Giving back in style
The grateful pure smile of a child in need, a beautiful lush green forest bursting with life and colour and the face of a woman or girl who has been saved from something horrible and placed into hope and purpose. On the other side of all these heart-warming realties, are hard working, creative and passionate business men and women, dedicated to giving back to the earth or those in need. A smile, a planted tree & hope are gifts of a truly beautiful nature and form.
Gifts are a form of love, a language of love that extends to a language of the heart and compassion; it is a gift to be able to give. What if I told you that by purchasing yourself a super stylish outfit not only do you look amazing (that’s a given) but also you can give back to the earth, help sex slave trafficking and provide clothes for less fortunate children. Have I got your attention yet?
We have teamed up with three incredible and creative brands that have brought their dreams to life, pursued their passions and linked them together with giving back in some way shape or form. Meet the brands behind the story and look; Will & Bear, Smile and Outland Denim. We had the absolute pleasure to pick the minds of and delve a little deeper into the many facets of what makes up a business. When asking these questions there were definite specific questions that I was eager to know the answer to. First up we chatted to Alex & Loz behind Will & Bear
What made you want to give back through a business?
Giving back was always going to be an integral part of operating a responsible and sustainable business for us. Will & Bear are Loz & Alex, a couple from Australia living/working in our van. Nature and our environment plays a massive part in the inspiration and connection to our lives and brand, this is why it was so important to give back to this cause.
It all started when we set out on a summer road trip around Tasmania, Aus. With the kombi van packed - there was only one thing to complete - find a good quality hat to shield the Australian sun. After looking in the obvious places we were left a little disheartened - sure there was hats out there but none that was reasonably priced, good quality and no brands that filled us with a sense of adventure or a thoughtfulness/give back ethos that was so important to us.
Why give back in the way of planting trees?
Forests are our air filters and water factories. They are our respite, our place of peace. They help keep the climate stable, support our waterways and offer their local communities prosperity.Today continued deforestation threatens habitat, air quality and livelihoods around the world. That's why we have partnered with trees.org to plant ten trees for every hat sold. These ongoing partnerships with an organisation that can affect positive outcomes on a global scale make us immensely proud.
What do you see for the future of Will & Bear, and ethical fashion?
We are looking to expand our range with more eco friendly products and will be teaming up with other like-minded brands to help promote these types of businesses in the hope to inspire more.
What a sun safe, creative and inspiring way to give back to the world around us! Will & Bear have recently launched some fresh hat styles and have one of the most visually appealing and exciting websites to shop at. Don’t have the time of resources to plant 10 trees? Think outside the box and perhaps under a new hat… Will & Bear – Adventure often www.willandbear.com/
Next on the list we chatted to the happiest brand name out; Smile.
What made you want to give back through a business?
We thought it to be a more sustainable way of consistently doing our Clothing Programs by giving our customers something tangible that directly assists with helping others.
Why clothes and the name Smile? It was a little bit reverse engineered. We actually wanted to organise Uniform and Clothing Programs to kids in Indonesia, because during earlier years of travelling we had seen a lot of kids not have access to schools in remote areas due to lack of uniforms or clean clothes. The idea for the clothing company came after we knew we wanted to assist in whatever small way we could with our Clothing Programs. The name Smile was the first one that came to mind, primarily because we were so often welcomed through our travels with smiling people along the way. Also we thought it was a good one word message that is such an easy thing to do and pass around.
Can you tell me a bit about your slogan "give first wear second”? Give First, Wear Second is just our byline to try and further tell our story to customers that what they are doing, however small, is helping people in need. I guess its just to let people know that as soon as they purchase a Smile item they have already effectively given a School Uniform or T-shirt to a child in need.
What do you see for the future of Smile clothing co. and ethical fashion?
I think things are generally moving in a better direction with regards to a lot of companies giving back or doing things ‘responsibly’ in myriad ways, but at the same time we have many things just within our company that we feel we could do a lot better with and are still a long way off where we want to be. Also organisations like 1% For The Planet (which we are a member of) are great things that allow companies and individuals to give back to the environment through their platforms. As for the future of Smile, I hope we can continue giving Uniforms and garments to kids in need in more numbers, and more places, in a manner in which we can be proud, and keep refining how we do things along the way.
Smile recently opened up a brand new shop in Bali with all their goodies. Check out more of their story and what’s happening over at https://smileclothing.co
And last but not least, Outland Denim.
Outland Denim began its jean-making journey when founder James Bartle had an astonishing encounter with an anti-trafficking group. After which he travelled to Asia where he saw and witnessed first hand how human traffickers prey on vulnerable young girls in order to service the sex industry.
