Category Archives: Eco Friendly

An Interview With St James Whitting

This week my blog is heading down under to chat to Australian interior design company, St James Whitting.  In the Southern Hemisphere, spring has descended and there is no better time to revamp and redecorate. Not to be left out, the Northern Hemisphere’s Autumn/Fall season is a great excuse to check out the fabulous rugs and cosy interior ideas. And the artwork is fab too! Welcome…

Catherine on the left; Kate on the right

Who are “St James Whitting”?

Kate St James FDIA and Catherine Whitting AssDIA, are two designers passionate about creating eco-friendly, sustainable interiors and products that are healthy for people and the planet.
London born Kate is the founding editor-in-chief of Grand Designs Australia magazine, Home Design and several additional magazines, a role she held for 16 years before co-founding St James Whitting.  Prior to her editorial role, Kate ran an interior design practice for more than 15 years in Brisbane and Sydney. 
Along with co-founding St James Whitting, Sydney-based Catherine also lectures interior design at The Design Centre, Enmore, Sydney’s pre-eminent college for interior design studies.  Catherine also ran her business Décor Instyle prior to co-founding SJW. The company creates interiors for residential and commercial projects. It also has a range of homewares called The Elementals Collection which includes five designs for Designer Rugs Australia; 147 paint colours across 21 palettes coloured by Resene paints and seven designs for fabrics with Hemp Gallery Australia and a range of products for social enterprise company, Vida.  There is also a fine art collection of limited edition Giclee prints, represented by The Curious Art Bar.

What was it about interior designing that made you want to pursue interior design as a career? What was the motive behind setting up St James Whitting?

Interior design allows us to indulge our creative sides, but it is also a practical skill.  Creating beautiful, well-designed spaces for people to live and work in is an exciting opportunity. We both understand how spaces affect the way people live and work, and how architecture and design can influence our lives in a positive way; and we love finding solutions to problems,and making people happy! St James Whitting came about after we met at an industry function and spent many hours talking about our passion for eco-friendly design and how we would love to design an eco-resort. While the resort is yet to be realised, we have created many beautiful residential and commercial interiors and look forward to continuing to change people’s lives through great design.

Inked Up pure wool rug by St James Whitting for Designer Rugs shown with the Inked Up Palette from the paint range

I love the custom designed rugs that you do. To date, what has been your most popular art work or item?

The most popular rug in the range has to be Alcatraz, although all designs have been well received in the marketplace.

What’s your most favourite item in your collection?

Our favourite piece in the rug collection is Inked Up.  We lovethe swirling pattern and the way in which the design suits both classic and contemporary styles.

When it comes to interior design, I do like pale clean walls (currently favouring pale silver grey and aqua shades of blue) with brightly coloured accessories.  What colours/styles do you tend to favour?

There are no specific colours or schemes we use as each new project comes with its own brief and we use colours that provide the best outcomes. For us colour is under, or poorly used in many situations and it is our mission to bring a greater understanding and use of colour to our projects. We created our own range of paints with Resene paints this year.  There are 147 colours in the range and we love them all!

Walls painted Teal Terrain from the SJW Elementals Collection coloured by Resene. Quilted bed topper in Ripples designed by SJW for Hemp Gallery Australia; cushions designed by SJW for Hemp Gallery Australia including Wildflowers, Ripples, Kindling Sticks and Firespike.

Kate, you’ve written 3 e-books on sustainable design & interiors; Ian is a passionate advocate for sustainability and the creation of low impact, sustainable urban communities. What ideas could a person incorporate when designing their home to make it adequately sustainable?

My top tips for creating a more sustainable home are:

  • Use passive-solar design principles when creating a new home design or renovation
  • Insulate – floors, walls and ceilings
  • Use double glazing to thermally control temperatures
  • Use zero VOC paints, glues and grouts, board and materials for a healthier interior environment
  • Select furniture and furnishings that do not contain or are manufactured with toxic materials
  • Provide good ventilation
  • Use as many natural materials as possible including FSC timber, hemp fabrics, eco paints, pure wool carpets and textiles, linen bedding and products with a clear provenance and chain of custody.

Growing up, did you all have dreams of being interior designers or did you have other career plans?

Kate: In my teens  I studied classical music and wanted to be an opera singer. However, a move to Australia halted those aspirations. I pursued a career in journalism in the early 1970s but after meeting husband to be, Ian who was studying architecture, I turned my sights to interior design.

Catherine: I studied art and painting; my  lifelong passion.  After teaching art, I moved into design and now I teach interior design when not designing for clients.

Nantucket Sunrise I & II by Kate St James and Catherine Whitting. Limited Edition fine art giclee prints of original mixed media

As St James Whitting is based in Australia, are your products available to purchase worldwide?

The rugs, fabrics and artworks can be shipped worldwide. We do not yet have any overseas stockists, but we’re working on that!

If you could visit any place in the world to get inspiration for a new interior design collection or artwork collection, where would you go and why?

Catherine and I have been talking about Avignon of late, and we are also planning a trip to Italy next year. Both places would provide lots of inspiration.  But there’s nothing like the Australian landscape with its diversity of flora, fauna and topography, not to mention light and colour, to provide inspiration for our designs.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Kate: We both have a penchant for natural fibres including hemp and linen.  I love red and Catherine loves shades of green. My shoes  are flat and heels for Catherine.  We both wear black and love to dress this up with scarves from our collection with Vida, and jewellery by MisSMash.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

We both try to shop locally, in small boutiques where quality fabrics and local designers are represented. We rarely buy clothes online.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Kate: With summer on the horizon, more linen and casual pieces in soft colours and neutrals.  I love espadrilles as I live near the beach.  Catherine: I love hats – so perhaps one or two summer ones may find their way into my wardrobe. We are both very conscious of not buying too many clothes and prefer to buy quality over quantity and recycle them wherever possible or give them to charities.

 Boots or Shoes? 

Kate: Boots in winter, shoes and sandals in summer, for practical reasons.  I like tailored styles.

Catherine: I have a penchant for Victoriana; with laces!

For Pinning Later.
Elementals Collection coloured by Resene colour chart

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebooketc so that readers can find out more about St James Whitting

www.stjameswhitting.com

www.facebook.com/stjameswhitting

www.facebook.com/stjameswhittingart

www.instagram.com/stjameswhitting

Thank you for chatting to me ladies and I do so love your artwork and vision! I share Catherine’s love of Victoriana lace up boots too! Something very elegant about those boots… 

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Kate & Catherine (St James Whitting).

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An Interview With Mandala Dream Co

I’m talking HEMP this week with Jul from Mandala Dream Co.  Jul lives, breathes and talks hemp.  From bed linen and fashions to beauty and skincare…. in fact, over 30,000 products can be made from industrial crop.  Hemp is eco friendly, ethical, sustainable and kinder to both people and the planet.  I caught up with Jul to find out more about this versatile crop and why she is so passionate about hemp…

Hi! I’m Jul from Mandala Dream Co, living & working in Kobble Creek, Queensland, Australia. A beautiful little pocket of the planet, living & loving life, my family & my role as the one man band for Mandala Dream Co. (In truth I do now have the luxury of having a seamstress & pattern maker who work with me & make my life soooooo much more manageable). Nonetheless I’m the blessed being who sows & cultivates our plants for our eco dyeing, harvests & ferments the hand eco dyes, dyes, designs our range, formulates our skincare, along with chief of photography, marketing, blogging, newsletters, website upkeep & all the fun things that make my life full, joyous & satisfying.

