Fashion

Let me begin my article by clarifying that I did not mean getting high on hemp in a literal way, I meant that it is about time we get high on all the amazing properties hemp has to mitigate climate change and become a big player in creating a greener and more sustainable economy.

Unfortunately, every time someone says, ”hemp”, most people relate to it as a drug and there have been endless debates on whether it should be fully legalised. Hemp is not a crop we discovered recently, its origins can be traced back many years. The obvious question is if hemp was widely grown and had amazing properties which benefit the planet, why did it become illegal to grow hemp? There are many different reasons, hemp was about to hit mainstream in the 1930s but America banned it around that time and the rest of the world followed. According to a February 1938 issue of Popular Mechanics, hemp was about to become a billion dollar crop before the Marihuana Tax Act. There is one theory which basically blames Dupont for getting hemp banned because they were launching their synthetic fibres and the rest as we know it today is history. If hemp did not get banned, could we have rewritten some of the history? That is an interesting thought especially now that we know that synthetic fibres are bad for the planet.

Synthetic fibres like nylon gave rise to an industry we now call, ’fast fashion’. This is one of the most polluting industries, two thirds of the world’s textiles are made with synthetic materials mostly, petroleum based polymers such as polyester, polyamide and acrylic. Most people who are aware that plastic is bad for the environment are not aware that the clothes we wear essentially have the same qualities as plastic. It is not only bad for the environment, it is not the best fabric for human health either. The issue with fast fashion goes way beyond fibres and environmental pollution, the idea that a product is meant to be used only a few times and discarded is extremely wasteful. There are multiple stories on how fast fashion companies exploit labour and the business model is fundamentally flawed. Activists and slow fashion advocates have been trying to ensure that there are better regulations to ensure that fast fashion companies move towards a more circular business model. A lot of consumers are demanding sustainability and activists are carrying slogans saying, ’No fashion on a dead planet’.

There are a lot of circular solutions currently: reduce, reuse, recycle, thrift, rewear, repair, regenerative fibres etc. A lot of fashion brands are incorporating this in their business model. Most solutions are driven by consumer activism where consumers are taking a stand on supporting only brands which are committing to a circular economy.

One solution to make fashion more circular is to use regenerative fibres which are circular in design and not wasteful in production. Hemp is definitely something a lot of slow fashion brands across the world are already embracing, it is currently expensive but a lot of designers feel that it has properties which justify its cost. I normally use the term regenerative with lots of caution but I think hemp has some amazing qualities and it is a crop which is definitely regenerative, every part of the crop can be used to create something useful which also makes it a zero waste crop.

I met with the owner of Hempthai to understand exactly how hemp is grown and its benefits for human health and the planet. Unfortunately, I could not visit the farm because Thai law does not allow that, what if I go into the farm and become literally high on hemp? It is frustrating that this amazing crop constantly suffers because it is misunderstood and merely considered a drug. We had a long conversation about hemp and I saw so many different products they have innovated with hemp. I asked him if the claim that hemp can sequester carbon from the soil is true, is it safe to say that growing hemp is better than leaving the land empty. He laughed and said, ”It depends on the exact context, leaving a biodiverse forest as it is would probably be better but there is a lot of agricultural land which is currently being used to grow unsustainable crops which require high pesticides and requires burning, it would definitely benefit the economy and the planet to convert them to crops which mitigate climate change”. 

Growing hemp paves the way for sustainable agriculture because it can be grown without fertiliser, it also replenishes the soil with nitrogen and other nutrients, it increases topsoil and restores the health and fertility of the soil. Hemp trees have long roots that firmly hold the soil which help control erosion, due to its fast growth, it is extremely useful in carbon sequestration absorbing carbon from the air and storing it back into the earth.

At Hempthai, they have empowered an entire village and the whole process is completely organic and made by hand which makes their products sustainable. They have received many reputable awards for their innovation. I was particularly impressed with the bricks they have made, the owner told me that he is going to build his house with hemp bricks. This could potentially change the construction industry, who would not want to live in a house made with hemp bricks which has the tall claim of generating oxygen?

Thailand has legalised hemp cultivation, paving the way to create a green cash crop. This move by the government represents an important attempt by the authorities to establish hemp as a futuristic cash crop which can have economic benefits. Hemp can generate income for growers in five different areas: drinks, food, medicines and supplements, apparel and personal care products. It is a plant which has a multitude of uses and the potential of generating high income for rural communities. As I mentioned earlier, it has zero waste properties and the entire plant can be used for commercial benefits from its flowers, through the leaves, seeds and branches to the exterior and interior of the stalks and even the roots. All these can be processed into high quality everyday use products. Currently, this industry is still in its infancy stage so research and development costs are high and profits remain difficult and slim at present but it has huge potential.

The hemp fibre looks and feels similar to organic cotton or linen and it is perfect to make garments. I am looking forward to seeing a Thai slow fashion brand make a stylish collection using hemp, this fibre needs to be promoted and marketed well. It has thermo regulating properties too. 

Hemp fibre is:

Breathable and insulating

Highly durable

Soft on the skin

Odour resistant

Non-synthetic i.e. no micro-plastics

Naturally antibacterial and anti fungal

Resistant to mould and mildew

Resistant to UV light

Has soil release properties

Easy wash and care

Biodegradable

Retains its shape and will not shrink

Grown without pesticides and or chemical fertilisers

Replenishes the soil

Highly renewable

Low water use 

Absorbs carbon dioxide

Common! It is high time hemp goes mainstream. Do you agree?

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Domestic violence is closer than you think. It is often perpetrated by someone close or intimate with the victim. More than 600 million women live in countries where intimate partner violence or domestic violence is not considered a crime. Domestic violence and abuse do not discriminate. It can happen to anyone, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, or background. Women and children are often more vulnerable to domestic violence, which rears its head in various forms, including physical, sexual, financial and emotional as well as controlling behavior. Domestic violence and abuse are used to gain and maintain control, keeping victims under the abuser’s thumb. There are many causes of domestic violence and abuse. It may start when one partner feels the need to control and dominate the other because of low self-esteem, extreme jealousy, difficulties controlling strong emotions or when they are under a lot of stress. 

We at L’Oréal fully understand the seriousness of domestic violence and felt the need to take action against violence and stand up for those who are most in need. We want to use our brands and partnerships with non-profit organizations as a platform for meaningful campaigns that spread knowledge and raise awareness about domestic violence and mental health issues, with the hope that it can be useful and further contribute to meaningful change as well as to help break the stigma behind domestic violence as well as ally the trauma of the abused victims. 

During this difficult time we brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown situation, we hear and see heartbreaking stories of domestic abuse becoming increasingly prevalent. Many women are trapped living with an abusive partner during the lockdown and are unable to seek help from experts, organizations, friends, loved ones or colleagues.

One of our brands, Yves Saint Laurent Beauty in Paris, France, launched the “Abuse is Not Love” program in November. It is a global program aimed at helping combat intimate partner violence (IPV). Approximately 1 in 3 women will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime and prevalence rates have increased from 30 percent to 60 percent as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the United States, United Kingdom and France, one woman is killed every three days by their partner. Abuse is Not Love is supporting the prevention programs of its non-profit partners through funding academic research to develop thought-leadership around youth and prevention, training YSL Beauty employees and beauty advisors on intimate partner violence in the workplace as well as educating at least 2 million people by 2030 on common signs of IPV. If key warning signs can be detected early, we may be able to recognize it better and seek or offer help to the victims. Abuse is Not Love was launched as a global program with 3 key partnerships in 2020: En Avant Toute(s) in France, Women’s Aid in the UK, and It’s on Us in the U.S., with more partnerships coming in 2021 in other countries. 

Supporting women, especially when it comes to their independence, is central to the way the brand acts. Intimate partner violence hinders the safety, wellbeing and independence of women,” said Stephan Bezy, International General Manager at Yves Saint Laurent Beauty. “It therefore felt very natural to work on an issue that stood in opposition to our core values and beliefs.” 

Maybelline New York also felt the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic which has taken a physical and mental toll on everyone around the world. More than 284 million people experienced anxiety disorders. Depression affects more than 264 million people. Half of all mental health conditions start by age 14, and with the Covid-19 pandemic, these numbers are rising. With anxiety and depression on the rise, as the no. 1 international makeup brand, Maybelline New York wants to provide the right support to help tackle obstacles that are in the way of women and young adults making their mark. With the help of leading mental health NGOs, experts and advocates are offering hands to help Maybelline during this program which is the “Maybelline Brave Together Program”. It is a global cause that provides critical one-on-one support and helps everyone, everywhere. 

Maybelline has always believed in the power of making things happen in your life.  And we know that mental health is critical in feeling ready to do that,” says Trisha Ayyagari, Global Brand President, Maybelline New York.  “We want to use our global voice to de-stigmatize the conversation around mental health and make support easily accessible.  Now, more than ever, we need to be there for those living with anxiety and depression.”  

Maybelline’s Brave Together program aims to help teenagers and young adults who are struggling with anxiety and depression, to break down the stigma around anxiety and depression, and provide cross-generational support. By partnering with leading non-profit organizations, the program has a specially curated online platform that gives people around the world access to an online community. The program was announced on @Maybelline Instagram account and maybelline.com/bravetogether in September. 

