The Ladybug’s Peruvian adventure – Part 1

Monasterio Santa Catalina – Arequipa

16 days backpacking in Peru from North to South is it possible? Yes, and it is one of my last adventures before the Covid-19 stopped all my foreign adventures for now!

It was a long and challenging trip but definitely one of the best experiences ever! I will share it in two different posts because it is very long and there’s a lot to say so let’s start with the journey and some of my personal tips to have a wonderful time in Peru!

First of all it is important to plan in advance your trip: I booked my flight in January because flights may be very expensive, so almost 8 months before the trip itself. Two months before I booked the hotels (all through Booking.com), bus tickets for long-distance transportation and the main entries and free tours in some towns. Only few of them were booked locally (e.g. Trujillo, in the North). Before leaving I also packed with a few very important things if you travel to Peru: comfy mountain shoes, warm sweaters and jackets for the important altitudes also to protect against the wind (no medicines because the best ones, totally natural can be found there), a good and long lasting charger for the nights spent in the bus traveling. Don’t forget to bring tee shirts too as the weather can change very easily during the day and you can easily go from 0 degrees to 20 in a few hours! If you are scared of altitude remember that you will be filled with “mate” infusions and you can easily find low cost herbal remedies in local pharmacies; if you follow my personal tour the big advantage is that you gain altitude progressively which will definitely help with getting accustomed making just baby steps. In general you will probably feel more fatigue even to accomplish easy tasks (for me it was especially during the night as I found it hard to breathe normally during sleep) and you may feel huge headaches at very high altitudes but Peruvians have good remedies also for this (ask for some Agua de Florida in Cuzco, they will be pleased to show you its amazing powers!).

Anyway, any Peruvian trip usually starts from Lima, the capital of Peru where we arrived at night: we decided to stay safe in a modern touristic area of Lima called Miraflores, where we ate in an amazing Amazonian restaurant called Amaz before getting our well-deserved rest!

DAY 1: We spent our first full day in Lima and we booked a one day trip with Limavision to visit the ruins of Pachacamac (not far from the city) and the city center : the beautiful Cathedral and the very peculiar old town streets give you the idea of the Spanish past of this very modern and crowded city, where traffic jams are the worse I have ever seen! By the way, while in Lima we used Bolt to go around, it is very common there and very cheap.

Lima
Lima Cathedral

DAY 2: Our real trip started on the second day in Peru when we left Lima (where we will be back at the end of the trip) very early in the morning to take our bus to Ica, 2 hours away starting our journey towards the South. We used for all our bus rides Cruz del Sur, the most famous bus company in Peru with very modern and comfortable buses traveling all around the country but we booked all the trips months before the trip. In Ica you will find many people asking you for a taxi outside the bus station but make sure to get an approved one to bring you to Huacachina, an “oasis” in the Peruvian desert surrounded by sand dunes: it is very popular for sandboarding and dune buggy drives! Once you get there you will easily find many tours agencies offering the experience so, don’t miss the fun especially because you will be rewarded with one of the nicest desert sunsets. That same night we left by bus to Nazca (2 hours trip) for the next big adventure, the one that I was most scared of!

Huacachina
Huacachina
Huacachina

DAY 3: Overlooking the famous Nazca lines, an impressive group of very large geoglyphs made in the soil of the Nazca Desert from an helicopter was the scariest thing of this trip for me! Apparently I got enough mate in the morning to avoid any nausea and the trip went very well or possibly Aero Paracas’ pilots are very good! This visit was probably one of the most expensive (I suggest you to book it from home) but also one of the most interesting in Peru, also because the mystery around these lines are still open to many different interpretations! In the afternoon our hotel host proposed a very interesting tour of some of the beauties of Nazca, pretty unknown to the tourists who come here only for the lines: the incredible necropolis of Chauchilla, the lost city of Cahuachi with its amazing Nazca pyramids or the perfectly functioning Cantalloc pre-Inca aqueducts. The same night at ten we left for the first overnight bus trip to Arequipa where we arrived on day 4!

