J. Hannah’s Designer On Minimalism And Matching Your Mani To Your Jewelry

If you aren’t lucky enough to inherit jewelry that you can wear forever, J. Hannah is the next best thing. Founded by Jess Hannah Révész, J. Hannah is all about pieces that are meant to be future heirlooms. In fact, the line with a cult-following was inspired by jewelry Révész received from her grandmother. The jewelry line was officially launched in 2014, and nail polish followed a few years later when she needed just the right palette to compliment her pieces. Now J. Hannah is stocked everywhere from FortyFiveTen to 10 Corso Como to Violet Grey, Barneys Japan and Need Supply, to name just a few. Révész gives us the scoop on her line.

A model wearing J. Hannah jewelry and nail polish


Why did you decide to focus on sustainability? At the early stages of J. Hannah I was making each piece myself by hand, and sustainability was default to my practice. Learning about where my materials came from was part of the craft that drew me in in the first place. As our orders increased and it was no longer possible to personally make the jewelry, I wanted to keep production local for control reasons. Using foreign manufacturers and materials never crossed my mind. As a jeweler myself I was aware of the environmental and ethical ailments of the industry and was conscious of circumventing these as we grew. It’s been an intentional and uphill journey to prioritize sustainability since then, but always worthwhile. What’s disheartening is that there are very limited independent certifications or standards, so you really need to do your own legwork to figure out what terms like “recycled” or “ethically sourced” mean to different suppliers. It’s taught me a lot about greenwashing and false marketing, and motivated me to be better at telling this story. It’s important to share how to authentically support and sustain better business practices with other jewelry companies as well as consumers.

J. Hannah jewelry


How is J. Hannah sustainable? For us, sustainability requires a thoughtful and holistic approach because there are so many points of consideration. Specifically, the ethics of environmentalism, humanitarian concerns and business operations are three areas we work to address in our efforts to be sustainable. We treat it as an ongoing effort, and something we are always actively striving for—not a definitive marker of achievement. We are just barely scratching the surface with these examples.

Environmental concerns most obviously include how much waste is produced by our business and if we are partnering with suppliers who are concerned with their effects on the environment. We’ve cut most plastic out of our packaging, aside from our nail polish caps and labels, and our shipping boxes come from an amazing company called EcoEnclose, which makes recyclable and compostable packaging using recycled materials. We make an effort to reuse any plastic that does end up in our offices from our jewelry manufacturers. Jewelry baggies were a hard thing to banish but we finally found a compostable alternative; these still of course have a disposal issue but strides are being made. All our cast gold and diamonds are 100% recycled, which was a hard-won goal since we weren’t willing to sacrifice in quality. It also required adapting certain designs, like our Diamond Demi Signet (which we will be changing to a brilliant cut versus the current rose cut because we can’t find a reliable ethical source), to ensure we would always be able to reliably source recycled stones. Currently we are working on incorporating detailed sourcing for each piece on our website for improved transparency with our customers.

Sometimes the most ecologically sustainable option is not the most human friendly approach. For example, using recycled gold makes the least impact on the environment, but what if you want to make a positive impact? Communities near sites rich with gemstones and metals will always mine there. Supporting safe and fairly compensated mining and stone cutting can make a huge difference in these communities. If more companies refuse to support unregulated and dangerous mining practices, we can show the world that exploitation is not lucrative. Our gemstones sometimes come from other countries, or they might be cut in other countries, but we make sure that each person in our supply chain was paid fairly and working under safe conditions.

This extends to our company culture, which I think is the last prong in our efforts to be genuinely sustainable. It matters to me that I have a monetarily viable business that can provide for its employees. At J. Hannah, despite being a very small team, that means healthcare, vacation time, etc. I consider this an essential investment in the foundation of the company. We all take care of each other.

Jess Hannah Révész

Jess Hannah Révész


How would you describe your aesthetic? It’s been described as “minimal” so many times but I’d have to respectfully disagree. More often than not my designs are informed by the decorative, historical, and traditional. If you boiled down these opulent themes into a reduction I think you get the J. Hannah aesthetic—simplified opulence, edited maximalism. Classics like signets and hoops are a huge part of our collection because they are wearable staples. Recently I’ve been delving more into kinetic and inventive designs. Our Objet Pendant, Duo Form Ring and Duet earrings are just a few pieces that employ moving parts, and there will be more.