Over the past two years, Maybelline has commissioned an expert-led research and conducted focus groups to better understand the topic of mental health. In the focus group, people need a globally accessible platform featuring resources and tips on mental health. Our online community will foster an open, diverse and inclusive destination with inspiration and stories from real people and experts worldwide. To let them know that they are not in this alone, Maybelline has partnered with leading non-profit organization Crisis Text Line to provide increased access to free, 24/7 confidential crisis counseling via text message — those in need can text TOGETHER to 741741 to connect with a crisis counselor. Maybelline also wants to expand this program even further and has committed to investing $10 million over the next five years to mental health organizations worldwide who share its goal of making a real difference. Maybelline Brave Together will continue to grow and develop with the current environment with support from its partners.

An international survey on sexual harassment in public spaces, conducted in partnership with L’Oreal Paris, Ipsos and researchers at Cornell University, reveals that 78% of women have experienced sexual harassment in public spaces. Only 25% of victims say someone helped them. Moreover, 86% of us do not know what to do when we witness it happening. Also, the survey found that 79% of victims of sexual harassment in public spaces say it improved the situation when a witness intervened. These results are extremely alarming. Armed with information and the determination to stand up for all women and combat against everyday street harassment, L’Oreal Paris launched an international bystander training program called “Stand Up Against Street Harassment” in partnership with NGO Hollaback! The program aims to train 1 million people globally in bystander intervention to tackle street harassment. Stand Up aims to simultaneously discourage harassers, support victims, and encourage bystanders to intervene in a bid to overall effect a cultural shift in the global response to street harassment. With the brand’s signature tagline, “I’m worth it”, L’Oréal Paris has multiplied brand initiatives to break down the barriers that prevent women from fully believing in and realizing their self-worth. Leveraging its global reach, today, the Stand Up movement takes the brand’s support for women into the public space by tackling the intimidating behaviours that impact girls’ and women’s very sense of freedom to move through the world. 

“L’Oréal Paris stands for empowerment in every walk of a woman’s life. By removing obstacles preventing women from fulfilling their ambitions, we are committed to elevating their sense of self-worth. With Hollaback! and other local NGO partners we invite women and men to stand up, to safely respond when they witness or experience street harassment. Together we can create a world for girls and women to march confidently forward into a future free from street harassment.” Delphine Viguier-Hovasse, Global Brand President of L’Oréal Paris. 

The Stand Up program was launched in five countries on International Women’s Day, which is celebrated on March 8. It will be launched in more countries including Thailand. The program aims to drive awareness of street harassment on a global scale to create a call-to-action. To prevent street harassment happening in the future — from schools to public transport to festivals to online spaces — Stand Up will grow a global community of 1 million upstanders trained in the 5Ds method: Direct, Distract, Delegate, Document, and Delay. 

Thai women also encounter domestic violence, street harassment and depression. L’Oreal Thailand will activate the brands’ global campaigns as well as provide tools and trainings in Thailand to help raise awareness and fight against these issues. 

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“Demand quality not only in the products you buy but also in the life of the person who made it”:Orsola de Castro

I met Patsy Tapasanan around eighteen months ago, I did not know much about her at that time. I came across her profile while I was doing some research on the work Fashion Revolution does in Thailand. 

For those of you who have not heard of this organisation, it was founded on 24th April 2013 when the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh collapsed. More than 1,100 people died and another 2,500 were injured, making it the fourth largest industrial disaster in history. Fashion Revolution works towards transparency and accountability in the fashion industry, particularly in what we now call fast and disposable fashion.This tragedy was preventable. In the aftermath, survivors told stories of how they noticed cracks in the building and knew the building was hazardous just days before the collapse. Multiple workers told their supervisors that they were afraid to enter the building and continue working. The retails shops and banks on the ground floor shut down their operations, but the demand of an insatiable fashion industry forced garment workers to keep working. The ugly truth is that some of us may have bought and wore the clothes they made. People had to dig through the rubble looking for clothing labels in order to figure out which brands were sourcing from Rana Plaza. In some cases, it took weeks for brands to determine why their labels were found in the ruins and what sort of purchasing agreements they had with those suppliers. 

The culpable brands weren’t limited to fast fashion retailers but included mid-priced brands too.This is because the vast majority of today’s fashion brands and retailers do not own their manufacturing facilities. Fashion supply chains are highly globalised, complex and opaque. Business relationships are often very murky and subcontracting is common. This lack of transparency costs lives.

Many people still remain in the dark, unaware that their clothes may be contributing to the climate crisis and human exploitation. I strongly believe that most people don’t want to support or encourage modern day slavery and wanted to write more on the ugly side of the fashion industry to create awareness.The Rana Plaza incident definitely changed my relationship with fashion because fashion should be empowering. When fashion comes at the cost of social and climate injustice, it is deeply disturbing. I wanted to understand the work Fashion Revolution ,Thailand is doing towards creating awareness and that is why I went to meet Patsy who is a part of the core team of Fashion Revolution, Thailand. At that time , I had read briefly about her but did not know the full extent of the work she has been doing towards empowering elderly women in Loei province through her social enterprise, Folkcharm.




Passawee T. Kodaka, aka Patsy is the Founder and Creative Director at Folkcharm, a ‘farm-to-fashion’ brand that uses locally sourced handloom chemical -free homegrown cotton, aimed to empower rural artisans and to increase the appreciation in rural crafts (wo) manship and slow fashion. She is active in the social enterprise scene in Thailand, co-founding a movement of craft social entrepreneurs, VolksKraft Ethical Crafts Hub. 

Before founding Folkcharm, she worked in international and national -level social development organisations for over 6 years. With the Royal Thai Government, ARC-MDG and UNIFEM Scholarship, she holds an MSc in Rural and Regional Development Planning and has received a scholarship and completed the ‘Trainee Programme for Asian Craft Works’ in Textiles ([Weaving and Dyeing)] from Kanazawa College of Art, Japan.




During my meeting with her, I told her that I would love to visit the sustainable cotton farm and the weavers who make the clothes for Folkcharm and I was fortunate to go with her to Loei to learn more about her social enterprise and see the work she has done at the grass roots level. I went there in November, I met with a group of people there. We were supposed to meet Patsy at the Loei airport at noon on 26th November, my flight landed early so I was at the exit gate by 11.50pm, I was 10 mins early so I casually walked towards Patsy and said,”I guess I am the first one to arrive”. She said,”No,Yyou are the last one”and we both laughed. We put our luggage in a minivan and went to visit a weaving community. We had lunch there and they showed us the process of making cotton into yarn, weaving handlooms is a beautiful and artistic process. From there we went to another community in the evening and stayed at the home stay option there.

I spent two days in Loei visiting different weaving communities , having lunch near a beautiful waterfall and going on an early morning trek to view the sunrise over a beautiful mountain.There was never a dull moment because Patsy had ensured that the entire day was filled with activities. It was heartwarming to listen to so many different stories from each person I met there. A lady who believes in his excellency King Rama 9’s vision for Thailand has started her own social enterprise and she believes in the sufficiency economy model proposed by King Rama 9 which essentially focuses on developing the economy by ensuring fair paying jobs and coexisting in harmony with the environment. I met a ladyboy who told us folklores and tales about how the villagers have learnt to coexist with the wild elephants and she uses elephant poopdung for dying the cotton that she weaves. Another lady we met had led the fight against a gold mine which had made the village toxic and cancerous and they won the fight after many long years. Another story was that of a local politician who is trying many projects to ensure that the future generation can find jobs in the village community. The underlying connections between all the stories I heard from people was their passion to develop a sufficiency economy which places the planet and people over profit.






Each of their stories came from a pure and honest space , it is hard for me to pick a favoritefavourite but something about Khun Jayor, the ladyboy really struck me. I was not able to fully understand her, her eyes were a mix of joy and pain. The joy of having achieved so much in a small village and the pain of all the hurdles she had to overcome. I bought a fabric woven by her and requested to take a picture with her and she was happy to pose with me. When you buy a fabric directly from a weaver , it is not just a piece of cloth, you are supporting the artistic process of farm to fashion. 100% sustainable organic cotton costs anywhere between 350 to 700Bthb per metre , that is definitely expensive compared to fast fashion but you pay to ensure that the planet and the people working for the brand did not suffer in the process of making the fabric. Fast fashion is cheap because someone somewhere is paying the price for it so it’s better to buy less and choose well.

My favoritefavourite part of my two day itinerary was picking cotton, I loved the open vehicles we travelled in to go to the cotton farm. The cotton in the farm is grown in a sustainable way and it is  free of pesticides, it is also known as rain fed cotton. Most people are unaware that GMO cotton is extremely unsustainable because it uses pesticides and lot of water. There were also stories on how cotton farmers commitingcommitting suicide in India a few years ago might have a connection with the process of GMO cotton. It was around that time many stories about the unsustainable nature of cotton started coming out , fortunately there are a lot of slow fashion brands which are growing sustainable cotton now. If you are a conciousconscious consumer who wants to build a sustainable wardrobe , I reccomendrecommend that you download the application GOOD ON YOUGood on you. The most important thing to remember is to support brands which give you complete transparency of their supply chain and to read the label properly , this is easier with small local brands because their supply chain is not highly fragmented.

