19 November 2014

Frida Freda: The Divine Feminine -


In three days, two hours, and about one minute, ReciclaGEM's Spring 2015 collection "FridaFreda: The Divine Feminine" will emerge on the runway of Amarachi Bliss, hosted by two phenomenal women, radio personality and comedian Anike Adegboye and fashion designer/creative director Eunika Simmons, with special styling by Necole Kinloch, featuring a host of talented performers who use their craft to make visual the visceral. Together the four of us form NQU (Nubian Queen United).

The inspiration behind the collection is the principle of Shakti, which entered my life many years ago before I was ready to understand it/Her. In my limited knowledge, I have learned that Shakti  / The Divine Feminine is a spiritual principle well referenced in Hinduism but well known in many faiths and practices, that is rooted in the feminine modality present within all of us, irrespective of our social gender identity. 
(NQU, Photograhed at NYC Boutique, DarlingNYC)

Shakti / The Divine Feminine is that seed of inspiration, that spark before action, empowerment, or that "primordial cosmic energy" that begins creation.

Frida Kahlo and Freda MacDonald (aka. Josephine Baker) have been incredibly influential for me and for so many for so many other creatives that I have come across in my work. As figures, they are the sparks that drive so many aesthetic decisions, relentless art production and self styling of many an artist around the globe. They are also the spark behind trans-continental empowerment project that dear friend and frequent collaborator, Katherine Soutar, and I will be launching early next year.

But before introducing that project, I felt it necessary to present a collection that explores that seed of inspiration before our artistic action.

The collection will be created with our signature hybrid of hand dyed recycled hemp and surplus fabrics, with colors that reference the seven central chakras: root, sacral, solar plexus, heart, throat, third eye, and crown. There are more than seven chakras of course, but we shall start with these. Accessories will include chains and gemstones such as Rose Quartz, Amethyst and Blue Calcite, sourced from magical cidade Rio de Janiero and sourced here in New York.

Created with silhouettes inspired by the multicultural backgrounds of both Frida and Freda, the collection will move like their movements, call upon their memory, while rooting itself in the etheric body that sustains so many artists, and most likely, them as well. 

 (Artist: Paige Bradley, "Goddess: Expansion)

This collection reflects a progression of the line, navigating away from focused political events and more towards the undercurrent energy that influences so many decisions- the undercurrent that, when ignored, creates the political and social events that so many of us fight so hard to prevent.

So join us this weekend to help light the spark and create the new. History doesn't always have to repeat itself.

1+1+2+2+2+0+1+4 = 13. If you follow numerology, you will know that 13 is the number of the Divine Feminine....Coincidence? I think not.


Photo Credits: If you are the owner of any of these images, please feel free to get in contact with me so I can properly credit you! One love info[at]reciclagem-themovement.com. Holla FKA Twigs! You are truly the reincarnation of these two women. Love to you!

19 October 2014

Ceremony: ReciclaGEM's First Bridal | Ceremonial Design

Bom dia readers,

Last month, I had the honor of designing our first bridal, ceremonial, nuptial (whatever best describes the sacred, community- supported union between lovers and partners) design for our frequent collaborator and dear friend, Krystalla Pearce.

The process began this past February, when after our photo shoot with the River Revista, Krystalla graciously asked me to design her wedding dress (!!!). Over email, while I was in her hometown of of Melbourne, and she in my hometown of NYC, we discussed ideas over pinterest exchanges and emailed photos. The goal was to design a dress that would include elements of her family history and her style aesthetics while being constructed ethically with thoughtfully minded materials.

 After two dress mock ups and several fittings, we came up with the perfect look for her- a Ceremonial attire constructed with a hand-sewn lace bodice, "Ahimsa," Peace Silk dress base, hand-sewn, locally-sourced metal chain hem, upcycled Made Well shoes with spray-painted gold heels, and a veil constructed with flowers picked fresh from the gorgeous organic farm, where the wedding took place.

The bodice of the lace was constructed with antique lace that came from both her mother's and father's sides, collected during our visit to Australia earlier this year.  Smaller hand constructed lace pieces were artfully folded over a Peace silk bodice, topped with large pieces creating a yoke at the midsection.

The dress was finished with small pleats, a signature of Krystalla's personal style and five Peace silk fabric buttons, symbolizing the five members of Krystalla's immediate family.

The Peace Silk pleated skirt bottom was weighted down by a small Pewter gold chain, sourced from the New York City Jewelry district, and a small train, which would be pinned to create a small bustle for walking across the grass of the organic farm or the barn's dance floor, where such a glorious event continued. (Side note: Peep the gold heels! - an ode to Krystalla's Greek origins).

