Santiago… is not a man 🙂 nor an infant 🙂 It could my Eldorado.
Santiago was a destination. A goal. An objective.
Santiago is now a memory.
Santiago is my lesson.
I would say almost 4 years passed since that trip. Only now do I realise what it meant. Or perhaps, I knew even then but on a superficial level. I remember booking a ticket for Bilbao, with return 35 days later, and I left with a backpack. I thought I knew why I left but like it happens… there are reasons for which we do things which stay hidden behind the reasons we tell ourselves and to others. Then at the right moment they pop up.
There I was.
There I am.
I think that trip initiated a list of changes in me, supported by unnumbered situations. Some people, I’ve seen change radically right after the camino. Many don’t change at all, but tell themselves stories about being a changed person. I’ve heard and even met people who never left the camino – are in an endless loop of walking even after 10 years. To me it was complicated to change radically, I wasn’t ready. I probably needed to get slapped by life until I could stand up for myself and say no more. I kept chasing goals, chasing Santiago after Santiago. I kept a well polished and shiny suit to show the world 🙂 The woman I saw I was during that trip, or at least a glimpse of it, I thought was too hard to become… especially from the place I was back then. There really isn’t a map that takes us from here to “ourselves”, is there? There aren’t guidelines. Despite everybody becoming gurus of self loves, self respect, self whatever… there really is no manual! There are no instructions! You can take all the fucking self care baths and eat all the self love chocolate cake you want…. and still if you’re not ready YOU’RE NOT READY! You can say I’m done dating assholes but until life says so you will keep dating those assholes! Sometimes enough comes quick, other times it takes years and years and more errors and more forgiveness and more rerouting. You still need those fake friendships until you’re left alone when you need them for real. You need more empty promises until you start keeping the promises you make to yourself.
Today I asked a friend “what do you want really?”
He looked at me, “I don’t know. I came here for a reason that doesn’t make sense anymore now.”
I was walking around the city. Looking at people. And planning my future. Is Santiago worth it when we lose our health, happiness, and most importantly precious time? I look around and people chase endlessly something believing they will be happy when they get it.
Oh but my life.
My life is now. As I write.
A week. A month. Six months of life…. running, being frustrated, angry. For what?
Is it worth it? Is your dreams worth the price? I asked myself.
…. Is it even my dream? Was I chasing my Santiago or someone else? Because when I chased my Santiago… I felt different. I was truly enjoying every single moment. So much I didn’t care about Santiago at all… I enjoyed the route deeply, passionately. When reached Santiago I kept going… I went further, because after it there is Muxia and also Finisterre. And there the beer tasted sublime watching the sunset or having a 1 minute bath in the ocean! ….
What am I chasing today? Did I come for the right reasons to London?
But I am surely leaving for the good ones.
Short interview to Christina Remenyi, founder of Canadian brand Fortnight Lingerie.
What made you start a lingerie and swimwear line?
Lingerie came first and swimwear felt like a natural progression. It was really driven by a frustration with the market at the time, that was dominated by big box brands who only offered a very narrow range of sizes and uninspiring vision of femininity. I was disappointed that a throwaway mentality was being applied to garments that are so intricate, personal and deeply personal. I wanted to create a line that was inclusive in sizing and in style, that women could relate to. I wanted to create a line that embraced the body (not hiding it with padding). Spreading the word about how to find the perfect fit and how much that can improve our moods, self esteem and overall comfort and health was and continues to be very important to me.
You are a woman designer, designing for women. How do you see fashion being a male domain where it’s mostly men designing for women?
History has definitely seen male domination in the corporate world. It’s a sad fact – and when it comes to fashion, some are very gifted at creating pieces that make women feel beautiful. But with more and more women at the front of fashion houses, there’s something unique and exciting about moving away from a male gaze and into something more distinctly feminine and fresh. It is a more attuned perspective on what we as women want – who we want to be and how we want to feel.
