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Rebel Against the Norm


Your mom, or grandma, had it right in the 1960’s/70’s when they burned their bras! And now science is starting to back up what your elders already knew. But if you don’t want to believe science, believe me when I tell you, you will be happier and more confident by banning the bra.  But how do I know?

Last year my best friend, who is less busty than I, challenged me to try a few weeks without a bra.  As a D cup, I wanted to prove my smaller sized friend wrong in her assumptions that big boobs can hang loose and be happy too. I was wrong! The bigger, the better when it comes to getting rid of underwire and elastic. Not only within one week on my #freethenipple experiment did I start to relish the freedom of not being squeezed up or down, I actually started to love my breasts and body more! I finally started to see my body as naturally beautiful and sexier than ever.

As I felt sexier, I felt more confident.  I stopped caring if people even noticed I was bra less and became proud of my freed state of being.  I even began speaking openly about my choice. And when people do stare at my chest, or someone makes a negative comment, I am fearless and unapologetic, because I am embracing me and refusing to bow down to the chauvinistic standards we hold women to in society.  It is funny how a simple act of trying to be comfortable has become about standing up for equality and creating a society which respects all bodies.  The longer I have been braless and the more negative comments I receive, the stronger I am in my belief that women should all unbuckle their bras.  Though, even if there was no connection to a larger movement for women to truly own their bodies, at the end of the day I don’t have to take off my bra to feel comfort because I never put one on!  And trust me, that is worth everything.

Photo from Freethenipple

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I have been extremely fortunate in the way I grew up.  Between the places I have lived, my amazing family, and the wonderful community my parents raised me in, I have been surrounded and embraced by so many different and beautiful cultures which helped shaped me.  But this does not mean that I cannot still be an offender of appropriation; especially when it comes to fashion! This is why we need to discuss it.

Cultural Appropriation: "the adoption or use of the elements of one culture by members of another culture". -Wikipedia

Appreciation: "the recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of someone or something". -Merriam-Webster

Of course, as a fashion lover and designer, I want to expose the world to all types of clothing, textiles, and accessories.  I want to show appreciation towards the people and cultures which created beauty by way of clothing and accessories. But designers and fashionistas also have a responsibility to understand when it is not our job to speak on behalf of someone else’s cultural and when to tell ourselves “no, we can’t elevate this in a responsible way which honors the maker or culture”.

Think about what you see at Coachella or Burning Man. So much of that fashion is offensive, as people are using other cultures’ revered symbols or garments as props. Examples like this highlight the inappropriate choices so many make when they think it’s just fashion.  It also highlights the importance of publicly discussing what appreciate and appropriate is and means and how we, as a society, can move out from appropriating.

Where things get difficult is around how all designers and artists draw inspiration from the sights, sounds, and textures of our lives.  Paying homage to something which you hold near and dear to your heart and crossing a line of trivializing culture by way of design and art is far too easy.  I debate this whenever I design using traditional Japanese garments and textile. As you might know, I am obsessed with traditional and modern Japanese textile and design.  To me, traditional Japanese design represents beauty and strength. Growing up, I saw strong beautiful women wearing Kimonos on special occasions, like Bon Dances in Hawai’i. I will forever be inspired by these moments in my life.  But in the same breath, I do not want to be responsible for abusing a history for the sake of fashion or trends.  Where do we artists, and multi-cultural beings, draw the line or make it clear we are showing appreciating and not attempting to appropriate, especially in cases like this?

It is a tough conversation.  A deeply needed global conversation. A conversation which cannot be started and finished in a simple blog post.  So with that said, I will leave you with the basic rules I live by as I create and design.  1) Do I know and have I listened and learned the history and cultural significance of the textile, fabric, or cultural design I want to work with? 2) Have I digested the truth of the history and current socio-political climate well enough to showcase something with only respect in mind? 3) Can I educate others through my work? 4) Or have I jumped the line and now using what inspires me as a fetish devoid of its cultural origins? Because in this case, stop the project immediately.  

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