What was behind your choice to concentrate on hemp?

Bring on the Green Revolution including all things Hemp I say 😊
My first love was textile art, specifically hand eco dyeing utilising natures botanicals (plants, barks, roots, leaves, kino etc) specifically using organic & sustainable fabrics. After using all manner of fabrics including peace silk, organic cotton, bamboo & hemp I simply could not bring myself to advocate for anything other than humble hemp. It’s impossible once learning about the growing, the water wastage & the manufacturing of other fibres to use anything else in all good conscience. 

The natural beauty we can create with this textile is inspiring, as a little cottage organic hemp creator of bedlinen, eco fashion & skincare I’m proud of our pioneering movement even on this small scale, the fabrics are so very beautiful, becoming softer with each use, heirloom fabrics that last a lifetime and are also resistant to stains, odours, mildew & mould, highest UV factor of all natural fibres, naturally antibacterial.

No pesticides or synthetic fertilisers are needed to successfully grow hemp (unlike the chemically laden crops we currently grow in Australia & on our beloved planet) you could grow it yourself easily. The plants dense roots stave off weeds, and the growing process improves the soil’s nitrogen, making the soil even better for other crops in the future, a perfect rotational crop for farmers and the health of our soils, which are incredibly sour here in Australia. The growth cycle of hemp is generally only four months, so the option to harvest two times in one year would create a huge relief for struggling farmers. Research states that just one acre of hemp produces more oxygen from CO2 and methane than 25 acres of forest, not to mention the water savings (we save 9000 litres of water (compared to traditional cotton bedlinen) with just one sheet 😊

More about my favoured Hemp:

Hemp Biodiesel can replace our need for fossil fuels.
Hemp seeds & cold pressed oils are superfoods containing essential amino acids & easily digested protein. High in the omegas with a naturally perfect ratio. It’s so nutritionally superior you can survive on hemp seeds alone for a long period, can you imagine what this could do to those in famine around the world?

Its oils are used in our Skincare –  it plumps up dry skin & even helps your skin to retain more moisture over time with its use.

Nil petrochemicals from plastics are produced with hemp plastics, from plastic wraps for food, bottles and everyday items all the way through to auto parts, with no harmful BPA. Hemp plastics are not only heat resistant and durable they are 100% biodegradable.
Housing construction materials (such as hempcrete) made from hemp fibres have been found to be far superior to most materials used in housing construction in our era. Inexpensive hemp can be made into a huge variety of building materials, hempcrete, insulation, blocks, plastics, board, even carpets, whilst being so much stronger and will last soooo much longer than what’s being utilised now. Did I mention they are also fire resistant? mould & mildew resistant? rot free? totally non toxic? & good for us and our planet-and totally natural! Have you any idea how many toxic chemicals and compounds are in our newly built housing? So much of the materials used are processed with toxic chemicals that are released into our living areas (with our loved ones) for years and years. In essence anything wood pulp can do, hemp fibres do far better. 70% of our worlds forests have already been eliminated…and yet we pretend we don’t know why our existence is threatened. Hemp paper can be recycled 8 times, whilst from our beautiful century old trees it’s only 3 to 4 times.

 I love the gold coloured hemp cushion covers/bed linen. To date, what has been your most popular hemp item?

The gold colours are infused on the fabrics utilising onion skins, chamomile, turmeric, calendula petals & marigolds (or whatever I have available in our storage & ferments at the time) – I generally harvest our plant dyes all year round. Our most popular items currently are our Natural indigo dyed hemp wrap pants & our Meraki skincare & beauty range.

 

What’s your most favourite item in your collection?

For me it’s the bedlinen, we are so in love with ours (one set for life) we take them to hotels when we travel. They start off their life a little stiff (like a good old fashioned linen in your grandmother’s  cupboard), but over time they soften up  & ‘wear in’ becoming at one with your bed & its occupants. They stay fresher for longer (meaning we only wash them every 2nd week) and as they are stain & odour resistant they just make everyday life that little bit more comfortable. They have a far superior wicking factor meaning they are highly absorbent & climate reactive keeping us warm in the cooler months here in Kobble Creek; dry, cool & fresh in our hot summer months. We guarantee our bedlinen for a lifetime, it will last that long, & market them as one set for life.

I’m impressed with the gorgeous colours – and the fact that each colour is organic, free from pesticides, treatments or chemicals. Where do you source the ingredients and what ingredients make up the rich colour tones?

Generally if it grows & is non toxic. I have at least attempted to eco dye with it 😊 Most of our ingredients are grown right here on our 5 acres, though I do have a regular supply of onion skins from our 2 local organic fruit & vegetable producers…which is just as well as we use a lot of those. We collect bloodwood kino (sap) on our family walks from our local trees when they naturally produce; grow our own indigofera, turmeric, berries, cherries, moringa & neem.

I use hemp hand cream daily as it is the only product that keeps my hands soft and crack free. What other hemp based beauty products do you sell? What are the advantages of using hemp beauty products?

Our Meraki range (which is a Greek word meaning created with love & devotion…a little piece of our souls in every formulation) currently includes Hempseed Oil based- Face Serum, Body/Hair Butter, Bath Salts/Soak, Pit Potion Deodorant, Toothypaste, Fragrance, Hair Serum & Dream Mist. We are currently working & trialling a new range which includes Hemp CBD oil, which will be a specific anti ageing range. Hemp seed oil is a little miracle (both topically & nutritionally) with the perfect ratio of Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids it’s vital for skin health. The high presence of Vitamin A, D & E ensures repair & rejuvenation of cells, whilst the gamma linolenic acid is a powerful anti inflammatory reducing redness & soreness. Hemp seed oil increases elasticity, is ideal for eczema, psoriasis, rosacea & acne breakouts by naturally balancing the skins oil production, the natural wonder of hemp seed oil teaches our skin how to stay hydrated for longer with every use. Top all that off with how good Hemp is for our planet & you start to feel why I’m such an advocate 😊

Are you introducing any new hemp items to add to your collection into for 2018?