It was such an honor to design a bridal dress for a wonderful supporter of our work here at ReciclaGEM and to work with not only recycled and vegan materials, but materials that held a special significance in telling a family and ancestral narrative.

Thank you for the wonderful opportunity- may you and Ben continue to have beautiful, artistically-enriching, mind-expanding adventures together and a love that inspires all those who witness it to live more fully.

Peace, love, and ceremony,

Photo Credits: Sarma & Co Photography, Suzanne Finley, T*'s Iphone :-)

14 October 2014

Playing Dress Up II : Fashion, Gender Play and the Politics of Embodiment | NYC Edition

Since 2012, the Graduate Student Initiative (GSI) of the Hemispheric Institute of Politics and Performance (Hemi) has joined together graduate students from throughout the Americas in a tri-lingual conference that explores areas of academia excluded by dominant culture. That means, those areas of life that impact our social and political worlds which academic institutions, built on years of hegemonic structure, have neglected to take seriously- That's my interpretation of course. Read more here)

One of such subjects is the subject of fashion as it relates to politics and embodiment.

Thus in 2013, Drag King, drummer, adjunct faculty, and PhD candidate Kelly McKay and I joined together to create a space within the Hemispheric GSI to discuss fashion. For those of you who have been reading my blog, you are familiar with my stance of fashion being a vehicle for political discourse, awareness raising, and social change. For those who are new, I have since 2005 explored both the fashion collection and the fashion show as sites to galvanize attention around environmental and social issues in an imaginative way- ranging from creating a collection that embodies the perspective of animals affected by the 2010 Gulf Oil Spill to a collection inspired by an Anti-GMO artistic action that sought to intervene in GMO-crop distributor, Monsanto, partnering with the Mexican government in taking over organic corn. Peruse the site to get to know my work.

Our “Playing Dress Up” workshop returned for a second year to the Hemispheric Institute’s Graduate Student Initiative. This year, we had participants from the US, Colombia, Chile, and Mexico, who presented their work on various themes, from pandrogeny- or living beyond the binary confines of masculine-feminine, to kikis, camaraderie, and ways that fashion can create community for those alienated by dominant culture. 

This year, we had the honor of being joined by Elisa and Lily Mandelbaum, founders of style site and style-aficionado safe haven, Style Like U. 


StyleLikeU is a site that showcases people who know themselves- people with such a clarity of mind and spirit that it inspires you, as the viewer, to know yourself.

Many of there earlier videos showcased the closets of these self actualized individuals. but recently, they have launched a new project “The What’s Underneath Project” that showcases the unraveling of that person. And yet, through their undressing and revealing of painful parts of their past, the individual is shown all the more majestically.

In many ways the What’s Underneath Project showcases those who have reconciled their past and able to stand boldly in their present, knowing themselves, knowing where they’ve come from and inspiring us to do the same.

Elisa and Lily joined our group of PhD students, fashion artists, musicians and scholars in doing a “What’s Underneath” workshop, but a special edition for the GSI’s theme “Bodies in Transit.”

Instead of merely removing clothing as questions are being asks, the subject has the opportunity to take off, exchange, or remain the same.

Prior to this workshop, we had the opportunity to share with one another our “Fashion Manifestos.” a statement that would go on to describe how we would dress if our bodies were an active resistance against the oppressions we faced.


From that, working group participants either dressed accordingly, or brought an entire to change into. 

Many of the themes discussed included:
  • Rape culture and rape / dressing to deter the objectifying male gaze / dressing in a way to surpass gendered boundaries;
  • Dressing to appear “older”- when ageism makes those smaller than the body type of dominant culture belittled;
  • Cultural appropriation vs. cultural appreciation;
  • Dressing beyond gender normative confines;
  • Dressing to highlight brownness and femmness.

The second day of our working group consisted of group presentations, where everyone presented current PhD theses, video projects, alter ego projects, and other interests.

(Photos by ReciclaGEM)

(Photo by Manu Mojito)

The third day entailed a closing discussion at Brooklyn based, hemispherically American, fair trade fashion boutique, Carolina K, where we all viewed the video of Melanie Gaydos, discussed beauty and discussed our own objectifying gaze that we may bestow upon ourselves and those we other.

In future blog entries, you shall hear about the fascinating work of our 10 work group participants, the evolution of the What’s Underneath Project, and further discussions on dressing in ways that challenge and engage notions of appropriation, dominant culture, gender binaries and normativities, ageism, and the many provocative themes that emerged from this conference.