Nazca Lines
Nazca
Nazca Lines
Chauchilla Necropolis

DAY 4: We arrived in Arequipa early in the morning, very tired even if overnight buses are quite comfortable. The city is at an altitude of 2300 meters so we started going higher but it is still very nice and just a little bit chillier. Arequipa is the second town of Peru as per population and has an amazing history: it is known as La Ciudad Blanca (The White City) because of the color of the stone with which it was built. For this reason it has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We had the chance to discover Arequipa’s history in the afternoon in a lovely free city tour (an offer is appreciated though) as well as its lovely handcrafters in the city center selling alpaca wool pieces or amazing antiques. But the not-to-miss attraction of Arequipa is Santa Catalina Monastery which we discovered during the day with its light blue and dark red colors really left us addicted (and full of Instagrammable pictures!).

Monasterio Santa Catalina – Arequipa
Monasterio Santa Catalina – Arequipa
Monsaterio Santa Catalina – Arequipa
Monasterio Santa Catalina – Arequipa
Antiques shop in Arequipa

DAY 5: We enjoyed some few hours in Arequipa visiting the famous Market Fundo el Fierro before getting on another bus that would lead us to Puno, after almost 7 hours. We booked a night on the famous floating islands of Uros on the Lake Titicaca. Where we arrived during the night on a little boat (fascinating!).

DAY 6: Sleeping on a floating island was such an experience! We woke up on this tiny island with a few houses made of totora; in fact Uros Islands are made entirely from totora reeds and the lives of the inhabitants of these artificial islands are entirely dependent upon the reed beds they live among. Despite it became such a touristic experience it’s still an incredible adventure and the communities living on the islands are very friendly and welcoming. We spent the day on a typical handmade boat, learning local fishing techniques, how the reed islands are made and enjoying some time in traditional costumes while chatting with the lovely people of the islands. If I can give you a suggestion just avoid the biggest islands and prefer the smallest ones where real communities still live there. The biggest ones are too touristic and all the magic of these places will be completely lost. We left for the Southern part of the Lake in the afternoon when we arrived to Bolivia to enjoy a completely different view of the Titicaca Lake.

Uros Islands – Titicaca Lake
Uros Islands – Titicaca Lake

DAY 7: We arrived in Copacabana in Bolivia and we immediately realized how everything was different compared to the Uros. Much less touristic, an incredible nature and definitely one of the best views of Titicaca Lake. From our hotel we booked an half-day boat excursion to the Isla del Sol and Isla de la Luna where we got caught in the best views of the lake ever. These two islands are incredible, there is a lot to walk but your eyes will be amazed and will be filled with extreme beauty. We had an amazing lunch on a floating restaurant (the best fried trout ever for less than 1 euro) before hitting back the road and leaving Bolivia during another overnight trip back to Peru to finally discover the capital of the Inca Empire: Cuzco and its region.

I will leave this incredible part of the trip (it was like a crescendo of emotions and discoveries) for the second part of my Peruvian adventure next time! Also, my suggestions for best restaurants, what to eat and what to buy will be in the next post.

Copacabana – Bolivia
Isla del Sol – Titicaca Lake (Bolivia)
Fundo El Fierro Market – Arequipa
Vicunas in the Andes
Copacabana – Titicaca Lake (Bolivia)

Sponsored Post Learn from the experts: Create a successful blog with our brand new courseThe WordPress.com Blog

WordPress.com is excited to announce our newest offering: a course just for beginning bloggers where you’ll learn everything you need to know about blogging from the most trusted experts in the industry. We have helped millions of blogs get up and running, we know what works, and we want you to to know everything we know. This course provides all the fundamental skills and inspiration you need to get your blog started, an interactive community forum, and content updated annually.

The Ladybug is melancholic: missing buying vintage abroad!

In the last few years I managed to put together two of my biggest passions: travelng and vintage.

I loved my “vintage preparation” before heading to a new town, imagining the shops and the gems that I could find there, enjoying exploring a new city and its vintage treasures…I miss all this so much. And while I am thinking of making new guides of my favorite vintage shops in the many town that I have visited, I try to buy online every now and then from the places where I have been (or I long to be) just not to lose completely the flavor of this vintage research abroad.

When everything closed in March last year I was exactly in that phase of “vintage preparation” as I had to be in Southern Spain beginning of the month and I was preparing the trip with the “not-to-miss” vintage shops around. I was so disappointed to cancel this trip and everything that went with it.

There is something about buying vintage abroad that fascinates me, I think that it depends on the view on vintage that every country has. Abroad the shops and the vintage selection that you may find can be very different from country to country, because in the different places people culturally approach vintage in different ways, which is very fascinating to me. It is one of the aspects of my never-ending vintage research that I miss more right now.

