Sunday hiking is my reboot for the week that lies ahead. I discovered the Modderfontein reserve in Johannesburg, South Africa, in December 2018, whilst scrolling on Facebook, and oh my word, what a find! It’s the old AECI explosives testing site, which now comprises 700 hectares of the most pristine and beautiful hiking, cycling and running trails.
My health has been an issue for many years, but in 2018, I decided to take it back. I got off all the meds that I’d been put on, because nobody knew what was really wrong with me. All I knew was that I was in pain from my brain to my toes. 13 months later and I hiked 10km’s today!
I stopped eating inflammatory, synthetic foods and I slowly started exercising. In the beginning I exercised through the pain, but as I lost each kilo, the pain diminished on it’s own, with no pain killers needed. I’ve lost 12 kilos and many more inches, and I feel human again. It’s a very special feeling to feel human after feeling like an alien in your own body, for so long.
Of course I could never do it without the support of my patient beautiful life partner Mr. C. Without him I know I would never get up at 5am on a Sunday, to go hiking at 6am.
My appproach to my life is a choice. I choose to see the beauty in everything. It doesn’t make me lucky and it isn’t always perfect, but it sure beats wallowing in the negativity that we are purposefully exposed to. The more pretty pictures I post, the more people tell me how lucky I am that my life seems so perfect. There’s no such thing as the perfect life, but there’s definitely a thing called the perfect choice.
How do you keep the masses from questioning your dodgy actions?
You keep them stupid, hungry, cold and in debilitating debt. That way they will just be trying to survive, they will never have time or capacity to question or see the beauty in anything.
How do you not become one of those masses?
You make a very conscious choice to choose a different life. You enlighten yourself any way you can. Don’t assume that you have to pay for everything, you don’t, you live in the smartest world, with access to things called Google and YouTube, that can teach you anything you want to know, for free. Don’t tell me it’s not free because you need data, there’s free wi-fi, you may just have to choose to look a little harder for it.
How do you shift your thinking from shame poor me to Yay me?
You stop listening to fake negative news, that’s a logical choice. You choose to search out the beauty that we are surrounded by, and hardly ever see, because you’re so busy obsessing about situations you cannot ever change. You hold a thing in your hand every single day that enables you to capture so much beauty. Go to the camera in your phone, focus on something beautiful and capture it, and then share it and make somebody happy, because you made a choice to share beauty and not ugly! You don’t have to be a photographer, you just have to be committed to seeing the beauty that is everywhere, and that has been gifted to us for free. You’re surrounded by it, you just have to start seeing it.
And when you start experiencing the feeling of satisfaction, because you put something beautiful out into the world, then you will understand the difference between being lucky and being the navigator of your own destiny.
It’s always a choice 💜
In conversation with a very dear client this week, she told me that I absolutely have to share my experiences so far in 2017, because there are so many people going through so much, and sometimes it takes somebody else’s experiences to put your own into perspective…so here goes…whew, and it’s only the middle of March!
2016 was a year of immense challenges both personally and as an entrepeneur. The world as we knew it shifted once again, and new challenges presented themselves. Personally I was dealing with watching my beloved father dying a very slow death in front of me. Watching the slow degradation really took its toll on me towards the end of 2016, and it was only my faith in focusing on the light, that enabled me to keep the darkness at bay.
But then as life does, it always offers up two choices. I had embarked on a journey to realising my dream of designing and printing my own exclusive fashion fabrics, that would allow me to take my Plus size fashion collections to a whole new level, and that was my welcome diversion. I completely immersed myself in my great love which is all things fabric related. And so 2016 came to an end, and I was able to go away for 4 days and indulge my love for iPhone photography. I discovered a love for bugs and macro photography, and captured nature at it’s really ‘up close’ best.
And into 2017 I came with an excitement I hadn’t felt in a long time. I went full steam into converting my iPhone photos into fabric prints, and on the 10th of February we printed our first samples of my exclusive designs. Realising my 25 year dream was a defining moment, and I came alive with a feeling that made me really excited. I rushed home after work to share my excitement, only to find that my Dad had taken a really bad turn. An hour later he died in front of us, and even though I never got to share my news with him, I knew that he had moved on, to release me to be able to go forth and give this new venture my all. It is a venture that will prove many things, because I’ve gone into it knowing very little, but am determined to take full advantage of the amazingly smart world we live in.
