Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Small Voice Within- World Vision

This is an edited post I wrote for World Vision Malaysia when I joined the Singapore branch as a full-time staff. I feel a little in a limbo lately, rereading my own words was a good reminder to march on. Well, if you needed some encouragement too...

Posted in Oct 2008.
Last month, I had a flashback of an incident that happened more than half a lifetime ago. Standing nervously in front of my class, I tried to explain how children were dying because of famine in North Korea and asked for donations.

That was probably the last and only time I tried to voice out for the needy. That gungho voice diminished to nothing more than a crumbled sound bite. This changed in 2003, when my name abruptly lengthened to become “Wong Sze Zen, That Miss Malaysia Girl”. Soon, the tiny hushed voice spoke up again to advocate for the plight of underprivileged children as a World Vision ambassador.

I get uncomfortable when people tell me they admire the "work" I do because truth is, I've done too little in exchange for the priceless life lessons.

I learned that we cannot just give a dollar to a hungry child when there is no food to be bought within a 100km radius of his village and the only mode of travel are his frail legs.

I learned that there is no use of a school and a complete set of books and stationery when a child is too sick from diarrhea to go to class.

I learned that there is no use in giving a plot of rice farm to a poor man, if the farm only gets water when it rains.

The concept of “Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he eats for a lifetime” became clear to me.

God so lovingly gave me back my voice. Search within, you will find that voice too. I hope you let it roar.

Well, that post is 2 years old and although I don't officially serve in World Vision anymore I still believe in doing our part. There are endless ways to help. To sponsor a child via World Vision, go to followed by your country url. Meanwhile, roar, baby, ROAR!

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Mad Men, Hot Ladies

Recycle, upcycle, just go vintage shopping and get these fabulous looks!

I almost finished a whole season of Mad Men in one sitting! The smart suits and voluptuous dresses had me glued to the tv. How can you not when the cast sashays in layers of sweetness (Betty earlier seasons) and sizzling seduction (Joan.)? Let's not start with those skinny ties and tapered suits on the men.


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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sustainable Consumption an Oxymoron?

Definitions from

sustainable (səˈsteɪnəbəl)
2. (of economic development, energy sources, etc) capable of being maintained at a steady level without exhausting natural resources or causing severe ecological damage: sustainable development

con·sump·tion   /kənˈsʌmpʃən/ Show Spelled[kuhn-suhmp-shuhn]
1.the act of consuming, as by use, decay, or destruction.

Is sustainable consumption paradoxical? How can we maintain something by taking it away? Short from totally not consuming at all, we can be kinder to Earth and ourselves by being aware of the consequences of the choices that we make. Asking where and how things come from is a good way to start. Give it some thought if we can forego that purchase or when we must, is it so hard to choose the eco-happy one over the familiar labels for $5 more?

I'm no green graduate but am taking baby steps and lapping up on info. I'm with you if you like the idea of eco but still find yourself having to consciously nudge yourself to do the right thing. I will admit I subscribe to this:

Focus on the big print and the small print will become even smaller.

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Edun & LV: If You Need Another LV

With throngs of LVs in all shapes and sizes on the street, maybe people will stop to think "Hey, I don't need to join the mass fashion show." But I will be realistic. LV sales will continue to shoot off the roof and so if your LV collection has to be expanded, consider this Keepall, a collaboration with Edun, U2's Bono and his wife Ali Hewson's fashion line created to encourage trade with Africa.

Fair trade bone charm handcrafted in Kenya (sold separately)

Sale proceeds of the Louis Vuitton/Edun Monogram Revelation will go to Conservation Cotton Initiative in Uganda. Don't ask me why the charms are made in Kenya but the proceeds mainly go to Uganda. I deduce that the Kenyan charm makers are benefitting through production of the charms. So long it helps someone in need, it's good help.  

Looks like Edun has been in the line of fire lately, especially within the strictly ethical/eco circles. What with the big fanfare of promoting aide via trade to Africa when it was launched in 2005, now more than half of Edun's latest collection is manufactured outside of Africa. Hence the accusation of Edun contradicting on its core mission, at least at first glance. However, Edun's sales have been plummeting and if not for Mr and Mrs Bono's personal financial statements, I think it would've been long gone and left a discouraging vibe for others struggling to create their own ethical brand.

LV Edun Ad campaign
Whether Edun is selling itself out (no pun intended to the fact that LVMH has bought a chunk of Edun's stakes) or not, it has successfully cast the limelight on aide awareness and ways to contribute. And it did put its neck out there and tried fully manufacturing in Africa but it just did not meet the standards of consumers to sustain. Not yet.