Yes as above (re the new Meraki range). We are also hard at work designing an ethical wardrobe capsule starter kit which will be created using a lightweight Hemp knit blend which will be a lovely easy option for travellers also: 7  initial pieces which can all be worn in different ways (a jacket that doubles as a wrap shirt, a pencil skirt that can be worn comfortably at different lengths etc). We’ve always been a ‘low waste’ business very aware of our environmental footprint (which is why we hold little stock & create to order), using our fabric remnants for a long time in our labelling, hand stamped business cards etc, & are now starting to produce eco wraps (similar to the beeswax eco wraps used in place of single use plastics, sandwich bags etc) but with a twist. The average eco wrap is non organic cotton, dyed with synthetic dyes & uses bees wax & jojoba oil in the coating. Ours will be 100% vegan using our remnants, organic hemp, botanical eco dyes (leftovers, which are also thickened with soy powder to use as block print inks) & candelilla wax (a plant wax) & hemp seed oil creating a far superior wrap which is vegan for the conscious mums packing their beloveds lunches & snacks. (p.s. our youngest attends a Steiner school so I certainly have a ready made market right there) 😊… This photo is of a hemp canvas backpack we recently made for our youngest Kingston, along with hemp drawstring pants for our little people.

As Mandala Dream Co is based in Australia, are your products available to purchase worldwide?

Yes absolutely my biggest market at the moment is Canada (which are hemp early adopters…and just ‘get it’) I’ve also created for clients in the UK, Italy, Greece, New Zealand, Mexico, Cuba, Alaska & even a marines barracks in Fort Benning USA. Delighted to offer to anyone it really speaks to.

Choosing brand names can be a hard task at times, especially when you are trying to pick a name to encapsulate the essence of the brand. What made you decide to pick the name “Mandala Dream Co”?

It was a very personal choice for me & though it doesn’t shout out ‘hemp’, it represents what this little cottage industry meant for me. Mandala Dream Co was born out of me finally finding the calm amidst the chaos., though it took more than a few knocks on my skull before I woke to it. A separation of old wants & new needs really. The Mandala represents the oneness of the psyche with the cosmos, & for me that’s exactly where I found myself in ‘oneness’.
The Mandala is a sacred symbol laying down a map for finding our own way to our self, it represents our connection with our earth. My dream was to renew eco sustainable practices & ancient eco dye practices, whilst delivering humble hemp into every household…..& of course The Co. is you, the company we keep…our clients who we wish to heal body, mind & spirit. With eco, sustainable, organic hemp bed linens & bed sheets, slow fashion, skincare & beauty creations, made by hand with love & devotion to enhance your health, wellbeing, sleep & beauty.  So…for me it’s the essence of the brand, the ethos, the ethics we follow in our business & our every day life, leaving things better than we found them & attracting what’s needed & letting go of things that no longer serve.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I’m sure you’ve guessed by now I’m a bit of a ‘hippie’, a tree hugger, a greenie? Generally you’ll find me wearing something casual & comfortable & usually one of our creations, certainly a lot of hemp clothing, samples we’ve made for photography, marketing etc, failed attempts at eco dyeing that had to be reworked etc. Many days it’s just torn jeans & a blouse or a hemp tshirt.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

Oh yes indeed, during the week I wear lots of hemp tshirts from www.superegoclothiers.com : wonderful quality & cool (perfect for when I’m working with the dye vat at 60 degrees). My favourite is in one of the photo below worn by our eldest (Sahara) which has the caption ‘Cut From a Different Cloth’ #cfadc, which of course is the different cloth …Hemp. I adore this brand it’s very ‘urban’ with lots of street cred & will one day be collaborating with Tommie T Lark founder of this wonderful brand. Of course I occasionally get dressed up for a ‘date night’ with my gorgeous Jamaican husband Kaleel & then I’ll go all out & wear something I treasure from either an upcycled vintage op shop buy, usually inspired by the wonder Fashion Hound that is Faye Delanty, or a piece that I simply couldn’t live without buying.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Honestly I have no wish list, I’m one of those people who don’t usually purchase for ‘occasions’ as have collected & curated so much over the years I generally have all that I’ll ever need. In fact I’m whittling my wardrobe down to a ethical capsule wardrobe with just a few extra special pieces that I must keep for my sanity.

Boots or Shoes?

Oh if I could every single day it would be boots as I think they just give an entire outfit a better line & are so comfortable, but alas it’s often so hot here flat sandals are usually my go to.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc so that readers can find out more about Mandala Dream Co.

Website: www.mandaladreamco.com.au
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mandaladreamco/
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/mandaladreamco/

Oh Jul, it’s great to hear you are a boots girl – even if it is in spirit only! :). Kobble Creek sounds idyllic, your farm sounds lovely, your children are adorable and your passion for hemp is uplifting – thank you so much for sharing your knowledge 🙂

Linda x

All photos were taken by Julie Grant and published with kind permission.

Models: Sahara & Kingston

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Keeping Hydrated With ION8

If you feel inspired to participate in any sporting activity, it’s important to keep well hydrated, especially if you are:  sweating away in a poorly ventilated gym; lobbing a shuttlecock over the net in a sports hall; cycling up and down the hills and country lanes; hiking in the wilderness;  scoring goals on the football (soccer) pitch or netball/basketball hoops.  In fact, keeping well hydrated daily is a must, even if you are not particularly active.  Drinking water regularly as been shown to: increase energy, relieve tiredness, boost the body’s immune system, improves the skin, promotes weight loss (water has zero calories!), aids digestion, relieves cramps and headaches.  Schools in the UK encourage children to take in a water bottle to use and sip throughout the day to help them keep alert and use those brain cells.  Having 5 children and an active cycling mad husband, I have a drawer full of water bottles – not all are the same and when I was given by ION8 their water bottle to review, I was looking forward to seeing if the ION8 stands up to my family’s scrutiny!

My 12 year old son Jack was the perfect reviewer/critic. He has had  3 water bottles since the start of the school term. One was lost; one leaked badly due to the spout snapping off that he had to have a new rucksack; and one split.  He takes a water bottle to school and refills it throughout the day; the water bottle has to endure a bus journey there and back; and Jack doesn’t treat his bag with kid gloves either. So, the ION8 has a lot to live up to! This is what Jack expected:

1. NEEDS TO BE REUSABLE & ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY.

Jack drinks a lot of water during the day – it is important for him to be well hydrated as he does suffer from migraines and water helps to alleviate the headaches.  It is also cost effective according to Jack as it gives him more money  by refilling his water bottle to buy another chocolate muffin! Refilling bottled water bottles isn’t a good idea as tiny cracks often appear in the bottle after its initial use and these cracks can harbour germs such as the dreaded norovirus.  Reusable bottles have been designed for multiple usage.  The ION8 is reusable, is bpa free and is made of non toxic Tritan – a material that is highly resistant to odours, can be easily cleaned & is dishwasher safe.                                                                                               10/10

2. NEEDS TO BE STYLISH.

The ION8 is definitely stylish.  The product was winner of the Reddot Design Award 2017. I wasn’t sure until the water bottle arrived, what colour I would receive.  There are 14 different colours to choose from – I was hoping it wasn’t going to be pink as I have 4 boys and a daughter who doesn’t go a-bundle on pink – but as luck would have it, I received the black glossy onyx colour. This was the preferred choice.  Jack approved. I think the colour was the main deciding factor for him.  From my point of view the range of colours was a fabulous idea especially in families where each person can have their own water bottle identified by a different colour.  Like packs of toothbrushes in assorted colours….. I’m sure you’ve got the drift 🙂  Only downside to the design that Jack mentioned was that opening and shutting the lid, the click was loud especially when he was taking a quick swig of water during his lesson and the classroom was relatively quiet.                                                                                           9.5/10

3. NO LEAKS.

Having been through various water bottles that have leaked despite being upright for the majority of the time, this was a major consideration. Soggy schoolbooks are a no no. Soggy gym kit – not amusing. ION8 claim to be 100% leakproof 100% of the time. They also offer a lifetime guarantee.  The lid lock offers that peace of mind  as well as the inner seal (which can be replaced).  Most water bottles have just the spout at the top which opens and closes – where most leakage occurs – so the lid is a pretty good idea.    The ION8 has lasted 10 days with no leaking so far….                                                10/10

ION8 comes with a tough carry strap, but I did not test the strap. Another difference is that the spout is at the side and not in the centre like most water bottles.  Drinking out of the water bottle is like drinking out of a cup – you need only to tilt the bottle slightly.

