Detox from consumerism after the holiday season

Happy 2015! I hope you enjoyed wonderful holidays and had a fantastic New Year’s celebration!

In many countries, gift-giving is part of how the holidays are celebrated and although it can be a beautiful experience, it often borders on the good old habit of consumerism.

My family agreed to be more creative, cosume less and share more this year. So here is what I did this Christmas to avoid consuming too much and unneccessarily:

– I really liked a fancy designer bag, but in order to spare the gift-giver from a very high bill and because deep in my heart I don’t like to be trendy (which is the oppoite of fashionable), I asked for a cheaper fantastic vintage bag instead! In fact, it is a designer bag, too, from a well-known Japanese brand called Kitamura. But here I am recycling and not buying a new thing.


-For my child, I decided to reduce the amount of toys that Santa would bring. I noticed that it only over-stimulates and confuses a child when there are too many gifts on Christmas day. Instead, we wrote a letter to Santa and agreed that Santa would most likely bring TWO things from that list. This way the child’s expectations were not disappointed and at the same time, there was no overkill with too many toys (being added to a pile of existing toys which are all in good working order.) Actually, The Times wrote an article warning parents of “Love Bombing” or giving too many gifts to their children:

-By coincidence I found an amazing, collectible vintage umbrella-walking-stick which someone had put out on the street to be thrown away together with a bunch of old furniture. It was in perfect condition and was a perfect gift for another family member who had been wanting such a special umbrella for a long time!

Umbrella can walking stick with telescope case
Umbrella/ cane walking stick with telescope case

– Lastly, I made a gift to a family member by altering a wonderful vintage winter coat so that it would fit the wearer perfectly. This was quite time-consuming but was worth all the effort in the end!

i-preparation-for-sewing-6Image source:Craftbus

And then I stumbled upon this article which goes along the same lines and reminds us of a simple way to step back from holiday consumerism and our throw-it-away-mentality : Get out some lovely old things and get them fixed! If you didn’t manage to be more responsible this season, you can try again next time! Enjoy reading below.

Stuff therapy: Detox from consumerism by fixing the things you already own

Michael Banta and Sandra Goldmark of Pop-up Repair in front of their Inwood repair location

CC BY 3.0 Pop-up Repair

On the day that Sandra Goldmark and Michael Banta started Pop-up Repair, Sandra nervously gathered an assortment of odds-and-ends from her New York City apartment—a broken necklace, a battered spoon, clothes that needed sewing. Just in case, she told herself. Just in case their new employees needed something to do. Just in case no one brought anything to be repaired.

Sandra’s emergency items never left the bag they came in.

The first day the little Inwood repair shop opened, a line of customers stretched out of the door. Some people brought in bags of things: Old costume jewelry, shattered iPads, yellowing kitchen appliances, toys loved past their life expectancies. And the small team had their hands full until the day Pop-up Repair—a one-month repair experience—said goodbye to Inwood.

Ready, Set, Repair

Pop-up Repair—named because shops “pop up” in empty storefronts for short periods of time—launched in 2013. Its founders, Sandra and Michael, are theater professionals who work behind the curtains in stage production. Stagework breeds a certain talent for fixing unconventional problems on the fly—because, in theater, if something can go wrong, it will go wrong.

“Between the two of us, we have built, fixed, and renovated a whole lot of scenery, props, costumes, and all kinds of materials,” Sandra told me. “That’s just what we do. It’s part of the job.”

And the married couple believe that repair shouldn’t have professional borders. When something broke at home, Sandra and Michael set it aside to be repaired. It’s just that between kids and busy schedules, they never really found the time to do it.

Sandra and Michael suspected they weren’t the only ones with the same problem. It’s just not easy to get things fixed anymore. About 20 years ago, the mom-and-pop repair shops that used to be a staple of every community started to disappear—shunted out of business by an onslaught of goods designed to be cheap and disposable. And as repair shops disappeared, so did the possibility of repair for people without the skill or time to fix things on their own.

“I figured it bothered people,” Sandra said.

At least, it bothered Sandra. She and Michael thought about opening up a repair shop for two years, until Sandra—at home on maternity leave with their second child—decided they’d spent enough time thinking. It was time to do it: and so, Pop-up Repair was born.

During Pop-up Repair’s four-week residency at Inwood, the team fixed and returned almost 500 items—from sculptures to remote control cars. Each object was unique. Every single thing presented to the repair team had its own story.

“We call it Stuff Therapy,” Sandra says with a smile. “People come into the store, put their things down on the table, and they say, ‘Let me tell you about my lamp. Let me tell you about this chair.’ The history of the object and the story behind the object is really important.”