On the 11th of February, 24 hours after my Dad passed on, my beloved mother tripped over a shoe and fractured her hip. At this stage you’re probably reading this going “what!!”, well I felt the same way as I stood looking at her lying on the floor. It is 5 weeks since her fall and I have been ‘nursing’ her, never having taken care of anybody on this level before. I’ve been asked so many times how I do it, and it’s a crazy thing, but there’s a side of you that kicks in and you just do it. As negative as the actual experience was, there are many positives that have come out of it, the most important one being reconnection. We had all become so disconnected whilst dealing with my Dad’s illness, and in a crazy twist, my Mom’s fall forced us all to reconnect.
They say that things happen in 3’s and I so hoped that it wouldn’t be true, but unfortunately we’ve been dealt another devastating blow. Three weeks ago my father in law was diagnosed with incurable lung cancer, and has been given four to six months to live. I’ve had to go from being supported to being the supporter.
I’m not one to question, so I’ve accepted that this is our journey in 2017, and our lives at the moment are filled with many juxtapositions. We live with tremendous sadness, and we live with tremendous excitement. The diversion that the excitement provides from the sadness, is one we will only truly understand in the months to come.
You’re probably asking how I’ve stayed upbeat and focused. My only advice is to find something that you can immerse yourself in when the going gets tough. I hope that your going is not as tough as mine has been, but my iPhone photography and iPhone editing, has been my absolute ‘sanity saver’.
Life as I knew it, is going to be forever changed in 2017, but I have a little toolbox in my head, filled with ‘life tools’ and I think I’m going to be calling on them a lot. Feel free to reach out if you need support.
I get asked this question all the time…please open a shop in Pretoria, please open on the East Rand, West Rand, please open in Durban, Cape Town, P.E., Bloem, please open in London, Sydney, Germany, New York etc. etc. I get emails requesting agencies, and so it goes on. I’m going to attempt to explain the ‘why’ behind my decision…here goes…
I could never in my wildest dreams, have imagined how crazy things would become at Hayley Joy. I opened a store, in a small centre, doing something nobody else was doing. I set out to create a beautiful, safe space, that all the forgotten women out there, could claim as their own. Being Plus size myself, meant that I knew exactly what was needed. I also quickly realised, that the need for realistic regular sizes and odd sizes, was a very real need, so I went from setting out to open an exclusive Plus size store, to having a store that supplies all sizes. This decision has proved to be incredibly rewarding.
Not only do I have the store, I also have a full production facility, that supplies the store. Hayley Joy production, supplies Hayley Joy retail with 99% of it’s stock. I wear many hats at Hayley Joy, but my main job is to develop the shapes and styles, which are unique to Hayley Joy. I have developed a unique size curve, exclusive to Hayley Joy, based on true body measurements. This is what really sets us apart, the Hayley Joy, Plus size range, fits and flatters like a true Plus size range should. The Hayley Joy range is all about respect and honesty. I was determined that when you come shopping at Hayley Joy, there will be enough variety that will afford you choices, you won’t just have to buy something, because that’s all there is.
So to the dilemma of expansion. Because I wear so many hats at Hayley Joy, I have had to accept my limitations. I cannot be everywhere all the time. The two most important factors to me are the quality and styling of the garments. It takes a huge amount of my time to develop a new style, and I can never delegate this. A lot of the designs come together while I am working in the store. I’ll be chatting to a client and we’ll start thrashing out ideas and I will take that with me to production the following morning, and it’s there that my production manager Tina and I, will start planning a new concept. I’m hands on in production and am militant about quality. I never, ever waiver in my quest to put out beautifully designed, perfectly manufactured garments. It says so much about who and what Hayley Joy is about, good quality shows that we respect ourselves and our business. Once again time is a factor here. Because I insist on such stellar quality, our production is a bit slower, this means that unless I give work out, we can never open more stores. I have attempted to give work out, unfortunately it’s always a disaster, as the quality is never up to ‘my’ scratch. I have an awesome production unit and am really loathe to mess with it. It took a huge amount of input to get it to where it is today. There is such a fine line between growth and reality.
The reality is that I absolutely love what I do, I have more passion now than ever before. I want to always feel this way, and I honestly believe that the day it all becomes overwhelming, is the day I will stop loving what I do, and it will show in the final product.
In my search to find a way to offer Hayley Joy to women all over the world, I took Hayley Joy online, because this is an expansion that doesn’t require me to be too involved. All the background aspects are taken care of by a team, and I only get involved when I need to liaise with a client in connection with size. It will never be as effective as opening bricks and mortar stores, but it carries so many fewer risks, and it allows me to take care of what is most important, and that is constantly creating new styles and shapes, that fit and flatter all of us.
