Do you need to like your job to be truly happy?

March 27, 2015

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I’ve been tackling this question for what seems like ages. Some people work to live, others live to work. I’d like a bit of both, really. I know that even a dream job has its bad days, but 8.5 hours a day seems like an awful lot of time to spend doing something that no longer motivates you. Really though, it’s been on my mind for the past three-four years, this question of work to live or live to work.

When I finished university, my first true love pulled me to Ottawa because, you know, long-distance sucks. I got a permanent job within two months (what seemed like ages) and have been here ever since. I look back on my swift, confident decision making then. I don’t think I had any idea of how much that decision to move to Ottawa versus Toronto or Montreal would affect the rest of my career in my twenties. Had I known that the first few steps you take into the working world can really define a big part of your career path for years to come, I may have considered the move more carefully. Bahh, you can’t go back right? And I certainly don’t regret making a decision for love, but now I find myself in a great, secure, comfortable job in a supportive work environment and I am really torn about whether  I am happy working to live or if I want to work what I live, big difference.

What do I mean by that? I mean spending every day doing something that you love, something that has always interested you. Lots of people do this, and lots of people don’t. My dad left his desk job at the age of 39 to pursue his childhood dream of becoming an air force pilot. Others choose to stay in a comfortable job that may not inspire them all that much but that pays the bills, offers security, benefits and allows them the time on weekends and on holidays to unplug and enjoy their lives outside of work. There are, of course, other people who don’t have as many options, those less fortunate than us. I am not addressing their reality, that wouldn’t be fair of me to do so, but I can address the common feeling that quite a few people around me have, a desire to work what you live, to enjoy going to work, and to really own their careers.

Working for another company may not be what I want for my next career move. More and more now, as I discover the lives of entrepreneurs, I see myself leaning towards that mysterious and oftentimes scary path. I’d like to work from home, work for myself, eventually hire a small team and every day wake up ready to tackle a new, creative project. I want to align my love for supporting eco-fashion with writing and communications. I have all of these skills, all of this experience, why not put it to good use?

Then there’s the whole aspect of being a young woman and wanting a family vs. owning a business and having it on your mind 24/7. I sure hope I can clear my mind as often as I need to throughout the day to be present for my loved ones. This is my main concern, mental space for everything. If, once in it, I realize that I can’t be as present as I wanted to me, I will leave it. Honestly, nothing is more important to me than time with family and friends.

My boyfriend and I are both at career crossroads and we also want to buy a home together in the next year. Changing careers and buying a home around the same time isn’t ideal, but I have to remind myself to cross that bridge when I get to it. My astrologer, a dear family friend, told me recently that I have to let go of that fear of not making enough money to live off of. She said that that fear is unnecessary for me and that if I can learn to set it aside and focus on my vision, it will blossom into a profitable and rewarding career. Can I just fast-forward to there please!?

When I think back to how confident I felt about the move to Ottawa, I wish I could infuse my veins with that same calm venom. I want to have the sense of freedom that I had then too. Can I really make the best decision for me when I have a family to consider now? Am I too old (at only 28) to have to sacrifice my ideal career path for the family life that I want more than anything? My future has more pieces in it to consider, more people and dreams to take care of. I know that others at my age, with even more “baggage” have made their dreams come true, and so must I.

My first step, I think, is to change my perspective. A future home, future children, these are not burdens, these are goals to strive for, these are motivators to succeed. That fear I feel inside, that is another sign that my vision is worth bringing to life. The worry of being overwhelmed with work? If I’m doing what I love, it won’t be a burden. The torment that’s going on in my mind, that’s the thrill and energy of life that propels us all to make the most of our days here on this tiny blue dot. Got it Mal? Got it!?

I wish I could pour a whole bucket of calm, monk-like wisdom and serenity into my head. I’ll have to do with these few positive thoughts and take it day by day. So, tell me, what are your career fears?

 

Perfect pieces for a Canadian spring

March 20, 2015

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Happy spring! Oh, I can’t tell you how relieved I am to know that spring has arrived. It’s only +5 C here today but still, it’s officially spring. To celebrate, I wanted to share with you the new spring 2015 collection from Dace, a Canadian eco-fashion darling and a truly gifted designer. Simple lines are difficult to make unique, but Dace Moore manages to design minimalist pieces that are feminine, flattering and just the right amount of different. My favourite pieces are the blush pants and the long, tan coat.

