasing number of Black women at the helm. It’s taken a while, but I now have the products that work for me and my scalp, and knowing that these products are made by people like me who want me to be able to care for and honor my hair makes washing my hair that much more special.  Even when I was trying out new products and getting frustrated at times trying to find what my hair and scalp needed, there was still this joy of me knowing that I get to care for and honor my Blackness in this way and that these products made by fellow Black women were helping me find what was best for me. Washing my hair reminds me to check in with myself. The process reminds me that I’m worth the time and that Blackness is very much an excellent God idea. 

5. What is something you’re proud of? 

My ability to grow and learn. I love being able to look back at my life and see the ways I’ve grown for the better, all the ways I’ve been able to learn and unlearn. I like being someone my younger self would be proud of. 

6. What's something you do to be kind to yourself?

I try to fully listen to myself, and I try to do so honestly. 

7. What are some traditions that you’ve adopted from somewhere or someone else?

I really can’t think of anything right now. I promise I’m not trying to sound pretentious, but all I can think of are the traditions I’ve adopted for myself. A lot of it comes from not really fitting in anywhere, so I’ve kind of learned to figure out what works for me. One thing I started two years ago is writing letters to myself the day before my birthday as a way to honor the past year before ushering in the new one. For the last decade and change, I’ve gotten into the habit of making resolutions on my actual birthday. That way, the new year isn’t a stressful time for me, and I can better hold myself accountable. I’m sure I’ve picked up a tonne of things over the years with moving as an army brat. I just can’t think of anything outside of those things.

8. How do you align and connect with your intuition?

By holding space for myself and listening intentionally and honestly to myself. It’s not the easiest thing for me to do, so sometimes I think about someone I love, and then I’ll ask myself, “How would you show up for them if they were in your position right now?” Whatever love and kindness I would show them, I show myself. In the same way, it helps me build trust with someone else, it helps me build trust for myself, which helps me listen better, which in turn leads me to align and connect with my intuition better. I also try to surround myself with friends with whom love, care, respect and honesty are reciprocal. That way, I have support within me and around me. 

9. What's an assumption others make about you?

It truly runs the gambit: naive, know-it-all, uneducated or undereducated, condescending, spoiled, doormat, weak-minded and weak-willed, aggressive, overly sensitive, and emotional. 

10. Is there an item that you would like to see (or see again) from Collective Closets in the future? 

Technically not an item, but I’d have to say the wanderer collection. I don’t think there’s been a Collective Closets item I’ve seen and hadn’t loved, but there is something about the wanderer collection that’s literally burrowed itself into my heart. Like, I think about those pieces and sigh wistfully. 

11. Something that you’re passionate about? ​

Telling and sharing stories that cause people to feel seen and heard. Working towards and creating equity wherever and however I can (even in seemingly small things).

You can follow Miriam on her Instagram here, find out about her latest film project "The Things In Between" here, or see some of her other production work at STORYMAKEHER.

 

COLLECTIVE CONVERSATIONS . . . TALKING TO PHOTOGRAPHER, ARTIST + MUSICIAN NONNY B!

In a period of time when we're inundated with what feels like consistent bad news, we wanted to put some emphasis on the positive. This is another instalment in "Collective Conversations," a weekly series focusing on a woman we think is awesome + what she's all about. This week we're talking to Nynno (or Nonny) Bel-Air, multi-disciplinary artist, photographer and budding musician. Self-taught and based in Melbourne, she uses her art to explore a vast range of the world's subcultures, specialising in fashion and portrait photography. And we're not the only ones who think she's incredible- she's captured the likes of Vogue Australia, Frankie, Nylon and Forbes. 

1. Describe yourself in three words? 

Curious, creative, conscientious.

2. What does heritage and tradition mean to you? 

Heritage and tradition are storylines, like keys points on a map that give context to your journey through life. 

3. Who do you most admire? 

I admire people who have learnt the ability to love themselves unconditionally, they are the most resilient.

4. What is a weekly/monthly/fortnightly ritual or tradition you do for yourself? 

I don’t have any rituals at the moment. I’m taking every week as it comes and making space for whatever my body and mind need on a weekly basis. 

5. What is something you’re proud of? 

I’ve had the opportunity to work on a few amazing projects this year, which has led to some of my photography being featured in magazines like The Design Files, Frankie, Nylon, Vogue Australia and most recently, Forbes. It’s slightly surreal.

6. What's something you do to be kind to yourself?

I’m a firm believer in self-care. This can be anything from going on a scenic hike, journaling, consuming art, or taking a day to just be and sit with myself.

7. What are some traditions that you’ve adopted from somewhere or someone else?

Weekly Whatsapp check-ins with my family. I have a big family and we’re all spread over the globe, so the chat group has become the best way to catch up on all the tea.

8. How do you align and connect with your intuition?

I’m a long-term lover of lists, I firmly believe in them. If I’m serious about achieving something, it has to be written down. I also find that making time to meditate, manifest and be mindful is important. All of the above allow me to check in with myself, make sure I’m on track with my plans and not get too distracted. 

9. What's an assumption others make about you?

That I’m extroverted. Extended periods of social interaction actually leave me drained, I need solitude to recharge.

10. Is there an item that you would like to see from Collective Closets in the future? 

I love everything you’re doing at the moment. But if you ever decide to release swimwear or bedding capsule collections, my bank account will be ready. 

11. Something that you’re passionate about? ​

I’m passionate about expressing myself creatively. This includes my photography and my Creative Studio, but extends to my music as well. I’m currently finalising my next release, “Defeat” which comes out on Friday 4th of September on all major streaming platforms. You can also find out more via my music gram (@nynnogram).

You can follow Nonny on her Instagram here, listen to her music here or visit her website here

COLLECTIVE CLOSETS. . . TALKING TO ARCHITECT, BLOGGER + FASHION ENTHUSIAST AMANDA DO!

In a period of time when we're inundated with what feels like consistent bad news, we wanted to put some emphasis on the positive. This is another instalment in "Collective Conversations," a weekly series focusing on a woman we think is awesome + what she's all about. This week we're talking to Amanda Do, our muse for this week. She won our giveaway by sharing her favourite tradition from her Vietnamese/Australian upbringing, and has continued to catch our eye with her hyper-colour rainbow ensembles. She's a blogger and YouTuber, traveller, architect and lover of good food and rainbow anything. Today we chatted to her about her traditions, her love of fashion  and the importance of creative outlets. 

1. Describe yourself in three words? 

Loud, Hopeful, Kind (hopefully!)

2. What does heritage and tradition mean to you? 

It means stories of where I came from, a part of my family that has been carried through history. Or similarly, a part of history that has been carried on by my family! :)

3. Something that you’re passionate about?

Fashion! I don't have it in me to design clothing, though I did fancy it briefly when I was younger. I ended up designing buildings instead, ha! Of course, my love for fashion has endured. I love the endless possibilities, the combinations of shape, colour and texture, the opportunity to tell a story or make a statement. I love how you can wear your history on your body, and the simple joy a good outfit can bring you.