This outfit is an example of various pieces found in different places around the world:

  • The purple lurex knitted top is Italian, it comes from Humana Vintage in Milan
  • The vintage silky skirt (with lovely peacock print) comes from a lovely shop called Szputnyik in Budapest, a town that really surprised me for the extensive offer of vintage!
  • The vintage bag comes from Budapest too, from a little lovely shop called Lovebug Vintage
  • The shoes come from New York, one of my most massive vintage adventures!
  • The beautiful purple flower brooch is not vintage, but a lovely Christmas present from my friend who found it in a vintage and handmade market in Rome!

Well, this is what I call a multicultural or multi-latitude vintage outfit, definitely my favorite ones!

The Ladybug on personal timeless trends

It seems that it is impossible for us not to buy following trends. Trying to anticipate trends, following the existing ones (sometimes you have no choice, if you buy fast fashion/high street for example as no other stuff than current trends is available!), looking for the new ones, every women magazines or online articles and fashion gurus discuss current and upcoming trends.

But seriously, is there no other way?

When I say that I have no idea of what is trendy now or what will be trendy next people think I am posing, but it is true!

Because I have my own trends. Another way of shopping and styling is possible and more and more people are starting creating their own trends! Real trends, those not created by marketing agencies, are personal trends, developing in some communities where marketers search for them to make them a global trend.

So let’s stand on the first phase, when we create our own trends to express ourselves and not to please others or looking for their acceptance.

Not buying the trend has some important positive aspects in my opinion:

  • First one, you buy less: in a world of fast changing trends where what is trendy this morning is completely out this evening (marketing inputs) you are less subject to fall for every new trend. In my personal experience of vintage hunter it can take even years to find exactly what I was looking for.
  • Second thing: it’s really you. It’s your inner style, your own personality that you are expressing. I know that it is very hard to find your own style consciousness and awareness but it is an amazing journey and I suggest everyone to take it. You will learn so much about yourself and you will be able to dress for yourself without trying to please others or to look like them.
  • Last but not least: you are free from manipulation (as far as we can be free from manipulation nowadays). Social trends mirroring in fashion trends as a whole are an interesting pattern to study and to find out more about different eras; modern micro-trends have nothing to do with that and they are just a consumeristic form of modern psychological slavery. Am I exaggerating? Maybe, but I am not that sure.

Am I happier since I stopped trying to be trendy? Yes I am. Because I am really being myself, expressing myself trough my own personal style and I could never go back from here as it took longtime to get there, to this point of my own personal fashion style awareness.

I am showing these pictures because they represent an example of this point where I am right now in not following trends. I am wearing here two vintage pieces, a yellow crochet top and a small rattan bag. They are both from La Maison G, a lovely physical shop in Reggio Emilia owned by Giorgia, who also sells online (her Instagram page is adorable and full of little gems!). They were in my personal wishlist for ages, two years I think. I have never seen them before but I imagined them and I knew exactly how they looked like in my mind. I didn’t settle for anything less or different until I found them exactly how I imagined them! One thing that you learn with vintage is definitely patience: your own trends will appear sooner or later, and they can do it in many different ways: in a market, on an Instagram page, in a shop on the other side of the world, in an online app…literally anywhere! And you will recognize them because they are exactly like they were in that little corner of your imagination when you created your own little personal trend!

Handmade denim trousers by Madame Ilary, flat sandals Clarks. Necklace handmade from Senegal + vintage. Earrings vintage.

The Ladybug’s fight for quality vintage winter nightwear

As it happens at this time every year, I am in the middle of a stressing struggle to find quality winter nightwear!

I am someone who really feels the cold (especially since I live in Milan!) and in the last few years I have been looking for quality vintage winter nightwear such as warm pajamas and nightgowns because, let’s face the truth, what you can find nowadays in the shops or online is really cheap and of the worse quality ever!

Before looking for this type of clothes on the vintage side I have been looking for ages in shops: high street offers as usual a range of poor quality products, highly toxic and basically made of plastic, so no surprise, but even sewing shops (Italian “merceria“) are now selling low quality products and this really makes me upset. When I was a kid we used to go to old sewing shops to buy good quality nightwear both in summer and winter. Warm pajamas and nightgowns were the best as they were super warm and high quality but today even in these shops quality has dramatically dropped off.