I’m really going to ramp up showing you more and more eco-designers, especially Canadian ones, for two reasons: almost everyone I meet complains about not knowing where to shop, period, let alone where to buy eco-fashion. Second, those who do want to become conscientious consumers complain that eco-fashion is just soooo expensive, but check out Dace, the prices are comparable to Zara or Club Monaco, no lie.

I also ask that you consider these designs as investment pieces. Your money is going to good use, supporting Canadian design and manufacturing. Your wardrobe will last longer and you can feel good about contributing to something positive. Now how’s that for some springtime spirit rejuvenation?

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Where to shop “eco” online for spring

March 19, 2015

Aside from buying from local Ottawa consignment shops and the odd eco-purchase in-store, I’m all about eco-shopping online. I’ve been browsing the following sites for some resort pieces for my upcoming trip and I thought you might like to know where I’ve been hopping and skipping to on the interweb.

a boy named sue collage

Dress – $260.00 | Top – $120.00

accompany collage

Kaftan – $160.00 | Playsuit – $234.00 | Shorts – $120.00

brika collage

Watches – $69.00 | Necklace – $90.00 | Earrings – $45.00

elizabeth suzann collage

Top – $155.00 | Tunic – $175.00 | Trench – $295.00

everlane collage

Trouser – $120.00 | Shirt – $35.00 | Blouse – $78.00

heinui collage

Collection not yet available online

need supply collage

Dress – $68.00 | Coat – $288.00Pants – $330.00

of a kind collage

Top – $165.00 | Ring – $136.00| Shoes – $117.00

Minimalist inspiration from a baseball player

March 17, 2015

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Photography by Nathaniel Wood, ESPN.com.

I can’t remember how I came across this article today, was it a quick glimpse on Twitter of a bearded stud? Was it the axe that he uses to shave? The abs? Gaah, I’m getting ahead of myself. Who knows how I found it, but prospective Toronto Blue Jays pitcher, Daniel Norris (21 years old) inspired me today. And no, it wasn’t the perfect “lumbersexual” thang he has going on.

This young man, despite having six digits in the bank, lives in a 1978 Westfalia van parked in a Wal-Mart lot during his off-season training in Florida, living off of $800 a month. The Tennessee native comes from a salt-of-the-earth family, having spent his childhood days outside, being active.

Norris’s determination to stay true to himself and to not get caught up in the materialism that most often goes hand-in-hand with wealth is admirable. What I appreciate the most about what I read about him today is his desire to live life minimally and to use his potential celebrity to promote what he cares about most: protecting the environment.

We all say we want the simple life and I’m trying to do this with baby steps starting with my closet and out to the rest of the branches in my life, but he has it pretty well down pat. No home, just a van and the bare necessities to get by. This simplicity and lack of baggage gives him the freedom to travel where he wants, pretty well when he wants.

Do I want to live in a van right now? No, but I’ve had more than my fair share of memorable road trips with my family in our Westfalia and I can see exactly why the lifestyle is tempting for this young man.

What got to me the most about Norris and his lifestyle is how clear cut everything is. I find myself walking this fine line between promoting ethical and sustainable fashion (an industry that relies on consumption) all the while promoting a minimalist wardrobe and making the most out of what you have. I tell ya, it’s tough, when you spend a few hours a day browsing online shops, to not buy. A part of me feels obligated to buy something that I might want, just to support the designer, but I don’t want to end up a clutter bug. A hoarder is a hoarder, even if the hoarded stuff is ethical and sustainable.

Norris, on the other hand, is restricted by the van that he has chosen to encase his life in. No need to consider what colour rug to purchase for his non-existent living room. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to downsize to his extreme. I’d like to buy a rug for my living room one day, but before I rush into it, I’ll remind myself of Norris: simple, simple, simple. Do I really need it now? Maybe it can wait.

His free-spirit and life sans frontieres represents a yearning that I think a lot of people in the developed world are striving for: a life that isn’t dictated by making money to buy stuff. You want a house? Great, find a job that you can go to every day for the next thirty years and buy a house and enjoy it. But once you’re nearly killing yourself over your work to pay for your excess toys, the extra car, the double garage, the pool, the gadgets, that’s when you might want to reconsider what you’re doing this all for.

I am certainly not the first, nor the last person to wonder: can fashion ever really be sustainable? Can I really promote a minimalist wardrobe all the while encouraging my readers to buy from ethical and sustainable designers?