4. Who do you most admire? 

My mum, definitely. She's a single, immigrant mother who raised 3 kids on her own. She's the strongest and kindest person I know.

5. What is a weekly/monthly/fortnightly ritual or tradition you do for yourself?

Nothing scheduled, but I try to stay creative. Whether it be painting, sketching or styling outfits. Having a creative outlet (other than my job) helps me make sense of things. I've attempted sewing recently so that's been super fun!

6. What is something you’re proud of? 

How far I've come. In my career, my mental space and being comfortable in my own skin.

7. What's something you do to be kind to yourself?

I let myself rest. I've learnt that it's okay to not be "busy" all the time and rest is just as important.

8. What are some traditions that you’ve adopted from somewhere or someone else? 

Having dinner with family on the first day of the Lunar New Year, especially coconut pork brisket and bitter gourd soup!

9. How do you align and connect with your intuition?

Having a creative outlet, reflection and prayer.

10. What's an assumption others make about you?

That I'm always happy. Which isn't true. But I am a Christian, and that means I believe in a God that is always there for me and who has my future in his hands. Even when I don't have all the answers, I find hope and comfort in Him. I'm not always happy, but I am hopeful in Christ, and I think there's a difference :)

11. Is there an item you would like to see from Collective Closets in the future?

Pieces that continue to tell stories, made with love and are kind to our planet. Of course, I wouldn't mind the Nzuri Blazer in more prints. ;)

You can follow Amanda here and visit her Youtube channel here.

 

COLLECTIVE CONVERSATIONS . . . TALKING TO DESIGNER + MAKER STEPH WATT OF DORKUS DESIGNS!

In a period of time when we're inundated with what feels like consistent bad news, we wanted to put some emphasis on the positive. This is another instalment in "Collective Conversations," a weekly series focusing on a woman we think is awesome + what she's all about. This week we're talking to Steph Watt, the Brunswick-based designer and maker behind the brand Dorkus Designs. With a background in industrial design, Steph utilises a fusion of modern technology and handcrafting techniques to create her beautifully unique pieces. The best part is- our store will be stocking Steph's Dorkus Design pieces very soon! Today we chatted to her creative practice, op shopping and living with chronic illness. 

1. Describe yourself in three words? 

Silly, bright, thoughtful.

2. What does heritage and tradition mean to you? 

Being together with loved ones! Together anytime, anywhere, light-hearted to more meaningful- traditions seem to pop up. Summertime is when most of my life long traditions happen, mixed among beach days & late night dinners with family & mates.

3. Something that you’re passionate about?

Accessibility! It’s something I love to see but don’t always see or experience. Living with chronic illness/disability, I have a particular interest in that area. I love that in the internet age I have access to stories directly from clever, funny, sexy, thoughtful, disabled community members anytime. Looking forward to seeing more on & offline. All aboard the accessibility train!

4. Who do you most admire? 

From loved ones to public figures, I have so many people I admire for so many different reasons. World renowned or a local legend, I appreciate them all.

5. What is a weekly/monthly/fortnightly ritual or tradition you do for yourself?

Op shopping! No time limit, try anything, deep dive thrifting!

6. What is something you’re proud of? 

Knowing what’s best for me is what’s best for my creative practice. A big part of this is teaming up with local stores. It began with sister-run dreamland Perfect Splash & has grown, connecting me with a bunch of makers & curators I admire. I love having my pieces out in the community, living alongside other local works. Right now, I’m particularly excited about getting back in the studio to whip up some sweet treats for your beautiful Collective Closets shop!

7. What's something you do to be kind to yourself?

Watch early seasons of Drag Race & eat berries!

8. What are some traditions that you’ve adopted from somewhere or someone else? 

My friends & I throw an oddball end of year party every year. The planning and anticipation is part of the fun. Each party goer is gifted a head to toe outfit to wear for the day, mostly hilariously hideous, occasionally ultra steezey. Always a crowd favourite.

9. How do you align and connect with your intuition?

Backing my creative intuition by making what I want to make. Especially with my more minimal artworks.

10. What's an assumption others make about you?

That I have pierced ears & a big earring collection. I’ve actually never had my ears pierced. I have a collection of fun vintage clip-on pairs but my ear lobes are usually in the nude!

11. Is there an item you would like to see from Collective Closets in the future?

Anything you dream up is fine by me. I’m a far-from-secret admirer! 

You can follow Steph here and shop Dorkus Designs here. 

COLLECTIVE CONVERSATIONS . . . TALKING TO TASTE-MAKER AND PHOTO-TAKER LILAH BENETTI!

In a period of time when we're inundated with what feels like consistent bad news, we wanted to put some emphasis on the positive. This is another instalment in "Collective Conversations," a weekly series focusing on a woman we think is awesome + what she's all about. This week we're talking to Lilah Benetti, taste-maker, photo-taker and art-creator here in Melbourne. She held her first solo exhibition Easy Ghana last year and not slowed down since, founding the company No Ordinary Design Era and continuing to share her creative vision through different mediums. Today we chatted to her about origins, coffee and her favourite book.

1. Describe yourself in three words? 

Ambitious. Adaptable. Kind.-hearted.

2. What does heritage and tradition mean to you? 

I think heritage and tradition bring meaning and purpose to life. As a person of colour, it is important that we have an understanding of our journey as a people in this world and these are practices or ways of being that give us pride and connection to ourselves and our ancestors.

3. Something that you’re passionate about?

I love having the ability to influence understanding. Naturally we all try to put people in boxes, often without awareness, so I love the thought of being able to bring presence to this and present an idea that may spark the viewer to challenge themselves. To make good art is to hold a mirror up to society and present an idea that evokes reflection; my purpose is to do this with across cultures.

4. Who do you most admire? 

This is a difficult one to answer, as there are so many different qualities in the people I love and are closest too that I admire. I love that I have people around me every day that I look up to but I would like to mention one of my favorites that almost everyone should know Sidney Poitier. His biography ‘This Life’ was something I read until it fell apart and has inspired so much of me. Sidney Poitier leads with grace, intention, hard work and never accepted what others told him was possible of his life. I highly recommend that book.

5. What is a weekly/monthly/fortnightly ritual or tradition you do for yourself?

I know this is so Melbourne but I love my morning coffee. It’s the simple things you know?! The ability to take time to stop and look at the world around you, to reflect on time passed and make plans for the what is to come. Coffee shops are like a little conversion point that puts a pep in our step before we head out to change the world and I think its really cool that people just like to treat themselves to a morning coffee before going about their day. I’m a real people watcher and anyone who has worked with me knows I’m big on making lists, so it also allows me the time to do that too, which brings me a bit of peace and presence. Or maybe I am just addicted to coffee! Probably a bit of both and I’m okay with that.

6. What is something you’re proud of? 

I’m very proud of the person I am becoming. I am intentional and try to lead with integrity in everything I do. No matter how cliche it might seem, the world would be a better place if we all took some time to love and appreciate ourselves more often.