I was realizing that the fabric used for this type of nightwear is more and more the pile (also in the form of chenille) a synthetic fabric chemically produced by the petroleum, highly polluting as it was discovered that during the normal washing in the washing machine it may release more than 2000 polyester and acrylic fibers that go straight in our seas. Although pile can also be created by recycled plastic it is very difficult to find these pieces as, to be used, plastic bottles must fulfill very strict requirements, leading to higher production costs.

No other way for me than turning towards vintage, as usual! However, the offer on the vintage market is still quite limited, especially for winter nightwear (dressing gowns and slip dresses or petticoats are definitely easier to find for our summer nights!). In Italy there are basically two shops who provide quality vintage nightwear: Humana Vintage and Attilio Vintage. Humana is one of my favorite places for vintage nightwear but they have limited stock of winter nightwear and it often sells out very quickly. A good alternative is Attilio Vintage, a great idea of Gloria, who decided to recover his grandpa Attilio sewn shop archive. The old “merceria Mussi” was founded in Parma in 1946 and the archive of deadstock pieces (not only nightwear but a wide range of clothing) goes from the 60s to the 90s. They are “continuously discovered” by Gloria who sells them online, in some selected vintage markets and now also in a wonderful new shop in Parma! On their website and offline it is still possible to find good original quality vintage nightwear absolutely new.

Fun fact: when I was writing this post I found on Instagram that Tiziana from Vintage Afropicks was selling great 70s deadstock pajamas and I couldn’t help getting one for myself!

This led me to two conclusions: i) probably there will be more vintage nightwear sold on the vintage market in the next future (I am optimist!); ii) one of the great things about vintage is that you are constantly searching for something that you have in mind until, sooner or later, it appears somewhere!

Anyway, if you know more shops/sellers who may sell vintage winter ngihtwear, please share them with me as I am still struggling to make winter vintage nightwear a great alternative to the cheap poor quality pieces that seem to be the only alternative on the market right now.

Anyway, if are wondering why I am using these pictures to discuss of vintage nightwear here are a few reasons:

  • No need to show you pictures of me in my nightgown!
  • I couldn’t imagine another set of pictures that could go with it!
  • I often use this lovely vintage shirt from French vintage seller Inside the Clouds to sleep
  • I wear turbans also when I sleep (I swear! I make turbans from silk vintage scarves to protect my curly hair)

Levi’s black jeans vintage, turban handmade by Madame Ilary, sandals Clarks.

The Ladybug Guide to American Vintage for Europeans

Raise your hand if you have ever fallen for American vintage!

I know, I know we may live in Italy and France, where the best designer vintage is available, but American vintage has a “je sais pas quoi” that kills us all vintage lovers!

Just to give you an example, in 2012 when I first traveled to New York, I had to pay extra luggage for the amount of vintage that I found there in vintage and charity shops, of incredible quality and at the most affordable prices! The Big Apple is full of amazing vintage shops but if you look online or on social media American sellers always offer an incredible quality and so many exceptionally rare pieces: Persephone Vintage, Audrey Scarlett, Ragg Mopp, Retro Rhapsody, Parasol Vintage,  just to name a few!

But even if we are in 2020 (almost 2021) it is still pretty complicated to buy vintage from the States if you live in Europe because of three main barriers:

  • US Dollar: buying in dollars maybe favorable in some periods, depending on the exchange rate against euro, but pay attention to the hidden bank fees or exchange rates as your beloved vintage dress may cost you more than expected! So, as a good habit, check the rate before deciding to buy it!
  • Sizes: American sizes are normally quite different from European but vintage sizes are even more complicated as often, as it happens also for European vintage, they don’t reflect the normal size charts that we use. Then I suggest first of all to use one of these charts to have a first idea, then it could be very useful (and save you time and money) to ask the seller the measurements of the clothes you want to buy. Speaking of this, American and Europeans use different measures (even in Europe we don’t use the same!) so make sure to use a converter to have the exact measure of the pieces you want to buy.
  • Shipping and Custom fees: the worst part of the game, shipping costs and custom fees are the real tragedy when it comes to buy fantastic American vintage! Shipping costs are not the seller’s fault so please don’t ask them to reduce them as they really pay a lot to send our beautiful pieces to Europe. Postal charges are quite high from the States and we have to consider them, especially if we want to buy heavy clothes like coats or shoes. Additionally, if the selling prices exceeds 25 USD we have to prepare to pay custom fees (directly linked to the final price….the higher is the price the more expensive is the fee) on our vintage pieces. You can ask the seller to adjust the price for you if it is feasible (not legal though!) but more often online platforms for selling vintage directly print the receipt from the platform then it is impossible to change it. Shipping and customs are definitely the highest barrier to buy vintage from the States, which may explain why I got so many vintage clothes when I was there…even if my extra luggage charge was around 70 USD!!!