Many people still remain in the dark, unaware that their clothes may be contributing to the climate crisis and human exploitation. I strongly believe that most people don’t want to support or encourage modern day slavery and wanted to write more on the ugly side of the fashion industry to create awareness.The Rana Plaza incident definetlydefinitely changed my relationship with fashion because fashion should be empowering. When fashion comes at the cost of social and climate injustice, it is deeply disturbing. I wanted to understand the work FASHION REVOLUTIONFashion Revolution ,Thailand is doing towards creating awareness and that is why I went to meet Patsy who is a part of the core team of FASHION REVOLUTIONFashion Revolution,Thailand. At that time , I had read briefly about her but did not know the full extent of the work she has been doing towards empowering elderly women in Loei province through her social enterprise, Folkcharm.




Passawee T. Kodaka, aka Patsy is the Founder and Creative Director at Folkcharm, a ‘farm-to-fashion’ brand that uses locally sourced handloom chemical -free homegrown cotton, aimed to empower rural artisans and to increase the appreciation in rural crafts (wo) manship and slow fashion. She is active in the social enterprise scene in Thailand, co-founding a movement of craft social entrepreneurs, VolksKraft Ethical Crafts Hub. 

Before founding Folkcharm, she worked in international and national -level social development organizationsorganisations for over 6 years. With the Royal Thai Government, ARC-MDG and UNIFEM Scholarship, she holds an MSc in Rural and Regional Development Planning and has received a scholarship and completed the ‘Trainee Programme for Asian Craft Works’ in Textiles ([Weaving and Dyeing)] from Kanazawa College of Art, Japan.



Each of their stories came from a pure and honest space , it is hard for me to pick a favoritefavourite but something about Khun Jayor, the ladyboy really struck me. I was not able to fully understand her, her eyes were a mix of joy and pain. The joy of having achieved so much in a small village and the pain of all the hurdles she had to overcome. I bought a fabric woven by her and requested to take a picture with her and she was happy to pose with me. When you buy a fabric directly from a weaver , it is not just a piece of cloth, you are supporting the artistic process of farm to fashion. 100% sustainable organic cotton costs anywhere between 350 to 700Bthb per metre , that is definitely expensive compared to fast fashion but you pay to ensure that the planet and the people working for the brand did not suffer in the process of making the fabric. Fast fashion is cheap because someone somewhere is paying the price for it so it’s better to buy less and choose well.

My favourite part of my two day itinerary was picking cotton, I loved the open vehicles we travelled in to go to the cotton farm. The cotton in the farm is grown in a sustainable way and it is  free of pesticides, it is also known as rain fed cotton. Most people are unaware that GMO cotton is extremely unsustainable because it uses pesticides and lot of water. There were also stories on how cotton farmers committing suicide in India a few years ago might have a connection with the process of GMO cotton. It was around that time many stories about the unsustainable nature of cotton started coming out , fortunately there are a lot of slow fashion brands which are growing sustainable cotton now. If you are a conscious consumer who wants to build a sustainable wardrobe , I recommend that you download the application Good on you. The most important thing to remember is to support brands which give you complete transparency of their supply chain and to read the label properly , this is easier with small local brands because their supply chain is not highly fragmented.

During my meeting with her, I told her that I would love to visit the sustainable cotton farm and the weavers who make the clothes for Folkcharm and I was fortunate to go with her to Loei to learn more about her social enterprise and see the work she has done at the grass roots level. I went there in November, I met with a group of people there. We were supposed to meet Patsy at the Loei airport at noon on 26th November, my flight landed early so I was at the exit gate by 11.50pm, I was 10 mins early so I casually walked towards Patsy and said,”I guess I am the first one to arrive”. She said,”No,Yyou are the last one”and we both laughed. We put our luggage in a minivan and went to visit a weaving community. We had lunch there and they showed us the process of making cotton into yarn, weaving handlooms is a beautiful and artistic process. From there we went to another community in the evening and stayed at the home stay option there.

I spent two days in Loei visiting different weaving communities , having lunch near a beautiful waterfall and going on an early morning trek to view the sunrise over a beautiful mountain.There was never a dull moment because Patsy had ensured that the entire day was filled with activities. It was heartwarming to listen to so many different stories from each person I met there. A lady who believes in his excellency King Rama 9’s vision for Thailand has started her own social enterprise and she believes in the sufficiency economy model proposed by King Rama 9 which essentially focuses on developing the economy by ensuring fair paying jobs and coexisting in harmony with the environment. I met a ladyboy who told us folklores and tales about how the villagers have learnt to coexist with the wild elephants and she uses elephant poopdung for dying the cotton that she weaves. Another lady we met had led the fight against a gold mine which had made the village toxic and cancerous and they won the fight after many long years. Another story was that of a local politician who is trying many projects to ensure that the future generation can find jobs in the village community. The underlying connections between all the stories I heard from people was their passion to develop a sufficiency economy which places the planet and people over profit.

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Fashion is something that not only serves to dress the body, shelter or cover oneself, it has evolved alongside the human being and has become a means of expression with which we have the opportunity to show the world what we are and what we think.

It’s a social, cultural and generational phenomenon that impacts and transforms collective thinking. These last months have been tragic for humanity, we have seen how bad decisions have changed the course of countries completely, six months since the Covid-19 spread throughout the world and has given us a change in our days, leading us to a “new life” that can be noticed on the catwalks of the world, social networks became a refuge. It definitely took a crisis to develop a tactic, so far we have not respected the planet and this is a wakeup call. Today this article is very different from always, I don’t want to tell you what dress or shoes you should wear, I just want us to use solidarity and make it fashionable.

There is a very popular phrase “home is where the heart is”, for those who don’t know me I was born in Lebanon and grew up during the civil war in this country. When the situation became much more dangerous, my family and I had to find shelter in  Paris for a year. Can you imagine a nine year old girl changing her entire environment because of this? It’s something that thousands of children still live with. My refuge was fashion, my creative way of expressing myself. I can say that I was born in a culture where fashion encompasses more than clothing, for us in Lebanon fashion is art.

Only a few weeks have passed since the tragic explosion in my country, I still remember the moment when this situation flooded the news; feeling panic, even if you are miles away is a terrible feeling, your body trembles and you only think at that moment, there is no way to change what you are living. Unfortunately, we Lebanese have reflections of war, but we have never seen this level of destruction in Beirut. This shockwave not only destroyed all the glass around it, it also destroyed homes, many lost their families and friends, there are still missing people and most unfortunately broke our hearts into pieces. For those of us who are far away, our eyes filled with tears when we thought about our families, friends (I myself lost two friends) and our city, life can change you in minutes and this is a clear example. In recent months, the economic crisis, the increase in poverty and the increase in prices have aggravated the needs of each of the country’s inhabitants, the increase in the transmission of Covid-19 has subjected the health system to a pressure from which it has hardly been able to escape.

Now social tensions are increasing and expectations for the future are radically complicated, the current level of social tension and insecurity subjects us to a significant level of stress. This explosion has affected the most vulnerable, our child population. This population has caused irreparable damage in more than 120 schools serving 55,000 children. The main hospitals were hit very badly too. And many cancer centres for children that are badly hurt and unable to treat the
patients. Furthermore, we must remember that in Lebanon there are more than two million refugees, this situation has
severely punished the refugees too.

Beirut with turquoise waters of the Mediterranean, sinuous and sunny, a geographical synthesis of an original natural beauty. I have asked myself, How can we restore the brightness and beauty to this country? Many questions and few answers, the truth is that the fight continues and we have much to do. I know that life has many lonely bridges to cross, today I have this space to address many young people who have courageously taken a step forward towards their professional future, building the path to their dreams by starting a new life.

As much as life hits us, we continue with force, a clear example of what Lebanon has lived through for years. Beirut has long been considered the new capital of fashion, as well as being generous and open to many cultures. A country that has the capacity to survive through fashion, there are more than 40 haute couture houses with up to 270 employees, for a very small country, fashion abounds in every corner. This is where the endless list of red carpet designers who dress celebrities at the Oscars, Cannes or the Grammys comes from. Conflicts, instability, have perfected the personality of each of its inhabitants, a city of opposites between ruins and luxuries, unique personalities have emerged. As Kayrouz would say, “We are not frivolous. But fashion has shown that Lebanon is more than war.”

Rabih Kayrouz: With its own Parisian vibe, from the designers who are in Paris and have made it their home. He is worthy of admiration for his soul, his culture, his sensitivity and his affinity. We can see his simplicity in his work, he makes all structure and movement a poetry. He designed a dress that requires more than 300 hours of work, being very dedicated to what he loves.

His building suffered irreparable damage, in addition to having suffered a small brain haemorrhage, 2 clots and 22 stitches. Rabih you are a phoenix capable of being reborn from your own ashes! Elie Saab With an uncontrollable taste for fashion, he was 11 years old when civil war broke out in Lebanon. The apartment where he lived with his family in a coastal suburb of Beirut was bombed. Fashion is nothing more than a synonym for hope and life, it’s his magical place, a way of saying no to violence, of cultivating love on difficult days. Neither the bombs nor the absence of a fashion industry in his country kept him from his goal. He is the master of lace, embroidery and femininity, self-taught in the world of fashion.

His building in the central district of Beirut was devastated by the blast, fortunately he and his team escaped unharmed.
Rami Kadi An extraordinary debut, he has performed in the French capital during fashion week, full of fascinating colours and silhouettes, glitters and lace. Rami found favour in the label’s fusion of romantic details and glamorous touches. “If you fall 7 times, you must get up 8”. All his effort was destroyed, but we are sure that everything he has built will rise much more strongly.