7. What's something you do to be kind to yourself?

I try to always make time to be gentle to myself and celebrate the little wins. With this year so heavy on our hearts I think it is more important than ever to check in with yourself, physically and mentally. I think we are at a point where even the thought of having to practice ‘self-care’ can almost become a bit overwhelming so I try to just take it super easy on myself sometimes and just rest. Self -care looks different for everyone and a lot of the time being kind to myself looks like a craft beer, a some good food and a cheesy 90’s thriller on the home projector (movie recommendations welcome).

8. What are some traditions that you’ve adopted from somewhere or someone else? 

I think that would have to be my hair! Growing up in a mixed race family with my mother being Italian, bless my mum for trying but I had to learn most things hair related on my own accord. As I got older I realised that there is something so beautiful on a spiritual and ritualistic level about the bonding process between black woman when it comes to hair. I think I really learned how to take care of my own hair from my YouTube sisters across the world!

9. How do you align and connect with your intuition?

Like most things, I think this comes with practice and a knowing of ones self, like a DEEP knowing of yourself, and a constant forgiveness of yourself. I think you gotta really face yourself in all of your fears in order to really know yourself in your light and in your shadow. It’s the moments when I stop and appreciate my life and journey that humble me and allow me to connect with my true self. Connecting with your intuition takes presence, awareness and bit of vulnerability too. I would say connecting and aligning with your intuition is almost like having the ability to be in conversation with your higher self.

10. What's an assumption others make about you?

I think when I enter most professional spaces with my braids, twists, no makeup, dressing the way I do and such, carrying a sense of pride and speaking in an articulate and confident manner people are often surprised. They don’t always tell me what their assumption of me are, but I know my purpose is to make room in these spaces for others who look like me.

11. Is there an item you would like to see from Collective Closets in the future?

I love, love, love the soft linen and the colours you all use are absolutely epic! In saying that I would love to see a free flowing gender neutral range. You have the whole Sisterhood-of-the-travelling-pants-vibe with the most perfect cuts that fit so many different shapes and sizes, so I think you would be up for the challenge. I would be interested to see what that would look like for Collective Closets.

You can follow Lilah on her Instagram here, visit No Ordinary Design Era here or visit her website here

COLLECTIVE CONVERSATIONS . . . TALKING TO PHOTOGRAPHER + BLOGGER LEI LEI CLAVEY!

In a period of time when we're inundated with what feels like consistent bad news, we wanted to put some emphasis on the positive. This is another instalment in "Collective Conversations," a weekly series focusing on a woman we think is awesome + what she's all about. This week we're talking to Lei Lei Clavey, a wedding + editorial photographer, blogger and mum who moved from the Big Apple to pursue her business in Melbourne. Her blog Lei Lady Lei covers everything from style and sustainability to self-help and motherhood notes. We talked to her about photography, horoscopes and how to keep a positive mindset.

1. Describe yourself in three words? 

Creative, optimistic, sustainably-minded.

2. What does heritage and tradition mean to you? 

I'm half Australian-Chinese and half American so I grew up surrounded by different cultures and traditions, the majority of which were experienced and shared around food! I loved the mix and exposure I had to all of them. It really framed me to be who I am today.

3. Something that you’re passionate about?

Photography, especially capturing those moments that loved ones will look back on in years to come.

4. Who do you most admire? 

Women who have made a name for themselves doing what they love. My mother is an excellent example. She found her passion for writing later in life, once my brother and I had grown up and now she's a successful published author and illustrator. It's never too late to do something you love.

5. What is a weekly/monthly/fortnightly ritual or tradition you do for yourself?

Every month I love to read my horoscope- Susan Miller is a favourite -and write down the key dates and prospects on the horizon. While I don't 100% believe in star signs, they're a fun indulgence I allow myself. Once we're out of lockdown I would love to reintroduce yoga back into my weekly routine. It's so important as a parent to carve out that time just for yourself. Also as my son grows up, I would love to introduce traditions such as Sunday family lunches.

6. What is something you’re proud of? 

Building my editorial and wedding photography business this year! I have wanted to start my own business for the longest time but only within the last year after my son was born have I really made the leap. I have invested in online education about business and photography, branding, copywriting and a new website that is all set to launch in a few months! I've also started selling some fine art prints which has become a fun part of the business. I couldn't be more excited and proud about what I have achieved and how I have grown in this time.

7. What's something you do to be kind to yourself?

I know that I am impacted by negative news and devastating stories especially involving families and children (after having my son this year, I've found these stories particularly difficult) that instead I purposely listen, read and absorb content that is positive, motivating and inspiring. This keeps my mind and thoughts in a better place for me to create and provide for others.

8. What are some traditions that you’ve adopted from somewhere or someone else? 

Cooking. There are so many great cooks in my family and over the years I've learnt little bits and pieces from them. While I'm not overly skilled, I find it a relaxing activity and love sharing what I've made with family and friends.

9. How do you align and connect with your intuition?

It's something I've had to tune and grow over the years. Decreasing unnecessary clutter in my brain, going for walks and putting away my device so I have the freedom to think, allows me to connect with my intuition better. The more I listen to it the clearer it becomes.

10. What's an assumption others make about you?

That I'm an extremely calm and stress-free person inside and out. That's true about my waking self however my subconscious is filled with thoughts that filter into my dreams and if something is playing on my mind I'll often wake up in a panic. I need to try and meditate before bed.

11. Is there an item you would like to see from Collective Closets in the future?

Colourful printed jumpsuits for stylish mums on the go!

You can follow Lei Lei on her Instagram here or visit her blog Lei Lady Lei here.

COLLECTIVE CLOSETS . . . TALKING TO ARTIST, DESIGNER + TATTOOIST ABBEY RICH!

In a period of time when we're inundated with what feels like consistent bad news, we wanted to put some emphasis on the positive. This is another instalment in "Collective Conversations," a weekly series focusing on a woman we think is awesome + what she's all about. This week we're talking to Abbey Rich, a multidisciplinary artist, designer and tattooist here in Melbourne. You may have spotted her work around- possibly in the form of larger-than-life outdoor mural, a select painting in a restaurant or a drawing handpoked onto the arm of a passer-by. She talked to us about accessible art, assumptions and what food means to her.

1. Describe yourself in three words? 

Passionate, a-bit-chaotic and determined. 

2. What does heritage and tradition mean to you? 

I think of all the incredible cultures of the world and how important they are and as a white settler in a colonised country it mostly is a reminder of the destruction of this incredible land and its people. I think heritage and tradition are what make communities rich and full of life and am excited for more of us settlers and those who have come to this country to actively engage in listening to and learning from Aboriginal culture. 

3. Something that you’re passionate about? 

A lot of things, but my current focus is making public art collaborative and accessible. I’m really excited to be working on a series of community co-designed public art works made in collaboration with the people that use the spaces. 

4. Who do you most admire? 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez! Honestly offfftttt she’s AMAZING. Obviously, I would never be as cool and incredible as AOC but my parallel life dream is to be in politics, so I spend a lot of time listening and reading and admiring.  