Putting the message out there is the first step for change. Bono and Ali Hewson have been great advocates so let's cut Edun some slack.

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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Livia Firth on the Green Carpet

Livia Firth worked the red carpet in green. The film producer, director, creative director of Eco Age and wife of Colin Firth took up the Green Carpet Challenge that saw her blogging at UK to document her effort. This may be slightly old news but to those who are catching up on green fashion... erm, like yours truly, here are some photo proofs, test driven on the most brutal red carpets that eco fashion can be classy couture. 

Livia kicked things off stylishly by wearing the "Carina" black dress made from reclaimed fabrics, with accentuated chiffon sleeves by Orsola de Castro of From Somewhere at the Venice Film Festival in September 2009.

It's time for a full blown gown at the Golden Globes. She wore a repurposed wedding dress with a black sash belt by Christina Marty of Christiana Couture to create this chic romantic look. Although the dress was a huge success, sadly Livia noticed that interest dispersed once people knew that it had been worn as a wedding gown before. Read more here.

   Wowing in Leila Hafzi at the Baftas. Huge hit! She later donated this dress to be auctioned on ebay to benefit Oxfam.

 Finally at the Oscars returning full circle to Orsola de Castro of From Somewhere. Can you believe that this dress and the Roger Vivier clutch are made entirely of materials that would otherwise be in a landfill?! Read more here.

This photo is of a less formal, cocktail number she wore to A Single Man London premier. Does the black sash belt look familiar? Livia made a point that an outstanding piece can see the light of day and flashing light bulbs again!
With model Lily Cole wearing Sara Shepherd at the premier of A Single Man, Tom Ford's directorial debut starring Colin Firth. (It's just coincidence that Tom Ford keeps gettng mentioned here!)
The scrutinising eyes of fashion watchers heighten to bionic sight when it comes to judging who's hot and who's not on the red carpet. Eco-conscious Livia Firth took the challenge to the next level by donning only sustainable fashion and did it with finesse. Can sustainable fashion be haute? I think her dress sense and sensibility give us a pretty good idea.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Eat Pray Love and Decorate with Tilonia Social Enterprise

Although I don't believe in fortune telling, I am gleefully waiting for the release of Eat Pray Love.

In Singapore, I will just have to wait a little longer to watch it but knowing my obsession for all things Indian, I will surely love the protagonist, Elizabeth Gilbert's journey there. Here's a sneak peek into the burst of colours of the movie set.

photos from Elle Decor

Bring your gaze onto the bottom picture, and the top left and right corners. See those dangly colourful curtains? (Trust me to zoom in on details that are out of focus!) A few strands of those will add a romantic bohemian feel to any room. I found a social enterprise, Friends of Tilonia that stocks something similar with bells for extra cheer.

Friends of Tilonia supports the work of Barefoot College in Tilonia, Rajasthan, India. Barefoot College is an NGO that helps the rural poor to achieve self-sustainability and has been such a successful model that it's now adapted around the world. The communities work towards solutions through rural handicrafts, solar energy, water, education, health care, people’s action, communication, women’s empowerment and wasteland development. Its founder, Bunker Roy is in TIME magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World 2010. By expanding sales of Tilonia crafts, Friends of Tilonia helps to increase the income of rural artisans and build economic opportunities in these communities.

If you have 5 minutes to spare, check out this video on Barefoot College.

What a run-around from Eat Pray Love, to a snippet of home decorating, to a social enterprise and then to the impressive passion of Bunker Roy. I guess this goes to show eating, praying, loving and even home decorating can lead to a better tomorrow if we keep our "appetite for life" not just for ourselves.

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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Eco-Friendly Auralis The Champ at New York Fashion Week

It's a wrap at the 2010's New York Fashion Week! The official hoo haa was Tom Ford's namesake debut women's collection, with Beyoncé, Julianne Moore, Rinko Kikuchi (of Babel fame) and the classic Lauren Hutton strutting the catwalk. Not one photo of the collection or show has been released to supposedly avoid counterfeit but I think it's more likely to further pump up the hype.

For me, the biggest news was what spun out of The GreenShows, a three-day-event dedicated to eco-friendly, ethically sound, fair-trade fashion during New York Fashion Week. Having been horrifically stunned by too many avant garde projects of unwearable recycled plastic bottle dresses and red plastic bag shirts, I'm too excited to share the work of Auralis Herrero under her label, Auralis.