Zuhair Murad: Zuhair, whom I admire and respect, the key to his success is that he doesn’t have a single style, he makes us feel like true goddesses. From a young age he dreamed of being recognised internationally for his innate talent, he never doubted himself and when he moved to the city of Paris he studied fashion design. His first boutique opened in Beirut, in 1999 he paraded for the first time in Rome where he achieved resounding success and set his career on track. It stylises the female body, gives us that slender air to the silhouette that leads us to walk so firmly. Unfortunately it was one of the most affected by the shock wave in Beirut, destroying years of efforts in just a few minutes, more than 80% of work was destroyed, fortunately there were no human losses. Looking at the images, we cannot put the sadness aside, but we know that he will resurface from this tragedy and we will see him as we have never seen him.

I want to mention that there were many losses in Beirut, many restaurants, houses, jewellery stores and especially hospitals. We believe in hard work, in the willpower that each one has to be reborn in this devastating tragedy. No matter how difficult it may seem, there is always a way, when strength comes from the heart. We are born artists, no matter what conditions we find ourselves in, we will be able to get up amongst the rubble.

I want this to fill us with hope and inspiration, we fight every day, no matter how many times they want to knock you down, you must be strong. It’s important that the eyes of the world continue to look at us, at this moment we do more than make clothes, we are returning the light and beauty to Lebanon and the world. Remember that solidarity doesn’t belong to anyone, it belongs to everyone. You must continue standing Lebanon, supporting Lebanon, no matter where you are.

We shall rise again like the Phoenix

Xoxoxo

@talarz @be_a_starlette

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Saturday, 4pm, Mahboonkrong Shopping Centre (MBK).

MBK is a big, older shopping mall, off \ Siam Square, consisting of thousands of little shops selling cheap clothing, bags, and shoes and all kinds of electronics like mobile phones, game-players, CDs, and DVDs – authentic or non-authentic. It even has a movie theatre, beauty salons, and food vendors. MBK is like a toy box crammed with junk and treasures. You would be surprised what you can find in there.

Mitsuko has never been alone at MBK at this time of a weekend. In fact, she has never been alone at this time on any weekend. The weekend is family time. Well, weekend or not, her time is always for family. But Yuichi tries to spend time with his family on the weekend, so the weekend is “special” family time. 

But today, little Mina went to sleep over at a friend’s house (first time in her life!) and Yuichi took Kota for an overnight fishing trip. Fishing is not really Yuichi’s sport, but one of his work-related friends, Kojima-san, has a boat in Pattaya, a beach town not far from Bangkok, and he invited them down for the weekend. At first, with Japanese customary politeness, Yuichi was hesitant to bring a child. But Kojima-san has a son around Kota’s age and assured it would be more fun and easier for Kota to come along. 

Mitsuko was a little worried about the two men managing the two boys at sea, but the boys were not babies any more. Plus, Kota was so eager to go on his first “men-only” trip. Seeing his pleading face, Mitsuko reckoned this would be a great experience for them. 

And so, she was alone on a weekend. First, she felt a tinge of emptiness. Could this be what an empty nest feels like? But she instantly denied it. Time alone overnight was a surprise gift. 

“Freedom!” 

She spoke the word aloud, stretching it out, as she stood alone in her empty living room with her arms outstretched. The cheerful sound of her own voice worked better than she had expected. She felt much better. 

She didn’t know why she thought about MBK. She could have gone somewhere fancier, even a luxurious spa at a five-star hotel. That was very tempting indeed, but it felt like maybe too big a jump for this little bit of freedom. She could have gone shopping at a department store like Emporium or Central Chit Lom, but they were customary among the expats. She was in no mood to bump into familiar faces. She wanted to do something different to savour this unique moment. 

MBK is definitely not a place regularly visited by the Japanese expat wives. They all know about it, but it is not in their territory, even though MBK is conveniently located with a skytrain station, only six stops from Phrom Phong (a station of the Japanese ghetto). Five stops to Siam Paragon is “in” the wives’ territory, but six stops to MBK is “out.” 

So MBK. Alone on the weekend. It was Mitsuko’s little adventure.

From the moment she stepped inside, she was overwhelmed by the people, many people, the locals and tourists, men and women, young and old, couples and friends and families. She felt there was hardly any air left for her to breathe. She felt that if she stopped moving, she might be taken over by the throng, swallowed as if by a tidal wave.

And the smell! The odour was a mixture of garlic and something fishy. Maybe nampla, fish sauce? Mitsuko guessed. It was definitely not the classy smell of expensive perfumes that graced the air of Emporium or Siam Paragon.

And the noise! Some kind of rock music was being broadcast over speakers. It was so loud that Mitsuko could feel it throbbing inside her skull. Am I getting old or what? 

Despite the assault on her senses, or perhaps because of it, Mitsuko couldn’t help but feel excited. The exhilaration of the place reminded her of the festivals of her childhood. The shrine near her home had held festivals a few times a year, according to the Shinto rituals. Mitsuko didn’t understand the religious meaning of them, except the worship of ancestors, but the festivals were fun. There were children’s games like goldfish scooping and shooting at targets. And lots of vendors opened up their temporary little shops, selling special treats like cotton candy, caramelised-sugar-coated tangerines and apples artificially coloured in bright orange and red, barbequed squid with soy sauce, deep fried corndogs, and takoyaki (octopus dumplings fried on a hotplate with sweet and spicy sauce). They were cheap, simple, street snacks, and yummy! 

Mitsuko used to like watching an old candy man who made various animal shapes out of hot sugar. After rolling a small ball of caramel-like sugar with his thumb and forefinger (Mitsuko still wondered how he didn’t burn himself), he attached it to the end of a short straw, blew air into it like a balloon, and used little scissors to snip here and there so that, in a few seconds, he produced a small rabbit, chicken, or cat. It was like magic! Mitsuko’s mother didn’t allow her to buy one because she thought it was not hygienic, but little Mitsuko’s secret wish was to buy a little candy elephant. 

MBK had a similar allure. Indecent but captivating. 

Mitsuko didn’t know what to buy. She wasn’t really looking for anything. But she started walking, hoping to find something like a little candy elephant. 

Soon she saw a bright, grass-green belt, and she was drawn to it like a fish to bait. It was hanging with a bunch of other belts of different colors with a sign saying 199B. It was not leather of course, but shiny vinyl with a silver buckle. Mitsuko held it against her waist and wondered if it looked too cheap. Her mother used to say that she should wear decent accessories as she got older; otherwise she would look poor. 

But only 199B, Mitsuko thought. It wouldn’t be much to waste, and it’s such a pretty green. The design is simple, so it won’t stand out too much, and the colour will give a good accent. It will go well with my navy-blue linen shirt and with jeans and a white shirt as well. And only 199B. 

Mitsuko handed the money to a skinny young girl who was eating Som Tum (green papaya salad) out of a styrofoam box with a plastic fork. Strong smell of fresh garlic, nampla (fish sauce) and lime juice dressing floated over as she stood to get the belt. 

Kob Phun Kaa (thank you),” said the girl, as she handed Mitsuko the shiny green belt in a cheap plastic bag. When she smiled, her white teeth shined in contrast to her dark skin. 

Pleased with her small purchase, she went on to the next floor which was a maze. The shops were all very small, probably 2 metres by 3 metres square, with a narrow walkway between. They all looked the same, displaying similar electronic gadgets and tech accessories. Mitsuko knew she would never find her way back to the same shop once she passed it. 

A phone cover with neon-colored spangles caught her eye. It was similar to the one Mika was using. Mika had been excited with her latest purchase (she was always excited about everything anyway), saying the same cover was very popular in Japan and cost three times more there. She had joked that maybe she should start an export business online. Mitsuko did not pay too much attention to Mika’s talk. Mitsuko was neither interested in a spangled phone cover nor an online enterprise. Mitsuko thought the phone cover looked too girlish for any woman except Mika, who had a kind of Peter-Pan-never-grew-up style. But soon after Mika showed up with it, Mitsuko saw other women her own age with them and realised it was indeed popular among the Japanese ladies. She still didn’t like it, though, and that had made her feel a little outdated. 

Now, at MBK, she wondered if she should get one, but then her head was turned by the tablet covers on the next rack. Just two weeks before, Yuichi had bought an iPad for their children. Mitsuko was not so sure if a six year old, or even a ten year old, needed an iPad, but she didn’t say anything against Yuichi’s decision. She made it a rule to follow her husband unless she had a very strong reason to oppose, unless it was something she could never compromise. So far, there was nothing Mitsuko could not compromise. To be honest, she was opposed to the iPad. She didn’t want her children playing computer games all day. But she didn’t want to spoil their joy, and she hoped Yuichi would find some good educational apps. When Yuichi showed them the iPad, Mitsuko just gave them a motherly smile as if to say, “It’s your lucky day, isn’t it?” as she began to plot how she would control the game time. 

The kids had wanted to buy a cover case for it, but Emporium had only red, black, and white, and Kota and Mina couldn’t agree. Now here at MBK, Mitsuko saw cases in yellow, purple, blue, orange, and pink, plus patterns like polka-dots, stars, and hearts. Amazed with the selection, Mitsuko asked “Taw Rai Ka (how much)?” as she tried to remember the price at Emporium. 

“Six hundred ninety nine Baht, Oku-san.” the older sales lady replied.

Oku-san means “madam” in Japanese, and Mitsuko was a bit taken aback, actually disappointed, by the acknowledgment. She knew she couldn’t fake being Thai, but how did the lady know she was Japanese? Mitsuko had to admit she looked Japanese. If there was a typical Japanese expat wife look, she definitely had it. Asako or Mika often laughingly reported being mistaken for Singaporean, or Filipino, or even Spanish in this cosmopolitan city. But that never happened to Mitsuko. 