In a bold move, I opted to remove all the sizes from the labels in my garments, and replace them with shapes.
After many years on the shop floor at Hayley Joy, I felt that it was time for me to lead the way in eliminating body shaming, with dignity. I’ve spent many hours in one-on-one consultations and it always comes down to the same thing – low self-esteem – which isn’t helped by having to buy clothing with a 5XL, 6XL and 7XL label in it. Removing sizes from my garment labels, seemed the most obvious thing to do, after the umpteenth call from a client asking us to cut out the labels from their clothing, because their husband, son, son-in-law or boss were coming to collect on their behalf, and “they absolutely couldn’t have them see what size she is buying.” The final affirmation for me was when a client sent me a picture of a Hayley Joy garment belonging to her mom, that had the corner of the label cut out, where the size normally is.
I’m never one to play it safe, so I decided to go where no other clothing designer and manufacturer had really gone before. I allocated colours to the various sizes, and it felt so good to say you’re a yellow, or a pink, or a green. And then at 3am one morning, which is when my brain tends to decide to have it’s real moments, I woke with absolute clarity…I needed to have coloured labels with shapes. This would mean that instead of clients referring to their size as a 2XL, they become a pink heart (which is the new label for a 2XL HJ garment). As a shapely women, it made perfect sense to me, and I knew it would make perfect sense to my clients, and in turn, would eliminate the stress of a number in a label.
Many clothing brands have dropped the plus-size from the description of their ranges, and are seeing a marked increase in profits, but nobody has gone as far as removing sizes completely. Practically I think it’s difficult to remove sizes if you are a store carrying multiple brands. For Hayley Joy it makes perfect sense, because we manufacture all our collections in our own production facility, exclusively for our retail store. It’s easier for us to educate our present and future clients on how to buy the ranges. It also allows for us to demonstrate our respect for the issues around sizing. I’d spent months on the internet reading comments on anything Plus-size related, and the recurring gripe is this, “Why do we have to be labelled, why can’t we just be part of the consumer chain?”
I had given it much thought, and was in agreement. It was time to start offering fashion in all sizes, with no stigma. Hayley Joy is known as a Plus-size brand, but the reality is that we cater for all sizes. I have many clients who buy Hayley Joy small, because they like the styles and the look and feel. They are really not fazed by what size we go up to. In fact, they are often in awe, that there is a brand who is taking a small pattern, and sizing it all the way up to a 7XL.
As a small independent boutique, attempting to do something that radical, within the clothing space, was risky. But for me, I believe that the time was right for somebody to make a move in this very maligned area of fashion.
Plus-size clothing has a stigma, there is no denying it. I’m hoping that by making the changes and removing sizes completely, HJ has created a precedent, and at the same time, demonstrated to women out there, that somebody has taken heed of all the feedback, and come up with a fun, quirky way to limit the stigma and remove the trauma of shopping by size. I think we’ve been so fixated on size for so long, that we’ve forgotten that we have a shape too, and it’s our shape that defines the clothing we wish to wear.
I hope that this will revolutionise the way women are marketed to in fashion, globally. It’s time for women of all shapes and sizes to be honoured. I want this to become a global undertaking. We the designers, who are claiming to know a thing or two about Plus-size fashion, need to realise that our clients needs are not that complicated, they just want respectfully designed, well fitting, fashion forward clothing, without stigma around their size.
I want to be that designer who changed the way women of all sizes are marketed to. In my own small way, I hoped that this would revolutionise the way women were marketed to in fashion, globally. It was time for women of all shapes and sizes to be honoured. I wanted this to become a global undertaking. We the designers, who claim to know a thing or two about Plus-size fashion, needed to start realising that our clients needs are not that complicated, they just want respectfully designed, well fitting, fashion forward clothing, without stigma around their size. I believed that the first step in taking the trauma out of sizing…and the first step for Hayley Joy towards this, was to make fashion about a Shape, not a Size.
I’ve never been more determined than I was, to make it out of 2016 with my confidence and my determination intact, and I’ve never wanted to persevere as much as I do in 2017. 2016 was a challenging year but I didn’t allow it to take me down. I went back at it hard and focused on the end goal, which is always to deliver 100%. I made an interesting observation about ones state of mind in tough times. It seems to be so much easier to succumb than to fight back. Well I fought back, I never gave up (there were times when my faith was tested), but if I know nothing else, I know that I must succeed, there is to much at stake for me to crumble.
