Sometimes it feels like we are stepping back when life throws us a curve ball. Back in 2006 after only one year of fashion school in London, my funding caved in with my dreams. I had to return home and begin business school in my hometown. Little did I know then that I would return to London to attend an even better school at the same time as getting onto a highly sought after scholarship program at London Business School. After almost 6 years of graduating from the business school in my hometown these contacts are proving very helpful in my transition from a fashion designer to a social entrepreneur.
The social element of my business is taking shape in the form of an Art Village (Kampung Seni) & Education Hub (PPK Project). The Art Village supports the preservation and progression of Balinese Craft Skills particularly related to Balinese Handmade Lace. We are also supporting the local community by providing free english lessons to a group of 35 girls. The aim is to build their confidence in english and then transition them into effective jobs supporting the artisan work of their families.
I am turning my house in Bali into the head office for PPK Project which is concentrated on women’s empowerment through social entrepreneurship; teaching a new way of doing business to university level Indonesian woman in Bali. This will be done through regular discussions on improving the economic position of the Art Village project. The concept will branch off into a fashion focused social enterpreneurship training center format.
The fashion brand is coming together nicely but does not sustain enough income as it has a lot of initial fixed costs. I have been funding my work through consulting projects and basically selling off my inventory of designer goods. Sorry guys I am a slave to fashion but they are just material objects at the end of the day. My Chanel bag is on someone else’s shoulder but the money has provided for the deposit on the Art Village Property where the english lessons are taught, lessons for 35 girls for over the span of 2 months and flowers for the girls to plant in the gardens.
Fashion is not a glamorous business, not sure that I would even be a part of it if it was only surface. It feels that I have spent the first year focused on understand my design style, operations element of production and setting up the facilities. In year two, I transitioned into understanding the development side and how I can use my business to provide support and economic growth for Bali and Indonesia as a whole. I didn’t come from a development background and so there were areas that completely baffled my mind ‘how to help people to help themselves’.
After I sacrificed time and my well being to keep this insane pace, I realized that to ‘help people help themselves’ I have to be an example. I have to ‘help myself’ and prioritize my own needs so that I am strong. When I left Bali, I was falling apart working too much between my consulting work, teaching kids english in the village, working on my fashion collection and writing my book. I hadn’t seen my family in a year and a half, I had very few friends. I rarely took time off and just worked nonstop.
My body decided it wasn’t going to play along in my made rush to ‘success’. So breathing issues and mental tormoil stepped in and left me disillusioned and broken. I felt that I was fighting this silly mission to break the superficial rules of fashion pioneering a new way to support the progress of the world while making beautiful fashion. I gave up a great job, security and my family to do this thing. Yet I was all alone on paradise. I wouldn’t allow love to be an option, it would only distract my eyes and break my heart.
My sisters became worried that if I didn’t make the big push that all would end in tears. Despite being small and gentle when I believe in something, I will stop at nothing to make it a reality. Not out of arrogance but out a love for the truth and belief in a better world. We all have a part to play whether we decide to take on this mission. As an 11 year old girl volunteering at a homeless shelter I didn’t know ‘how’. By 17 I discovered my talent on the retail side of the fashion industry. Then at 29 I was ready to take the plunge and moved to Bali to set up a socially impact focused fashion company.
When I returned to California, I couldn’t hide from my burnout and dances with depression. I gave too much. My Aunt once told my sisters as a little girl ‘if you give too many pieces of yourself away, what will you have left for you’. The truth is I had nothing left, barely the energy to remember to breath. My sister threatened to delete my fashion website if I didn’t start fighting again for my dream. I remained in bed sobbing through gasps of air, ‘I just can’t do it anymore. This dream has taken everything from me.’ Julie created a plan that she posted on the guest bedroom wall that gave me tight deadlines. The most important included completing the writing of the book, I did this in 3 days time and sent it off to the editor.
I returned to Baltimore, Maryland where an article was just printed by the my hometown business school speaking about the amazing work I am doing. Yet behind drawn curtains I was crying myself to sleep trying to find where and why this journey began and if the sacrifice was worth the outcome. I finally met the bundle of joy who is my comical nephew and seeing my older sister as an amazing yummy mummy. I would travel to my dad’s place in Pennslyvania and pick up my little brother and sister from the bus stop to return home and watch Madeline and listen the headphone silenced sounds of War Craft.
I tried desperately to keep my focus when working on a social focused consulting fashion project, but I couldn’t keep my head straight and had to pause from everything. My mom cooked me delicious meals while advising me on building out my business model and charity.
Which regardless of the struggle, I know that through the greatest pain comes tremendous change. After all this time back and distance from the project. I go back to the first video I ever created for the blog and what I was ‘preaching’ was that we can go out there and create our lives any way we like. Who says fashion brands have to be based in capital cities? Who says I have to stay there all the time and miss out on my family? Who says I can’t be a nomad of the world and explore vast expanses? Who says I have to work 9-5pm in a brick and mortar office? Who says I have to sacrafice my happiness for…? Who says fashion can’t be a saint rather than a sinner? Who says?
Well you know what its round 3 of this dream and life and I SAY, that I will live exactly as I choose. This dream will carry on in a beautiful way but on my terms. I won’t waste precious moments letting life slip by without my family, but I can still keep driving this ship forward.
Well then this is the longest post I have ever written but it is a nice wrap-up to the year. Coming back and taking time away has given me the perspective I needed to make changes to my business model and my person. From now on I will work between Bali and Baltimore. And you know what if I want to travel in between well then I will do that…I will listen for where this life takes me but most importantly in the locket of my heart I hold tight to that 11 year old girls wish for a better world.
Update on Everything:
Exciting news! Seems that the set-back business program was a part of some crazy scheme out there in the stars. I will be completing a second Masters at the University of Baltimore in Nonprofit Management & Social Entrepreneurship. This will allow me to fill my gaps in knowledge and study new ways of creating such enterprises effectively. I can then be of better service to my business and hold workshops to teach the younger generation and other businesses the value of such an approach.
Don’t worry I will be back in Bali at the end of May to work on the next collection. I am applying for a fellowship so that I can get ‘paid’ to continue my business and research. I am selling the next season collection in January and have a great workshop in Bali that will support the production. The book is at final stages of editing and we will hold a launch party and charity event early Feb.
They say that it is when you are just about to give up that you are around the bend from a fantastic breakthrough. Trust me this process has torn me down and ripped apart as a person, but today I am aligning myself even closer to the woman I am meant to be. Ironically enough she seems to be very much like the little girl version who is full of love, passion and hope.
From Bali Fashion Dream, I want to thank you for coming along on this ride and hope that you find sanity in my madness. You are not alone, your ideas are amazing but the way to achieve is to begin!
Happy New Year!!!
Love and Laughter Always with a bundle of tears…this to me is a life well lived.