At the risk of sharing TMI, I just got back from a romantic trip to Bruges which perfectly coincided with my period. I don’t normally write in acronyms, but having found a new solution to life’s unmentionables, I feel like my pre-teen self experiencing a period for the first time, so 4YEO FYEO (for your eyes only) here are my new period pants.
On the blob in Bruges, it was a good time to get brave and try something different, whilst doing my bit to minimise the flow of the sanitary pad footprint. My weekend wash bag for Belgium was leaner and greener with no disposable pads or tampons, as I packed panties from Modibodi instead. These Modibodi bamboo undies are reusable and sustainable – designed not only for women and girls, but for the benefit of all of the bodies on this planet.
Read my review and interview with Modibodi founder and CEO Kristy Chong, who (along with Belgium chocolate) helped me unlock the magic combination of comfort and confidence during that not-so-hot time of the month…
Kristy, the creator of Modibodi and I talk the same language. She accumulated over 13 years experience in senior PR roles before making Modibodi, and the kind of products a PR professional dreams of. The collections not only look cool, they also support causes worth shouting about, such as Days for Girls. This charity particularly struck a chord with me, as I was introduced to Days for Girls by a friend I lost to cancer last year. You know the friend that makes you laugh so much you wet yourself? Well, she was mine, so Modibodi’s leak-proof technology springs to mind as I start my questions for Kristy.
What ignited the motivation for you to own your own business?
From a young age I always knew I wanted to own my own business. The concept of Modibodi came when I was in Seattle, after the birth of my second child, I was doing a lot of running and traveling and came to the realisation that my underwear was failing to protect me from sweat and the occasional bladder weakness. I started to think about all the times as a woman underwear fails us.
For the 1 in 3 women with light incontinence and for every menstruating women, most can recall stories of that embarrassing situation in which her underwear failed to protect her from a leak, or they have endured years of using inconvenient, uncomfortable and eco-damaging disposable hygiene to stay protected. I wanted create a whole new product category for women that helps them better manage menstrual flow or incontinence, and to reduce the number of single-use products ending up in landfill and damaging our environment. Modibodi is fashionable, sustainable, hi-tech, super comfortable underwear that totally replaces the need for disposable hygiene!
Can you tell me more about your support for Days for Girls?
As the issues of women’s health and rights are so close to my heart, I have made it a core pillar from the outset that Modibodi support women in need.
Days for Girls was one of the first organisations Modibodi supported which lead to us evolving our CSR globally. We have worked in partnership with initiatives such as Share the Dignity, the McGrath Foundation and School for Life and felt it was time to establish the ‘Give a Pair’ initiative to directly deliver product into the hands of women in need, and raise funds through direct sales of product.
Customers across the globe can ‘make a virtual donation’ on modibodi.com and Modibodi will donate a pair of Modibodi underwear to young girls & women in need. We also pledge to match all donations our customers make. Therefore, each time you purchase a GIVE A PAIR donation, you are essentially providing 2 women life changing underwear!
When you were setting up Modibodi, what was your most challenging moment?
Thankfully all of our failures have been relatively small, and not too costly. But when Modibodi has failed, I let myself feel the disappointment and then I use that energy to put processes in place to prevent that from happening again or to pivot and look at other ways to do it. It’s important to take responsibility for those failures because it makes you stronger in the end.
Do you miss anything about your PR days?
The PR profession is made up of a majority of women, and I loved working with creative, super driven, high energy women. But I love the journey I am on now.
What advice would you give a woman with an idea looking to start her own business?
That you are like a rubber band, you will definitely feel stretched, but you won’t break, you will bounce back. And get comfortable with being uncomfortable because in business you will feel a lot of uncomfortable.
When women discover your designs do they share their embarrassing period stories?
We are very fortunate to have amazing women who have joined the Modibodi Movement that share their stories and experiences with us and with our wider community. We are proud that through our blog, emails and social media we are able to converse and engage with our followers and customers. One of my personal favorites is this story from Helen:
I’m a little angry. I’m 26 years old. That’s a lot of period. Why weren’t you around when I was 12? I’m sure you know this but female sanitary products have a GST tax placed on them and condoms don’t?!? That is the first reason I was looking for an alternative to the nasty products which I have been using regardless of the slight allergic reaction I had to them, making that time of the month all the much worse. Since the age of 12 I have had to skip days of school (and since, work) because it was just that heavy, I was continuously worried about leakage and I couldn’t think through that and the pain. This month, I thought I would try Modibodi and my goodness IM IN LOVE. The bamboo undies are so soft and pretty too! I was thinking about posting a photo of my undies previously reserved only for those particularly heavy days, but I was too embarrassed. While your pretty undies can’t take away the pain they definitely make my bloated belly feel a lot sexier! I slept in them for the first-time last night and I didn’t have to worry about the undies being messed up in my sleep as I would a pad, there was absolutely no leakage and I woke up feeling like I didn’t have my period at all. In the past, the first thing I would do would be to go straight to the toilet and change my product but I didn’t feel gross one bit in Modibodi. I just really wanted to say thank you so much for creating these beautiful, useful, delightful undies. I really feel like they might change my period forever. Thank you!