It may seem oxymoronic but yes, I think I can. The industry would certainly have to make adjustments in how it runs (maybe a pipe dream). It would have to produce high-quality, ethically made pieces at a higher price and be OK with selling fewer of them. Instead of pumping out new collections every season, it may consider producing pieces that build one onto the other, making it easy for consumers to pick and choose the staple pieces that they need to make the most out of their wardrobe.

It’s a stretch but I’ll keep aiming for simplicity and to find a balance between promoting the consumption of local manufacturing, ethical labour and high environmental standards with not purchasing at all and reusing instead.

So Daniel Norris, I take your minimalist lifestyle and raise you my personal challenge to keep at it and to keep purging and defining what stays and what goes in my life.

Fewer things, more peace of mind.

P.S. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day

How ethical and sustainable fashion is helping to preserve Indigenous cultures

March 11, 2015

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Are certain cultures around the world in danger of becoming extinct? If you consider the fact that a language is lost approximately every two weeks each year, the answer becomes pretty obvious. In fact, it is estimated that approximately 46 percent of the world’s languages will be extinct by the end of this century. If it is true that a language is the mirror of a culture, you can imagine what those statistics mean for the future of cultural diversity around the world, and the inevitable loss of knowledge that will follow it. Thankfully, the ever-expanding ethical and sustainable fashion industry is partnering with Indigenous artisans all over the world and giving them a platform on which to showcase their skills and culture to a global consumer audience.

A growing demand for hand-crafted products

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Weights on a loom. Photo courtesy of Danica Ratte.

One of the main reasons why traditional craftsmanship is abandoned is because of the lack of demand for the artisans’ hand-crafted products. This is where the movement of ethical and sustainable fashion has come into play. Consumers have become more concerned about where their products are made and by whom. They are keen to learn the story behind products and artisanal crafts are rich with culture and history. Designers have begun partnering with artisans from around the world by incorporating their skills into their designs and thereby helping to keep their crafts alive.

Improves the quality of life for artisans

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School children in class. Photo courtesy of Danica Ratte.

Apart from the cultural benefits of supporting traditional handicrafts, there is also the humanitarian aspect of ethical and sustainable fashion. By providing a steady income to these workers in exchange for their unique skills, ethical and sustainable fashion plays an active role in improving the quality of life of an artisan’s entire community. The artisans’ families live healthier and happier lives, and their children gain access to education and health care, not to mention they are presented with the option of continuing their parents’ legacy and becoming expert artisans themselves.

Encourages government support

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Weavers working on a loom. Photo courtesy of Danica Ratte.

Now that the ethical and sustainable fashion movement has proven that there is a consumer demand for the handicrafts of ethnic minorities, more and more local governments are taking notice of the now steady flow of income. They are beginning to consider the importance of preserving these traditions and supporting these small businesses that have found commercial success through ethical and sustainable brands.

Increases international recognition of cultures

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The rise of e-commerce has made it easier for designers to showcase traditional designs in their products to a wider audience. The ethical and sustainable fashion movement is about providing consumers with complete transparency, and also with providing their products’ stories in order to reinforce the effects that consumers’ purchases have on someone else’s life. The conscious choice of wearing sustainable fashion pieces also helps in that respect, since these pieces become a constant reminder of what they represent, both to the wearer and to the people who admire them.

Slow fashion is made to last

Day to Night Bag

The Day to Night bag. Photo courtesy of Danica Ratte.

It is important to remember that ethical and sustainable fashion pieces are built to outlast fast-fashion products. They are not a seasonal thing, nor are they a trend. They represent quality and timeless craftsmanship, and they are meant to be worn for a very long time.

My question to you is, what other ways do you think fashion can preserve culture? Do you have any pieces in your closet right now that were made by artisans?

I’d love to hear what you think. Please feel free to either leave a comment below or send me an email at danicaratte [at] gmail.com.

Danica Ratte - Wild Tussah Danica Ratte is a sustainable travel addict who is now an expat in Vietnam. She is the Founder of Wild Tussah; a weave and leather handbag line that preserves ancient weaving cultures in Vietnamese ethnic communities. She and her team often write about women’s empowerment, sustainable fashion, cultural preservation, weaving traditions, eco-tourism and anything else Vietnam-related, which you can read on the Wild Tussah blog.

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