Special thanks to Leticia, Kerry, Olga and the entire Hemi GSI team for organizing a space for us, for this, and for elevating discussions of embodiment. You have sparked some amazing collaborations that will continue to platform these questions and, we hope, inspire consciousness-expanding around fashion and positive social change.

Fashion, Gender Play, and Embodiment,

27 July 2014

Beautiful People: Evi

(Evi wears a vintage coat, turban by J. White Original, and bangles by A. Bernadette)

Evi is a natural story teller deeply invested in telling children's stories. Born in Cyprus, Evi is an anthropologist who writes children's books that explore social justice narratives from the perspective and voice of young children.

Current Projects

“The Green Line” is a children’s story that deals with the partition of Cyprus into ‘North (Turkish Cypriot) and ‘South’ (Greek Cypriot) through the eyes of a young girl. This story is part of a larger project called WorldWideBuddies, which consists of a series of fictional, educational stories about children from all over the world, aiming to promote cultural awareness and shed light on the multitude of experiences and realities that exist.

(Read the complete "The Green Line" here)

Evi's Relationship to Brasil

 Everything that has to do with Brazil is so vibrant - even its name!

Evi's Relationship to ReciclaGEM

 Evi has been a longtime supporter of ReciclaGEM, and has even brainstormed with us projects on how we might used recycled clothing in a workshop to support the imaginative storytelling of young children. 

Evi is truly a Beautiful Person to watch. 

Thank you, Evi, for your beauty, artistry, talent and grace! You make our world better,


Beautiful People: Cladia Ayoub

(Claudia Ayoub wears a dress by ReciclaGEM, a necklace by Ladyfied Vintage, and shoes by Jeffrey Campbell's vegan collection). Photo by Austin Phelps.

Born in São Paulo and raised between São Paulo and Rio, Claudia Ayoub is an interdisciplinary performance artist who explores themes of ancestry, Afro-diasporic spirituality, ritual, carnival, and the complexities embedded within performative and non verbal story telling. She completed her Masters of Performance Studies degree in NYU Tisch after studying visual arts at the Fine Arts Center of São Paulo. She utilizes the diverse media of performance art, painting, installation, sculpture, video art, and education to explore themes ranging from São Paulo and Rio’s Carnival as a performance of the wondrous - its relations to African Brazilian religions to recovery-redemption-rescue of the self, and the appropriation and misappropriation of space. 

I modeled out of admiration of my friend's work, and the will for enriching the transmission of the Brazilian culture across places. 

"Overcome with art the monotonous conformity of all things." 

Current Projects

One of her most recent performances, "The Secret Face of Living Things: How to Make People with Objects II," was a six-hour interactive performance piece, which explored the potentially conflicting tension that can exist between the many significances objects can bear. In the words of the artist,

Is an object, in and of itself, sacred or profane?Where lies the space of possibility? – where all objects can relate, no matter what their varying significance to different peoples.And what does it mean to conceive an antagonistic potentiality: such as a deity that is simultaneously sacred and mundane? This performance is a culturally specific reflection on the social necessity of this dichotomy, and at the same time is an experiment on how it can be engaging to different individuals.
(View the clip of the performance, and the research that informed it here)

Claudia's Relationship to Brazil 

Passion and love for the beauty and richness, and hope for better changes. Changes that can improve the quality of people's lives, but don't corrupt our vitality of living. Although I feel like a hybrid person and a citizen of the world, the rhythm of my heart and soul is Brazilian.

The richness of its colors and flavors, the warmth of the people, the dancing, the possibility of navigating through so many worlds within worlds. 

Thank you, Claudia, for your beauty, artistry, talent and grace! You make our world better,


Beautiful People: Sierra "Squirrel" Lebron

(Sierra wears a corset by Tiffany Moy, a necklace by Ladyfied Vintage, vintage pants, converse, and a bangle by A. Bernadette)

Sierra Lebron is a New York based, globally inspired midwife-in-training, doula, jewelry designer, and all around fashion aficionado and healer. Her work is a daily moving meditation in spirituality and the affirmation of life. Whether designing jewelry, or dancing for Yemaya, Sierra, better known as "Squirrel" is a beacon of inspiration.

I am a reflection of your beauty.

(Photo Credit: Kamau Ware)

Sierra's Relationship to Brazil 

I am waiting to run through South America. 

Endless Singing and Dancing

Squirrel is truly a Beautiful Person to watch. 

Thank you, Sierra-Squirrel-Yemaya, for your beauty, artistry, talent and grace! You make our world better,