As she held the tablet cover, sealed in a plastic bag, she was surprised at the price. At the Emporium, she was sure a similar case had cost more than 2,000B, almost three times more. She tried to study the case through the plastic, wondering if the quality was that much different. She couldn’t tell any significant difference.

The sales lady interpreted Mitsuko’s silence as hesitation about the price and said, “OK, Oku-san, five-hundred-ninety-nine Baht, Piset (the Thai word for special) for you!” In one short sentence, the lady had mixed up three languages, English, Thai and Japanese.

Mitsuko was suddenly reminded that bargaining was a common practice in Thailand’s local markets, where she had never shopped. But you never bargain at Emporium, Mitsuko thought, and this is a shopping mall, is it not? 

Mitsuko tried to remember the details of how and where to bargain. She had learned this a long time ago in a welcome seminar by the Mitsumaru Club, but the memory was blur. Still it seemed quite clear that MBK was a place to bargain. Gingerly, she tried a phrase she had never used before. “Rot iik dai mai ka (Can you discount more)?”

Mai dai (cannot), Oku-san! It is already very cheap.” She gave Mitsuko an “Oh-my-God-give-me-mercy!” face.

The lady had a short tightly permed hairdo, and Mitsuko thought she could name several aunties back in Japan who had the exact same hair style. Mitsuko was instantly embarrassed for bargaining about an already cheap price. I don’t want to look like an arrogant, stingy foreigner giving a hard time to a poor, elderly lady. 

She wanted to leave the store immediately, but when she looked around for a way out, the lady shouted, “OK, Oku-san, 550B. Final price!” She gave Mitsuko an “I-cannot-win-over-you” face. 

In a way, Mitsuko felt saved. She didn’t particularly want the case, but relieved from a guilty conscience, she smiled and picked up a light blue case which she hoped both Kota and Mina would like. 

As Mitsuko handed over the money, the sales lady was quick to change her mode, briskly opening the plastic bag to show Mitsuko the case and explaining how to use it. Mitsuko still didn’t see any difference from the one at the Emporium. The lady then handed it over in a cheap shopping bag with a cheerful “Kob phun ka.” 

Mitsuko felt much better and repeated the phrase with a smile. 

After that, she strolled around, picking up some silver jewellry and hair accessories for a few hundred Baht, as she worked her way toward the skytrain station, so that she could head home. 

The section near the station was a fashion floor with lots of bags and shoes. She loved bags and shoes, or rather she used to. When she had been an OL (office lady), she owned dozens of pair of shoes, all sorts of colours and styles. Her father used to joke, “How many feet you’ve got?” She had also bought a couple of brand-name bags from Chanel and Louis Vuitton (just like any other OL who went through the bubble of the 1980s Japanese economy). She still kept the bags in her closet, although she rarely used them now. 

But bags and shoes were not the top of her list anymore. With a husband and children, her shopping priorities had changed. It was not because they were financially tight, but because shopping for Yuichi, Kota, and Mina brought a different kind of shopping pleasure. It reinforced her sense of herself as a devoted wife and mother, running her household diligently, making her family feel good and look neat, and bringing her a new kind of fulfillment. 

And actually, as for bags and shoes, functionality had become more important than style since the children had come. She needed bags that she could hang on her shoulder so that both hands were available for the kids, and the bags had to be big enough for diapers, bottles, extra clothes, wet tissues, etc. And she needed shoes with flat soles, so she could carry them and run and chase if necessary. She didn’t want to admit it, but as she got older, comfort became an important factor as well. 

As Mitsuko passed the window displays of stylish bags and shoes, she remembered that her children were growing up. She didn’t have to wear a flat sole anymore or carry diapers around. And tonight, she didn’t even have to hurry home to make a dinner. She could enjoy shopping all evening if she wanted.

She walked into a rather fancy looking shop (for MBK), which could easily be somewhere in Tokyo. Maybe not in Ginza, but Harajyuku or Shimokitazawa. The shop displayed just one or two bags on each shelf, so unlike the other MBK shops which piled bags from the floor to the ceiling. The elegant bags looked somehow familiar, though she couldn’t remember where she had seen them. She reached out and touched a beautiful cobalt blue handbag, which felt surprisingly soft and supple. 

This is a very good quality leather, Mitsuko thought, and very well made. And it’s so chic. It doesn’t look mass-produced for low cost, but rather handmade for exquisite customers. Very unlike MBK.

Mitsuko couldn’t resist holding the bag in one hand and looking at herself in a tall mirror. 

Ta-da! It was that magical moment of shopping when you see someone else in the mirror. Mitsuko hadn’t felt that in a long time. In her black dress, the cobalt blue bag made her look elegant with a touch of mystery – and maybe even a few years younger.

The salesgirl was quick to catch the moment. “Suay ka (Beautiful).”

Though she recognised it as sales talk, Mitsuko couldn’t resist smiling. “How much?” Somehow, her words came out in English. She knew this shop was used to dealing with foreigners. 

“Forty thousand Baht.”

What? That’s like $1300! Mitsuko was certain the shock registered on her face. She thought perhaps she had misheard it. The girl took out a calculator and tapped 4-0-0-0-0. 

How could it be so expensive? This is the MBK, famous for cheap stuff. That’s not even in the price range of the Emporium. Mitsuko still thought maybe the girl had made a mistake in the number of zeros. If it was 4,000 Baht (which was still expensive for MBK), she would snatch it. It was such a beautiful bag with such quality. 

Mitsuko looked around the shop to see if this particular bag was the only expensive one. She saw an azalea pink bag with narrow leather strips woven like a basket. It was such a sweet colour. If she had been twenty years younger, she would have loved it. The girl followed Mitsuko’s gaze and said, “That’s 42,000 Baht.” Again, she tapped it out: 4-2-0-0-0. 

Even more expensive! Five figures seemed to be the price range of this shop. 

All of a sudden it hit her that this was a shop designer brand knockoffs. That was why they looked familiar. These were copies of Bottega Veneta, Hermes, Gucci, Chanel. Mitsuko had not followed the latest collections of these brands, but she had recognised the brands’ distinctive designs. Maybe she had seen them in an exclusive women’s magazine. If they had been genuine, they would cost twice or three times as much. This most-MBK-unlike shop was, it seems, a most-MBK-like shop after all. 

“I can discount for you.” The girl said as she pushed the calculator forward, tapping some numbers. 

Yes, this is a very-MBK-like shop. 

Mitsuko smiled and spoke, this time in Thai, “Mai pen rai ka, kob phun ka (Never mind, thankyou),” and left the shop.

Still heading toward the station, she walked through more MBK-like shops, impossibly stuffed bags and shoes and signs of “199 Baht” or “399 Baht.” Then she found a small shop which looked neither MBK like nor MBK-unlike-but-actually-very-MBK-like. This one just looked like an ordinary, nice store. When she walked in, a long-haired woman who looked to be in her late thirties stood up courteously. She wore no makeup which added to Mitsuko’s sense that the woman was not about to put on a pushy sales show. 

These handbags were all made of similar soft leather in brown and black only but in a variety of styles. The bags were tagged as a brand Mitsuko had never heard of. It seemed to be an original Thai local brand. Mitsuko looked at one bag after another carefully. The idea of owning a locally handmade bag that no other woman would have was something that would appeal to any woman. 

Her eyes settled on a small brown handbag which could also hang off the shoulder since the straps were a little longer. The leather was not like Italian, but a tanned leather that could shine if polished. The sewing was neat; not as fine as the designer brand look-alikes, but an accent of the bag, giving it a sporty touch. Casual but chic. Not very flashy, but versatile. She could wear it with both jeans and dresses. Also, the bag was much more spacious than it looked.

“How much is this?” 

“Two thousand nine hundred Baht ka.” 

Her English was decent, and her tone was calm. There was nothing aggressive about her attitude unlike most salespeople who spoke good English. She had been standing quietly while Mitsuko examined the bag. Mitsuko liked her, as well as the bag. And after hearing forty-thousand Baht, two thousand nine hundred sounded unreasonably cheap. 

I will take it, she thought. But this was the MBK, so she should at least try to bargain, shouldn’t she? 

Rot tow rai ka?” she asked, practicing her request for a discount.

The lady hesitated but gave a calm smile. “Two thousand five hundred. OK mai ka (is it OK)?”

More than OK! Mitsuko exclaimed silently. But she nodded and smiled.

As she left the store with her new handbag, she thought, What a shopping spree! Bag and belt and other finds, and I didn’t even spend 5,000 Baht.

She felt almost like a long-time Bangkok resident, bargaining at MBK. But that was enough. She had fun. Time to go. 

She was feeling hungry but eating at MBK would be too much of an experience. She was not quite ready for the food court. She pictured herself, a middle-aged Japanese expat wife eating alone at MBK on the weekend, and that didn’t look very pretty. There should be some decent restaurants at Siam Paragon where I could comfortably eat alone. Or I could stop at the Gourmet Market for a ready-made take-home meal. A lazy dinner on the couch was quite appealing after a couple hours of walking. 