As for my review…this is me, nappy free, galavanting about Bruges in my Modibodis with the kind of liquid love my husband and I could still enjoy on our weekend away – Belgium’s chocolatey stouts.
Another nice thing about the pants is that you don’t have to worry about nasties from plastic materials touching your skin. I recently switched to organic pads, but with a glass door separating our hotel bedroom from our bathroom, it was wonderful not worrying about the less sexy stripping noise of separating a pad from your panties.
Modibodi also unlocked the option of a sexy beige.
I started with the Classic Bikini, but I also like the look of the high waisted Sensual Full Brief. They’ve also got your backstroke ready for summer with leak-proof swimwear. The first release is almost sold out, so keep an eye out for stock drops in the spring.
More on Modibodi.com
Learn about how you can help Days for Girls here
©Photographs Reclaimed Woman. Inspirational graphics from @modibodiaustralia Instagram
If it takes a collective to make a fashion, it takes collective action to end fashion abuse.
Labour Behind the Label do not advocate boycotting brands as this can have a negative impact on workers, but they do want fashion consumption to slow down to ease the constant pressure to produce more. The Six Items Challenge is designed to highlight the speed of fashion, where it is common for brands to change their stock every four to six weeks. The event takes place from 14th February till 29th March 2018 – covering Valentines Day, London Fashion Week, and Lent. Ethics are an increasingly fashionable issue, but no matter what fashion means to you, these dates resonate for many of us and encourage reflection on a consumer society.
It is easier than you think, as the Six Items Challenge allows for an unlimited number of shoes and accessories, socks, underwear and pyjamas. Good news for shoe people, aka me, but bad news for those looking for an excuse to let the new year gym membership lapse, aka me, as the challenge even allows performance clothes to maintain a fitness regime. The rules also permit me to pick one coat as an extra item because it is winter. Those that are good with a sewing machine, aka not me, can make the most of even more choices through customisation. I personally welcome the freedom from too many choices and that common feeling of a wardrobe full of clothes, yet nothing to wear.
Okay, enough about my trivial dilemma, when this challenge supports the belief that no-one should live in poverty for the price of a cheap t-shirt.
Founded in 2001, Labour Behind the Label is the only UK campaign group that focuses exclusively on labour rights in the global garment industry. Researching and lobbying in support of workers, it campaigns for people across the world that face the daily grind without basic human rights – ranging from the lack of a living wage to working in fear for their life. Labour Behind the Label is instrumental in pushing UK retailers to sign agreements such as the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, which ensures Rana Plaza victims receive long-term compensation. Beyond the fatalities that make headlines, it campaigns against the systemic exploitation in fashion.
It is not too late to join the fashion fast, and whether you are taking part or supporting, Labour Behind the Label encourages all of us to think about the story we want our clothes to tell. How we consume shapes our connection with clothes and with faster, cheaper fashion it is unsurprising that garments have lost their value. Disposable fashion not only puts pressure on manufacturing and the planet, but also on the consumer to constantly change their look.
Before the emergence of trendy teen shops in the sixties and seventies, people often made their own clothes. My mum still describes the genuine pleasure she got from, one – her going out top, two – her jeans, three – her maxi dress, four – the cheesecloth shirt she found at Kensington market, five – her brown velvet jacket, and six – the silk blouse hand-me-down from her mother.
This is of course a new time, and six items is very different in the age of Instagram, but if garment workers had as many eyes on their stories, it would surely bring about a lasting change in fashion.
Sign up for your own Six Items Challenge before 14th February 2018
© Photographs Reclaimed Woman and courtesy of Labour Behind the Labour
I recently transformed my kitchen into a walk-in wardrobe and my living room into my kitchen, so I thought this was a recipe worth sharing.