Tell me about your philosophy of designing jewelry that never is taken off. “Never taken off” is how we want our customers to wear their jewelry, but it’s also a context for their purchase. We do not expect people to be able to afford our jewelry on a whim—it’s a luxury product. We see a lot of language used in our industry that tells women “this product will empower you” or “you need and deserve this,” as though jewelers are providing something necessary or benevolent, which is such a fiction. Jewelry is extra, it’s fun. It’s special and rare and expensive and hopefully something the customer will deeply consider as a special purchase that will last them a lifetime. We envision our customer as someone who saves up for that perfect piece of jewelry they’ve wanted for so long, or to commemorate a major life event. Hopefully they will pass it down one day as an heirloom. This feels closer to reality, which is important when we are continually exposed to entire Instagram feeds that promote excess as the norm. The prevalence of fast fashion works against us in so many ways and everything comes back to sustainability. Trend-based shopping is a wasteful pursuit. If the consumer started thinking about their purchases from a cost per wear perspective, it could change the whole design industry.

J. Hannah jewelry

J. Hannah jewelry


What are a few of your favorite pieces in your jewelry collection? I’m always found in at least one pinky ring—but usually two!—which currently is our Duet signet. Another favorite is our Clara necklace. A big part of why I became a jeweler was my early interest in tinkering with my grandmother’s jewelry. She had accumulated a lifetime of pieces that all had different significance for her. My favorite piece of hers inspired my Clara collection; it’s a delicate oval bead that is suspended from a cable chain. I elaborated on the original design with a few variations, including a bracelet and a few other necklaces. My Clara Necklace is a foundational piece that I never take off.

Why did you decide to launch a nail polish collection? It mostly started out of personal desire. I am often showing off the jewels on my hands, so I make an effort to keep them well-manicured. I was having so much trouble finding good colors at my usual nail salons aside from your typical fire engine red and a sea of pale pinks. I decided to fill the void I saw at the time, selfishly in a way I suppose. It has grown to become an integral part of the brand: A key storytelling opportunity (#jhcolortheory) as well as a product with a lower barrier to entry price point. It’s now more accessible to buy into the brand.

The J. Hannah nail polish collection

The J. Hannah nail polish collection


You said the palette is “color-resistant”—what does that mean? J. Hannah polish is not about having every color in the rainbow or following trends—rather a tight selection of effortlessly wearable colors. I figured I probably wasn’t the only one craving some respite from the louder pop colors you usually see on the shelf. I wanted to make it easier to find that laid back shade that you won’t ever get sick of, and that will actually look good once you put it on, not just in the bottle.

Why do you focus on neutral nail polish tones? We started with a palette dominated by neutrals, and we will definitely continue to expand our array of muted shades because you can never have too many. One of the reasons was my own frustration with how it was so difficult to select a color that would blend with my wardrobe. If it’s going to be on your nails for one to two weeks it should look good with anything you might want to wear, so that posed a fun design challenge for me. That said, some of our best sellers are actually our least neutral shades, like Eames (a midcentury green) and Ghost Ranch (our red rock shade). They’re colorful, but not in a polarizing way.

J. Hannah jewelry

J. Hannah jewelry


How can people choose a nail polish color to complement their jewelry? Styling advice is hard to give; I think it’s always a matter of personal choice and the main thing is that there are no rules. I think a good arena for juxtaposition is with cool and warm tones. Our aquamarine is an icy green color and it looks beautiful set in warm yellow gold. Ghost Ranch, our red rock shade of polish, looks incredible paired with bigger silver rings for a more modernist look. Maybe that’s because both evoke the New Mexican desert.


From ball pits to water slides: the designer who changed children’s playgrounds for ever

Before he built the world’s greatest playground and transformed the world of children’s design, Eric McMillan had spent little time thinking about how kids played. In 1971, the 29-year-old English immigrant was a design consultant living in Toronto, Canada – a sleepy city whose nickname “Toronto the Good” both referenced the place’s lingering Victorian moral rectitude and seemed to set a hard ceiling on its expectations for greatness. It would never be Toronto the exceptional, and the locals seemed content with that.