On her way out of MBK and into the station, she passed a small vendor’s sign: “iPad case, Special, 499 Baht!!” The sign was handwritten on a piece of paper. Mitsuko froze and stared at the vendor’s inventory. Isn’t this the same thing I bought for 550 Baht as a special price? The cases looked exactly the same. “Oh!” She covered her opened mouth and started laughing. Some passers-by looked at her curiously, but she couldn’t help it. 

You got me, Auntie! 

Mitsuko had feared she’d given “Auntie” a hard time with her bargaining, but now she knew that lady was much smarter than Mitsuko. 

She didn’t think she would come back to MBK soon. But when she did, she was determined to come back as a much more skilled MBK shopper. 

To contact the author and find out more about Bangkok Madam please write to: [email protected]

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Are we getting it all wrong?

I believe that for far too long we’ve been stuck as a society into a particular set of thinking about how we work and live. It is time to get real, to break from those so called “work-life” issues, and start creating a different type of integration to live our best lives.

There is no doubt that most of us are time starved and overstretched, and are feeling the pressure of unrealistic expectations as we go about our days by the conflicting demands of our work and life, making us feel overwhelmed, stressed out and stuck. We live under the illusion that committing to insane demands and long working hours will one day save our day, however this strategy to get us to perform and stay on top of it all couldn’t be more wrong.

Studies have shown that productivity drops steeply after a 50-hour workweek, and drops off a cliff after 55 hours – a far cry from the 70-80 hours week I used to do working in hotels.  Exhausted employees are not only unproductive but also more prone to costly errors, accidents and sickness. It is paramount to bring more awareness to employers to highlight the fact that hours can be reduced without loss of input. We need to realise the fact that longer working hours does not improve productivity – healthy, well-restored employees do.

The culture of overwork has well-known personal consequences. Working more than 55 hours a week raises the risk of heart attack and stroke. People who work longer hours tend to be more anxious and depressed, and their sleep suffers. According to Schulte at Harvard Business Review, people’s IQ actually drops 13 points when in a state of tunnel-vision busyness.

However, if your work culture is organised around effective work, and values employees who have full lives outside of work, you will stand a far better change of attracting and retaining employees who are highly engaged, motivated and willing to give their best at work, which will undoubtedly translate into a healthier, more successful business, and a healthier bottom line. Promoting a healthy work-life balance in your business will also lead to increased productivity, a happier workforce, staff feeling valued and less likely to leave, reducing staff turnover and minimizing recruitment costs.

Let’s get real: Work-life balance is an unhealthy myth. We all have limited energy, and following Elon Musk’s working week of 120 hours in simply unrealistic. Instead, we must allocate time wisely, depending on priorities and circumstances. Inevitably, some things will be neglected when important matters demand our attention, and we need to account for those times and be OK with it.

One of the first points that I’d like to suggest in how to create a shift in the way we think about work-life balance, is to actually change the language itself. The word balance implies “equal”, and balancing work and life matters equally is simply idealistic. Work is in fact a part of life, not something separate, and as such it fits in under the greater umbrella. We must therefore start by using a different type of language to depict this balancing act.

I love how Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, uses the phrase “work life harmony” instead. Bezos believes happiness at work makes him happy at home, and vice versa. Words such as harmony, blend or integration imply that work and life are intertwined. Therefore, we must accept reality and come up with some strategies to prioritize within our blended lifestyle, as well as eliminating the work-life combination from our vocabularies altogether and to recognize that life is what’s happening and work is one of the things you do in life.

Everything we do has a cost and consequences. The sooner we make peace with it, the quicker we’ll be able to create a work life integration plan that work for us. Having it all – at once – may push us down a road of unrealistic expectations where we feel like failures for not being able to attain the impossible. Some of the most successful people that I’ve interviewed in the topic have all told me they will only focus on the top 2 or 3 domains of their life at most at any given time.

Time does not discriminate. We all have the same hours in a day, and with some intentional planning you can fit a lot in it. But the truth is that finding the right harmony between work and life is not easy, and it will require commitment and doing the thing that you set out to do. At times, you may not have enough time to hang out or relax, or even have a decent sleep, and that doesn’t mean the goal isn’t worth it. If you apply a year-long calendar view, make sure at times you can afford to, you book time with friends and family gatherings. Life is going to change constantly, and at times giving to work a little more than life is not necessarily unhealthy if it does allow you to work towards your dreams.

In fact, at different ages and stages of our lives, we need different things and have various demands on our time. Sometimes there isn’t enough work, while at other points there’s too much. In the grand scheme, there is something resembling a balance. But in the short term, less so.

Another aspect in this topic that I’d like to highlight is about how everyone should be wary when considering their busyness. I hear it all the time: “I’m so busy”. Just how busy are we really? Although we love saying we’re busy, many of us are just distracted. It could be that much of the busyness we flaunt like a status symbol is just a result of wasting time procrastinating and pretending – checking social media and email. I could argue that the more complex your tasks, the more you focus, the more is done in a condensed period. I firmly believe that with the right focus, we can get to work smarter, not harder, and generate better results this way for a richer, more fulfilling life.

Everything we do has a cost and consequences. The sooner we make peace with it, the quicker we’ll be able to create a work life integration plan that work for us. Having it all – at once – may push us down a road of unrealistic expectations where we feel like failures for not being able to attain the impossible. Some of the most successful people that I’ve interviewed in the topic have all told me they will only focus on the top 2 or 3 domains of their life at most at any given time.

Time does not discriminate. We all have the same hours in a day, and with some intentional planning you can fit a lot in it. But the truth is that finding the right harmony between work and life is not easy, and it will require commitment and doing the thing that you set out to do. At times, you may not have enough time to hang out or relax, or even have a decent sleep, and that doesn’t mean the goal isn’t worth it. If you apply a year-long calendar view, make sure at times you can afford to, you book time with friends and family gatherings. Life is going to change constantly, and at times giving to work a little more than life is not necessarily unhealthy if it does allow you to work towards your dreams.

In fact, at different ages and stages of our lives, we need different things and have various demands on our time. Sometimes there isn’t enough work, while at other points there’s too much. In the grand scheme, there is something resembling a balance. But in the short term, less so.

Another aspect in this topic that I’d like to highlight is about how everyone should be wary when considering their busyness. I hear it all the time: “I’m so busy”. Just how busy are we really? Although we love saying we’re busy, many of us are just distracted. It could be that much of the busyness we flaunt like a status symbol is just a result of wasting time procrastinating and pretending – checking social media and email. I could argue that the more complex your tasks, the more you focus, the more is done in a condensed period. I firmly believe that with the right focus, we can get to work smarter, not harder, and generate better results this way for a richer, more fulfilling life.

Work-Life Integration Tips for People Who Want to Have it All

1.Step up your self-care routine: 

Activities that increase your health and happiness will help you be more effective and productive in every aspect of your life. Prioritize sleep by trying to get 7-8 hrs of sleep a night. Make time for nutritious meals. Exercise whenever you can to combat disease. Treat yourself to a spa and unwind. Spend time with people who make you laugh and leave you feeling energized. Make time for hobbies that relive stress and fill you with passion and joy. I am not reinventing the wheel here. You know what needs to be done, so go ahead and commit to applying some of these in your own life.

  1. Plan your top 3 daily

Become a productivity pro by planning ahead of time (the night before or early in the morning) the top 3 things that you must accomplish that day. Be realistic and ensure that no matter what gets in the way, you get those 3 things crossed from your list. Before you know it, you’ll be working smarter, not harder, and accomplishing much more.

  1. Delegate

If you’re so involved in your business that you feel you really can’t be gone, even for a day, it’s time to learn to delegate. Contrary to what you might believe, you aren’t the only one who can handle many of the tasks you currently spend time on. Your team members will feel empowered if you shuffle additional responsibilities to them, and you’ll finally get to relax.

  1. Minimise distractions

If you are serious about doing work that matters, you are going to have to get real about your distractions of choice (social media, Netflix, drinking, greasy food, late nights, procrastination, etc). Take responsibility for owning what keeps you away from being and doing your best, and work on reducing the amount of time you spend on it. We all get the same amount of time in a day. High-achievers focus better on what they want to achieve, rather than giving into their distraction of choice.

  1. Organise yourself by de-cluttering

A messy external space often overloads the brain and leads to burnout. Become more focused and productive by cleaning up and creating an environment that allows you to work smarter, not harder. Overcome personal disorganisation by de-cluttering information and paperwork as well as time and tasks.

Think consciously about how to spend your time, decide which tasks matter most to you and your organization, and then drop or outsource the rest. By doing this, you can reduce your involvement in low-value tasks. You can actually cut your desk work by an average of six hours a week, shave meeting time by an average of two hours a week, and free up nearly a fifth of your time (an average of one full day a week). By doing this, you’ll make more time for what matters in your life. Imagine you had one full day a week to fill as you seem fit, giving time and energy for all parts of your life so nothing is left behind – perhaps balance does stand a chance after all!

  1. Use calendar blocks for laser focus

You have a calendar, so use it. Schedule specific blocks of uninterrupted time for your most important tasks. When you are working, work hard and focusYou scheduled this work time, so give it your all. You wouldn’t want one of your employees or one of your suppliers to do a half-done job on your assignment, so don’t do it to your clients. Block out distractions and keep on task. Focus and avoid sabotaging yourself and your most precious commodity – your time.