What do you see a male designer usually lacks when making clothes for women?
Speaking to lingerie specifically, I think men lack the ability to understand how a woman wants to feel under their clothes. I think they tend to use sex appeal as the main design vision, whereas women design with a unique sensibility for ‘beauty’, functionality and luxury. What’s beautiful to a woman is complex, layered, thoughtful. I think when it comes to undergarments, it takes a woman to understand that and create something that speaks to us.
What makes a garment sustainable? Can you tell me about the production of Fortnight… where is the material sourced, who makes it, where etc..
To me a garment is sustainable when it is made ethically, thoughtfully, with quality, good fit and endurance in mind. A garment is sustainable when it employs people in safe conditions with fair wages. When it’s materials, consumption and factory are chosen carefully. When it’s designed to be worn again and again until threadbare.
We’ve built our own production facility in Toronto, Canada. Because lingerie is such a detailed complex layer of clothing to make, we found it was best to manufacture in a setting where we could keep an eye on every stitch and detail. Even 1mm in a garment so small and body contouring can make a big difference in fit/feel. We Employ women who are seriously passionate about the craft of lingerie making. Quality, endurance and functionality at the forefront of our designs.
Our fabrics are sourced from ethical mills all over the world from Europe to North America to Asia. We’ve always been very fortunate to work with companies who want to do what they can to help a smaller business.
Advertising… I noticed you made a choice by portraying different women in your lingerie and swimwear, I’d say more close to every woman. Why that choice?
To be honest, it began to happen very organically. Because we make a wide variety of sizes, I always wanted to find ways to show the range. But when I started in Toronto in 2010, models at agency were all very similar proportions. So we started shooting friends, women we were inspired by and it continued to take off from there.
What is beauty to you? Where do you look for it?
I think beauty is an ease, a confidence, accepting yourself and others, loving and being there for yourself and others.
I had the beautiful opportunity to shoot their 2019 swim collection in the beautiful nature of Puglia with photographer and friend Lily Cummings.
Lately I began paying attention to photography and advertising through women’s eyes. There is a lot less sexuality involved and while before I was feeling a little lost (I can count on one hand the number of female photographers and brands owned by women that I have worked for in my almost 20 years of career) this time I felt at ease. Shooting for women is so different, there is less perfection involved – perfection in the way we think of perfection today: of a body without marks nor cellulite, of a photo entirely polished where your skin doesn’t look like skin anymore, of a woman stripped off of her natural curves that remind us of the beauty abundance and grace of Nature. And so I love today to move towards this new fashion wave of female designers using a great variety of women as an inspiration to make clothes and lingerie and swimwear. Christina’s brand (which you can find on instagram and here) is coherent and really makes women, whether in their twenties or pregnant or moms or business women or athletes or artists or cleaning ladies, feel themselves and right and beautiful.
Ten years after my first visit to Transylvania I have been invited by my friend Marta Pozsonyi as a speaker at the first conference ever organised on Sustainable Tourism in Transylvania, which took place at the University of Cluj.
Marta is a pioneer in this sense because 10 years ago she organised the first gastronomic summer campus for kids, and the following year we co-organised the second one plus an international conference for the youth in gastronomy (it wasn’t really the Slow Food Youth Network, as this came years after our conference).
This time she brought together different experts in the gastronomic field who work in Transylvania, besides Rosemary Barron who came from London and is a real food and travel critique (I say real as in she is not an instagram celebrity) and myself who came from Italy. But firstly what is a gastronomer and what professions includes a “gastronomic field”? … On the superficial level a gastronomer is a lover of good food, a gourmet, a connoisseur of good food and drink, etc. On a deeper level gastronomy is the study of food. And the food in question has a background: history, politics, art, agronomy, zoology, economy, ecology, genetics; it has a taste, it encloses the stories of those who made it from the first seed planted to the person who sold it to you, it travelled across different cultures until it got on your table, and so on. Marta has a vision and it’s the reason for this conference: She sees a national network of producers, historians, creatives, farmers, restaurateurs, students and so on, working together to better Transylvania; to preserve the land and create a sustainable tourism from which many people can benefit.