5. What is a weekly/monthly/fortnightly ritual or tradition you do for yourself? 

At the moment in current lock down life I try each weekend to give myself time to read, I’m also trying once a week at least to ring a friend and catch up. In this weird time, I’ve found it hard to socialise this way and not hug or cook a meal for the people I love. 

​6. What is something you're proud of? 

Being an artist, trying to forge my own path without conceding my values. 

7. What is something you do to be kind to yourself? 

Taking the whole day off in summer to go swimming in the ocean and cook my friends a huge meal, I really love cooking for people.  

8. What are some traditions that you’ve adopted from somewhere or someone else? 

I think food preparation is definitely a tradition I’ve picked up as an adult, as I’ve travelled and just spent time with people who really love food- I’ve adopted lots of recipes and ways of enjoying food. I didn’t really get it growing up (sorry mum and dad) but the food we ate wasn’t the most flavour filled or varied so my ‘traditional,’ food isn’t something I cook now. My partner and I (pre covid) would throw dinner parties for our friends a few times a week and it honestly brings me so much joy. We’re spoiled in Brunswick/Coburg too visiting small spice shops and specific grocers trying to find the right ingredients. 

9. How do you align and connect with your intuition? 

It’s the only real thing that guides me, as the years go on I am afforded a larger sense of trust in my own decisions as a result of that connection with my intuition. I don’t actively try to connect anymore – it just kinda does. 

10. What is an assumption others make about you? 

I think often people think I studied art, but I have no formal training. I tried studying Textile Design for a bit but never made it through the course. 

11. Is there an item you would like to see from Collective Closets in the future? 

Ooooh everything is so good already so I’m really just making shit up – I’m trying to think back in case you’ve already done this but maybe a sun hat? I love the check fabrics you use and think they’d look beautiful as a wide brimmed hat.

You can follow Abbey on Instagram here and visit her site + store here.

COLLECTIVE CONVERSATIONS . . . TALKING TO GIRLBOSS + OWNER OF SAKA HAIR STUDIO, AGATA SAKA!

In a period of time when we're inundated with what feels like consistent bad news, we wanted to put some emphasis on the positive. This is the another instalment in "Collective Conversations," a weekly series focusing on a woman we think is awesome + what she's all about. This week we're talking to Agata Saka, our friend and the girl boss behind the amazing Saka Hair Studio. After years of dreaming of owning her own salon, Agata founded Saka Hair Studio here in Melbourne and is dedicated to educating herself + those around her about black hair care. We talked to her about her traditions and connecting with her intuition. 

1. Describe yourself in three words? 

Gifted, Motivated and Optimistic.

2. What does heritage and tradition mean to you? 

My heritage and traditions largely shape my identity as a South Sudanese woman growing up in Australia. One aspect of my culture that fills me with a great sense of pride is our hospitality to those who visit us. We always treat visitors as our family and it’s something I have incorporated in the business - treating and caring for our clients like our family. Heritage for me is forever - it is hard to replace and will shape my identity and my children’s one day. Traditions are easier to change and I have found that certain traditions have been modified in my family since we moved to Australia. 

3. Something that you’re passionate about? 

I am passionate about good haircare for all women - especially for women of color who can’t just visit any salon. I remember growing up and seeing how hard it was to find salons that had great products, quality customer service, and hair services. After working in a few salons and learning to really appreciate the different techniques involved in styling and manipulating hair, I decided to open Saka Hair Studio. My aim is to continue educating myself about hair (especially black hair) so one day I will educate other hairdressers.

4. Who do you most admire? 

The person I admire the most is my mum. I have so much admiration for her strength, courage, and fearlessness. She managed to raise eight children during the war in Sudan, walk to Uganda, and from there move to Kenya where we were granted Humanitarian Visas by the Australian Government - all by herself! She is my hero and continues to inspire me to this day! 

5. What is a weekly/monthly/fortnightly ritual or tradition you do for yourself? 

These days there's really much you can do but to find yourself on the couch eating and having a glass of wine (which I have been doing a lot lately lol). Before the lockdown, my girlfriends and I would get together on a Friday or Saturday night and cook our traditional foods, make cocktails and stay up all night dancing and talking about why men even breathe hahaha. Don’t get me wrong, some of us are in beautiful relationships but that doesn’t mean we can’t just wonder why... Something I have been trying to do is to get facials done every month. I’ve always had nice skin but the added stress of managing a business has really challenged my skin.

​6. What is something you're proud of? 

I’m most proud of bringing Saka Hair Studio to life. It has been a dream of mine since I was a young girl and finally to know I have a business of my own is unreal. 

The people I get to work with on projects and meet are all amazing. I am proud to know I help them and play my part in whatever it is they aim to achieve - whether is them coming to the salon for an appointment or collaborating with them on their project. I love being involved and seeing all the amazing things they are accomplishing makes me proud!

7. What is something you do to be kind to yourself? 

I have learned it’s okay to take breaks and not work constantly. Things can be done and there is always help :)

8. What are some traditions that you’ve adopted from somewhere or someone else? 

I have been inspired by the traditions of so many people in my life and have adopted a lot of different things. Australia is such a multicultural country and I grew up with people who came from many different countries. Particularly, my friends from Western Africa (Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal) who have shown and shared with me their recipes for different occasions and their lifestyle. 

9. How do you align and connect with your intuition? 

 I am spiritual and a firm believer that all things will work out the way it’s intended if I leave it to god. When I’m going through a difficult situation, I will pray and seek guidance from God and this has served me well so far! 

10. What is an assumption others make about you? 

Some people assume I am unapproachable when they first meet me. However, I am naturally just an observant person so I might be quiet and will read the room. However, that doesn’t usually last too long as I always love to have a good laugh and share stories with others! 

11. Is there an item you would like to see from Collective Closets in the future? 

Love, love everything you ladies have released! I look forward to seeing what you bring out next.

COLLECTIVE CONVERSATIONS . . . TALKING TO OUR GIRL, WRITER AND EX-INFLUENCER ISABELLA WIGHT!

In a period of time when we're inundated with what feels like consistent bad news, we wanted to put some emphasis on the positive. This is the another instalment in "Collective Conversations," a weekly series focusing on a woman we think is awesome + what she's all about. This week we're talking to our girl, fashion graduate, writer and ex-influencer Isabella Wight. She used to be a blogger under the alias Views of Now, but now resides here in Melbourne and is our right-hand girl for everything from customer service, to graphic design and sharing her social media skillset. While she's not spending time behind the counter at our store, she loves to read, write, nap in the sun, talk (a lot) and drink wine with her housemates.

1. Describe yourself in three words? 
Empathetic, self-aware, tenacious.

2. What does heritage and tradition mean to you? 
They are intrinsic aspects of who we are as people, the fundamental building blocks that create the wonderfully diverse society we live in. Since moving to Melbourne from the Sunshine Coast, I’ve had the opportunity to learn so much more about different cultural histories and the rituals within them. It’s a cliche, but it truly is a wonderful melting pot in this city, and it baffles me that there was so much I didn’t know before. I’m grateful my time here at Collective Closets for teaching me a lot, too.

