Divine Prodding - A Hunt for Meaning
Much like a pin leak on a big happy red balloon, the weeks in COVID19 lockdown that came soon after the launch of this project left me deflated for a good few days. Expectedly, any work or adjustments naively attempted were catawampus at best and so, delays, space, deep contemplation (meltdowns) and many revisions were set in hopes of getting to this point. With the heaps of pieces at play today, the role of Sustaining Intimacy feels magnified beyond the call to exercise genuine human connection. For me at least, it seems as though I’m now taking on a soulful expedition in search of some sort of fantastical insight to accompany my searing anxiety. But the deeper into the rabbit hole, the more I worry how far I’ll need to go.
And now the stories begin...
Rememory - Feel to Heal
I can recall the exact instance I decided to start this column. Back in 2019, I co-facilitated an intimate discussion on sustainable fashion with Fashion Revolution Philippines and an inspiring collection of artists and designers. Of the 15 topics I prepared, we could barely get past the first question that pretty much took up the majority of our time together; “What's your first fashion memory?”
I was 8, maybe - young enough for my aunt to want to cake my face with baby-powder post-shower. It was winter too because I remember the smell of chill of the window glass and my toasty toes against the heater vent. On the corner of my eye, I see the tungsten glow from the dining room and through the kitchen hall then, the flicker off the tv. There’s chatter in the distance, then my aunt wisps away from me. I’m wearing a pyjama set with thick gartered ankles that I hated because my feet were so exposed. I turn into my empty room illuminated somewhat by the moon. Then, I turn again into a pitch-black wall closet. I sit there crying until my eyes adjust to see a stack of panties laid well in front of me. I kick them, then fold them again and again and again until I fall asleep. This was my first and fondest fashion memory.
Now, I’m 29 looking through a mirror to see parts as a whole to echo Risks’ advice to “...dig at the roots of everything I do and (hopefully) pay homage." It wasn’t until I spoke about this memory that I realized I had already been doing all that subconsciously so, what more if acted with full intention?
This simple but profound memory encompasses my entire relationship with fashion. I’m traumatized by childhood adversity; chronic emotional neglect, sexual and psychological abuse, and social poverty. I couldn’t tell you much of what I went through in detail because I have severe PTSD memory loss on top of manic depression. In all honestly, I think I have less than a dozen memories from my childhood that I could recall, but like bad meat shoved under the rug, the permeating stench of my past is an undeniable invisible force throughout my life. This memory is my purest example of the power of ownership fashion bestows on even the humblest of creatures; a lost child. I was overcome with emotion verbalizing this memory during the group discussion because I discovered that at the root of my love of fashion was not only its role as a coping mechanism but in essence, my early relationship with it lay the groundwork for self-love. It can sound so far-out but, when I think about the past I endured, I had nothing else. I dug deep at my limits, because if I hadn’t, I know I wouldn’t be here today. When I was lonely, my clothes were my only company. When I was stressed, it was the tactile comfort of organizing garments that soothed me. When I was afraid, I’d imagine myself dissolving and disappearing into or macgyver a protective cocoon out of bedsheets. When I felt hurt, I’d pull over sweaters and hide. For every vulnerable feeling I can remember, I also remember what I was wearing.
I am a hopeful example of my past and definitely not a victim. Although parts of my childhood were very painful, I learned the deepest truths of intimacy, worthiness and femininity, all of which are crucial themes in fashion. So, besides uncovering my early sentiments to fashion, I also debunked any self-doubt I had as a credible advocate for sustainable fashion. There used to be a low whisper that said, “you, the foreign nobody with no fashion sense, training, experience, knowledge or social network thinks she can talk about fashion and sustainability in the Philippines?” Now, the absurd self-deprecation is just a distant murmur that reminds me, not only am I worthy, I have been gifted rare real-life experiences soulfully intertwining this industry and art form into my DNA, literally! The empowerment is now fuelling me to bravely step out into the light, to continually use my demons to my advantage, and be seen by others with similar geeky feelings about fashion - all in a hope to traverse this wild trip together, hand-in-hand.
"Don’t confuse your momentary existence here for being average because you are so unique and you are so special. You are not a product of this world. Do not fall into the trap of becoming a limited being, just like the realm we’re living. Do not become the product of this realm that we’re temporarily in.” - Rose
Denuo is Latin for anew, who knew!?
If it isn't apparent, I’m happy to point out that the foundation of Denuo’s work in Vintage is sourced from a need to nurture all things lost or forgotten. The concept of the brand to resurface keepsakes and extend their value for generations more is a direct result of my past - like fertilizer to a garden.
Back in 2012, on a hot summer day, I, along with the two who would be Denuo founders, swam in a pool and talked about our love of thrift (Ukay-ukay) and jokingly planned to start a blog. It had only been a year since I moved to Manila from Toronto and I was enthralled by everything; the friendship, the family, the happiness, abundance, and love polarizing everything I knew. Neither of my co-founders knew this about me at the time. Drifting away from the chitchat in the distance, I hooked on to the pool gutter and found a small dead iridescent butterfly. Cheesy but, that night, I googled the lifecycle of a butterfly. Since my memory is such a blur, the next thing I can recall is Denuo vaguely coming to fruition - I’d comfort clothes, I’d share them and they became a part of me; object friends that presented themselves as talismans and gifts. And for the first time in my life, I learned what it felt like to not be alone or afraid. I didn't hide and I made my own sense of value. They became divine tools without which I would have bored myself to death trying to make my way in this world. From the early lessons on healing came love full-circle - and now, I hope to keep the ball rolling so we never forget how divine we could look.
What’s your first fashion memory?