As she was speaking my mind brought me to my hometown Giaveno, where I have tried to put together producers and restaurateurs but haven’t yet succeeded. For some reason people have a hard time collaborating, also there are communication problems between the main town and the spread out villages that are part of this town. I told Marta that perhaps this won’t happen overnight, if people are used to working alone this won’t change from one conference but maybe … maybe in some years. The importance is to keep trying and keep talking about these things. Something I found incredibly interesting is the work of Cristian Cismaru, whose Eat-Local.ro aims at changing the way food is served in the villages. In fact he and his partner organise events, such as Transylvania Brunch or picnics or by inviting chefs to revisit old recipes, in small rural villages. Although extremely happy and satisfied of his activity, he can’t but wonder: are we contributing to globalisation by innovating traditions? … What a good question! When I was in university I went through a phase where I was against innovation. Anything too new or two creative was for me an attack to traditions and seeing how American food system and “culture” has changed the way we eat and think of food… I wanted to preserve the old grandma’s recipes. But now I realise time cannot be stopped and what we view as traditional today is perhaps only 200 years old. Think of this: tomato sauce wasn’t traditional in Italy until little over 100 years ago!!! And we had no idea over here of the existence of tomatoes, so what was traditional before that huh? … and what will be traditional in the future in 300 years? Who knows..
I believe it’s a blessing to be able to have a great variety of foods, I believe that traditions will be moulded on the national and local tastes. A chef coming to a village to cook an old recipe in a completely different way can be viewed as an incredible experiment and the locals can really benefit from it. We must not forget that what is being done by Cristian is to bring together the locals and offer them something new! We are so used to think and design events for the foreigners that we forget to include the people living in the area… this is different. This is creating a sense of community by organising gastronomic events that can sparkle a new idea, a new encounter, a new way of viewing the same food/recipe. It also gives pride to local producers, something that we too often take for granted. Cristian Cismaru found a way to preserve life and culture in the mountains 🙂
The presentation of Tibor Hartel on the agricultural space in Transylvania and the potential in development has also caught my attention as it is a topic extremely dear to me. What is the aim of landscapes? – He begins by asking us. We want to work toward landscapes that work for both people and biodiversity. An answer so simple and obvious, yet the reality is much different unfortunately. The problem is that usually local authorities (I’m not talking about people like Tibor Hartel nor the people present at this conference) don’t cherish the land they manage and sell it for whatever use only to earn money. … During my travels I’ve seen a phenomenon I really dislike: I go to a country and find myself in a hospitality structure built by foreigners for foreigners, where the local ecosystem is bent (or completely destroyed) for the sake of making it ideal to welcome a certain type of tourist… there is nothing left of the local culture if not the world reckoned cliches! Basically if the locals don’t recognise and don’t value their culture, this will be exploited and you will slowly lose your sense of identity. While designing a touristic plan one should ask him/herself where can we modernise yet stay Romanian (and this opens another question: what is being Romanian?.. what is Romania? what is Transylvania?…). I think the biggest lie ever told by globalisation is that there is only one way to become modern, and that is to copy what America is doing, to sell Romanian souvenirs made in china, to open burger places instead of traditional restaurants etc.
I believe also that integrated farming is the new old-way of preserving life, biodiversity, and culture. And regarding this I would like to share with you a reality in Colombia I happen to follow and one day will also visit… Deveras – founded by Michel Pineda. So we move back to a farming that integrates on the same area: animals, forest, vegetable garden etc.