During the last 6 months of 2016, I had an awakening, I started to see things completely differently, and I started to really feel 2017. I’m not the biggest planner, I tend to wake up and see how I feel, which usually dictates the plan (interesting way to operate as an entrepeneur I hear you say). But it’s how I’ve always done things, and I’m lucky to have a team that flow with the uneven and unpredictable tide. The only plan that I ‘planned’, was to become more aware, more in the moment, and more determined to see only beauty in 2017.
So it’s back to work on the 9th Jan and part of the perseverance plan is to take me and my business to a new level. I have nurtured a great team around me, who are able to take care of themselves, so for me it’s off to have some fun. I’m going inside my creative brain and I am hoping to deliver the most wonderful and innovative designs that can be applied to any surface. I’ve seen a mock up of one design on a variety of surfaces, from bags, to cushion covers, to T-shirts to canvases, and the cliché ‘the sky’s the limit’ has never been more appropriate.
The photos that I took of these mushrooms, made me really think about perseverance. They were growing out of a pile of debris, and yet their determination to show off their beauty and determination, was never going to be impacted by their surroundings. In 2017, I’ll be looking to nature as my constant inspiration, and these photos prove how much inspiration there is all around us, if we just take some time to look.
I get really, really irritated when people tell me how lucky I am to have my own business, be my own boss, have my own choices blah, blah, blah. I’ve decided to become ‘unirritated’ and choose to accept that I’m incredibly blessed with luck. Blessed to do what I love, blessed to make a difference, and especially blessed to work with some of the most amazing women.
I’m going to be featuring some of those amazing women through 2017. I thought I should kick off the initiative by featuring a woman who inspires me, who makes me so proud to dress her, and a woman we should all know about because she embraces who she is…very proudly.
Mari Lee is the founder and CEO of DevCom, a company that prides itself on creating a direct link between effective communication, and achieving business objectives. Mari has 18 years experience in development, project management and strategic projects.
Dressing Mari is inspiring on so many levels. I’ve dressed her personally, I’ve dressed her team for corporate events, and every time I work with DevCom, I’m reminded of how blessed I am to have such grateful and loyal clients…and very lucky too!
Mari shared these photos with me, and has graciously consented to me sharing them with all of you.
My Plus size fashion journey is about to take on a whole new direction.
I don’t believe in coincidences, but I most definitely believe in destiny. Signing up to do a random photography course five months ago has set me on a life changing path with destiny, that is going to explode on so many levels in 2017. I love how quickly my eye has become trained, to see a photographic opportunity in every single thing I see. Whilst packing a pink mesh Miracle jacket, into a lime green carrier bag, for a client, I knew I needed to take a photograph. She looked at me a little strangely…
I then explained that I’m on a design journey, that is going to culminate in me designing my own exclusives fabric prints for my Hayley Joy collections. I’ve embarked on an amazing journey and am in awe of what is achievable.
The capabilities of an iPhone and the endless supply of apps has been mind blowing for me from a design perspective. However, if I’m going to achieve the ultimate in fabric design, I’m going to need to know a bit more….sooooooo…it’s back to school in the new year. Time to go and learn all about graphic design, so that we can step and repeat our prints perfectly.
When I look at these designs that I’ve created from a simple jacket in a packet, I get all tingly, because I know that 6 months from now, I’ll look at them, and know that going back to ‘school’ was a very good idea. But for now, if this was all I was able to accomplish, I’d be happy, because I absolutely love the resulting prints gained from my ‘jacket in a packet’ photograph.
It’s emails like this that make me so incredibly sad. I can only imagine the desperation, and then the guts to actually write and send this email. I still cannot believe that no other stores get the need for respectfully designed Odd and Plus sizes. Surely I cannot be the only designer, with her own weight issues, that gets it…that thought defies logic.
I am constantly pushing the design boundaries for Plus sizes, because the needs are very different to normal sizes, and you cannot think that you are just going to upsize normal sizes. When designing collections for Hayley Joy, I insist on incorporating styles for all occasions, because this is not the first email like this, and it certainly won’t be the last.
The good news is that T arrived, tried on two different styles, first one was definitely not right, second one was amazing. She shrank in front of my eyes. Her relief was inspiring, and so was her gratitude.
Being able to make a difference and make a living…once again, my gratitude knows no bounds.