Ever see a picture and feel drawn to it? Do a double take, perhaps even questioning what you are seeing?
This is exactly what this image did.
A friend who is currently working in East Africa sent it to me with the intended subject being the flooded airstrip. A grass runway rests somewhere below those muddy waters. It normally brings vital support to this community and it hasn’t been useable for almost two months due to climate change associated increased rainfall.
Amidst this murk and scarceness, the woman navigating a waterlogged track in the foreground could grace a glossy fashion magazine cover. She is arrestingly beautiful to me. Dressed in a pretty, sheer floral wrap, coordinated green dress below, a neatly tied headscarf, and earrings. Despite the conditions, her elegance is striking.
I asked my friend if this is everyday scenario. Are the women here always in such colourful and style-detailed attire? He told me yes, and they constantly laugh at him for how dirty and unkempt he looks, even if he supposedly has the “right” clothing for the conditions.
This image speaks to me about the great pride and respect this woman has for: Herself. She is gathering wood to cook on and wading through wet clay to do so. Despite this, she still pays attention to detail, exuding grace and poise.
I consider my day and how dull and bland my outfit choice is in comparison, plus significantly, I only have to navigate between rooms to cook a meal.
I imagine her to be part of a vibrant, local fashion community, excited when new styles, colours, or fabrics are available in the village. It’s very appealing to me not to be in the jaws of the western consumption culture which is wreaking havoc on the planet. Imagine no comparison-itis from social media scrolling, striving for the perfect picture or feeling compelled to shop the latest “on trend must haves” from fashion giants.
Another element of this image that made me do a double-take is around the subject of her bag. I instantly thought of many women and their love of handbags. On first glance, it looks like she is carrying a top-handled bag, the likes of which are being touted as this seasons “it” bag in my Instagram feed and fashion daily email subscriptions.
Marketing has woven into our Western culture that a designer luxury bag is a status symbol. How can a few squares of leather stitched together claim a price tag often in the £1000’s? And as each season’s new set of bags appear, so do the fake copies because those producers also know that they will sell because who doesn't want to be seen carrying a designer on trend bag; right?
I admit it. I’m part of this absurd yet incredibly effective (and lucrative) marketing ploy when it comes to my own choice of everyday bag. Given the option of designer bag or non-designer, I know which one I would choose. I’m not even aware how my brain has been conditioned to believe this, even though I see the craziness and madness of this belief. I have two very functional bags that I lovingly care for and only replace when worn out which takes a decade or more of very regular use but they are still prized because of their brand name.
Where it gets even more crazy is when the handbag is more of a fashion statement than it can ever be practical everyday or season after season; such as the current trend for little bags. Call me old fashioned but I would also have to carry a canvas tote on my shoulder for all I need to go about my working day.
The small black plastic bag in this photo is similar in size to this 17.5cm x 19cm Valentino top handled bag, however it costs a whopping £2450.
£2450 in the right hands could do so much to help communities struggling with the effects of climate change. I’m starting to revalue the “love” I place on carrying a “nice” designer bag.
The next time I find myself wavering on my outfit choice, I’ll try and take a leaf outta this lady’s book and dress up for my own sense of self worth and joy. Everyday, for whatever it holds.
Who or what has inspired you lately? Anything you have stumbled across which has made you question something from a different lens? I'm always inspired and curious about what others are touched by too. I'd love to hear about them, so I can dig deeper into the subjects that matter to you wonderful readers and sustainable style setters.
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