At last… chef Oana Coanta of Bistro de l’Arte in Brasov spoke about her experience. Her bistro uses 80% local products and she is doing her best to educate the customers. However, she says there is a difference between the foreign customer and the locals. Foreigners are very curious about the provenience of the produce, while locals never ask and don’t care. I believe this is just because they have not been taught to ask nor to think about it. We, in the west, have been bombarded in the past 10 years with books and notions about the importance of local food but there are countries where such thing is still obvious so people don’t ask. In Belarus the meat you find both at the market or in stores or in the restaurant comes from Belarus, so do the vegetables. I wonder if it’s the case for Romania…
I am a firm believer though that the customer must be educated. We never think of this but McDonald’s and all the crap that has been sold to us from the American companies have educated our taste… so if chefs don’t re-educate the customers, who else will? Sure it’s a tiring and frustrating task but I consider a chef much more than just a person who cooks.
It’s time to wrap up the project on the plastic straws I set up in my home town Giaveno (read here).
I’ve been pulling it to the side not wanting to really write about it because to sit down and write meant also to reflect upon both the success and the failures. I realised what blocked me for over a month was to admit the failures and I didn’t want to measure myself with that. However the block extended to ALL my writing, so it’s time I write.
My vision of the project was a big one, also my expectations were slightly driven by my naivety. I believed that I could really convince everyone to stop using plastic straws, because to me such a change was beyond necessary for the environment. But soon I had to accept that different people have different priorities, and some people (trust me we’re still speaking of a minority thankfully!) don’t care at all about the environment and the wellbeing of the planet and its creatures. However, many people have surprised me beyond my expectations! Almost 40 bars/restaurants opted for change on a total of 60! Of those 40 who chose to stop using plastic straws, some decided to slowly get rid of all single-use plastic…
Moreover, with the Mayor Carlo Giacone we began to work on a decree to ban single-use plastic in all public offices and schools. I called the Mayor of Lampedusa (an island in South Italy) Totò Martello for some advice on how to make this happen as he was the first Mayor in Italy to ban completely all single-use plastic (to the extent that not even stores could sell it, and tourists cannot carry it). I admire his strength and the projects he’s got running on the island and I believe he is an example to follow. When I called him in October the first time I told him about my project saying that I want to try and see if this can be done without forcing people through a law. But this wise man told me from the very beginning that a decision was necessary from above: people have to be forced first and then after they need to be educated about it. So the decree we are working on here in Giaveno includes education to both the public and the owners of pubs/restaurants etc. I am thrilled!
Something I had sort of planned on doing was a cross-generation workshop on plastic pollution and possible solutions: I wanted to get 4 high-school girls to teach to elementary children. In theory I even met the right girls who are passionate about this subject and love children, I also had an entire elementary school. The problem? Organisation! My organisation. As I was doing this project I had my modelling work and I had lots of other things, I was also finishing writing my first book. So I never managed to sit down and create the teaching project. It saddened me but I did get to involve a middle school for an art competition 🙂 This idea was pitched to me by Marta C Bertola owner of the Cafè delle Arti along with two teachers of the private school Maria Ausiliatrice, Katia and Letizia who absolutely loved the idea of having children draw the official flyer of the campaign.
Preparing the exhibition at the Cafe delle Arti: flyers to be voted by the public! 😀
A month later.. counting the votes!!
And the winners are….
Next to me there is Letizia (teacher), Marta, and Katia (teacher)
We decided to have multiple categories and more than one winner (although only the most voted would become the official flyer):
I was super happy to meet the artists as I found all the works so incredibly creative and original!! I didn’t mention before but the school I got involved is my old school and I found out my teacher still works there (it was pretty damn awesome to go back and see her).
So the last step was to print the flyer and distribute it to the bars and restaurants who signed up for the campaign.