The aperture on the ION8 spout is wide to allow a uninterrupted flow of water. Water bottles, including the ION8, do not have thermal properties, such as keeping a hot drink hot or a cold drink cold – but the ION8 is capable of holding cold beverages as low as  -10C as well as hot beverages up to 96C.

The company mission is to produce the simplest and safest BPA free, spill free, leak proof water bottles, hydration products and drinking vessels.  My son and I are very impressed with what we’ve seen so far.  As far as water bottles go, the ION8 is the bees knees and we’ve been converted! 🙂

ION8 is available to buy via Amazon UK, Amazon USA, Amazon DE (Germany); Amazon ES (Spain); Amazon IT (Italy); Amazon FR (France).

For further information: www.ion8.co.uk

Disclaimer:  ION8 sent me the ION8 water bottle to review.  All views are entirely my own (and Jack’s).

Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden. 

 

 

 

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5 Fashion & Beauty Camping Case Essentials For The Newbie

Happy New Year!  Have you made any New Year Resolutions?  More importantly, are you sticking to them?! According to the Caravan, Camping & Motorhome Show 2018, everybody should put “Spend 24 Hours Outdoors” on their New Year Resolutions list.  Various researches from organisations such as The Camping and Caravanning Club and the World Health Organisation have revealed that camping is generally good for your your mental health; it makes people feel happier; it’s a great social leveller; it’s a great way to make new friends (especially for children); and children are more than likely to encounter new experiences eg kite flying, tree climbing, den making and cooking on a campfire.

Location, location, location …. there are many different types of campsites in the UK from the glamping spots; the really deserted one tent in a field spots; adapted farms that have become campsites in idyllic locations, with modern shower blocks & facilities such as a pool, shop, restaurant, launderette, bar;  and some which are part of a holiday village with full entertainment & other amenities. 

 

So, your children have persuaded you to buy a tent and book a camping holiday … put the tent up beforehand to practise and to check that it is in fact waterproof … (we’ve had to buy a new tent day 2 into our 14 day camping holiday when a torrential downpour overnight left our old tent uninhabitable!  Thank goodness our site had a launderette and I was able to use the dryers to dry our damp clothes & bedding!)

And here’s some tips to help you pack those all important fashion & beauty essentials:

1. FOOTWEAR.  Hiking/Walking Boots. To wear all the time when you are not in the tent.  I use my motorbike boots.  Camping fields can get extremely muddy, especially if it rains.  Make sure the boots are comfortable, sturdy & waterproof. For tent wear: slip on trainers, ballet shoes or flip flops. 

2.  ONESIE.  I’m cringing as I type this.  I rarely feel the cold but I must say, that even in  August, it was cold and damp at night in the tent.  I did wrap up under a  duvet but I couldn’t help but think that wearing a onesie would have been preferable at that moment in time.  I did visit a local store looking for a onesie but being August, and it was warm during the day, the shelves were full of swimming costumes not fleeces.

3. MAKE UP/BEAUTY PRODUCTS.  Being outdoors gives you a healthy glow.  Being on a campsite means that the shower facilities/lighting/mirrors are not really ideal to perform your normal make up and skincare morning and evening routines.  I would suggest packing shower gel, 2 in 1 shampoo, moisturiser, BB cream (to replace primer, toner & foundation), waterproof mascara, lip gloss and eye make up remover pads.

4. COMPACT MIRROR.  At night you should really take off make up but when camping, it is rather off putting to go to a dimly lit shower block armed with your torch to help you navigate your way.  Having a compact mirror means that you can take your make up off in your tent ( and apply your morning make up after your shower in privacy, if you wish).  I used my mirror to make sure I didn’t have too bad bed head hair in the morning as I travelled across the field to the shower block!

5. HAIR PRODUCTS.  Your brush. Ditch the straighteners, hairdryer, tongs, hairspray … go for the tousled look instead. 

With those essentials packed, you are ready to fully embrace the outdoor life with your family – we walked for miles, went shell collecting on the beach, visited the local swannery, did some kite flying, rope swinging… 

Are you going to add “24 Hours Outdoors” to your list this year? Are you a camping guru… or newbie?  Any camping stories you can share? Do tell …

Linda x

The Caravan, Camping and Motorhome Show 2018 takes place at Birmingham’s NEC from 20 to 25 February.  Prices are from £7 for adults; children under 15 go free. Tickets are on sale now – for more details check their website: www.ccmshow.co.uk

All photos are by Linda Hobden.

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Shopping Fairtrade Style

It’s September already and here in the UK, harvesting is in full flow.  It’s time to think about farmers around the world who toil endlessly – growing cocoa beans, coffee, cotton, tea, bananas, flowers.  I found out the other day that September is the time to celebrate all things organic.  When I think of “organic”, I automatically think of Fairtrade – The Fairtrade Foundation is the UK based organisation behind the Fairtrade trademark – although, to be fair, not all Fairtrade items are organic.

So, what is Fairtrade? Fairtrade is a global movement with a strong and active presence in the UK. There are over 4,500 Fairtrade products from coffee and tea to flowers and gold. According to Fairtrade’s website, their mission is “to connect disadvantaged producers and consumers, promote fairer trading conditions and empower producers to combat poverty, strengthen their position and take more control over their lives”.  Fairtrade’s vision: ” a world in which all producers and consumers can enjoy secure and sustainable livelihoods, fulfil their potential and decide on their future”.  Fairtrade has strict standards for companies, farmers & workers  as well as ensuring that worker’s rights are maintained, that payment is made of at least the Fairtrade minimum price and that extra money is given to reinvest in business/community projects of the community’s choice. By choosing to buy Fairtrade goods, you can positively help farmers, workers & their communities.

Buying Fairtrade products is easier than you think – products are on sale in supermarkets, independent shops, cafes, restaurants, catering suppliers & wholesalers, as well as online.  I’m lucky, my local village coffee shop/book shop is also the local mecca for Fairtrade goods from companies such as Divine and Traidcraft.  It’s great to see the crafts, products, jewellery and clothes – they make fantastic gifts and it is great to have a browse.