That relationship—built from years of use and love—is important because it makes our things meaningful. Human stories get mapped onto our stuff, telling us where we’ve been and, sometimes, where we’re going: That old armchair that’s been in the family for generations; the rocking horse with the broken handle that you’d like to pass onto to a grandchild.

Pop-up Repair/CC BY 3.0

Under the right conditions, our things become more than just things. We give them soul; we give them history. And repair becomes part of the object’s legacy.

“When we take an object and repair it, we take a little bit of our story, our lives, our talents and we kind of give it to the object. And then you take it home with you,” Sandra explains.

The Stuff Movement

For Sandra and Michael, repair isn’t just an action. It’s part of a worldview—one that measures the value of an object by more than just the sticker price. Everything that is manufactured is held together by something irreplaceable: energy, human labor, raw materials. And we can’t keep making ephemeral objects out of irreplaceable materials. It’s just not sustainable.

“The materials are extracted from the earth and manufactured and sold to us, and we bring them into our home,” Sandra explains. “Then they go back into the earth as landfill. And it matters what those things are.”

It’s part of what Sandra and Michael call the “Stuff Movement”—their way of describing a growing awareness of what goes into manufacturing the stuff we own. It’s rooted in an understanding that quantity is a sorry substitute for quality, and a consciousness that we’ve let ourselves be duped into a relentless cycle of buying and throwing away. The Stuff Movement is based on rethinking the relationship we have with all the “stuff” that populates our lives. And appreciating it for its very material substance—it’s stuffy-ness.

Sandra and Michael are resonating on a theme that has seen a huge resurgence around the world in the past few years: in the re-emergence of the DIY ethic, in growth of the Maker Movement, and in birth of the Fixer Movement—of which my company, iFixit, is a part.

“I think people are ready to rethink their relationship with stuff,” Sandra said. “I think… I hope that if we give people alternatives to buying cheap and discarding, that they are ready to take those alternatives.”

Repair: Coming to a Neighborhood Near You

Sandra and Mark just opened another Pop-up Repair shop in Brooklyn, which will run through the end of March. Then the repair team hits the road, tools in hand—first to Farmers’ Markets in the NYC area, and then on to Baltimore, Washington DC, and Philadelphia.

Even though Pop-up Repair stores stay for only a few weeks, each shop leaves something invaluable after it moves on. It leaves behind a reminder that there’s a better alternative to the endless cycle of buying, using, and tossing away. And that’s an idea worth spreading.

Sandra and Michael just launched a program to help others start their own Pop-up Repair shops. Because there are holes in our neighborhoods where those small repair shops used to be. It’s time to start filling them up again.

So, look around your home and ask yourself, “What needs fixing?”



Junko Watanabe’s interactive textile designs reaching disabled children

Today, I would like to repost this report which recently appeared on NHK World (Japan) about Junko Watanabe and her cloth books. Not to be confused with the famous fashion designer Junya Watanabe, Junka has been using textile design in a way which reaches the youngest members of our society. Children with disabilities or difficulties have seen benefits from cloth books over the last 30 years.

Watanabe’s work reminded me of my “cut & paste project” which I came up with during my first year at Central St. Martins. The idea was to let children and adults take control of the final design by making interactive clothes. There were playful parts which could be removed and reattached, coloured with fabric markers. Here are a few images of the prototypes.

This t-shirt sends a message about pollution. You can manipulate the tree leaves. Put them up if they are healthy, push them down if your tree got too polluted.
This t-shirt sends a message about pollution. You can manipulate the tree leaves. Put them up if they are healthy, push them down if your tree got too polluted.
This skirt prototype has velcro elements. You can change their position and customize the elements, for example with fabric crayons from pentel.


My professors were not very enthusiastic of my idea and wondered who would ever want to purchase this. However, over the last 10 years more and more interactive  design items have come onto the market! I am happy to see that more designers are thinking the same way.Back then I never considered that children with disabilities could be the end-consumers who’d benefit the most from such products.

Junko Watanabe’s interactive cloth books are not a commercial product but rather a humanistic gift. What an inspiring woman!

Please have a look at NHK’s story about Mrs Watanabe.


NHK WORLD – Culture & Sports

Nov. 17, 2014

The Fabric of Education

A Japanese artisan has a unique take on the classic picture book. She crafts each one by hand from fabrics, adding a personal touch that seems to connect with readers. And now her creations are reaching children around the world. NHK WORLD’s Mikiko Suzuki has the story.

Image source here.

This is a classroom at a school for disabled children and their parents in Tokyo. Students with disabilities get the chance to experience something new here.

Junko Watanabe created the special books they are exploring. She has been making them for 35 years as a way to give disabled children opportunities to earn.