McMillan’s job was to design an exhibition for a massive new waterfront park called Ontario Place, whose somewhat unpromising theme was the glorious past and thrilling future of the province of Ontario. The architect Eberhard Zeidler had created a series of artificial islands and “pods” that stuck out of the water of Lake Ontario, skewered by columns like olives in a martini. The question of what to do with these architectural wonders, however, seemed to come second. “Now we had to think up a great idea for what to do with our island,” wrote Zeidler in his autobiography, Building Cities Life. “We thought we might have a nature reserve on them, but this was a short-lived dream because the wild animals could easily escape.”

Children’s Village at Ontario Place, Toronto, in 1976.
 Children’s Village at Ontario Place, Toronto, in 1976. Photograph: City of Toronto Archives

When the park opened in summer 1971, while visitors were awed by the park’s self-flushing toilets and Imax movies, one oversight quickly became clear: there wasn’t enough for kids to do. When the park decided to remedy that by building an area devoted to children for the following year, its director, James Ramsay, turned to McMillan.

The designer was lanky and outspoken, a wild-eyed Englishman with the accent and mannerisms of one of Monty Python’s more unhinged characters. He’d been responsible for the park’s most successful exhibition that year – a multimedia tour through the province’s history called Explosions – but he’d never built anything for children. During a meeting with Ramsay, McMillan remembers his boss asking for his opinion on the park. McMillan didn’t hesitate. “I think it’s boring,” he said. “Well, what would you do?” asked Ramsay. “I don’t know,” said McMillan. “Give me two weeks.”

McMillan huddled with his assistant, David Lloyd, and when they returned it was with a series of sketches for a playscape unlike any seen before. Children’s Village would be a massive success. It would launch McMillan’s career. It would sit at the centre of kid-life for a generation of Torontonians and, briefly, promise to revolutionise the way the world plays.

“I thought it was just another job,” says McMillan today. Ramsay thought differently. “He told me: ‘This is going to make you famous.’”

The playground is a curious creation. The first one in North America was a simple pile of sand in Boston’s north end, installed in 1885 by female philanthropists who wanted to give poor immigrant children a place to play and, crucially, a means to assimilate to American society. That push and pull, between providing children with autonomy and controlling them, has been at the heart of playground design ever since. They are places to expand children’s imaginations while constraining their physical bodies. “Playgrounds are places made by adults, for children, always with the hope of harnessing their play to a specific location,” writes Alexandra Lange in her book The Design of Childhood.

Eric McMillan at Children’s Village in 1973.
 Eric McMillan at Children’s Village in 1973. Photograph: Dick Loek/Toronto Star/Getty

In theme parks, where the prerequisites of play meet the demands of capitalism, the balance between stimulating a child’s creativity and keeping them in control becomes more wobbly. Parks in the Disneyland mould are, above all, about managing the play of children, moving them along efficiently, safely and profitably. The equipment is to be used in a specific way, with no latitude for experimentation. The modern theme park seems to apportion its share of imagination in a perverse way, offering boundless creativity to its designers while leaving little scope for the children themselves.

McMillan wasn’t interested in controlling kids. In designing Children’s Village, his driving philosophy was simple: “What would I, as a child, like to do?” But his conception of what a child might like to do was shaped by a childhood so full of Dickensian deprivation and casual violence that the idea of transplanting that experience to quiet 1970s Toronto is impossible to imagine.

In McMillan’s account of his life – a mixture of fact and family mythology that is difficult to untangle – he was stillborn during the bombing of Sheffield during the second world war and revived by a nurse, and from there life only got harder. “Lots of violence, lots of drinking, lots of poverty,” is his summary.

As a child, McMillan was often hungry and nearly always dirty. For a time, his family lived in the shadow of the Manchester prison called Strangeways. They were desperate enough that, one cold winter, his uncle and father broke into the prison to steal coal. He was constantly moving from rooming house to rooming house, school to school. His father was a day labourer, when he had work. On weekends, he would put on his one good suit and play piano in local pubs, earning as much in a single night as he would in a week, before drinking it all away.

The other side of a childhood of neglect is absolute freedom. “My early memories were just being like a dog, let out in the mornings and let in at night,” says McMillan. In those early years, he would play in the rubble of bombed-out buildings, clambering over the ruins, playing violent games with bricks, building paper airplanes out of the pages of discarded books. There were no restraints, no control.