3. Something that you’re passionate about? 
Consciousness in the fashion industry. There is so much that is shielded from us as consumers, and I’ve learnt that ignorance is certainly not always bliss. I’m passionate about brand accountability, about doing your own research into the origins of your wardrobe and making a positive social and environmental impact in any way that you can. Knowing the importance of my dollar and where I choose to spend has made me feel so empowered!

4. Who do you most admire? 
I’m lucky to have so many female role models in my life who have moulded the way I treat myself and the people around me. For a long time I didn’t understand the importance of feminism in my own life, of being able to challenge societal ideologies that were engrained in me for so long. I have those women to thank for that.

 It’s another cliche (I love them, sue me) but my mum is one of the kindest and most intelligent people I know. Having parents that wholeheartedly supported me, let me make mistakes  and taught me decision-making skills (it took a while, but I got there) set the example for how I want to raise my kids one day in the very distant future. 

5. What is a weekly/monthly/fortnightly ritual or tradition you do for yourself? 
In isolation I’ve found real solace in taking long walks by myself or with a friend. Exercise was always a cause of anxiety for me, something I didn’t have great associations with, but walking makes me feel relaxed. I listen to a podcast or debrief on the day, vent if I need to, pat a cute dog along the way if I’m allowed. It’s a sanity-saving ritual right now.

6. What is something you’re proud of? 
The life I have here in Melbourne. Moving was terrifying and it took a while for me to find my feet away from my familiar creature comforts. I’ve still got a lot of growing to do but I have good friends, I love working here at Collective Closets and I’m closer to being an adult than I thought I’d ever be.

7. What's something you do to be kind to yourself? 
I’ve stopped believing that guilty pleasures should actually make me feel guilty. When I’m feeling a bit blue, I will unashamedly watch trashy TV, order my favourite takeout, read a chick-lit romance novel and listen to bad early 2000s Top 40 music. I’ve never been a person who got embarrassed very easily and I am now very comfortable in my lame self-care activities. There is such thing as a really bad good movie, OK?! The whole “guilty” part of the guilty pleasures really took the fun out of it.

8. What are some traditions that you’ve adopted from somewhere or someone else? 
My mum is American- Texan, specifically -and she brought Thanksgiving into our lives when we were kids. She’d spend days making mounds of food- pumpkin and pecan pie, turkey, stuffing, greens, sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce and bread rolls- and we’d invite all of our family, friends and neighbours over. There’d be a little kids table we’d always sit at and the grown-ups table, where everyone would eat and drink until they couldn’t anymore. It’s definitely an indulgent (and time consuming, we’d spend days cooking) holiday but it was about being thankful. We never did a big Christmas and most of our family lives in the US, so it was a way for us to feel connected to them. My mum would hang a giant Texan flag over our verandah and we would have an Australian-American celebration. 

9. How do you align and connect with your intuition?
Truthfully, I’d never really thought about it until this question. I write and journal often, which I suppose is my way of processing feelings and dissecting my rapid-fire thoughts. I know intuition is more of a personal thing but I’m a huge extrovert, and I feel at peace once I’ve vocalised what I’m feeling and been able to have a conversation. We’re all a little irrational sometimes and sometimes once you’ve said it out loud, you realise how small the thought or issue really is.

10. What's an assumption others make about you?
That I never take myself very seriously which, to be fair, I don’t most of the time. My humour relies heavily on self-deprecation and it’s definitely become a kind of coping mechanism. Doesn’t mean my feelings don’t get hurt, but it does mean I’m quicker to get over it, I suppose. I’m always my harshest critic. 

11. Is there an item you would like to see from Collective Closets in the future? 
I’m so proud of everything we’ve done as a brand so it’s hard to say. Maybe a short skirt for summer. Something like our twin sets (coming out tomorrow!) but with a mini. 

 

COLLECTIVE CONVERSATIONS . . . TALKING TO FASHION ENTHUSIAST STYLE SHIFTER!

In a period of time when we're inundated with what feels like consistent bad news, we wanted to put some emphasis on the positive. This is the another instalment in "Collective Conversations," a weekly series focusing on a woman we think is awesome + what she's all about. This week we're talking to Julia Browne, the woman behind the alias STYLE SHIFTER. Using her platform, Julia shares styling tips, tricks to make the most out of your wardrobe and is constantly promoting the work of local and independent designers. Her style is colourful, bold and eclectic- much like her.

  1. Describe yourself in three words?

    Playful, supportive, determined.

  2. What does heritage and tradition mean to you?

    I'm English/Welsh/Antiguan and up until recently the only representative in Australia from my side of the family, and so I feel it's really important that my daughter has a connection to my family, her heritage, and herself. I've recently connected with my Dad's family who originates from Antigua. He was one of 21 children so there are literally 100's of Browne's across the world and we found out a couple of years ago that we have a cousin here in Melbourne (who now just lives down the road from us), which is amazing.

3. Something that you’re passionate about? 

I'm passionate about championing emerging and independent fashion talent here in Melbourne. We are so incredibly lucky to have such a unique and diverse pool of amazing designers! I love clothes that are designed with love and intention and help the wearer tell an authentic story about themselves. I also feel that independent and student designers are the future of fashion as they are best placed to respond to the ever-growing need for responsible and ethical business practices.

4. Who do you most admire? 

Hands down my Mum. She became a single parent when my sister and I were still young and held down several jobs to make sure that we never went without. Then in her 30's, she re-invented herself, studying at night school so she could start a career in community service. Growing up, we never had a lot of money but our Mum taught us we shouldn't make it an obstacle to reaching your goals, and that there are always workarounds to achieve what you want in life.

5. What is a weekly/monthly/fortnightly ritual or tradition you do for yourself? 

During our current lockdown, I always ensure that I give myself at least a couple of hours of "me time" in a separate part of the house.

6. What is something you’re proud of?

I'm really proud of becoming a certified telephone counsellor/support worker for Wire - Women's Information. They offer a free support, referral, and information service for all Victorian women, nonbinary and gender-diverse people. I'm so very proud of the incredible training I undertook, the amazing team who work and volunteer there, and the fantastic service they offer. Post COVID I'd love to explore opportunities of volunteering with them again.

7. What's something you do to be kind to yourself?

I dress up. Planning what I'm going to wear gets me energised and makes me mentally and emotionally ready for the day ahead.

8. What are some traditions that you’ve adopted from somewhere or someone else? 

I know it's a bit of a contentious holiday here in Australia, but I absolutely love celebrating Halloween! It's one of the only holidays where you get to see your neighbours and see children and families filling the streets. It's beautiful. It will be interesting to see what Halloween will look like this year.

9. How do you align and connect with your intuition?

I use my intuition for my styling tips on Instagram. I find the tips I provide when I don't overthink and just go with my gut, are always the ones best received.

10. What's an assumption others make about you?

Because my British accent is still so strong, people always assume that I've only been in Australia for a matter of weeks, and not that I've been living here for over 15 years.

11. Is there an item you would like to see from Collective Closets in the future? 

Your own line of headwraps!

