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

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