One of Eric McMillan’s playground concepts
 One of Eric McMillan’s playground concepts

When he left school at 15, he could barely read or write and his hygiene habits were highly questionable. “Have you seen when the live crabs at the market are trying to crawl out of their crates? You’ll observe that the ones in the back are pulling back the ones that are trying to escape,” says McMillan. “That’s basically where I grew up.”

He got a job as a painter’s apprentice and prepared for a life as a labourer. The trade school was attached to an art school, however, and as he slowly began to talk with the neighbouring students, members of a social class he had never really encountered, the idea of applying there himself became fixed in his mind. He took the exams, got in and immediately entered a new world. When he graduated a few years later, it was with growing confidence and an enormous chip on his shoulder. After designing exhibitions in England, he saw ads looking for a designer for Expo 67 in Montreal and made his way across the Atlantic.

On his personal website, McMillan tells the story of how he escaped his upbringing with a characteristic mix of arrogance and deadpan understatement: “I became an apprentice house painter, and then moved up to art school and then I became a genius and moved to North America.”

I’ve known Eric McMillan since I was a child. My father, another English immigrant who found himself in Canada in the 1970s, was also on the original Ontario Place team, and the two quickly became friends. I remember him striding into our house – a wild presence, all jutting elbows and knees, who would appear out of nowhere with a trunk full of plastic balls or a truckload of couch-sized interlocking plastic blocks, prototypes for a new experiment in fort-building.

At Children’s Village, McMillan was left to himself with a $700,000 budget. Prickly and protective over his vision, he demanded full control. “I think I have the reputation of telling more ministers and deputy ministers to fuck off than anyone else,” he says.

The time in which he was working was a remarkably fertile one for children’s design. In the postwar era, with the baby boom, there were suddenly new economies around childhood. “It led to tremendous innovation,” says Alexandra Lange. With government and institutional support, designers felt free to experiment. “People at the highest echelon of design were interested in childhood,” says Lange. “It wasn’t a subset, it was at the centre of design.”

This was the era in which “junk playgrounds” or “adventure playgrounds” – places where tiny children were given tool belts and fistfuls of nails and left to build their own forts – proliferated across the continent. It was an era in which designers emerging from the 60s, full of dreams about building political and social utopias, took their visions to the local parks, building abstract sculptures and modernist experiments that children could clamber over.

Children’s Village in 1975.
 Children’s Village in 1975. Photograph: Graham Bezant/Toronto Star/Getty

At Children’s Village, McMillan built two and a half acres of mayhem under an orange canopy – reproducing in the safety of Toronto his feral childhood spent scrabbling through rubble, with mountains of colourful vinyl and foam. He erected an enormous spider web structure that hung from soaring watchtowers. He built a series of wooden ladders that spun on their axes, hurling would-be climbers to the mats below. He strung swinging monkey bars over a pool of water and suspended a forest of punching bags at the centre of the village that was, for decades, the most reliable producer of bloody noses in Toronto.

When the park opened in July 1972, it immediately became the city’s capital of kids’ play. “I had never seen anything like it,” remembers Irina Ceric, now a professor in British Columbia. “It was entirely designed just for kids in a way that other parks weren’t. It was the best thing that I had ever seen.”

In my memory, the overriding feeling of entering Children’s Village was an exhilarating, perhaps even slightly scary freedom. The world under the iconic orange canopy was capacious enough that you always felt as if there were undiscovered corners – a child-sized hamster wheel beneath a small hill, a new rope bridge from one of the watchtowers you’d never taken. Here, at last, was a place that had been built specifically for you and then left to your dominion. There were no parents to help you in the chaos of the punching bags. Exactly how you chose to scramble your brain while flinging yourself between the giant vertical rubber bands was your business. The place was yours. It was your village.

Children’s Village was a hit. Families flocked to it and international media praised it, with Time calling it “one of the most imaginative playgrounds in the world”. The next year, the Ontario Place brass gave McMillan control over another section of the park and he set to work creating a water play area, with lagoons and climbing equipment amid rushing water.

Building before the first water parks or splash pads, McMillan created his attractions from scratch, gathering a team of prop builders, metal workers and craftspeople to manufacture the enormous squirting faces controlled by pumps and bicycle-powered water guns he dreamed up. One of the early visitors to McMillan’s park was an American named George Millay. Today Millay is credited as the father of the water park, the progenitor of a massive industry. When Millay opened the first Wet ’n Wild in Orlando in 1977, however, the name he gave the children’s area was a tip of the cap to his inspiration: Canadian Water Caper.