Also schedule important personal activities, such as special dinners, school events,  sporting events, fun events with friends, your kids or your spouse or just exercise time. Scheduling this time may sound like overkill, but trust me, it works. It removes the guilt over being with your family instead of working in your business. It’s on your schedule after all – so you are being productive and not ignoring your family. It’s a win-win! And remember, you are in charge of your own schedule. You don’t have to be tied to the 9-5 time limitations. If you need two hours in the middle of the day to attend your child’s talent show – you have that freedom. Just remember to replace those two hours somewhere else on your schedule.

  1. Set boundaries

If customers or colleagues think it’s OK to call you at 11 pm if they need something, they will. Set firm boundaries around when you are, and aren’t, available. Doing so will help you relax when you’re off the clock and avoid burnout, while also helping others avoid unmet expectations. Limit your work hours. Work never ends, and if you’re looking to finish everything, you’ll never stop. Working long hours isn’t good for anyone — you, your family or your colleagues. Sheryl Sandberg spent years leaving work at 5:30 to have dinner with her children. If she can do it, why can’t you? Do not overextend yourself. Learn to say thank you, but NO for both personal and professional requests. If it doesn’t fit into your schedule, then the answer is “No.” The time you spend on your work or business needs to produce income, and the time with your family or personal time needs to be quality time.

The bottom line is, we all want to enjoy life and to find that ever elusive balance. Some days are better than others, but if your goal is to enjoy your career, your clients, your family, and your time, then remember, you have the power to make that happen. You don’t have to take yourself too seriously – just use your time more effectively to accomplish both goals.

Work-life integration is not a system of having your work and life take exactly the same amount of hours or focus. It’s a way of making sure that both your work priorities and your personal priorities are being met. Sometimes that means more work hours, and other times it means less.

Newer times demand new thinking. Now it’s up to all of us to get real, to think bigger, and begin to make the real changes we all need in order to live our best life.

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For decades, the day after Thanksgiving has attracted massive crowds and hysteria outside of malls and stores nationwide.Thousands of shoppers gather sometimes as early as 5 pm Thanksgiving Day itself, jostling for themad dash into their favorite shops to grab Black Friday doorbuster deals on flatscreen TVs, diamond necklaces, holiday toys, winter coats and more.

Now imagine this scenario in a pandemic.”I just can’t envision that happening this year,” said Scott Rankin, principal and national consumer and retail strategy leader with KPMG US.”With everything that’s going on, there may be no Black Friday at all,” said Rankin. “I can’t imagine retailers buying inventory to stock up for an event designed to pack hundreds of people into a store. There are so many risks to that.”

Even the experts say, however, that a vaccine will take at least 18 months to develop and test.
 
At least one retailer is already thinking ahead to a different Black Friday game plan this year.
 
Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette raised the issue with analysts just last week. “When you look at the stores, I would tell you that [crowds are] a big concern of ours. But when you think about a Black Friday, if you think about the 10 days before Christmas, what does that mean in terms of traffic if people are nervous about gathering with crowds?”
 
At the same time, more consumers have actively embraced online shopping. Noting the trend, Gennette said Macy’s is looking to focus on online deals for Black Friday.
 
Macy’s (M)is also considering a much earlier start to its Black Friday marketing push, potentially right after Halloween, and plans to adopt one other tactic for the first time during the upcoming holiday shopping season.
“Curbside pickup is going to be a big secret weapon for us. We didn’t have it last holiday season,” said Gennette. “We think that’s going to be huge for this holiday season.”
 

Losing its relevance

Industry watchers say Black Friday has been losing its relevance with shoppers in recent years.
One reason is because retailers started to spread their deals out over many days instead of just one day. And consumers increasingly have turned to the internet to find even deeper deals than in-store bargains, forcing more holiday shopping to shift online.
“I think it’s accurate to say that online sales now account for as much as 40% of Black Friday sales,” said Rankin.
 
Online sales were rising even before the pandemic. In 2019, shoppers spent more than $600 billion online, up nearly 15% from the previous year, according to the Commerce Department.
 
“Black Friday has definitely transitioned more into a digital affair in the past five years,” said Neil Saunders, retail analyst and managing director at GlobalData Retail. “The focal point is not that single day anymore. It’s an event spread out over several days.”
 
Saunders expects Black Friday will be even more diminished this year, especially if Covid-19 sees a second wave in the fall and winter.
 
“As a single day, yes, much less relevant than ever this year,” he said.
Still, there are some encouraging signs for retailers that consumers’ appetite for shopping remains strong despite the current challenges.
 
“As stores reopen, there are still people lining up to go shop,” said Rod Sides, who leads Deloitte’s US retail and distribution practice. “Some retailers will look at this and think the risk is too great to attract big crowds on Black Friday. But there could be others who won’t be too worried as long as they are able to keep their employees and customers safe. It could be somewhat of a mixed bag.”
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Fashion emerged in the middle of the 15th century at the beginning of the European renaissance. The word fashion means custom and comes from the Latin modus. The variation in the characteristics of the garments arose to differentiate what was previously the same, a style of clothing that was used from childhood to death.
From the Middle Ages onwards, clothes were different following a pattern that increased according to social class, there were even laws that restricted fabrics and colors only to nobles.

The bourgeoisie society, which was not noble, but was rich, began to imitate the noble style of clothing, initiating a process of great work to the tailors, who from then on, were obliged to produce different styles to differentiate the nobles from the bourgeois. With the industrial revolution in the 18th century, the cost of fabrics decreased significantly, in 1850 with the invention of sewing machines the cost of fabrics fell further. From then on, even the most humble were able to buy better clothes.Even after the ease of clothing, women were still deprived of modernity and continued to wear tailored clothing. From this difficulty, haute couture emerged that produced different styles through stylists who invented trends.

Fashion has to work as an ally of women at all times of life. Not all trends will work for every consumer, so common sense, routine and social participation will be the thermometer of the presentation, so that they can face their modern day-to-day life. Think smart when dressing. Value the best points and hide the points that bother you.

The modern woman consumer has to seek clothing items that match her attitudes, routine and image. Fashion is not only visual, it is also behavioral. A current woman should not  be longer interested in what does not truly represent her. Thus, the smart consum is for brands that manage to combine design, practicality, durability and well-being. It is important to keep in mind that clothing is the first business card for the opportunity. Whether or not you want, in a professional interview, the first impression and what remains, then, is important to invest in clothes with quality of raw materials, smells, textures, finishes, the production process, softness, comfort, usability, beauty and common sense.

Human beings are visual. The vision is the sensorial that will describe the candidate for the position, the loving suitor, because unconsciously we are all critics of fashion, without realizing it, often involuntarily, we judget the style of the other in a positive or negative way, through the intervention of trends not always consistent with reality. 

Boldness and joy should be worn when you have a mastery of fashion. When in doubt, do not use it. Always in this situation the less is more. Functional clothing works as an ally especially when the situation is compromising. Another fashion reminder: the set of opera is  harmony, singing and accompaniment. 

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In January 2020, I was front row and centre at Paris Fashion Week.  It was a dream come true.  Even the frosty cold weather couldn’t put the fire out in me. I was working on pure adrenalin.  I wore a pink tuxedo jacket with high length boots, coupled with a Dior belt and handbag. My ensemble fit perfectly with the atmosphere in Paris that week.  From Place Vendôme, to the Intercontinental Hotel and the Hotel Potocki Paris, I was swept away by how the organisers transformed each venue.

The setting of each fashion show showcased a rich heritage of what Paris Fashion week resonates.  A fusion of cultures merging together to celebrate iconic designers and artists. The essence of the event really is a coming together of like-minded people.  It was amazing to watch people from different nations settle into each show, as we were transported into many different worlds. From themes of ancient cultures, to enchanting and magical nuances of being taken into an aquatic world of Atlantis.

Transformation and a truly exotic experience matched with multiculturalism is definitely the way Paris Fashion Week was set up.  In essence, this worldwide event allowed designers from a global market to mingle and express themselves through fashion. It almost felt like I was transported into a world that is exclusive.  I felt privileged to be part of this event, and will indeed try and make it back every year, to watch iconic designers, as well as up coming artists make themselves known on the fashion runway.

Outstanding designers and guests were from every single nation and country around the world. The melting pot of cultures mixed with the Parisian vibe made me feel connected to my love of fashion.  It was non-stop, everyday, making an appearance at fashion shows, participating in photo shoots, interviews on TV and indulging in after parties with the crème de la crème of Paris’ and the world’s hottest fashion designers and trend leaders.  Being in this atmosphere felt like known territory. I can’t begin to tell you how comfortable and in my element I felt. Plus, my ability to speak French fluently definitely made me feel like an insider.

Of course, my three favorite designers were present and I was mesmerized by their new styles for 2020. I am so excited to wear some of these elegant pieces this year. Ziad Nakad, Lebanese designer who has dressed icons over the years, describes his ultimate client: “the Ziad Nakad woman is fresh strong, sensual and positive. When she enters a room, she spreads positive vibes and has a clear vision.” His pieces, flow with absolute sensuality and elegance.  This season, he touched on my favorite character, which is the mermaid.  The models had slicked back hair and the movement of his gowns were flowy like waves.  Each model adorned a belt constructed of metal and Swarovski crystals, which were made to look like fish. The mirrored runway coupled with the pale blue lighting was truly an under-the-sea adventure, at the Inter Continental Hotel, Paris, LeGrand. Everyone was mesmerized by his talent and I was asked in an interview, by FTV (Fashion TV), to speak about his work.