COLLECTIVE CONVERSATIONS . . . 11 FIRE QUESTIONS WITH ECOSTYLIST, WRITER AND FOUNDER OF TOMMIE MAG, NATALIE SHEHATA!

In a period of time when we're inundated with what feels like consistent bad news, we wanted to put some emphasis on the positive. This is the another instalment in "Collective Conversations," a weekly series focusing on a woman we think is awesome + what she's all about. This week we're talking to founder of Tommie Mag, ecostylist, retail trainer and 'creative woman with a conscience,' Natalie Shehata.  Tommie Mag is a multifaceted platform/publication that covers everything from women's issues, to news, to fashion and how to be a conscious consumer. Natalie created Tommie as a space to promote and collaborate with brands she believed in and celebrate women from all walks of life. Today, we get to celebrate her.

1. Describe yourself in three words? 

Honest, empathetic, resilient.

2. What does heritage and tradition mean to you? 

When I think about heritage and tradition, I immediately think about what a beautiful and diverse world we live in, where there is constant learning and a celebration that we are all so uniquely different. Our heritage and tradition really gives us an insight into our belief systems, our ancestors, the way we dress, the food we eat, what we value and how we tread on this earth. For me it’s about taking the guidance and direction of those before us, being curious about the practises that were so naturally inherent in their ways of life and honouring this. I am uniquely positioned in the sense that I have parents who are from different parts of the world. My father is from Egypt and my mother is from Greece, so my upbringing allowed me to really bask in different cultures, language, food and beliefs. I think more specifically though, growing up with different cultures really made me acutely aware of how identity and belonging can bring us together, but also separate us as we see in so many parts of the world – even right here in our own backyard. As a young person, given my multicultural background I often felt like I didn’t belong to a specific, defined group – but it is my ‘otherness’ that has driven my work and deeper purpose for all people to be seen, and it is this that has cultivated my deep respect for communities of colour who are often ‘othered’ or not seen as the majority, when in fact – it is BIPOC who are the mainstream. When we talk about heritage and tradition, for me it is also about yelling from the rooftops that POC are the original vanguards of sustainability, thoughtfulness and regenerative care for the land. Given I work in the sustainable fashion space, heritage and tradition for me also means there needs to be a collective acknowledgement and awareness of Ancestral and Indigenous wisdom, and that we need to respect and not exploit or appropriate rituals, icons or cultures. 

3. Something that you’re passionate about? 

Having worked in the fashion industry - with varying stakeholders - for the past 11 years, I’ve witnessed and experienced first-hand the oppressive systems in which fashion is built on, and wanted to be part of disrupting and dismantling this, and created a platform for BIWoC communities to be the curators of their own stories and take back their rightful space and position in the fashion and sustainability context. This is how tommie magazine was born, as a way to elevate the diverse voices that make up our country, and to also demonstrate the naturally, intuitive and sustainable ways of living, WOC encompass. I’m super passionate about redefining and decolonising sustainability in the fashion space and environmentalism more specifically, to centre Black, Indigenous and People of colour communities; the original pioneers and trailblazers of sustainability. 

I’m also hugely passionate about second hand clothing and the way this offers us as individuals the opportunity to connect with our identity, the opportunity for self-expression and the celebration of difference and personal style. But also raising awareness and offering education into why it’s so important we support brands that are made ethically, locally, with artisanal traditions, use sustainable fibres etc. Wearing preloved clothing - and brands built with intention and social progress -  is a way we can position our views on labour rights, Womxn’s rights and the welfare and rights of BIPOC around the world. Clothing is more than constructing an outfit to look aesthetically pleasing; what we choose to wear is a reflection of society, the inequities between races, the exploitative labour systems that still exist in the Global South, the land that was taken away from Black and Indigenous people and how colonialism is rooted in fashion. The way we dress is political when it comes to culture, heritage, identity and history – and can lead to radical change. 

Another area I’m hugely passionate about is mobilising and activating local community, I think large scale change starts at your dinner table, and in your neighbourhood. Leading, running and organising events and gatherings in my local community has been so rewarding as I’ve seen how education and creativity really inspires change in people. And I love being an accessible bridge or pathway for people to access schools of thought, information or an understanding of systems they may have not known about.

4. Who do you most admire? 

That’s a tricky question – it’s interesting because growing up I didn’t really have role models, or Women I admired. Now as an adult, there are so many Women in my life in whom I admire. Women like you both, who live their truth every day, who are navigating such important conversations through the medium of fashion. But if I had to choose a specific person, I’d say Oprah. She was able to bring some of the most ‘taboo’ and not talked about issues to a mainstream audience. She will always hold a special place in my heart, as it is her talk show where my mother learnt that being in a violent relationship is not OK. My Mum often references that episode as her introduction into learning about the patterns and viscous cycle of Domestic Violence, and I think Oprah has been able to touch so many people’s lives in accessible ways like this. My hope is that through my own work and advocacy I offer a space to talk about the ‘uncomfortable’ things, the things we as a society are too sacred to talk about, in a safe way without judgement or critique. 

5. What is a weekly/monthly/fortnightly ritual or tradition you do for yourself? 

Rituals and traditions aren’t the thing I’m great at – it’s actually probably my greatest weakness in that I’ve not learnt the art of carving time out for myself. But I’m slowly getting better at it. I find my calm and peace in cooking. I love the mediation in movement and the texture and colour of all the vegetables, herbs and spices I use. I’m vegan, so making delicious, nourishing and vibrant food is part of my self-care routine. 

I’ve also just bought myself a tarot deck, ‘NEO TAROT’ by Jerico Mandybur and this kind of self-reflection has been very healing for me, but also very joyful! 

Also, I don’t think we talk about it publically enough, but I go to therapy every week and have since my mid 20’s. I think attending therapy should be accessible to every single person; it has helped me work through child-hood trauma, and just the everyday grind life offers. This is a ritual I don’t ever compromise on, no matter how full or busy my weeks are, I never miss a session. We talk so much as a society about working out our bodies, but we don’t talk enough about exercising the mind. And I think that stigma needs to change. 

One other thing I do for myself, is to dress however please – for me, not for anyone else. This means lots of colours and lots of pattern clashing!

6. What is something you’re proud of? 

I think one of the things that I’m proudest of is my freedom – being able to escape an oppressive child-hood environment, and really being the architect of my own life. Creating every page, the way in which is most authentic to me; which in large part means being of service to WOC specifically. I want to offer a space and platform through tommie that really highlights and celebrates the voice of WOC, and the unique journey and stories we have. But also ensuring that WOC of all ages understand their worth. I’m proud that I’ve chosen a path where I can be a resource, bridge and even confidant for others. Change is really important to me – small and large scale – so to see how my actions or knowledge can help guide people, is really so fulfilling.

7. What's something you do to be kind to yourself? 

I’m learning the art of saying, ‘no. I’m not very good at it yet, but I’m in my learning stages. Also, surrendering and accepting are ways I’m being kind to myself. So really embracing these principles as radical acts of kindness. And giving myself the permission to just ‘let go’. And affording myself the empathy and compassion I easily offer others.