With his success at Ontario Place, McMillan became a major figure in the blossoming world of children’s design. “Suddenly I became the world’s expert on child’s play,” says McMillan. People were calling him the next Walt Disney and the “father of soft play” for his use of vinyl-clad foam. Over the next decade he designed playgrounds in various SeaWorlds in America and amusement parks in France. He built a park in a mall in Chicago and was shuttled out to Alabama and asked to transform 3,000 acres into a science park. In 1980, McMillan teamed up with Jim Henson’s Children’s Television Workshop to create Sesame Place, the first of a planned series of tactile amusement parks to be built across America with the aim of helping children “learn through play”.

It was a decade of remarkable creativity. McMillan remembers sitting around with Lloyd one day and looking at a glass jar of pickled onions. “Wouldn’t it be something to be able to roll around in there?” he thought. They set about ordering masses of light plastic balls for a “ball crawl” in San Diego – the world’s first ball pit, an invention that soon became ubiquitous in McDonald’s and Ikeas across the world.

Children’s Village in 1996.
 Children’s Village in 1996. Photograph: Dick Loek/Toronto Star/Getty

It seemed to McMillan as if he was working in virgin territory, designing places for kids with a seriousness of purpose he hadn’t seen before. Watching children use his equipment, often in ways he could never have anticipated, made him more and more certain: play wasn’t a frivolous distraction from learning, but something essential to childhood and indeed humanity. The line-up-and-go-on-an-iron-ride model of the theme park was defunct. The key was to build things that sparked interaction, between kids and the equipment, but especially between the kids themselves. According to his design philosophy, each park wasn’t just a place to jump on a shockingly large air mattress. It was “a place where a child can ask questions of what it means to be human”.

McMillan formed his own design company, determined to build his own series of parks his way. “After Sesame Place, I was getting really arrogant, really confident,” he says. “I had sites. I had Montreal, I had Sacramento. I was going to build and operate my own parks and show them how it would be done.

“I got crazy, mate. I was going to change the world. I was going to change American culture and therefore the world. I was sure I was going to do it.”

Instead, the world changed without him. The skills required to fund and run a theme park, of course, are very different from the creativity needed to design one. Spoiled by the free rein he had been given at Ontario Place, he often chafed at the demands and restrictions of his corporate partners. One project fell through, then another. McMillan grew tired with throwing himself into designs only to watch them collapse for reasons beyond his control. “Eric could project a very pure kind of childlike play,” says Henry Piersig, a German-born prop builder who was one of McMillan’s collaborators. “But maybe eventually he ran out of steam.”

More than that, the times had changed. If the design for children in the 60s and 70s had been full of possibility and experimentation, the prevailing mood in the 1980s was of caution. “In the 80s, there was this real turn towards a safety culture,” says Lange. “We tamped down on a lot of innovation and a lot of the risk and reward of the children’s environment.” After a series of lawsuits against playgrounds, “liability”, not “creativity”, became the most important word in children’s design. The adventure playgrounds that once dotted North America were shuttered. The massive wooden jungle gyms in schoolyards were replaced with modest climbing structures.

With its bright colours and unruly design, Children’s Village became a relic on the lakeshore – a vision of the future from the near past. “It feels like it was meant to be the beginning of something,” says Ceric. “But it ended up ending there.”

Children’s Village was closed in 2002. The rest of Ontario Place shut down in 2011. Recently, though, I’ve seen more and more of my peers reflecting nostalgically about the “gloriously unsafe majesty” of Children’s Village. The park is a lost part of childhood for a whole cohort of Torontonians. It feels like a strange dream. Were the towers really so high? Did the ziplines really run so fast?

Nowhere is more infused with nostalgia than the places you played in as a child. Looking back on the playgrounds of the past, however, is more than mere sentimentality, and it isn’t just specific to people who remember Children’s Village. “There’s something in the air,” says Alexandra Lange. “We understand that children’s play environment has been impoverished. And so looking back at those times when it wasn’t so impoverished feels really important.” Today, as the kids who grew up running through the punching bag forest are having children of their own, it’s impossible not to think that Children’s Village represented a brief moment when a different style of mass play was possible. Instead of an amusement park in which kids line up for hours to sit passively on a moving piece of intellectual property, what if a park just provided the raw materials for child-instigated, slightly dangerous adventure?