Auralis Spring 2011
Photos from Ecouterre

How gorgeous is that fluid yellow dress? A beautiful collection with eco and cultural sustainablity in mind. The fabrics used are fair-trade, organic, sustainable, recycled or natural like hemp, bamboo and organic cotton. The whole process leaves minimal environmental footprint and helps create a new market for her native Puerto Rican straw weaving artisans whose crafts are on the brink of disappearing.

"By bringing it back to mainstream, you really help to rescue the craft," Auralis was quoted as saying in the NY Daily News

There's another great story behind all this. This 28-year-old had planned to showcase her designs at the next fashion week but was unexpectedly invited for 2010's show. With funds sorely lacking and less than one month to get her collection runway ready, she embarked on an adventure to make the impossible possible. She quickly launched a Kickstarter site and raised funds online to meet the super tight deadline (and bills!).

No guts, no glory. 109% funded and we have the pleasure of viewing this beautifully ethical line.

I'm really looking forward to Asia based designers coming up with sustainable fashion too. Again, if you have some hidden gems to share, please post it in the comment box. Meanwhile, view more of Auralis current collection at Auralis.

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Trendy Make Up for the Weekend

Vogue September issue is usually the fattest of the whole year's installations and I love this piece from the British version on minimalism 101.

Although that's my look come winter or fall or the all year round summer of Malaysia and Singapore (whoopee!), I'm loving this minimalist Fall trend if it denotes that make up ought to be natural brows and no mascara. I think you're with me if you hate patiently massaging your lashes between your fingers to get rid of it too.

This weekend, I'll be uncharacteristically wearing trendy make up! Hee hee...

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tuning Home

What's in the box?

Yesterday, I heard a fairy tale-like story. It goes like this:

                 There lives a renowned Indonesian designer who was enjoying a comfortable life in the city. One day, he visited his village Temanggung in Central Java and was very saddened to see only old women and children. The men have all left for bigger towns to make a living. There simply were no means of survival in the dilapidated place he used to call home. So he gave up creature comfort and courageously relocated back to the village to start a resuscitation project and it birthed this!


These multi award-winning modern retro radios have spawned a massive cult following and completely turned around the fate of Temanggung. Retailing at US$200-250, these style-in-a-box are handcrafted almost completely with wood and all wood used are sourced in the village or nearby. Sensitive of his 40 persons factory's use of wood, the designer is passionate about replanting each tree and more. A tree nursry is part of the Magno project.

School children help plant some of the trees to nurture eco awareness.

The locals stand proud of the positive changes they've achieved.
Photos from Wooden Radio

Profits are channeled back to the village for the tree nursery, training and other benefits for Temanggung. The demography is also more balanced now with the men returning. Short of calling itself a social enterprise, this eco-friendly project has revived the spirits of the people. Knowing that they are taking steps to make life better for themselves and the next generations has given the people the priceless gifts of positivity, confidence and hope.


The heroic story of Singgih S. Kartono sounds too happily-ever-after? I'm positive there will be many more groundbreaking chapters in the life of this man who decided to tune his talent, guts and heart to home.

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Monday, September 13, 2010

Model Behaviour

Ethiopia is a beautiful country with vast plains and the bluest cloudless skies. During my World Vision trip there last year, I saw the most gorgeous faces. The children simply have the sharpest features and the most captivating eyes.

One of my favourite models, Liya Kebede is from this east African country. Her looks eminate beauty, grace and gentle strength.

Scouted by a French modelling agency, Liya moved to Paris at 18, then to New York. A year later, her star shot bright white when Gucci offered an exclusive contract for its Fall/Winter 2000 fashion show. Ordained by the maestro Tom Ford himself. Ad campaigns after ad campaigns followed. In 2007, Liya made history by banking a multi-million dollar contract with Estee Lauder as the first woman of colour to represent this cosmetic giant.

Fat cheques and flashlights do not blind this beauty. Besides being appointed as WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health in 2005, Liya went on to further fight the plight of her home country by setting up The Liya Kebede Foundation, whose mission is to reduce maternal, newborn and child mortality in Ethiopia and around the world.

Liya worked with Bill and Melinda Gates on "Start with a Girl: A New Agenda for Global Health." as part of their Living Proof Project. Watch the video here.

She not only walks the talk, this lady walks hard! On top of all that, she further stepped up her commitment by setting up a social enterprise called Lemlem that provides job opportunities and promotes Ethiopian weaving.

Inspirational. Tiffany, I think you put it just right.

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