Divine chocolate – I love the plain dark chocolate but I am tempted to try the Dark Chocolate with Himalayan Salt! Divine is the only mainstream chocolate company 44% owned by the farmers who supply the cocoa!  Other Fairtrade chocolates include Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, Green & Black’s Organic, M & S, Rawr Foods, Sainsbury’s “Taste The Difference” White, Dark & Milk chocolate bars, The Co-Op; Meaningful Chocolate Company, Raw Chocolate Company, Traidcraft, Waitrose “Seriously” & Belgian range, and Zotter Chocolate.

Traidcraft do some fantastic stem ginger cookies – I devoured packets whilst I was pregnant with my children ( ginger cookies and lemons/limes were my pregnancy cravings!)  Traidcraft itself has been at the fore front of Fairtrade since 1979. The company offers the widest range of fair trade products in the UK.  They even do Fairtrade wine – but I haven’t tasted it yet so I can’t comment.  I can recommend their range of spices, dried fruits and rices; their craft boxes, jewellery, socks, scarves are all pretty and make good gifts. Their clothing range is pricy but having said that the Fairtrade ethos is fair price to the workers and to be honest I rather pay a bit more knowing that the workers are not young children toiling under horrendous conditions to produce a t shirt. I know that they are getting a decent wage for their labours.

I have included some pictures of the Fairtrade items sold in my local shop … if you wish to find out more about Fairtrade or wish to shop/browse Traidcraft’s goods online, here are some websites you might find useful:

http://fairtrade.org.uk

http://www.traidcraftshop.co.uk

Happy Shopping!

Linda x

All photos are by Linda Hobden

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An Interview With Boutique Hotel Vivenda Miranda

Holiday season is in full flow so there is no better time than to introduce onto the blog a rather special hotel in sunny Portugal. Originally the 17th century home of a noble family, the Boutique Hotel Vivenda Miranda, is now a member of the “Healing Hotels of the world” – the emphasis here is on health and relaxation with a holistic and sustainable approach to life.  Furthermore, this hotel is one of the few hotels that I have come across that has a special package that introduces no single supplement to enable solo travellers to indulge in the same benefits as their fellow guests at no extra cost. And the food – Mediterranean fine dining with plenty of vegetarian, vegan and raw dishes available.  But don’t just take my word for it as I’ve been talking to Vera Gaspar, the Assistant General Manager, to find out more about this delightful place. Hi Vera!

Hello! My name is Vera Gasper and it has been my privilege to have been the Assistant General Manager of the Boutique Hotel Vivenda Miranda for 2 years. It is my responsibility to ensure the smooth running of the hotel and that our guests enjoy the vacation of their dreams.

The Boutique Hotel Vivenda Miranda has introduced a no single supplement to enable solo travellers to indulge in the same benefits as their fellow guests at no extra cost – so, what made the hotel decide to buck the trend and introduce this no single supplement?

We have seen a growing trend in people choosing to travel alone, the main reason being to enjoy total peace and tranquillity, re-energising the body and soul away from busy urban life. Why make this more expensive simply because someone chooses quality “me” time? As well as no single supplement we provide personal airport transfers if travellers take advantage of our solo offer. As a small family business we can offer our solo guests that little extra personal service.

The hotel is a member of the “Healing Hotels of the World” group – what can guests expect from the hotel being a member of the group?

For us at Vivenda Miranda, holistic health means to understand the body/mind relationship in respect to health and healing. Recognising the relationship between mind and body, our guests seek to spend relaxation time in an environment that allows them to regain emotional balance and the joy of life.

We host a series of health, fitness and wellness breaks and courses year round and our restaurant prides itself on serving healthy Mediterranean cuisine with many vegetarian, vegan and raw dishes. With health and nutrition in mind, we use seasonal produce that is organic or locally sourced, and has been grown in or reared on fertile, healthy soils with no chemical involvement.

Award winning Ethical and Organic Neal’s Yard Remedies of Covent Garden, London (NYR) is our Spa health and wellness partner. In fact we were their first overseas health and beauty Spa. What you put on to your skin is just as important as what you put into your body, so only the purest organic skincare elements are used in our Spa that contain no added parabens, GMOs or nano- technology. All are 100% vegetarian and not tested on animals.

What would you say is the most popular attraction of the hotel?

Without question our location! Nestled into the cliff top amidst beautiful lush Mediterranean gardens it occupies a secluded peaceful location with stunning panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean, dramatic coastline and endless sky – A peaceful oasis of calm and tranquillity it really takes your breath away. I would also say that guest love the authentic, unique character of our Vivenda Miranda. It was once the home of a British noble family in the 17th century and retains much of its historic charm albeit with a comfortable modern twist. All our rooms are individually styled and decorated by our own in-house interior designer so I think our visitors feel they are guests in a comfortable, luxurious home.

The Food… based on artisan gastronomy, the restaurant has nutritious plant based menus and offers Mediterranean fine dining cuisine based on organic or locally sourced ingredients, including vegetarian, vegan and RAW dishes options. What dishes are most popular? 

Our menus are seasonal and we find that our Chef’s Daily Menu is very popular rather than one particular dish – although the Cataplana which is a traditional, regional dish is always in demand. We are finding that more and more people are choosing the vegetarian/vegan options…. Especially in summer time when the light dishes and salads are very popular…

The hotel has an ethical organic Neal’s Yard Remedies Spa – what spa treatments are most popular?

Our range of massage treatments, especially the Aromatherapy, Indian Head and Ayurveda are always very popular. With our skilled therapists and the ensured quality of Neal’s Yard Remedies organic essential oils we know our guests are in good hands. Our spa days, where we offer treatments with a complementary lunch menu that’s designed to support and enhance the treatment element, are also regularly enjoyed by our guests as well as people living in or visiting the area. We are currently developing this treatment/food synergy approach further, to offer our guests and day visitors even more health benefits and wellness knowledge.

The hotel was originally the home of a 17th century noble family that has been lovingly restored by its present owners. The pastel colours of the buildings provide a peaceful oasis and the rooms are decorated in a contemporary boutique chic style with a classic comfort twist. What was the inspiration behind the hotel decor?

We wanted to create an authentic, charming but at the same time contemporary ambience that reflects our stunning setting. So by using both classic and modern elements in the decoration and bold colours with unexpected artistic wall paintings not normally seen in hotels we believe we have achieved style, comfort and the wow factor! Every single room is different in layout, furnishing, colour scheme and decorative features. It’s an artisan concept we try to promote throughout the hotel. This approach of integrating the old and new is appealing to an ever younger generation.

As a wedding venue, what do you think makes the hotel the ideal location?

I know I am biased, but it really is the perfect place for the wedding of your dreams. With our stunning location enjoying amazing views of the sea, sky, beach and cliffs set amidst beautiful gardens – What could be more perfect? Especially if you include our amazing bridal suite which is ideal for the wedding party to get ready in and of course enjoy the wedding night! Our menus have been created to please every palate, and the intimate restaurant and secluded ambience of the sun terrace enables the wedding party to enjoy the experience of a lifetime. It is even possible to reserve the Vivenda Miranda for exclusive use providing bookings are made well in advance of course!