After learning these startling truths, he then learnt that once a girl has been rescued and rehabilitated, a sustainable career path is vital for securing her future. This is where James created the "Denim Project", which would enable those girls who demonstrated an interest in sewing to put their new skills to use.
What inspired you to want to give back? And why jeans?
The Liam Neeson film Taken was the catalyst for our thinking about human trafficking, but that was solidified after talking with an anti-trafficking NGO and then visiting Thailand and Cambodia to learn more and see the reality.Jeans because they are a garment that most people have in their wardrobe - they are egalitarian and universal in nature. You might have your jeans for a decade or more, and they look even better with a bit of wear and tear if they're a quality pair. So despite jeans being really hard to make, we chose them for those reasons. Also the young women we were wanting to help had been learning sewing as a vocational skill, so joining Outland was a natural employment progression for them that would facilitate not only their earnings but also support them in other ways, such as life-skills learning.
Can you tell me a little bit about the organisation you support? We work alongside NGOs to provide vocational pathways for the vulnerable people who go through their rescue and after-care programs.
What do you see for the future of Outland Denim? And ethical fashion? It's a really exciting time to be working in the ethical fashion arena, as the consciousness around doing fashion the right way - in a way that treats its workers fairly and minimises the impact on the environment - grows. Outland is part of this movement, and we've been encouraged to find retailers and media who really get behind our vision to go above and beyond. To value workers and put them ahead of the bottom line, and use business to create positive social change.
Three incredible businesses making a difference through creative ventures. Each starting with an Adventure and an inspired idea along the journey. Such brands and people can’t help but be noticed and stand out amongst the crowd and sea of business hopefuls.
Yet what set’s them a part is the passion and the vision behind the brand. For us here at Open Ended we love to see Success that is masterfully blended with, and grafted in with Adventure and the mindfulness of the wellbeing of others and the world in which we live.
When was the last time you went on an adventure? Somewhere you maybe haven’t ventured before, seen something you haven’t seen before? What are you waiting for? Get outside and go explore the paths and roads before you. You never know where they may lead, or what you may find and be inspired by, blown away by or simply uplifted and encouraged by.
Exploring Cambodia as a volunteer for OHI
Stepping off the cool quarters of the plane we were instantly swallowed up by the heat and smells of that which makes up the beautiful country Cambodia. Tuk, tuk’s, markets, food stalls and chaotic traffic are plenty in number and supply. Yet nothing quite says welcome to Cambodia like scorpion fried rice and tarantula kebabs.
Once I had acclimatised (as much as possible) and caught up on lost sleep, I was ready take hold of the next 9 days and cram in as much as I could! Now the main reason for my visit was to observe, help and write as a guest blogger for the amazing Open Heart International Cambodia (OHI) trip. So mornings were filled with joyful little smiles from patients, arts and crafts, and some light physio. And evenings were filled with adventures, but ill get to those in a little bit.
OHI is a volunteer driven organisation that started with a mission trip originally to Tonga in 1985, as three experts helped save the lives of those with rheumatic heart disease. A disease causing damage, scarring and straining on the heart, which causes breathlessness, tiredness in physical activity and a low quality of life as well as many other serious life threatening complications if left un- treated.
Today, hundreds of volunteers a year give up their time and expertise to give others hope and medical help that we sometimes can take for granted. Now operating in over 13 countries and expanding in the work they do to 6 new avenues, including; cardiac, women’s health, eye surgery, orthopaedic, burns surgery, burns surgery, primary health and construction and engineering.
Now as a blogger I wanted to have a really hands on experience and write from the nurses and operating staff’s point of view. So inside the operating theatre I went. Let’s just say I’m not cut out to be a nurse or doctor of any sort., but I braved the blood and gore and was truly amazed.
At first glance it looks like a mad scientist lab, and on closer inspection and many annoying questions from myself later it really does feel like a mad scientist lab. There are machines beeping, tubes everywhere (at one point I counted 12 tubes coming from the heart alone) and different machines all hooked up to the patient, as the surgeons and doctors all play their vital role. It is truly a wonderful collaboration to save a life.
OHI are always looking for volunteers and support, so if you ever have it on your heart (pun intended) to help out in any way, jump over to their website and have a look at the amazing work and missions they do, it is nothing short of Incredible!
Now, once I had done my research each day and knew what I would write, it was time for adventure. Based in Siem-Reap, the choices were endless. By far one of the most incredible and a must-see is the Angkor Watt temples at sunrise. Arriving in the dark and quiet and patiently waiting for the sun to illuminate the incredible breathtaking silhouette is something you do not want to miss. Exploring throughout the temples amazing and intricate designs was an ancient architectures dreams.