A modern-day water park in Ayia Napa, Cyprus.
 A modern-day water park in Ayia Napa, Cyprus. Photograph: parasola.net/Alamy

This summer, the provincial government is accepting proposals for new developments on the Ontario Place grounds. In the years since it closed, there have been plans for a year-round water park, for a casino, for an enormous ferris wheel. There have been calls to relocate the Science Centre to the waterfront or turn the entire thing into a public park.

No one’s asked Eric McMillan what should be on the site of the former kids’ utopia he built on the waterfront. Now 77, he lives with his wife, Rose, in the Quebec countryside. He has an orange tree he likes to visit. He and Rose hand-grind their own coffee, build stone walls, snowshoe up the hills in the winter. The place is their own personal playground. “I can’t imagine a more privileged existence,” he says. He hasn’t visited the grounds himself in years. “Ontario Place long ago became a very sad ruin of what could have been an interesting place,” he says.

Still, McMillan can’t seem to stop himself from thinking about it. Recently, he came up with his own proposal for the site. In his reimagining, the empty pods have been transformed into massive lake filters – sucking up the water from Lake Ontario, cleaning it, and then sending it cascading into the lake below. The design takes Zeidler’s buildings and turns them into massive pieces of interactive art, where kids can help control the flow of water. The plan is whimsical and audacious, as outside-the-box and indifferent to the demands of commerce as ever. When I ask him what else should be done with the Ontario Place pods, he answers immediately. “They just can rip them down and turn them into scrap metal and build condos along the edge,” says McMillan. “Or … they can go really crazy.”


‘Obviously, I won’t blatantly tell her to lose weight’: fashion designer body-shames plus-size bride

Image result for ‘Obviously, I won’t blatantly tell her to lose weight’: fashion designer body-shames plus-size bridePopular fashion designer Falguni Peacock has been called out on social media after she body-shamed plus size brides in an interview. Asked to offer her expertise on how a plus-size woman could prep for her wedding day, the designer said the bride should try and “lose a couple of inches” and stay away from short blouses and deep necklines.

“Obviously I won’t blatantly tell her to lose weight,” Peacock says, in response to the anchor’s request for tips. “I would say you have enough time, work on it. I think it’s pretty easy to lose a couple of inches or so.”

Slightly taken aback by Peacock’s failure to even answer the original question, which was to recommend clothing styles for a plus-size bride, the anchor repeats, “And if they can’t lose, what advise do you give them while picking up a garment [or] while choosing what to wear?”

“What flatters them,” the designer responds. “Usually they can do a long blouse, a more flared lehenga [that is] not fitted because fitted won’t really work when you’re a little big. And no deep necks for them, a little higher.”

The clip went viral on the internet after an Instagram user posted it with a scathing comment.

Others commented with their personal stories. “This is so sad. I have been through a similar situation where the designer told me to lose weight because the garment wasn’t fitting me well. It’s so sad that people disregard plus size people when it comes to being fashionable and stylish.”


Some users expressed that actor Sara Ali Khan – who was also part of the interview as Peacock’s FDCI India Couture Week 2019 show-stopper and has, in the past, spoken about dealing with PCOS and weight issues as a teenager – should have spoken up, or stopped the designer. Khan, however, remained mum throughout.

Some users jumped into the debate, defending Khan saying, “I can see that @saraalikhan95 is uncomfortable by this and I understand that she really couldn’t say much, since she’s sitting there, wearing her clothes and was going to/ had walked the ramp for that design. Don’t hate on Sara guys, she couldn’t have done anything at that moment. All she can do now is chose not to work with them again.”

Yet others did not see any issue with what the designer had said and posted comments in her defence. “What she said was advice on how plus-size brides can look elegant and graceful in their outfit,” wrote one user who calls themselves @sharmajikibachhi. “Let’s not forget that plunging necklines reveal a lot and if a plus-size bride would wear it on her wedding it would much rather look slutty than elegant and nobody would wanna look slutty and inappropriate on their own wedding day. The bride would wanna look like a queen instead.”

Falguni Peacock meanwhile, apologised for the comments. “Having dealt with body issues all my life (and am still dealing with them) I realise that we should wear what we want and what makes us happy,” she wrote in a comment.