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can learn more about Boutique Hotel Vivenda Miranda and booking information

www.vivendamiranda.com
https://www.instagram.com/vivenda_miranda/?ref=badge
https://www.facebook.com/boutiquehotelvivendamiranda

http://vivendamiranda.tumblr.com/
https://twitter.com/vivendamiranda
https://www.pinterest.pt/vivenda_miranda/ 
https://www.flickr.com/photos/129763807@N07/albums

To contact us for reservations or any questions:
Email: info@vivendamiranda.com
Tel: +351 282 763 222
Address: Rua das Violetas, Porto de Mós, 8600-282 Lagos, Algarve, Portugal

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Have I whetted your travel appetite, dear readers?  Have you been to Portugal, or indeed have you visited the hotel? Have you done any solo travelling? Do share your stories, I’d love to know!

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission from Vera Gaspar/ Boutique Hotel Vivenda Miranda.

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An Interview With FoPo

In my last post I was talking about some new discoveries, including cauliflower pizza  and Tony Lozzi’s cauliflower bread recipe – using cauliflower in other ways other than a bog standard vegetable.  This week I’ve discovered FoPo – a company that powderises food products that would otherwise go to waste, retaining 90% nutritional value and vastly extending shelf life. Not only was I intrigued by the idea of food powder but the CEO, Vita Jarolimkova, just happens to be a bit of a fashionista too …. I couldn’t let this company pass me by without an interview… Hi Vita, please introduce FoPo…

Hi! Our mission is to give rejected fruits another life by upcycling them into nutritious, sustainable and tasty food products! There are now three of us working full time. Gerald is in charge of finance and marketing, he comes from a very entrepreneurial family and already had two dessert businesses in the Philippines. Ada is heading our operations, she has also background in nutrition and market research and her family runs a funeral company (no shortage of dark humor at the office). I, Vita, am responsible for strategy, management and navigating the complex maze of German bureaucracy – but originally I am a biochemist and I worked mainly in various research projects in Europe and Asia. We all met during of Food Innovation and Product Design master’s program, which gave us a backstage look at the food industry and helped us realize the problem with current food supply chains and the impact of food waste. It also helped us in developing the concept into a viable business and get a great network of great professors and experts in food industry to support us.

FoPo food powder is a simple yet brilliant concept – powderising food products that would otherwise go to waste. What inspired the conception of FoPo?

We developed the concept through a design thinking lab organized by the Thought for Food Challenge: How to Feed 9 Billion People by 2050. We were looking at ways to prolong the shelf-life of easily perishable foods, overcome aesthetic problems of “ugly fruits”, and to make a product that would not be at a risk of going to waste itself. We decided on dehydrated powder due to its long shelf-life, easy logistics, and versatility of application. It’s just as god as the fresh fruit, but undestroyable. 🙂

Food powders including olive & mango are among your products and on your website you feature some recipes using the powders. What is your favourite recipe?

My favourite recipes actually come from our customers – it’s amazing to see people being creative with the product. Someone just made homemade mango marshmallows! From our own recipes, O-love Olive Dip is great. You just need to mix a bit of the olive powder with cream cheese and voila, healthy dip for chips, veggie pieces or bread sticks. Also, Injust discovered the magic of overnight oats. Mango, pineapple, calamansi, oats, chia and coconut milk – simple tropical breakfast or healthy treat for afternoon coffee.

Out of the food powders currently available, what flavours are proving popular amongst your customers?

Everyone loves the olive powder, it’s a real best-seller. It has a very intense taste and is so easy to mix with salads, sauces, pasta, cream or cottage cheese etc. Among the fruits, mango is really popular, but it varies a lot depending on people’s interests. For example, our banana powder is great for vegan baking since it improves the dough texture and kids love the fact that by adding a bit of water and grated nuts to apple powder, you get apple dough from which you can make small edible statues.

How do you source products for your powders? What’s the process that the fruit and vegetables go through to become a powder?

We are getting produce from farmers, exporters/importers and manufacturers that has been rejected because of different reasons. For example, bananas cannot go into supermarkets if they are too yellow, a lot of olive flesh is wasted during canning process when the pit is removed, sometimes there is also surplus produce no one wants at the moment. The fruits and vegetables are then checked for quality & safety (no moulds!), washed, chopped or puréed, dried and powderized. We are currently exploring several different drying processes: freeze-drying, spray-drying and solar-drying to get the ideal combination for each fruit and each country where we produce.

What are the benefits of your food powder?

It prevents food waste, which also indirectly means it prevents release of carbon dioxide and saves natural resources that went into cultivating the fruits. At the same time, it preserves the taste, aroma and nutrition of the fruit, making it available for much longer time in very convenient form. Many people do not eat enough fruits and vegetables (86% of EU population to be exact), often because it’s challenging for people to plan purchasing and prepare fruits that need to be peeled and de-stoned. FoPo can be mixed directly to anything from yoghurt and muesli through drinks (juices, smoothies, yogurt drinks…) to creams, pastry, soups and cooked dishes. This makes it a very convenient and delicious way to increase the intake of fruits and vegetables.

As you are based in Germany, are your powders available overseas?

We take orders within EU through our webshop, but customers living outside of EU can send us an e-mail if they would like to get a pack as well. We are also planning to expand our products to distributors and retail overseas eventually.

Have you got plans to expand your food products/ powdered food range in the future?

We have just developed a recipe for crispy 100% made-from-FoPo bars that taste like candy but are made from our powders. We plan to scale-up to industrial production by end of 2017. After that, we have still more ideas in mind – functional powder blends for different occasions and seasoned guilt-free fruit and vegetables crisps. On a more futuristic note, we are looking into the use of FoPo in food 3D printing!

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Quite atypical for a start-up founder I guess, haha – I wear mostly skirts, dresses and low heels in very feminine designs and wide range of colors. I’m a big fan of pastels and bright pink too. I worked in Japan and Korea before, and I still get a lot of inspiration from their fashion and make-up trends.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I buy most of my clothes second-hand and I also like to design and make my own. In Germany, eBay is a goldmine for affordable, barely used brand clothes and shoes and it still has the same thrill of digging through piles of clothes in normal second-hand store as you browse and bid. Zalora (online store in the Philippines) features also local brands and young designers, but you have to use a shopping service to order from abroad.  For brick-and-mortar stores, I like Goodwill in the US (e.g. Ted Baker dress for 12 USD), “Beautiful Store (아름다운가게)” in Korea (many local + international brands – I got the mint and black A.P.C. jacket that apparently sold out everywhere since Kim Kardashian bought it – for 8 USD), Don Don Down on Wednesday and Mode Off in Japan. And finally coming from Czech Republic, our local brand Pietro Filipi has beautiful, high-quality clothes for professionals at very decent prices.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Elegant backpack since I have to carry laptop, documents and samples around a lot, comfortable nude mid-heel pumps to replace my dying pair, nicely fitted black dressy jacket since I don’t have one yet, and I’d like to design something inspired by what I’ve seen on the 2017 runway when I have a couple days off during Easter.