Some other mind blowing temples to check out are the Bayon temples, Baphuon and my favourite the Ta Prohm temples, or as I like to call it “tomb raider temples”. You can even get to some of these on Elephant back.
Flying into Siem Reap and seeing the countryside from the sky, I knew I wanted to see as much as I could on land. And so with some OHI Volunteers we hired out a few bikes and a tour guide. 2 hours later, with sore muscles and drenched in sweat we’d seen over 10km’s of beautiful Cambodian countryside.
Now if there is any village you need to see, it is the Floating Villages in Kompong Phluk. The entire village is literally on the water; from the school, church, hospital, even a small café. The entire village!
The best, and really the only way to see the villages is of course by boat. You can hire a local guide/boat driver to do this, and if you’re lucky he might even give you a go driving the long boat. With half the steering wheel missing, weak string linking up from it and lots of other boats around, I jumped behind the steering wheel. Don’t be fooled, it actually took a lot of muscle, and also focus so I didn’t sink the boat and crash into ten others on the way.
10 days later and a whole lot of spicy flavours and curries, marketplace treasures and finds, happy heart patients on the mend, and a whole lot of memories, I left a very joyous and content woman. Vowing to never take anything for granted, healthy body and access to health, to take in my surrounds, flavours and the people surrounding me.
Cambodia, bursting with culture, colour, curries, coconuts, and a hundred other wonderful ‘C’ words and more, it is a must!
The Value of Living Simply
The cool water rushes forth and spreads over your toes that wriggle in the warmth of the sand. You close your eyes and listen to song of the sea, crashing crescendos and bubbling fizzing diminuendos, the song so engulfing as it whips your hair across your face and sends shivers down your spine. Completely still and simply indulgent, hang on are you saying that simplicity and indulgence can co-exist?
The simple contentment of being still and soaking in the surrounds of the ocean is of course my personal favourite elixir, and an indulgent one at that. However for another, is the farthest thing from home and contentment. Thus making the “values” of living simply so vastly different from one person to the next.
Simplicity and Indulgence can really exist. Don’t get me wrong; I am most certainly not talking about consumerism or idealism. On the contrary, I am asking you one question, ironically simple… “What, why and where is it you feel most content” for on this question hinges the subject answer and key to living simply; your values.
Many various studies, including the New York Times, also show that simplicity can benefit you in more ways than one. Simplicity adds clarity, effectiveness, balance and healthier lifestyle, reduces risk of disease, creates better engaged relationships, adds benevolence, success and focus as you eliminate the non -essentials. Which in turn can de –stress, and add a greater purpose of the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of the important values in your life.
Simple living is not a new idea or thinking, in fact the ideals of simple living are found in almost every culture and affect every facet of life. From religious leaders, famous businessmen, artists to children’s movies such as the original happy go lucky simple likes of Peter Pan or The Jungle Book - ‘The Bare Necessities’. As I started to research quotes and articles about simplicity, the number of people’s personal experiences; famous and successful people, and the thousands of quotes, blogs and articles were actually quite overwhelming and delighting all at once.
Living simply and simply living are one and the same. And the life of Simplicity is simple. Simplicity is so beautifully subject to your own personal ideals, goals, morals and values. And the degree of what makes it simplified is so vastly differing from one person to the next, so what is it you place of a high value? What is it that needs prioritising?
So whether it is a matter of the mind, heart, job, health, or relationships, or of the body, or perhaps defining your values. It will start with a thought as you identify your core values, but must not be confined or imprisoned here. Yet set it free to fly beyond the mind, to germinate the garden of your life with its beauty of “simple” yet meaningful things! . To deprive your body from such thoughts would be as one watching the ocean yet not diving in, standing at the bottom of a mountain and not climbing it, a staring at a blank canvas, all the while having the most wondrous colour palette in your hands.
And once you have found your simple joy, promise yourself that you will not allow other thoughts or comparison to come in and steal away from your time of steadfast stillness and simplicity. Whether it is a sunrise, a cool evening walk, the warmth of a hug, time spent with loved ones, patterns in leaves, a hot tea, the sound of rain, the aroma of flowers in spring, paintings and colours, writing or creating in whichever form you are gifted or so enjoy and desire, I could go on. But enjoy it in its purest form and all its elements.
In closing, let me leave you with a few of my favourite quotes about simplicity.
“The ability to simplify, means eliminating the unnecessary so the necessary may speak” –Hans Hofmann
“There is no greatness, where there is no simplicity, goodness and truth” – Leo Tolstoy
“That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity, simple can be harder than complex; you have to work hard to get your thinking clean, to make it simple, but its worth it in the end, because once you get there you can move mountains “– Steve Jobs