I truly believe that Ziad Nakad has the power to create clothes that fit a woman’s body to show off her sensual side.  I purchased a dress for a wedding I will be attending in Cairo in February 2020. The purple hues, with the low v –neck lines and long tail, made me feel very fluid when I tried it on.  His colour choices of purple, silver and gold shimmered on my body. Nakad’s eye for detail in his dress lines, shows classic couture blended into a modern style through fabric, which resonates class and ultimate sophistication.  His dresses are made for the stylish woman, who knows that her body is her temple. His clothes make me feel like a natural woman, because the fabric and design sit on my body with ease.

Believe it or not, I was seated in the front row, at the Nicolas Jebran fashion show, at the Place Vendôme.  He has dressed some titans of the celebrity world, including Priyanka Chopra, who wore his gown at the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards celebration this year. The designer has also created pieces for Assala who is a famous singer in the Arab world.  I love his style because it’s super sexy and reminds me of couture from Versace’s 1990’s collection. Versace was one of the most famous designers of the 90’s and became internationally renowned for his theatrical style, luxurious classicism and overt sexuality.  He was the pioneer of featuring super models such as Naomi Campbell and Lisa Evangelista who cleverly showcased his clothes with immaculate precision. The same feeling was recreated by Jebran this year. He brought me back to an age that was fun, flirty and extravagant like Hollywood.

Zuhair Murad, internationally renowned designer also from Lebanon, invited me as a VIP guest to write about his latest fashion. Murad always wows his audience with spectacular shows, which truly catapults his reputation onto a global scale.  His dresses have adorned super stars like JLo, Kate Beckinsale, Kerry Washington, Linda Cardellini and other Hollywood Moghuls, who shine with outstanding glamour. He lights up this season with fabrics made from cerulean silk, tulle and geometric sequin ornaments.  At Paris Fashion Week, symmetrical and golden designs with exotic artistry brought his theme of “Egypt” to life. Gold was his obvious choice of colour for this new collection. The explosion of iridescent golden silhouettes with a backdrop of ancient times wowed his audience as celebrities from around the world gazed in amazement.  My favorite part of the show was the dramatic finale when Murad revealed bridal wear with a model dressed up like Nefertiti. He transported his audience back in time, when Pharaohs ruled. His regal style never ceases to amaze me. Murad’s collections are truly iconic.

For more information, on these exclusive designers, they can be followed on Instagram or connected through their websites:

ZIAD NAKAD: Instagram: Ziad Nakad, Website: www.ziadnakad.com

NICOLAS JEBRAN: Instagram: nicolasjebranworld Website: www.nicolasjebran.com

ZUHAIR MURAD: Instagram:  zuhairmuradofficial Website: www.zuhairmurad.com

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In the midst of this roller coaster of emotions in which the news, uncertainty and hardship embark us, we must seek refuge in things that make us feel good, distract us, that we enjoy and that motivate us to continue every day.

Now my question… Are you spending all day in pyjamas or dressed in the first thing you find, while in your closet your clothes feel lonely and useless? Are you bored, worried, reluctant and dressing and applying makeup do not interest you at all?

The law of least effort where physical appearance is not a priority, has become routine. But you have to make a quick change. The time has come to leave that attitude behind! Open your wardrobe, your makeup drawer, your perfumes and accessories, and decide that in the middle of this stage of social distancing, you are going to be you again! You will see how your self-esteem will turn 180 degrees. Anxiety will improve and you will feel much better!

 

My tips for this quarantine:

  1. Get into a routine and you will feel 100% better!
  2. Healthy diet (you are not always so hungry, most of the time you are just bored).
  3. Gym at home (yes you need to leave the sedentary lifestyle aside)
  4. Pay attention to your mental health: confinement, over-information and the threat of possible contagion can cause stress that brings negative thoughts such as worry, guilt, frustration, fear and uncertainty and this can cause emotional damage irreparable. In view of that, look for activities that distract your mind and help you stay calm, read a book, meditate, watch a series, stay away from the info media for a moment and this will give you the state of wellbeing you need despite stress caused by the crisis.

OK and point 5 I want to cover: Fashion in times of confinement!

During the following months we have had to live with an accessory that we must use when leaving the house for any reason. We can see that all brands are devising trends on this requirement. In addition we already know that we are beginning to acquire or renovate, so that our wardrobe adapts to the meagre and familiar social life that we have to spend at home. Amongst the leading accessories that we will have to carry when leaving the house with any reason for the next few months…

Now this is the time when many see the need to renew their pyjamas or clothes to be at home, we can not leave summer aside, so we must adjust our clothes to this season.

  1. Do you know Athleisure clothing?

This is the combination of fashion and comfort clothes, yoga pants and t-shirts or loose sweaters, it has become a regular outfit to be at home and there are many brands that propose them, it allows freedom of expression for those who wear it, since they decide what to wear more than everything to feel good inside those clothes giving that touch of personality and originality that everyone wants when dressing. High fashionistas indicate that this trend is here to stay and that it will last for a long time, especially since it is widely adopted by young people who prefer low shoes to high heels or sandals for the newspaper.

Searches related to this topic were expected to focus on dresses or some other spring and summer trends, due to this quarantine the trend is different. But a ray of light illuminated the shadows, and we have seen a greater increase in summer products through the internet. Kaftans, kimonos, bathing suits, little summer dresses. May our mood to spend the summer at home not end!

  1. About the midi dresses:

he special thing about midi dresses is the length of the skirt which gives you the comfort of wearing this clothes without problems of taking care of yourself if you feel it is too short. The special thing about midi dresses is the length of the skirt which gives you the comfort of wearing this clothes without problems of taking care of yourself if you feel it is too short. I leave you my favourite designs!

  1. Joggers or comfy:

I think it is a ‘must have’ for its design, since it includes certain details, such as the darts and the simple hem with side opening, which immediately differentiates it from the typical sports pants. The truth is that, once the quarantine is over, it will become a basic, I’m convinced that it is a smart investment.

  1. Say yes to kimonos

Although it’s a look that took to the streets in winter to make its mark with pants and boots, of course we will also see it in summer now, we are talking about the iconic clothes from Japan that has reinvented itself: there are long versions, short, printed, plain, long or short sleeved. During the day we can use it open to show off what we have underneath (with shorts, tops) and in the afternoons just by closing it, you can create a long and elegant dress. Blouse-style kimonos greatly enhance the look, especially if they come in contrasting colours.

  1. Normcore: the free and simple trend

The great minimalist trend typical of off-duty models from the 2010s. More precisely in 2014, it became popular, but companies were not ready for it. Normcore thrives on the authenticity and essence of the people who wear the clothes. This trend is about putting the focus on our own style that is inherent in trends and clothing. We begin to understand that fashion can do without gender and be based 100% on comfort. It is somewhat minimalist but, not in a sophisticated way, but rather it transmits relaxed airs and relaxation.

  1. Long dresses:

Living at home these days and not enjoying the summer days, it is important to mention that whether inside or outside the home, long dresses should not be missing in our wardrobe. OK but first we must talk about my favourite cuts in dresses:

V stamping:

A printed dress with a V neckline is a classic bohemian dress. These clothes are a classic of summer clothing. This type of dress works very well for women who have an inverted triangle body, that is; wider from above than from below. The V neckline stylises the figure.

Imperial court:

This type of cut is ideal for bodies shaped like a pear or hourglass, since the dresses are tight at the waist. This creates an illusion of balance in your silhouette, making you look slimmer and slimmer.

Silk:

This dress works very well for all body types, however, you can opt for fabrics with a satin finish to add volume to your curves in case you have few curves.

  1. Blue will not only be a trend, I present the colour lilac!

It’s one of the star colours in the next spring. To be up to date in the new 2020 season you have to include this colour, in your wardrobe. The good news is that it is quite flattering whatever your skin tone.

  1. Preppy style

Lines have been a classic since Coco Chanel. The marine style prevails as a trend in a sophisticated touch. Pants, skirts, jackets and T shirts will be filled with lines this season. This look never fails, it is a classic combination of navy blue and white with some details highlighted in red and gold that give it strength and elegance to the set will turn your image into natural, sophisticated and always very chic for your summer days. A preppy look should always be perfect, impeccable. The combination should be classic, but not too serious, always with jovial and delicate elements.

  1. Micro top:

These tops are defined by having a reduced size coming to look almost like a bustier. How to wear a micro top without looking like you’re in underwear? The key is to integrate it into looks that wear a skirt, shorts or pants at the waist and a jacket, preferably oversize, to reveal the top only in part.

  1. Leggings we wear to be at home:

being an exclusively sporty or casual clothes, and are added to more sophisticated clothes until achieving stylish outfits to work with. 

Leggings: comfort and total trend. In the hot season they are key for you to feel comfortable and take advantage of all the versatility. During the summer these pants are an ideal option, especially the models made from special fabrics to give comfort in the heat.

The act of dressing, whether in jeans or suit, is the key to maintaining the basic structure of the day. Get up and go to sleep always at the same time, have breakfast, keep the same schedule for work and above all dress! 

“We have to make an effort to set ourselves specific objectives about how we are going to want to face this quarantine. It has been purchased that being in pyjamas all day, causes you to sleep during the day and insomnia at night. If you alter these rhythms you are going to feel less stable, you can get into a loop, get depressed and end up focusing your mind on what you don’t control. During this period of quarantine I consider it very important to stay active, busy and looking good so as not to lose our spirits and positivity”.

I hope you like all these tips, let’s change the perspective of our days a bit. 

I wait for you on my instagram @be_a_starlette xoxo!

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