Watanabe uses felt, kimono material and other fabrics.

Details include embroidery… buttons…and string. Children can practice tying and untying, buttoning and unbuttoning while touching the books. These exercises can foster independence.

Image source here.


“Sometimes a mother calls me to let me know a cloth book inspired her child’s first words. That makes me so happy it brings tears to my eyes.”

Watanabe has assembled a group of volunteers who help make the books and donate them to libraries around Japan.

So far, the group has given more than 20 thousand books to around 500 libraries. This library in a Tokyo suburb has 300 of them.

Eiko Naito and her 8-year-old son Daisuke live nearby. Daisuke was diagnosed with Down Syndrome at birth.

When he was a year and a half old, he started coming to the library with his mother to borrow cloth books. A book introducing musical notes really caught his eye.

Image source here.

Image source here.

“We also borrow regular books. But he is really drawn to the cloth ones. If I bring a big bag of them home, he’ll say, ‘I want to see one of those!'”
Eiko Naito / mother

Now Daisuke can play the piano. It’s a simple song, but it requires both hands.

Image source Image source here.

“The cloth books have broadened his world. He learned how to read from them. And he got interested in knowing more about the things around him.”
Eiko Naito / mother

It is tough for Daisuke to interpret the notes, move his fingers and listen to the music all at the same time, but he keeps trying.

Now Watanabe and her team are sending the cloth books to children around the world…especially those living in poverty or without access to education.

Some books were sent to an orphanage in Myanmar that takes care of 200 kids. Many had lost their parents in ethnic conflicts, or were abandoned due to poverty.

Other books were sent to students in Africa. They reflected cultural differences, like the way people there count with their fingers.

Image source here.

“People learn their own country’s language and think and act in that language. Just one cloth picture book is something people can explore and learn from. That’s why I want to pass them on to future generations around the world.”
Junko Watanabe

Watanabe believes all children, regardless of their circumstances, can learn something from her picture books. And she hopes this seed of an idea takes root around the world.

Barbie without make up – a nice healthy image, for a change

My frenemie Barbie! I’ve written about her negative influence on children in my MA dissertation and ever since then I enjoy seeing artists who take a different look at this fake monster.

Here is a Mexican graphic designer called   who has created a mock up of a makeup-less Barbie to prove “nobody is perfect.”

Eddi Aguirre, a designer from Mexico created a sketch of what Barbie would look like without makeup to illustrate a makeup feature for a magazine.In the sketch, Aguirre depicted a Barbie with freckles, bags over and under her eyes, frizzy hair, shiny skin and braces.

The designer uploaded the project to his online portfolio with the following description:

“An image used in a special makeup feature for the new magazine shows Barbie before and after makeup (nobody is perfect).”

Over the past couple of years there has been a growing initiative to showcase natural beauty. In 2010 Marie Claire magazine had a spread with a makeup-less Jessica Simpson and last week, Mariah Carey joined the many celebrities who tweet makeup-free photos of themselves.

The image of Barbie’s au naturel look has been dubbed refreshing as it reminds people the doll is an unrealistic role model for young girls. (From World Observer On-line)

Eddie also made a model of a Barbie doll which was created using a real person. Although many know this image already, I believe there are not enough of them. They are important reminders that simply say: “Hey, Barbie is fake. Noone looks like this. It’s a farce. Please remember that aspiring to her looks is just utter nonsense!”


And here are some more fab images of barbie who just got out of bed:





If you want to know more about the negative psychological effects of Barbie and the physical ailments she can bring upon women, have a look at this excerpt of an article by Stephanie Hoskins:

“A psychology experiment was done in the U.K. in 2006 by psychology professors Helga Dittmar from the University of Sussex, Suzanne Ive from the University of Sussex, and Emma Halliwell of the University of the West of England. Their findings from their experiment have been published in Developmental Psychology in 2006. Their study is also a part of the American Psychological Association her in the U.S. Their experiment is called “Does Barbie Make Girls Want to Be Thin? The Effect of Experimental Exposure to Images of Dolls on the Body Image of 5- to 8-Year-Old Girls.”


In their experiment “a total of 162 girls, from ages 5 to age 8, were exposed to images of either Barbie Dolls, Emme dolls (U.S. size 16), or no dolls (baseline control) and then completed assessments of body image.” The professors discovered that those exposed to Barbie doll images produced “lower self-esteem and a greater desire for a thinner body shape than in the other exposed conditions.” Although, the oldest girls did not have an immediate negative impact from the Barbie doll images. The study concluded that “these findings imply that, even if dolls cease to function as aspirational role models for older girls, early exposure to dolls epitomizing an unrealistically thin body ideal may damage girls’ body image, which would contribute to an increased risk of disordered eating and weight cycling.”