The controversy comes at a time when the push for body positivity among all genders is higher than ever. With a pushback against airbrushed magazine images and body stereotypes, more young women are being encouraged to be their natural selves instead of starving themselves or spending years being insecure and depressed about how they look.


Urban Chat: The fashion fight to remain relevant

Urban Chat: The fashion fight to remain relevant

Yes, there are fights in fashion, and not just the kind of hissy catfights among fashion folks as you’ve probably seen in the likes of the televised Next Top Modelreality show.

The real fights in fashion always center on two sides; the creative realm to usher in the next trend, and the business camp to translate the creativity into revenue.

At the end of the day, beyond the priceless couture or hyped streetwear, fashion is inherently a business.

As the world’s population steadily moves in hordes to cities and lifestyle becomes more dynamic and informal, fashion choices have gradually shifted into less death-or-alive situations.

Increasing mobility means a person may attend a handful of daily engagements wearing just an ensemble without the chance to go home and change, so the attire needs to be relevant to the course of the day instead of just a symbol of personal taste or purchasing power.

Even better if the particular fashion of choice can be a conversational starter attuned to the issue of the day –– showing relevance, not distance.

Lulu Lutfi Labibi, the Yogyakarta-based fashion designer who’s been credited for reviving lurik into the premium wardrobe, decided to shorten the distance by working with a handful of fellow Yogyakarta-based artisans and renowned artists, Indieguerillas, to open Warung Murakabi in the newly opened 12thARTJOG, Indonesia’s most coveted contemporary art fair.

Following the local philosophy of gotong royong (equal collaboration), Warung Murakabi is indeed a functioning warung (small shop) where goodies are offered with friendly personal approaches and patrons can socialize with each other within the intimate outlet.

On one side there is a marvelous art installation depicting lush vegetation, on the other side there is a fashion installation featuring Lulu’s lurik and batik designs, and just a step across the hall there is the furniture installation –– all a collaboration under the Warung Murakabi umbrella.

Serenaded by the Tumbas (buy in kromo Javanese dialect) litany, a not-so-subliminal message to coax visitors to make purchases, that corner of the Jogja National Museum’s ground floor does offer a small refuge for the weary urbanites who come for a healthy dose of art, a little fashion fix and hopefully a stylish shot or two for social media.

In recent years, many other designers have launched a capsule collection incorporating works of popular artists, but with the Warung Murakabi collaboration, Lulu, a graduate of Yogyakarta’s most prestigious art school majoring in textiles, showed that his brand was more seamlessly woven into the art scene.

Many art aficionados, a crowd often thumbing their noses down at fashion as shallow hedonism, didn’t seem to have trouble snapping up the merchandise, especially after Lulu rolled out a trunk show during ARTJOG’s opening party.

Another route is taken by Fashionlink, the commercial outlet dedicated to promising local designers in Senayan City.

Run by the power behind Jakarta Fashion Week (JFW), Fashionlink tries to address the environmental concerns directed in recent years at the global fashion industry.

While JFW has steadily allotted more slots to ecofriendly designs in the past couple of years, Fashionlink extended hands to premium furniture purveyor Savana and WWF Indonesia to launch Fashion Habitat, displayed within its premise in July and August.

Savana’s conceptual works offer representation of the endangered Sumatran tiger, Javan rhino and whale shark that are hoped to induce awareness of patrons to not only the animals’ plight but also fashion consumption style that has polluted and depleted the environment –– a direct counterattack at fast fashion labels that have inundated shopping malls worldwide and eroded Indonesian designers’ market share domestically.

A portion of sales throughout the exhibition is also donated to the WWF conservation fund.

While it may look a bit like a promotional gimmick, Fashionlink still has room to leverage this initiative further.

The International Tiger Day just took place last week, a follow-up awareness campaign could’ve been developed. The conceptual furniture could be turned into more use, perhaps educational tours or auctions of some kind, to raise both awareness and funds for the WWF.

Perhaps some of the talents selected for the upcoming JFW could feature works with textiles of zero waste affecting the habitat of endangered species.

Relevance is today’s name of the game.

You stay relevant to the public consciousness, you are factored into the public conversation, you remain the label increasingly finicky consumers will choose. Even the hoity-toity fashion folks now need to tread on this path.