My kitchen before
Tiny kitchens are the norm in flats in London and although at one stage I merely used mine to reheat or “cook” salad, this was my chance to make a space I wanted to spend time in. The original kitchen was a cavelike windowless room, far more suited to clothing than cooking.
wall cabinet – 1940s staff noticeboard salvaged from Kings Cross station on SalvoWEB with gold knobs saved from a built-in wardrobe that was in my bedroom. The back of the noticeboard was removed so the glass doors could be mounted in front of shelves made of reclaimed wood from Pine Supplies
lights – Deco lampshades from The Architectural Forum
radiator – old panel radiator, reclaimed, restored and painted black by The Architectural Forum
cooker and dishwasher – reused from the old kitchen with a new gas hob to replace the old electric hot plates
splashback – reclaimed marble scraps from sculptor John Joekes
cabinets – reused carcasses from the old kitchen with doors made of gymnasium floorboards salvaged from a school near Berlin by Historische Bauelemente
worktop – reclaimed wood lab top salvaged from a school by Source Antiques
sink – Armitage Shanks butler sink salvaged from a local yard with brass bib taps from Catchpole & Rye
vintage glass – Libbey Glass tumblers from Olde Good Things
vintage crockery – including green Beryl Ware plates and bowls from Insitu
original oak floor
I spent over seven months sourcing salvage. Designing a kitchen with reused and reclaimed materials doesn’t require such a long cooking time, but I wanted the chance to get to know the space. Although the old kitchen was dingy and dated, it was fine for my first months in the flat.
Consulting SalvoWEB throughout the journey, I set about realising the reclaimed dream I sketched on a napkin in New York. I rarely found what I imagined, but one ingredient led to the next and my taste matured. I originally envisaged a glamorous kitchen to prove that salvage could look polished, but I fell for honest materials and I wanted to feel their provenance. I love the fact that girls were playing games back in 1910 on floorboards that now front my kitchen doors. What could be more glamorous than that?
©Photographs Reclaimed Woman
British bee supporting cause aside, it’s just a brilliant statement sweatshirt. Gung Ho donates £5 to a charity that works with endangered bees with every purchase of this piece.
The Gung Ho philosophy is undeniably designed to get people talking with its forward thinking ethics, but British-made collections, organic fabrics and climate neutral clothes are not without seriously appealing aesthetics.
I chatted to the London-based designer Sophie Dunster about her brand of sustainable fashion and being genuinely fashion. Gung Ho isn’t preachy and they appreciate people might just fall for their prints, but every garment has a hidden meaning for those that want to look further. Subtly connecting her customers with social and environmental issues, Sophie calls it “wearing your heart on your sleeve.”
I picked-up my Gung Ho sweatshirt and these vintage ‘80s ski pants from the heart of my neighbourhood, London’s Portobello Road. Gung Ho is stocked at Ethical Collection and I encourage anyone looking for flattering trousers to seek ski pants from Clemmie Myers at Lime Green Bow Vintage.
Even in my current state, with a broken foot, I couldn’t bee happier. Okay, enough bee jokes, here is my interview with Sophie.
You are Gung Ho and extremely enthusiastic about fashion with meaning and the causes you support. Do you think the fashion revolution is a battle?
Change is always tricky, but we’re seeing such a positive switch in that people now feel they can personally make a difference. It doesn’t feel impossible anymore! With all the big changes, Trump, Brexit.. people are really having to question what they want to stand for.
The challenge for the sustainable fashion industry is to make the products just as, if not, more exciting than the standard options – so appealing to those who don’t necessarily shop ethical. Gung Ho wants to be at the forefront of this change.
What’s in your heart for the sleeves you will create in 2018?
Gung Ho started off representing the everyday issues, like what sort of washing detergent you should be using, but we found it’s good to rep the issues people are aware of and feel passionate about. For SS18 we will be launching our campaign for the impact of plastics and the oceans! It’s an issue that a lot of people are aware of now and it definitely has tugged on a few heart strings – especially with Blue Planet.
You were raised on a low carbon lifestyle. How is taking your way of life and building it into a sustainable business?
It’s been a challenge to find the right suppliers that live up to the standards we want to keep, especially as we try and keep our carbon footprint as little as possible and want to support small local businesses. This also makes it harder to keep items affordable, but we do our best and we have wonderful relationships with our suppliers – it’s nice to work with other like minded people.