Barbie is to blame for women developing body dysmorphic disorder. Psychologists say it’s possible that exposure to Barbies at a young age can trigger this disease later in life. Body dysmorphic disorder is a disease which causes the person to obsess over something they don’t like about their body—which may be extremely minor or unnoticeable to others. This is the disease that physiologist Debbie believe drove Heidi Montag to go under the knife to get her Barbie body. More and more women are mutilating their bodies with surgery at a younger age like Montag to get the “ideal Barbie-Doll body”. Journalist Rachel Rettner added that in 2008 “an estimated 750,000 cosmetic procedures, 271,000 of which were surgical, were performed in people aged 20 to 29, according to the ASPS. And 81,900 surgical procedures were performed on children and young adults aged 13 to 19.” These statistics are truly shocking that young women feel the need to change their body to meet unrealistic expectations of our Barbie culture.


As a child most girls played with Barbie dolls and if they had not, their views of what is considered beautiful and acceptable for women would be different, as well as how they felt about body image. Most girls don’t understand the doll’s influence on the way they view women until they are much older. Some have even taken extreme measures and mutilated their body to mimic the doll. In 2010, reality T.V. Star Heidi Montag underwent 10 plastic surgeries all at one time when she was only 23-years-old. Rettner interviewed Montag in her article, “Heidi Montag’s plastic Surgery: Obsession or Addiction?” to find out what motivated the already naturally stunning Heidi to go under the knife.


Rettner stated that “as for what’s driving her and others, some researchers say the media is part of the problem, bombarding us with images of this ideal Barbie-Doll person that’s unattainable without nips and tucks and more.” Montag stated that “she is not addicted to plastic surgery.” Psychologist Debbie would disagree. “I think fundamentally, when someone goes on for many, many, many, procedures at a young age they’re trying to change something about themselves, they want to become a new person.”


Montag has stated on many occasions that she just wanted to “look like Barbie.” After her surgeries Montag struggled with her body image more than ever before her surgery. On her reality show viewers watched as many of her friends and family said she was beautiful post-surgery and that it was unnecessary—making Montag regret her surgeries. Barbie has set the standard for the media to show Barbie-like models that make women feel self-conscious of their bodies. Would the media show more realistically proportioned women if Barbie had never been around? It would change how the media began to market women and models.


These psychologists have proven the negative effects Barbie can have on young girls and how it can affect them later in life like Montag. The whole section of the Developmental Psychology book is packed with different psychologists and their findings of the impact Barbie has on young girls. My initial statement that Barbie had an influence on what girls considered beautiful and acceptable later in life was stated in the book. “For young children, fantasy and play are vital parts of socialization in which they internalize ideals and values, and dolls provide a tangible image of the body that can be internalized as part of the child’s developing self-concept and body image.”


It is a parent’s job to censor the toys they allow their young children to play with in order to protect them from psychological and physically damaging Barbie dolls and other toys similar. Because, as stated in the book Developmental Psycology, “If Barbie were flesh-and-blood woman, her waist would be 39% smaller than that of anorexic patients, and her body weight would be so low that she would not be able to menstruate.”

Here is the full article:


Crochet toys – less plastic in your child’s room

Ok – this is a bit of a weird one, but I am in love with this artistic piece of crochet work!

On the left you see a conventional stacking toy for small children made from plastic and on the right – yes! – the crochet version! I absolutely love the detailing and creativity which the designer mom put in it ( I talked to her in person at the market where she was selling her hand-made crafts). Check out the ‘worm’ and his nature friends ‘bee’, ‘lady bug’ and ‘dragon fly’!



This will certainly add some fantasy to your child’s toy box and reduce the huge amount of plastic, that quietly monopolizes our children’s rooms. 🙂

If you feel like you really dig this, check out Danish brand Franck & Fischer which specializes in crochet toys:


Global Kids Fashion Week Spring / Summer 2013 Show | AlexandAlexa



One of my fave shopping sites for kids fashion – Alex and Alexa – recently they launched Kids Fashion Week:

Global Kids Fashion Week Spring / Summer 2013 Show | AlexandAlexa

Although the fashion industry has been producing fancy clothes for kids for decades now, a ‘kids fashion week’ is a somewhat controversial event and was picked up by the media. Some celebrating cute trends for tots and others criticizing it.

For example, The Daily Mail wrote an interesting article with lots of phots entitled:

‘As London celebrates its first Fashion Week for children, would you take your toddler to the kiddie catwalk show?’

Read more:

What do you think? I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this! xx