So, who’s ready to do even more?


Budding Somalian student: Next fashion designer to watch

Budding Somalian student: Next fashion designer to watch

Every time young fashion designer Hawa Adan Hassan makes a new gown for a paying customer, she also makes her dreams come true.

“My whole life, fashion design was a dream,” says the 23-year-old university student, who last year began running a cottage business out of her family’s home in Hamarweyne, the historic heart of Somalia’s coastal capital Mogadishu.

For Hassan, it began with art, when she found herself drawn to sketching clothes rather than the animals and landscapes preferred by her peers.

Then she set to work on tailoring to turn her images into reality. “I realised this could be my field of expertise,” she says. For decades, war and upheaval left ordinary Somalis focussed on the daily matters of life, death and survival.

Bombings by Al-Shabaab jihadists still dog Mogadishu today. But a creeping cosmopolitanism is challenging entrenched conservative attitudes and many Somalis are undaunted by wanting a look that stands out.

Somalia’s clothing stores traditionally adhere to a simple formula: imported garments for the well-to-do, locally-made clothes for the rest.

But Hassan and others are starting to alter that picture with locally-designed, handmade attire for the high end of the market.

In such a nascent industry, Hassan is, by necessity, self-taught. “I used to watch fashion design shows on TV, and every time I watched one, I tried to grasp the ideas by drawing what I saw,” she says.

Her favourite was “Project Runway”, a US-made reality programme fronted by German model Heidi Klum.

“When I started I had no-one as a role model. It is just something I dreamed up,” she says, adding that she now finds inspiration in the likes of Lebanese fashion designer Elie Saab.

Design with a background

In her home studio, Hassan sketches and inks new designs of abaya gowns and hijab headscarves, in a variety of black or bright colours, tight and loose fittings, with plain or embroidered finishes.

Fashion has also become a family affair, with Hassan’s father — a tailor by trade — and older sister helping cut and sew the clothes.

Visitors to the workshop can hear children playing in nearby rooms and cooking smells waft in from the kitchen.

Her elder brother has been an investor, helping to buy sewing machines and other equipment.

Now the business is taking off, she says. “In the beginning, it was my father, elder sister and brother who helped me start but now I’m self-reliant and can make a living out of my work,” she says proudly.

Like many Mogadishu residents who have become inured to violence, Hassan dismisses the city’s frequent bombings and shoot-outs, describing them as an “inconvenience” that can mess up her delivery schedules.

Muna Mohamed Abdulahi, another start-up fashion designer, is on a mission to encourage local people to take pride in products made in Somalia.

“Some people come to my shop and, when they realise that these clothes are designed and made locally, they run away because they have a negative impression about locally-made clothes,” says the 24-year-old.

Like Hassan, Abdulahi is self-taught — “I was my own role model,” she says — and insists she is more than just a tailor aping the work of others.

“A designer creates clothes with a story, but a tailor makes it without thinking, they just duplicate,” Abdulahi says.

Bridging genteration gap

The designers’ customers are mostly young, like them, and affluent. “I like clothes designed by Somalis because they fit and make you look attractive,” says 22-year-old student Farhiyo Hassan Abdi. “Imported costumes are mostly out of shape and don’t look good on you.”

“I don’t go for imported clothes anymore,” she adds, pointing out that the price of local fashion is often cheaper than the imports and it is easy to have alterations done.

But these young designers and customers, seeking out unique fashion and wanting to look good, seem to live in a world apart from others in the city.

Dahir Yusuf, a 49-year-old father, is appalled by his teenage daughter’s love of designer clothes, which he considers immoral.

“These young girls are crazy about designer clothes, which are mostly fitted and reveal the features of their bodies,” he says, tutting. “Morally, it is not good to wear such things.”

As a male fashion designer, Abdishakur Abdirahman Adam faces down double-criticism in pursuit of dreams.

“In Somalia it is very difficult for a boy to become a fashion designer, because people believe this is women’s work,” says the slim 19-year-old, who was introduced to fashion by watching catwalk shows on satellite TV.

Nevertheless, he plans to continue, designing for both women and men, hoping to compete with foreign imports.

“What I do is just to create fashionable clothes with the material I have here without spending more money so that it looks like something from overseas.”(AFP)


9 to 5 but make it fashion: 8 street style trends to translate to your office outfits