Boots or Shoes?

Shoes, I feel like they suit me better.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about FoPo.

www.myfopo.com
https://www.facebook.com/fopofoodpowder/
https://www.instagram.com/myfopo/
https://twitter.com/myfopo

Some interesting food ideas there using your food powders Vita, and  exciting plans afoot. I quite like the sound of the homemade mango marshmallows!  Dear readers, do you like the idea of the food powders?  What powder recipe would tickle your tastebuds?  Do share your thoughts, I’d love to know…

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission from FoPo.

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An Interview With ByNina

East meets West this week on my blog as my guest is Nina Paul who grew up in India but has spent her adult life in England.  Nina is founder and director of ByNina, a fabulous clothing and jewellery range with Indian influence but tailored to western trends.  I caught up with Nina recently to find out more….hi Nina!

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Hi! I’m Nina .. and I have just launched a luxury, ethical clothing and jewellery range. My aim is to provide “pieces of art” that shows off the beauty and craftsmanship that can come for materials produced and made out of India.

What inspired you to set up your brand, ByNina?

I’ve been working in the corporate space for over 15 years but despite launching several innovative products, I lacked a sense of satisfaction. I was helping myself, but really.. was I making a difference to the world? NO. So when I went back to India and realised that my one true love,which is handmade fashion, was declining rapidly, it became my mission and goal to help revitalise this and give people back their faith.

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Have you always had a passion for fashion, or did you have other career aspirations when you were younger?

To be honest ..fashion is what you make it. My passion as always been about finding pieces that mean something. Of course I love looking at all the amazing shoes, clothes and jewellery out there, but recently I’ve come to realise these are just material things. When you buy something that has an impact (no matter how small) on helping an entire economy and combined with the fact that it it is a piece of art.. no matter how small or big the art is, it just makes you feel all the more precious. Every piece in my collection comes from loving hands and made with pride and care.

I love the Peach Flower Dress, the Sheer chiffon kaftan dress & the Silk Chiffon contrast kaftan dress! The colours of all the items in your clothing collection are gorgeous. Have you got a favourite item from your collection?

My favourite from the collection is the sunshine dress… but I love them all. We worked so hard to create each piece it would be like picking your favourite from your own kids, Impossible! The best part is seeing the artisans go from “What is a cuff??” to actually coming up with their own designs.. it doesn’t matter how weird or wonderful, they each have a special place in my heart as I know the care that has gone in to them, and the fact that it is bringing back FAITH and HOPE.

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Although you love travelling, India is your 2nd home as well as being the place you spent your childhood in. What is it particularly about India that has captured your heart?

India is a land of colour. I was inspired by this but also by the hospitality of the people. When you first land to when you leave, you will realise you can’t forget India 🙂 There are people that either love or hate it, but hey. that’s fashion right?

Apart from fashion, you also design some exquisite jewellery using gemstones sourced from mines all over India & crafted by artisans in the “city of gems”, Jaipur. Do you have a favourite personal gemstone? What gemstone is popular at the moment amongst your customers?

As I said .. that would be like asking to pick a favourite child. I love them all, but I would have to say the sapphire range and the sunshine dress are my babies. The sunshine dress was the hardest to create as it was one of the first in my range and we went through several versions, till they finally got it right. You truly do feel like a princess. The sapphire range.. well sapphires stand for themselves, beauty, strength, purity, sparkle, colour. And a whole lot of people involved in every piece 🙂

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Your company is based in England – are your designs available to purchase worldwide?

Everywhere, and everyone. The more you buy the more I can keep the artisans at work. But it’s not just me, you only have to visit India and find out for youselves.

When designing outfits/jewellery to add to your collection, do you take into account your own tastes, your customer base, current fashion trends, requests, traditional styles or bits of all those?

Well… shy as they may be, my artisans have a mind of their own, While I did take in to account what I liked, I also let them run riot. Why not… let creativity flow 🙂

Your outfits have been tailored to western tastes for ready-to-wear looks. When discussing your ideas & designs with the artisans, was it easy to get your ideas across? Is there an east/west fashion taste difference?

Well.. yes, the funny part now looking back, although it definitely was not funny at the time, was teaching them that short is OK, see-through is OK, frills NOT ok:) So many stories and adventures, I hope one day I can put them all down in writing. For now I am storing them in my memories.

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Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I LOVE clothes, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE shoes even more. But, then again I’ve had time to reflect.. now that I have put everything in to the business, I actually wear my own stuff ..not so much to show off but it just reminds me of the care that went in and how proud I am of the people behind each piece.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites? (Apart from your own!)

Everlane, people tree, independent boutiques round London (So many it’s hard to pick!)

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

My wishlist .. I “wish” … that will be a long time to come. My next list is to have a jewellery range that is based around star signs and birthstones, but I’m going to let the artisans come up with their own ideas and name each piece after them.

Boots or Shoes? 

Both.. boots for walking, and shoes (in my world these are slippers or heels) for flaunting 🙂

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about ByNina.

https://www.instagram.com/byninadesigns/
https://www.facebook.com/byninadesigns/
https://twitter.com/ninasdesigns

It was great to chat to you Nina and I hope you do put a book together detailing the many stories and adventures involved in setting up your fashion business. It is fascinating how different cultures approach fashion, eg the Indians liking frills, the French smart dress sense etc Dear readers, have you ever bought an outfit from a different country than your own?  What differences in style did you find? Do tell, I’d love to know,

Linda x

All photos published with kind permission from ByNina/Nina Paul

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An Interview With Durga Universe

Hailing from Amsterdam, new designer brand, Durga Universe, created by Dorit Kozlovski, brings a spiritual edge to contemporary fashion. The collection is a delicious mix of eccentricity, extravagance and colour – all underpinned by the brand’s motto of “reuse, reduce & recycle”.  This is daring fashion at its very best and not one for shrinking violets!  I caught up with Dorit to discover what makes her tick and what actually lurks in her closet…..

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Hello lovely Boots Shoes and Fashion readers! I’m happy to contribute to this wonderful blog. I am Dorit, the creator and designer of Durga Universe. As the name Universe suggests – it is where everyone and everything exists. The fire Goddess Durga is my highest self / deity according to an Indian magi astrologist. (Goddess Durga symbolizes the divine forces (positive energy) known as divine feminine energy/ power that is used against the negative forces of evil and wickedness. Durga slays negative traits and is the joy in the cosmic dance of life.) These powerful names give me complete freedom to create sustainable fashion, music, art, shows and involve amazing artists of all areas! My mission is not only to create, but shed the light on a love based economy, where mass-production, greed and exploitation of people and resources have no room! I promote conscious consumerism.

What inspired you to launch Durga Universe?