I am showing here one of my few American vintage pieces (possibly from the late 70s/early 80s) that I bought online from the wonderful Parasol Vintage, definitely one of my favorite American sellers! I like almost everything she sells, as I think that we have very similar taste. When I see her pieces I often think of the barriers that we have in Europe to buy from American seller and it is really a shame that in a such globalized world we have to pay so much to buy some good American vintage online.

I hope that my little guide was useful and I hope that in the future things would change a little bit to ease the process for Europeans of buying some wonderful American vintage!

The Ladybug on the cost of handmade fashion

When I discuss sustainable fashion and present handmade fashion as a good alternative to make our closet as much sustainable as possible, I am often said that handmade fashion is expensive.

In my opinion the real point is that many things are expensive, but not all of them are worthy. Let me explain this in a different way: luxury fashion is expensive but is it really always worth it? Is it always a guarantee of quality and production transparency? Is it always correct and justifiable?

Not everything that is expensive has an expensive production cost; sometimes a product is expensive because the same fact that it has a high price makes it more covetable and desirable. I am not saying that luxury fashion brands prices are never justified, not at all. Many times they are, just sometimes they are not.

Also, when a piece is mass produced, it is very easy for brands to reduce the price per unit produced as the different production costs are amortized by the highest production volumes. Also, more and more often big enterprises producing luxury goods relocate production activities in countries where the costs are incredibly lower even if the final selling price remains high.

This is not the case of handmade fashion, made locally by small business or even one person who produces and sells and bears all the costs that are not reduced or amortized by high production volumes.

The example that I am sharing here is the Frida dress created by Madame Ilary because somehow I directly “lived” its production with Ilaria.

First of all, only two pieces of it were created, just two sizes. Ilaria found the fabric online from an historical Roman fabric seller, very well known for the choice of only great quality materials. Quality materials are expensive. Fact.

During the week of production, yes it took one entire week to physically create it, I was often at her atelier and saw the different stages of the creation. How much is an employee paid for a week of work? Creation has exactly the same price in terms of responsibility and attention to production than in any other job. Please consider that I did not see the preparation of the paper pattern for example, which took almost a month!

Fixed costs for rental payment of the lab and all the associated bills, as well as rented or leased material for the creation must be considered too, as well as taxes for those who legally produce!

I didn’t even mention one of the most sustainable advantages at all: we know EXACTLY who made our clothes and in which conditions as we can see them ourselves. Most of the times they are families, friends, people who we know by name, who live near us, who invested all their time, money and passion in what they are doing. Isn’t it amazing from a buyer point of view? Total transparency of production, real slow fashion in its purest form!

But what fascinates me most is the idea of buying an artist’s idea, of making mine his/her view and imagination, his/her priceless quality work and attention to every single detail of the product. It’s like buying a painting after all, isn’t it? Imagination and ideas come from life experiences, study, observation reshaped in the artist mind with the artist view, is there anything more creative and personal than this?

When I say that buying from an handcrafter is buying real uniqueness this is what I mean. But uniqueness, quality, artistic imagination and reshaping on the final product IS expensive. And these costs are most of the times fully justified and justifiable as I try to explain here.

So instead of saying that handmade fashion is expensive, why don’t we try to buy less, to prefer quality, art, design, unique experiences instead of mass market homologated ideas?

Quality is positively addictive, once you try it you don’t settle for less. Maybe it could be the key to save our poor planet from mass production and in the end also to save money. Yes because are you sure that you spend less buying 20 poor quality pieces in fast fashion shops instead of one or two from handmade creators? I am not sure at all….

Photo Credit: Madame Ilary (as well as the total outfit, completely made with her own imagination).

The Ladybug’s souvenir of Japan (aka the history of Japanese sukajan)

I am pretty sure that you have seen these satin Japanese bomber jackets in your life but I am not sure that you know about their history and why they are so typical, especially in Japan.