8. What are some traditions that you’ve adopted from somewhere or someone else? 

I think my real, deep appreciation for making do with what you have and really extending the life of things whether it’s food, clothes, products. I grew up in a very thrifty household where most of what we owned was second hand. This is definitely a tradition that has been handed down to me - this modern, western ideology of ‘sustainability’ was embedded in how I grew up. Being resourceful and getting the maximum value and use out of everything was really engrained in me from a young age. 

And also, this idea of being principled and ethical. It’s interesting, my father was very flawed in many ways through his actions and often was quite limited in what he could demonstrate to me. But through his words, he taught me that honesty and having a high moral compass was so important in life. And I’ve really carried this through my life.  Always seeking change and challenging mainstream systems is something that was also handed down – this idea of making sure we challenge the capitalist society we live in and seeing the exploitation in systems to create more equitable opportunities for people.

My mum handed down to me this beautiful, whimsical look on life – that there is joy in every moment, and that every moment is an opportunity for service, care and healing to others. I definitely get my ‘selflessness’ and nurturing side from my mum, always putting others first before thinking about myself.

9. How do you align and connect with your intuition?

I am a big believer in solo time as I believe this really allows the space for reflection. I think we all have access to our intuition, but I think in this busy fast-paced world we live in, we are often disconnected to our purpose, and are more concerned with ticking things off our ‘to do list’. These kinds of actions don’t ignite our intuition. I actually think as a society, especially in a western context, we feel we have a strong grasp and control on life – when we really don’t. I think life’s hurdles, struggles and pain really help you strengthen your gut feeling. I also feel when my gut or intuition is there to tell me something, if I don’t listen straight away, it appears in other representations. Our bodies generally react to what’s right or wrong if our mind hasn’t caught up, or it isn’t ready. So really feeling any sensory changes in your body. I know if I’m doing something I should have said, ‘no’ to, or something doesn’t feel right – I feel it in my body through physical pain immediately. Everyone has different ways they connect with their intuition, but there are signs – we just have to be open to listening. I have a real affinity to my intuition, and even to how others are feeling. I think a lot of it has to do with energy, and I’ve developed this over time as I’m really perceptive with people’s behaviours. I’m so curious about people, how they move, how they act – what we as humans do in general. And I think this sensitivity and curiosity develops your sense of self too.

10. What's an assumption others make about you?

That I am balanced and don’t stress out! This couldn’t be farther from the truth. I think it *may* look like it from the outside in, but I’m always wanting to do more, offer more to more people. Balance may not be possible or achievable, but I think it’s important to try to aim for it. But it’s definitely not something I have!

11. Is there an item you would like to see from Collective Closets in the future? 

I absolutely love all that you do and what you stand for! My Collective Closets culottes are worn several times a week – and I always get compliments when I wear them! Thank you for using fashion as a powerful tool to communicate style, but also as a way to invite Women to share their journey and stories! 

COLLECTIVE CONVERSATIONS . . . TALKING TO STYLIST, MODEL + CREATIVE DIRECTOR NTOMBI MOYO!

In a period of time when we're inundated with what feels like consistent bad news, we wanted to put some emphasis on the positive. This is the another instalment in "Collective Conversations," a weekly series focusing on a woman we think is awesome + what she's all about. This week we're talking to stylist, model, photographer, videographer and creative director. She's multi-talented (clearly) female powerhouse who recently made the move from Australian shores to NYC. She spoke to us about her heritage, her tribe.

1. Describe yourself in three words? 

Rebel, empathetic and dramatic.

2. What does heritage and tradition mean to you? 

I associate heritage with my background and who I am. I associate tradition with my culture and the things we do.

3.. Something that you’re passionate about?

Living life to the fullest, I have a big zest for consistent enjoyment.

4. Who do you most admire? 

I stan black women all day, every day!!! 

5. What is a weekly/monthly/fortnightly ritual or tradition you do for yourself? 

I like to get my hair done, that’s my thing. Fresh braids every two weeks and new shoes whenever my spirits are low.

6. What is something you’re proud of? 

I am proud that I am still able to find joy and share laughter in each day despite some of the dark moments I have had in my young life. 

7. What's something you do to be kind to yourself? 

I have begun to give myself the same grace that I extend to others. I have begun to be protective of myself the way I am of others. Giving myself the same love that I have always reserved for others.

8. What are some traditions that you’ve adopted from somewhere or someone else? 

I am very tied to my tribe and all the traditions passed down in the form of language, food, dance and expressions of respect. I am a proud Ndebele woman. 

9. How do you align and connect with your intuition?

I deeply rely on my intuition, I always need to break away from company and spend some solo time processing so that I can listen to my inner voice. Silencing the voices of others to be able to hear mine. I have always found my answers by going inward.

10. What's an assumption others make about you?

Hmm.. perhaps that I am a talkative character. I am most comfortable being quiet, I often break out of this to joke around with friends and these are the moments seen by most people. 

11. Is there an item you would like to see from Collective Closets in the future?

More plus sized garments!

 

11 FIRE QUESTIONS WITH GIRLBOSS KERRYN MOSCICKI!

In a period of time when we're inundated with what feels like consistent bad news, we wanted to put some emphasis on the positive. This is the another instalment in "Collective Conversations," a weekly series focusing on a woman we think is awesome + what she's all about. This week we're talking to Kerryn Moscicki, the woman behind one of our favourite shoe labels, Radical Yes. She's a business owner, a mum, a yoga extrodinare and an all-around girl boss. We talked to her about her traditions and why she loves what she does.

1. Describe yourself in three words? 

Determined. Light. Grateful.

2. What does heritage and tradition mean to you? 

A lot! Since having my own family I think there has been a big shift for me personally in how I see tradition. My husband's Argentinian / Spanish / Polish (!) background has certainly influenced that enormously in terms of food celebrations and things we have introduced to our kids. But at a more personal level it's traditions we have established around family life - simple things like Friday night Pizza (Leo makes the base 5 days in advance #obsessed), Sunday morning Crepes with dulce de lechei (Argentinian caramel), Sunday visits to the Library (pre-covid!) and a particularly special celebration for Winter Solstice that really shapes the importance of tradition to give meaning and form to our lives.

3. Something that you’re passionate about? 

My family. My family are my highest value and first priority especially while my children (2 boys, Maximilian (12) and Olso (6)) are still young enough to want to hang out with me. Days that I know are probably numbered at this point.

4.Who do you most admire? 

Amy Smilovic  (@amysmilovic) who is the founder and creative director of a US Brand I really love called Tibi is someone I admire a lot. Tibi has been running for over 20 years, and as a brand have reinvented themselves fearlessly over the past few years. Amy is incredibly authentic and generous with her experience on running a brand on her personal instagram where she gives regular entrepreneurial tutorials specific to running a fashion business and also styling guides for her customers. A mother of two as well, Amy is just very real and for me personally a great example of the importance of following your intuition with your brand and being brave when aesthetic changes need to be made,  which I believe is inevitable if you run a business over a long period of time.