Everyone chose their best option. However, I did walk into some bars only to find out the owner forgot or didn’t take it too seriously. I felt bad at first because I did believe in the word given and even in the signature they put on the papers I presented them. This was a social experiment, after all it made me think of how for some putting their signature on something is not such a big deal, perhaps it’s the same as putting a “like” on a sad post on facebook and feel relieved to the thought of having “contributed” somehow to that cause – when in reality you didn’t. Oh but who cares as long as we feel better and lighter about ourselves without actually doing something, right? That is a minority thankfully 🙂 Plus I came back to remind them LOL
I had a feeling when I started this that somehow I became a nightmare for many people, like I became that person pressing the buttons of responsibility and bringing the attention on something they did not want to think about: oh no yet another problem I need to think of!
The thing is… sooner or later we need to face these things, and in two years time single-use plastic will be banned from Europe (but why wait 2 years when we can act now?).
I think as humans we have kept our eyes and ears shut for way way waaaaay too long. Now we wake up to a nightmare and I do get it that many people still want to sleep: you know when it’s Monday morning, the alarm goes off, you turn it off and roll to the other side to keep on sleeping? I’m not ready to get up and go to work, I’m still tired, I still want 5 minutes (ahem another 5 years?? No please) . Those who did get up 30 minutes before the alarm went off, had/have the duty to start waking up the others and shake them from their dreams. Basically at times you meet the one who smiles and gets up, other times you meet the one who insults you 😛
Either way…. we won’t stop!
Overall I feel it was a good thing this one, it definitely rang a bell for many (many more than I even know, as word spread). I get messages from people telling me they stopped giving the plastic straw to their children and explained them why. I think the weakness of this whole project was the fact that I was alone doing it – ok ok besides Marta, Letizia and Katia helping on the side with the art part – so I was a little limited on expanding all my ideas. Perhaps that is what I see as a “failure”, that not all I imagined came true…
However looking back I can’t but love the surprise of how this project evolved naturally on its own, I started it and set it free to have its own life – but of course still being there as a parent, just not suffocating it with my expectations and/or fears. I had trust!
Never forget, every action counts… and adds a drop to the Ocean ❤
There’s a common belief that says something like “because you can’t change your family, you’ll try change the world” or “it’s easier to save the world than your family”. Have you ever heard it? I think many of us who want to change or save the world believe it’s easier to change the world than your family LOL Some don’t even try, others become very intolerant with their family members when they don’t act the way they expect them to or don’t put the same care in something they believe in. It’s normal! 🙂
A couple months ago I went to my brother Francesco for dinner. He told me that it’s unbelievable the amount of plastic he noticed they produce at home – he and his girlfriend Valentina. I told him that something he could do to reduce is get glass bottles and fill them up for free at the fountain. He wasn’t too happy but I think a seed was planted in him because yesterday he tagged me in his instagram story showing me he did choose to buy glass bottles in the end!!!! This touched me profoundly. Why? Because I didn’t expect it. I don’t expect my family to change following my beliefs, and I told myself I would never force anyone to change whether I’m doing a campaign or simply talking with someone about the world and plastic.
I plant seeds in those minds where they weren’t planted yet. I water those minds where there’s arid land because water hasn’t fallen for ages. Time will take care of the rest. You know every seed, hence every plant, needs its own time to germinate and then grow. Likewise ideas and thoughts and actions. Thoughts and dreams are seeds. They hold in itself everything, this is why they are sacred. Dreams come true when you cherish, nourish, protect and value them. Like seeds.
I met too many people throughout the years who became vegan for example and are convinced to be holding the truth while that the rest of us meat-eaters are evil and killing our planet. It’s very hard to be around these kind of people because they judge every choice you make: you eat a cheese sandwich and you are labelled a calf-killer, you put honey in your tea and you are a bees-killer, etc. Acceptance is the key. Accept where the other is at. Especially because you were once there too. Be you, act according to your beliefs and explain them to the people around you but then leave people decide for themselves.
And coming back to my brother… I’m very proud. “Be the change you want to see in the world” and I guarantee you will start to see it!!! This gives me hope! This should give you hope too 🙂