The Japan’s souvenir jacket, also called sukajan, is an embroidered satin college or letterman jacket usually in satin, representing typical Japanese landscapes or symbols. I didn’t know that their story starts in the late 30s and that it is strictly connected to an American “tradition” in Japan. I learned about it when I was in Tokyo, in a beautiful vintage shop called Chicago, selling many of these items and I asked the shop assistant to tell me more about them.

She told me that they originates from the city of Yokosuka that has a very long and important military history for Japan and for the United States, especially after the second world war. In fact these jackets started to be produced in the 30s and became very famous during the post-war period, when departing American soldiers bought them as souvenir of the time they spent in Japan. “The original sukajan were often bomber jackets, coats, or even jackets fashioned from old parachute material, with embroidered patches featuring Japanese animals, patterns, or writing. Each jacket was typically hand-stitched — which meant that no two jackets were alike” (source: Japan Today)

You can find original ones in every vintage shop of Tokyo but also all over the world, especially in the States. I even bought a vintage one that I adore when I was in Tokyo at Chicago Vintage (they had so many!).

Today many local shops and designers re-created them with original and modern patterns, like this one that I also got in Tokyo (it’s a longer story because it was my colleagues birthday surprise present!) with a lovely Betty Boop in a perfect Japanese style, wearing a kimono outside a temple with cherry blooms!  

I am  totally in love with these two jackets and it is also for me a way to remember my beautiful trip in this amazing country!

Here I am wearing my Betty Boop modern souvenir jacket by Cropped Heads with a vintage inspired tee from Joanie Clothing and handmade denim Marlene trousers from Madame Ilary.

You can find pictures of my original vintage Japanese sukajan here when I was Bucharest!

The Ladybug on the sustainable wax print and how to wear it (sustainably)

There is no need to repeat again what African wax prints mean to me right? How much I love their colors, prints, history and how they remind me of my favorite place in the world, correct?

Ok, so let’s try to get further in the detail on how to wear them in a completely sustainable way!

First of all the choice of the print: let me tell you that I buy very rarely already sewn pieces because one of the things that I love more is the process of choosing the print and decide what to make with it! There are pictures of me sitting on the floor in a Senegalese market covered of wax fabrics and they represent a very happy moment for me. I want to decide the print based on what I know about them, their history, meaning and how they talk to me for what they represent to my eye and soul. This is how special this moment is for me. I always buy a lot of prints when I travel to Africa, sometimes I do it online (basically on Etsy from a couple of trusted African sellers) but never in Italy: they are too expensive and very often they are not of very good quality. Anyway the first rule is: let it talk to you! Second: buy it from local market sellers, if you can!

Usually when I buy a piece I already have in mind what to do with it: if I enough time when I travel I give it to local tailors (Senegalese are the best: great quality in no time and you will feel so happy because a. your piece is locally sourced and produced; b. you helped to sustain the community. It’s a great feeling, believe me!)

This was not the case for this skirt: locally sourced in Senegal (not from me but from a friend who bought it for me in this case) but locally produced in Italy by the magical hands of Madame Ilary who created a beautiful circle maxi skirt!

Our sustainable piece should then be worn in a sustainable way, for example with an handmade piece (the beautiful Aime-toi Madame by Madame Ilary black tee) and a vintage black leather biker jacket (found in a huge garage sale in Munich for only 15 euros a couple of years ago).

Arabic necklace is handmade as well as all the rings (locally sourced in Peru and handmade by Francesco Tramontano); statement golden bamboo earrings are from Giovanni Raspini (birthday present from my colleagues), blue suede and leather ankle boots are from Ouigal.

The Ladybug’s mystical experience at “Rûh/Soul” exhibit by Maïmouna Guerresi

Queen Hathun (2015)

This time last year, just back from my second trip to Senegal, I attended one of the greatest exhibits I have ever seen in my life. In the intimate frame of the Officine dell’Immagine in Milan, a small exhibit completely turned me upside down. This is the proof that you don’t need a streamline exhibit to feel the art flowing in your veins and to have your soul impacted just watching a photograph: when it’s art it can happen anywhere, even in a small gallery but the artist, yes, the artist must be powerful.

Powerful is indeed the word that I would use to describe the Rûh/Soul exhibit by Maïmouna Guerresi.

Just a handful of her photographs holding on the wall completely floored me.