5. What is a weekly/monthly/fortnightly ritual or tradition you do for yourself? 

I guess all my rituals are grounded in my Yoga practice, which extend into my morning/exercise routine. I used to have a lot of dogma around my practice and be incredibly strict with a 6 day a week Ashtanga yoga commitment. The last few years I have softened and changed my practice a lot and now it includes much longer periods of meditation and writing as well as different heart opening practices like Jivamukti and Chi Gong, which I do with Leo most mornings. I think the task with rituals is to make sure they are bringing you a sense of space and peace and not another thing to add to your to do list. When it becomes dogma or becomes exhausting, the point is being missed.

6. What is something you’re proud of? 

Our business Radical Yes. Because we have learnt so much from the practice of running the business and because we have remained grounded in our pursuit of autonomy and independence even when people told us we should consider giving up. I once had an accountant who asked me, "how long do you want to work 70 hours a week and get paid the same amount as someone pulling beers for 30 hours a week?" That was about 4 years ago. I sacked the Accountant and kept going. I believe in the brand beyond way beyond money. 

7. What's something you do to be kind to yourself? 

I have a practice I call 'lightening up'. It's inspired by Pema Chodron who is a Buddahist monk that has written some really inspiring books like "When things Fall Apart" and she talks about this process of just 'lightening up'. I find it's when I am taking myself or situations too seriously that I am unkind to myself so I just try to look to the humour and impermanence of life and it always softens my self talk.

8. What are some traditions that you’ve adopted from somewhere or someone else? 

As a family on Winter Solstice (June 21) we celebrate with a 12 course Polish meal that Leo always prepares from scratch. It's mind blowing. It involves Borscht (a kind of beetroot soup), Perogi's (Polish Dumplings), Rollmops (which are beautiful fish rolled in pickles), and Smoked Salmon Blinis with sour cream and pickles. It's a very light but indulgent meal we have with champagne that is usually eaten for Polish Christmas but we have it mid-winter instead. We use this meal as a way to welcome winter, and in the past have used it to write declarations of things we want to let go of to burn in the bonfire at Children's Collingwood farm solstice celebrations. Obviously not this year though!

9. How do you align and connect with your intuition?

Journaling. I follow the 'Artist's Way' practice of morning pages and try my hardest to get 3 pages down most days, not always in the morning but if I am blocked or just needing to reflect. It's the best way to get 'head gossip' out of your head and clear to a sense of clarity and new perspective.

10. What's an assumption others make about you?

That I have a lot of shoes. Which I kind of do and kind of don't. I am sample size which means I can wear all the samples we make, but it also means I never wear the bulk production (the finished beautiful ones) because I always feel guilty wearing the best stock. I would rather save it for our customers since we make in such small quantities.

11. Is there an item you would like to see from Collective Closets in the future? 

Another round of Radical Yes x Collective closets shoes and bags!! Just say YES! Haha!

 

 

11 FIRE QUESTIONS WITH PHOTOGRAPHER + TRAVEL ENTHUSIAST MICHAELA BARCA!

In a period of time when we're inundated with what feels like consistent bad news, we wanted to put some emphasis on the positive. This is the another instalment in "Collective Conversations," a weekly series focusing on a woman we think is awesome + what she's all about. This week we're talking to photographer + travel enthusiast Michaela Barca. A long time collaborator and friend of Collective Closets, Michaela is the lady behind the lens and plays an integral part in bringing our ideas to life. We chatted to her about family, freelancing and her traditions. 

1. Describe yourself in three words? 

Loving, caring, perfectionist.

2. What does heritage and tradition mean to you? 

My Italian heritage has undoubtedly embedded the importance of family and the significance of maintaining little traditions around family time. These may be small things, like enjoying a home cooked family meal together where we laugh and share stories from our day. I was always and still am so proud to bring friends to my family gatherings and share all the amazing food and culture that comes with an Italian family. I know that these are the little things that have made me the person I am today, so I would say that heritage and tradition mean a lot! 

3. Something that you’re passionate about? 

Photography (of course) it’s not only my job but my greatest passion!  Aside from my client work,  I’m forever camera in hand taking photos of anything and everything. Whether that be my beautiful nieces and nephew and the delicate details in everyday life or traveling around the world capturing extraordinary and inspiring surroundings. 

4. Who do you most admire? 

My family,  growing up we were a very tight knit family of 5 and not much has changed, aside from the additional members. My mum, the core of our family. Her nurturing and selfless nature inspires me everyday. My dad, the funny and relaxed one, with an ability to make every person he meets laugh. And my two sisters who are both my best friends. Creative, intelligent women who are also the best mummies, raising the greatest little humans!

5. What is a weekly/monthly/fortnightly ritual or tradition you do for yourself? 

Pre Covid, a weekly ritual was Tuesday night dinners at mum and dads with the whole fam, I miss this the most.

6. What is something you’re proud of? 

Talking about myself and articulating my work and what I do is something I have always found extremely difficult, my website bio is terrible. However, I do feel a shift in my mindset around this because I am extremely proud of how far I have come in my career and all that I have achieved. Freelance photography is a tough gig, one that I felt a lot of people rolled their eyes at and questioned if I would ever be able to support myself doing full time. I still remember the fear and doubt I felt when I decided to quit my full time retail job a few years back. It was the best thing I ever did! After a few hard years, I now say with confidence that I am a photographer with a depth of experience and I feel so incredibly lucky to be doing what I love everyday. 

7. What's something you do to be kind to yourself? 

I am slightly embarrassed to say it, but I do love to indulge and gift myself high quality things more often than not. In other words, I do love to shop. But it's not in the way of retail therapy or buying things for the sake of it. Over the last few years, I have become extremely conscious about what I buy and who I’m buying from. Buying high quality, Australian made products is something I feel very strongly about and it makes me so happy to be able to support local and ethical brands. This is why working with Collective Closets is so incredible because their values are so in line with mine. I think we can not underestimate how much of an impact a beautifully curated home space and a concise and considered wardrobe can make on our wellbeing.

8. What are some traditions that you’ve adopted from somewhere or someone else? 

Not exactly a tradition but something I am trying to adopt is my mum and my nonnis (grandparents) cooking. I love going to their houses and watching them cook, often there is no recipe to follow. It brings me great joy when I can cook dinner for my partner and I, and it tastes just like theirs! I have recently mastered my mum's lasagna. 

9. How do you align and connect with your intuition?

I think very well, in photography, intuition is everything. Sometimes things need to be moved or positioned in way for no other reason than because that is just what looks and feels right. There is no other way to explain it, but connecting with my own intuition on every job is the only way to make sure the job is done right. 

10. What's an assumption others make about you?

People always think I’m really relaxed and chilled out, especially my wedding clients. Which is good, because the last thing you want is a stressed out photographer on your wedding day. But really, I am always pretty stressed even if I don't show it. I put very big expectations on myself but the perfectionist in me wouldn't have it any other way.

11. Is there an item you would like to see from Collective Closets in the future?

Just keep doing what you’re doing ladies, love being on the journey with you!