I’ve always loved creativity. Living in Amsterdam for 10 years, I realized that creativity was a way to distract the mind from the desires that Amsterdam offers. This was really important for myself and  my friends around me, who were all captured by an unhealthy lifestyle, yet at the same time so inspired by Amsterdam and the deep exploration of the almighty consciousness. In my darkest times, Durga was always the light at the end of the tunnel. The more I’ve been diving into the creativity, the happier I feel.

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Have you always had a passion for fashion?

I’ve always had passion for beauty and fashion by expressing through colours and mismatching styles, mainly rebelling against the political constraints or people’s mindset. Many other reasons, for example: growing up in the Soviet Union, within the grey dullness; my father having been sentenced for 4 years in prison for secretly exporting vintage clothes to Estonia for “capitalist” activity; people wearing certain clothing in what was considered to be “appropriate” for the style of music or group setting –  got me to express myself passionately. My dear friend,  Manchester born Zoe Edge, says it well in a song we produced together “Be a lion,not a sheep”. I think that has also become the motto of Durga.

The collection is eccentric, extravagant, and brimming with a kaleidoscope of edgy colours – I do so love colour- what was the inspiration for the vibrant collection?

Durga is all about colour. To liven up the streets from being dominated by grey, black and blue shades, that seem to be absorbed by the masses. To awaken to oneself as a God/ Goddess and realise that we are all responsible for how we live our life and how we live/think/feel/perceive each day. Durga creations emphasize the uniqueness of each and every one of us, therefore, they are one of a kind designs that I try not to define as a “collection”.  A collection to me is the notion of time and season, whilst Durga is about creating timeless designs not constrained by specific year or season.

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I totally love the “Durga Psychadelic Metamorphosis Butterfly Dress” and the  “Extravagant Eccentric Vibrant Purple Faux Fur Coat”. What outfits have proved popular so far this season? Have you got a personal favourite?

Thank you very much. I can’t define the popularity of Durga designs in a particular season. When I checked the favourites that people have chosen in the Durga Universe Etsy shop, the most attention has been given to the up-cycled art coats/ jackets for men by graffiti artist Cian Muggler and my crochet blended colorful scarf dresses.

My personal favourite is the Ethnic Eccentric Faux Fur coat, it reminds me of Mongolian shamanism, Asian spirituality, accentuated with glam rock faux fur. The coat combines so many different elements, even pieces of my sons’ red vintage jeans…

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All your photo shoots feature local talent and locations that showcase the allure of Amsterdam. It certainly is a fantastic city and really epitomises your motto – daring fashion for urban gods and goddesses. Have you got any favourite locations in Amsterdam?  Where was the most oddest/most daring photoshoot spot?

Amsterdam is truly the playground for magic and creativity. The oddest shooting was in my favourite bar, the Blarney Stone. After 2 attempts of filming a bar scene for the video “Forgiveness”, after getting the whole crew together – firstly, there was a problem with camera; second time,the light.  On the third attempt, the gathering of people for our shoot disappeared and our leading man Tom could not stay.  However, we found a Welsh rugby team enjoying a stag party in the bar. I asked them all to get involved in the set: as security for holding  back the crowds passing by during the filming and of course, the stag himself playing the actor part. It was getting very dangerous as the shoot was going on a long time… some team members got a bit messy and the expensive equipment was in jeopardy! It really tested the patience of Xander productions and Visual Susana. As crazy as it was with all the mad energy in and outside of the Blarney; it surely was the most odd and funniest experience so far during the set.

Which famous lady and gent would you love to see as the “faces” of Durga Universe?

A Durga bearer can be anyone appreciating a bit of magic, daring, perhaps in the path of reconnecting with one’s true nature. I do admire free spirits, those not afraid to express themselves. It would be an honour if Roisin Murphy would wear Durga. My new project – 100% hemp coats representing Goddesses/ Gods painted by different artists should be completed by the end of Spring 2016. I would love to ask Sinead O’ Connor to wear one of the coats (perhaps the “Tree of Life”), to remind her how significant her music and poetry has been in raising awareness about paganism, showing true emotions, standing up against injustice. She was such an inspiration to me as a teenager. Perhaps I could regain her faith in herself and humanity. I could imagine Ian Brown from Stone Roses wearing the Fireface jacket painted by artist Cian Muggler.

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You have travelled far and wide and Durga’s textile inventory includes ethnic handwoven textiles handmade by local Laos artisans, luxurious Indian silks, rare faux fur and vintage fabrics. What do you look for when choosing your textiles? What place/country impresses you most with its array of textiles?

Fabrics that are inspiring, colourful and have some sort of emotional value are unique and sustainable. I mostly go with the feeling and a lot of times, I get an idea when I see a certain fabric. Some fabrics are gifts from friends or family that later evolve into ideas. For example, the Long Classic Peacock Dress is made from  sari material given to me by my mother years ago when she visited India and I just recently got an idea to make it into an open back dress with a longer back flair.

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As you are based in Amsterdam, are your clothes available to overseas customers?

Absolutely. I have an online webshop and I also sell via Etsy.com, shipping worldwide. I intend to open my own atelier shop in Amsterdam soon.

Being well travelled, where is the most unusual place you’ve visited? What’s your favourite location? What country/place is currently number one on your travel bucket list?

Travelling is truly important in my life and such a contribution to my happiness. I think I’ve always travelled whether physically, in my imagination or within my consciousness. The most fascinating has always been travelling within myself. Regarding the physical travels, the most humbling and extreme was the Amazonian jungle in Ecuador, with massive spiders, huge paralyzing ants, big beautiful slow-motion colourful butterflies, birds and the dangers of anacondas etc. Closest to my heart is the ashram of my spiritual teacher, the hugging mother AMMA India. Number one on my bucket list is a Columbian jungle trip, visiting 11 shamanic tribes.

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Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I am a huge fan of spontaneous vintage shopping. Most of the outfits I wear are vintage designs found from all parts of the globe. I also shop consciously in alternative stores. For example, Alien boots from Cyberdog in Camden.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I love Etsy.com, where artisans from all over the world sell unique clothing. Vintage shops and markets everywhere. I do not support global corporations and corporate brands based on a greedy economy, pollution and slavery.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

I am grateful of everything I have and not in need of anything particular. I do admire inspiring artists and recycling, which I gladly support.

Boots or Shoes?

Depending on the environment… definitely boots in the Netherlands, very practical due to the weather conditions; sandals in any warm country and barefoot whenever I can.


Links you would like to share:

Durga Universe social media links and shops:
Twitter https://twitter.com/durgauniverse
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/DurgaUniverse/
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Wow, Dorit, you are one interesting and sassy lady!  Your clothes are very vibrant and I love your use of textiles too. I must say, your bucket list number 1 trip sounds very adventurous – if you do manage to go, I’d love to hear all about it! Dear readers, are you vintage/textile fans? Are you brave enough to wear bright colours?  Are you adventurous?  Do let me know how adventurous you are ! 

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission from Dorit at Durga Universe.  The photographers are: Xander Productions, Elena San Francisco Photography, Luca Chiapatti Photography.  The models are: Sasha Kalashnikova, Marta, Sonia Lawicka, Ramona.

 

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