At the last minute, I had the bright idea of giving my women flowers.
Will I catch them by surprise?
I wanted to see them smile. I was already inspired by their magnificence. I wanted to know who they were when they were being frivolous, with their inner child(ren) running wild and free.
Boy, did I know what I was in for?
I was a little nervous I admit. I had no idea how this would turn out. What if it’s a disaster?
That’s a lot of pessimism for someone widely considered “unbelievably optimistic”. As nervous as I was, I was also excited. This was me walking slowly and surely, inching closer than ever to my dream. This was me wearing my heart. I had invited six inspiring and big hearted women role models to Hampstead Heath to model some garments for the first DFYnorm collection.
For those reading about DFYnorm for the first time, let me catch you up: DFYNorm is a revolution in fashion that empowers both the wearer and maker of fashion. We believe fashion can inspire people to become their truer and fuller selves, not their thinner selves. We also are a sustainable start up; we have set up our own production unit to ensure good conditions for our garment makers.
My people Alex and Michael were so integral to making sure all things went well on the day of the shoot. They brought the food and coffee, they steamed the clothes, they got into political debates with the role models…
Even with the responsibility of managing the show, I enjoyed the moments. The women were discovering one another.
They changed in broad daylight in the park, not caring much about who saw what. They were in and out of clothes in seconds. Everyone had the brightest smiles for one another.
I thought Baillie Aaron, one of our role models, looked so much like Renee Zellweger. Julie Choo, who incidentally is not related to Jimmy Choo, felt that Baillie looked more like Scarlett Johansson. Baillie graciously agreed to let us have it- “Girls, I’ll take it, I’ll take it”, she said.
Baillie is an incredible woman, insanely accomplished; she went to Harvard and Cambridge. She is a young social entrepreneur, twice TEDx speaker. She has a deep-seated interest in criminal justice research from a rehabilitation angle. Her charity Spark Inside helps people in prisons break through their glass ceilings and aspire towards their best futures. When I look at her, I see this advanced human being, incredibly humble, and I am awed at how young she is to be so evolved already, working towards uplifting humanity in such a deeply mature way.
Elaine, one of my closest friends, is the hardcore adventure traveller. She was sharing stories of when she and her niece Natalie (a happy soul who also role models for us) went on a five week trip off to the Americas and hugged baby alligators, swam with the sharks, swam in lakes inside dormant volcanoes, wore indigenous outfits, and was profoundly moved by the real freedom experienced by the people in Equador, starkly in contrast to the structure and consumerism of the West which does not often offer the same freedoms. Elaine and Natalie are working on a project called TeamAges which is about teaming up women of different ages (one older, and one younger woman), going on adventures and learning from one another, while also championing a cause. Darshana thought that was a very radical and interesting idea. And Darshana has heard a lot of ideas in her time as the CEO of Entrevo, an organization that champions entrepreneurial revolution.
Darshana Ubl is a serial entrepreneur. She believes in the win-win-win way to do collaborations, where you not only ensure that you and the person/organization you collaborate win, but also include a win for the world. With this three-dimensional approach for your projects at the outset, you have a much better chance at succeeding.
She recently spoke about this Triple Win™ effect at TEDx.
For all her serious business leadership experience internationally, she is an extremely fun person, full of mirth and an amazing amount of confidence! You can tell she loves people, and she loves herself in a way that inspires you to do the same. She also came prepared with a suitcase full of jewellery and other fun things to play with!
Kai Akram is an on-the-ground-saving-lives kind of person who uses her PR expertise to further the cause of NGOs. Working on her full-time role with the World Animal Protection, she recently won UN recognition for her documentary on Disaster Risk Reduction. It doesn’t surprise you at all when you get to know her. You have a disaster? Kai is your girl. She is so incredibly warm, almost fiercely so. She made sure I ate. When I met her again, Kai was all over my social media strategy! I am so grateful to know her.
Julie Choo is my investment banker & fin-tech friend with big corporate and banking experience. She is extremely pragmatic and she can give it back to the big guys. They don’t intimidate her at all and it is amazing to have Julie on your team. She has a hard-nosed business savviness about her but she is also very kind. She is an expert on positive disruption. She had a near death experience a few years ago which has just made her desire to give back stronger. She rocked the shorts and the jumpsuit (which we named after her!) and had some stunning model moments.
Minna Salami is our Pan African blogger friend and activist and feminist. She is Nigerian-Finnish and has a very exciting wardrobe from what we have seen of her! She has given a TEDx talk, and she gets invited to speak at cool places like the V&A. Minna is an extremely grounded and centered soul, and we are so charmed by how easy she is in front of the camera. She writes with depth and passion at her award winning blog MsAfropolitan.
To round that out, our photographer Rebecca Need Menear is another inspiring woman, who inspires just by how unassuming she is. You wouldn’t know what a rockstar she is if you met her. We were stunned when we watched her music video. She is an extremely good sport and she also models our Julie Jumpsuit!
These people inspire. They are vibrant and so different from each other, but they have things in common too. You will be reading more about each of them and others like them under a variety of contexts here at DFYnorm.
A day with the lot and I was surer than ever that we need to capture this on the fashion canvas, that Smita and I, and our team, need to go further on this journey of marrying fashion with human stories.
We have barely scratched the surface here and we require your support and encouragement as we keep digging deeper into our hearts and pour the stories onto our pages and onto our designs.
So are you on board with us? Can we go on this walk together?