Yaye Fall (2019)
Red Balance (2018)
What Kind of (2016)

The main reason – I think – is the artist’s representation of women: the women pictured in her photographs represent the force of the African Muslim woman, The Great Mother, as she defines her. They are powerful, anchored to the Earth like a tree, light and soft as a cloud, they are one with Nature. I had fresh memories in my mind of these women, the African women that I met in Senegal. It is not a coincidence that Maïmouna Guerresi has Senegalese origins. But also Italian, and her mixed culture is clearly visible in her art: what a mistake to think that different cultures cannot perfectly mix to reach the supreme beauty!

Another reason that makes this exhibit so powerful is the clear feeling of divine peeking out of her photographs. To me this appears clearly in her photo Yaye Fall (honestly my favorite one), where the human being is the link between the Nature – the roots of the tree from which it elevates – and the highest divinity.

It is very hard for me to describe my feelings in front of Maïmouna Guerresi art. In that exact moment my first answer was silence. I was so overwhelmed by many powerful feelings that the only thing that I could do was just listening to them, feeling them and let them guide me to this almost mystical experience.

How many artists can do that?

PS: I wore a vintage dress found at a Vinokilo event in Milan and handmade jewelry from Afrohemien and Metalica.

Flow (2019)
Swing (2018)

The Ladybug answers: How do we know if a brand is really ethical?

When it comes to ethical fashion brands, how can we say if a brand is really ethical?

I make a lot of online research every time that I want to buy a piece from a brand that I don’t know well to make sure that their production is made by respecting environment and if it is fair with its workers (one point shouldn’t go without the other).

I can say that it is seriously difficult to understand it, especially because lately many brands are “greenwashing” their activities, considering the high level of awareness around the world on the sustainability of fashion. For this reason you must be very careful but there are a few tips here that can help!

  • CHECK OUT THE BRAND INTERNET WEBSITE

The easiest way to have an idea about ethical policies of a brand is checking its website and see how much space it dedicates to its sustainability policies. It is a first step but don’t trust entirely what is written on their website. More and more brands are trying to get into the sustainability path only as a way to cover their real practices, trying to convince the growing number of ethically aware customers about their conscious practices. This attitude is called greenwashing and it is becoming very popular especially within fast fashion industry.

  • STALK THE BRAND ONLINE

The second step is to google the brand online and see what forums or news say about it. If the brand can showcase itself as an ethical brand, it cannot control what other people say about it regarding its practices and its impacts. More and more websites are specialized in sustainable brands analysis as well as forums and blogs. They can give you very interesting hints about the brand you want to buy from.

  • PAY ATTENTION TO THEIR PARTNERS AND CERTIFICATIONS

Sometimes the brand does not own directly the factories but it relies on local partners to provide factories and workers to the brand. If this can be a very difficult practice to drive out you can learn a lot about the brand practices. Please don’t think that if a brand product is Made in Italy it is automatically “clean”, the “Made in…” tag only makes us aware of the place where the item was sewn. Also, if a brand states that it is “for a good cause” it may not actually be producing items ethically!

A good hint may be if a brand becomes a certified member of one of the fair-trade organizations as it means they have met the required ethical criteria; however this is not a necessary step.

  • EMAIL THE BRAND

If you are not convinced yet you can still email the brand and directly ask for the information that you need to know or that are not yet clear to you: where are their clothes made, how do they ensure the safety and fair pay of all workers in the supply chain, where information on third-parties can be found etc.

I followed these steps when I decided to buy from Zuri, a young ethical brand founded by two American expats in Nairobi, Sandra Zhao and Ashleigh Gersh Miller. I could appreciate the brand for the locally sourced fabrics and its concrete engagement for sustainability.

All their creations are locally sourced and ethically produced by local handcrafters in Kenya. For example, they source fabrics directly from vendors in the markets, cutting out the middlemen and they partner with SOKO, a company focusing on people and environment.

Zuri’s only produces one dress: the three in one dress. It is available in many different colors and patterns and it can be worn as a dress as well as a jacket and a skirt. I love the easy and simple A-line shape that makes it very versatile and easy to adapt to many different outfit ideas. Versatility of the pieces is also a good indicator of this brand attention to sustainability: producing only one model, which can be worn in different ways, will be definitely worn more and often, reducing the need to buy other pieces, don’t you think?

I am wearing here my favorite Zuri dress in blue and red, definitely one of my favorite pieces from my sustainable closet!

Golden sandals are thrifted Miu Miu, brass hoop earrings are handmade from Metalica Creazioni.