©Photographs courtesy of Gung Ho
Fashion Revolution fanzine #001:Money Fashion Power pages of poetry, illustration, photography, graphic design and editorials that explore the hidden stories behind our clothes
green rose earrings by Gung Ho from Ethical Collection
nothing more, nothing less t-shirt by Prabal Gurung from YOOXYGEN
lip crayon in shade Keen by Axiology from Content Beauty
sample vial of Edition Perfume She Came to Stay inspired by the novel written by Simone de Beauvoir in 1943. A unique stocking filler or just an excuse to top-up the shopping basket and enjoy the holiday discounts on Content Beauty when you spend £30+ (ends 29th Nov 2017)
candy skull leggings by Yoga Democracy from Rêve En Vert
antique jewellery box LASSCO
face care kit Natural Spa Supplies featuring British Hemp Oil Soft Soap, Rhassoul Clay, fragrant Organic Rose water and Virgin Cold Pressed Organic Argan Oil
I recently discovered that my nickname at university was the swan. Okay so I have a long neck, but my friend suggested that it was more likely to do with my perfect hair. Rest assured, I also dislike the woman with the “perfect hair” my friend described, as perfectionists never see perfect in themselves. Nor am I a fan of people referring to themselves as perfectionists, but before I hit the back bar on this whole paragraph, I’ll get to the point. Renovating my flat with reclaimed materials gave way to a total mind shift. From perfection seeker to imperfection appreciator. When you buy new, the shine often fades with the first scratch or signs or wear. However, buying reclaimed pieces and reusing old materials freed me to be less precious, knowing that loving signs of use would only add to their characterful beauty.
Born from Zen Buddhism, wabi-sabi cannot be bought. Your appreciation might start with a single chipped vase you have had forever. Rather than discarding it, the Japanese philosophy encourages you to accept things as they are. Wabi-sabi is the wonky, handmade, home-grown and weathered with age. A u-turn from the mass-produced, single-use society, it teaches us to be content and cherish what we have.
I am not pretending to have found zen, I still fuss with my hair for about fifteen minutes every morning. But through reuse and renovating my home with natural materials, I am making a more genuine environment that will continue to get better with age.
Difficult to translate into words, I am still working at my definition of a wabi-sabi way of life. However, I think I am close when I appreciate the imperfect pattern of white ceramic tiles at the back of my wardrobe (that was once the kitchen). Rather than sending the tiles to landfill, they live with my clothes and accessories as an accepted part of my home’s history.
Reclaimed doors and sanitary ware at V&V Reclamation / my irregular wardrobe tiles
©Photographs Reclaimed Woman
Just like a business, we personally rely on our reputation so we should all know a bit about PR. The other week I saw movement maker and musician, Charlie Dark talk about his life through the theme of encouragement. The plus one of a friend, I had no idea what I was walking into when I pulled-up a pew in the charming chapel at The House of St. Barnabas, a not-for-profit members’ club in London. Here is some of the wisdom I walked away with intertwined with stories from that week. I hope it helps your understanding of PR and why we should all be PRing not only others, but ourselves.
My professional reputation had me addressing a room full of women in business on the power of PR. In the name of encouraging women through mentorship, of course I was game, and armed with a decade of experience in PR to talk about. Less seasoned in running my own business, the journey for Reclaimed Woman has just begun, so I felt like an imposter advising women on their businesses when I too am a beginner. Charlie Dark had his audience introducing themselves to the person next to them by paying them a compliment. Charlie explained that as children, we lap up encouragement but as puberty hits we’re more ready to reject compliments. PR and positive talk have the power to influence perception. Talking myself back into being comfortable at beginner phase, open to encouragement, helped both me and the audience recognise our abilities and limitations to move forward for the future.
A few days later, the future kicks in, and I am in a café feeling momentarily flat. An older man (about 70) with a face as youthful as my new business joins the queue and asks me: “Are you a happy bunny?” At that moment, I wasn’t, but with his genuine smile and my answer that I was, I suddenly was. His question was his PR, you never get a second chance at a first impression and his charisma totally transformed my mood.
Charlie Dark started and finished his talk with the importance of finding your champions, people that will not necessarily always give you or tell you what you want to hear, but that will encourage you. Growing-up in a part of London where people on his street didn’t make it much further than their neighbourhood, all Charlie wanted was a bike so he could explore a bit further. Instead of the bike-shaped present he hoped to see one birthday morning, his mum presented two gifts. The first was a box of pins and the second was a globe. She told him to close his eyes and put a pin in the globe, for wherever it landed, she would take him. The pin landed on the boot and kicked Charlie and his champion to Rome.
I just lost one of my champions to cancer. My friend Charmaine was a talented costume designer with confidence that she shared with everyone that crossed her path. Dressing actors and models, she saw the insecurities that don’t come through on screen and found admirable self-believe.
Build your champions in the media by believing in yourself and what you are pitching. Every morning, Charlie Dark wakes up to a wall of street art in his garden with these encouraging words. Repeat after me: “I am enough.”
©Photograph of me wearing a trench by independent designer Naya Rea courtesy of All Women Should Own – a new project with my friend and champion Roxanne Chen. To be continued…