Meet The Women Celebrating Life
Our ‘Celebrate Life’ campaign showcases our diverse community of inspiring thought-leaders who are emerging from a challenging time with a love and passion for celebrating life at heart and helm.
Meet two of our eight ambassadors - Educator Cath Burke and Journalist Jing Zhang - to learn about their optimism and values that drive their positive change. Here we talk style, sustainability and life after lockdown.
Meet Cath Burke, Educator
Hearing about Cath’s background, you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking this renaissance woman has lived several lifetimes already. Dancer, social worker, human rights journalist, world-traveller are just some of Cath’s diverse list of titles. She currently facilitates trainings and groups in Nonviolent Communication in London, which includes teaching empathy, emotional intelligence and mindfulness as tools for effective dialogue and social justice.
Cath Burke wearing our Hove Coat from Refashioned
Your path of personal growth has taken you all over the world. In light of the last year, what does ‘celebrating life’ mean for you?
For me ‘Celebrating Life’ means having an attitude of gratitude and appreciation; being in a place where my heart is open enough to feel grateful or joyful. This is often for the simple things, like the beauty of an oak tree in my local park, robins in my garden, a sense of connection and belonging with friends. I think it requires being present to feeling my heart.
Slowing down during lockdown has helped me to feel and experience more joy and gratitude. The thing is though, that celebration seems to come with mourning. When my heart is open I am bound to feel grief too; there is so much suffering and pain in the world. We’re also emerging from this pandemic with greater awareness of the oppression and injustice experienced by so many; of the huge inequities in the world. There’s a growing awareness of all the life that is going extinct every day and more people are starting to imagine the unimaginable in terms of the impact on future generations of climate change and the degrading of our planet.
Your practices of mindfulness are something we want to encourage more of in the world, especially in the fashion industry. How does your ethos around 'Celebrating Life' translate in your clothing choices and how you manage your wardrobe?
All life is precious and under threat of extinction due to human excess. So I want to be caring and conscious of the lives of other beings, human and non-human, when I choose what I wear. And let’s face it, it’s difficult to know what truly looks after environment and people. We don’t see or feel the direct and indirect impact of our choices. But I definitely buy way less than I used to; I still wear clothes I was wearing years ago, and I feel happy rather than embarrassed about that. I’ve stopped buying leather, so spent an age looking for vegan walking shoes. I search for ‘eco’ and ‘ethical’ brands and am willing to pay more and have fewer items in my wardrobe.
Cath Burke wearing our Gora Jumpsuit from Refashioned
How can we empower women and ourselves through fashion?
I think if we’ve been able to make caring conscious choices about what we wear - eco, ethical, second-hand, reused, recycled - then it’s easier to feel good about ourselves and the clothes we’re in. I also think that seeing models who are older, of all shapes, sizes, weights, proportions, ethnicities, looking confident in their clothes and their own skin helps to empower women to embrace themselves as they are and be free of someone else’s limiting ideas about what beautiful looks like. I think if you love yourself you look great!
Through your Nonviolent Communication work, you explore various techniques to guide people toward harmony and healing. What do you believe is most important in a fulfilling life?
Being at ease with who you are, alongside others who love and accept you. Being able to give your gift to the world - to contribute and give to others in a way that you are actually receiving when giving. For me this has been the work of re-humanising relationships and the workplace through training folks in Nonviolent Communication.
Being able to be in the present moment, in connection with your direct experience, even in the moments when experience isn’t pleasant, it’s mostly better than being in your thoughts about it.
How to get there? Finding what you love, what people need, and doing that. I love ‘conscious’ dance, Nonviolent Communication, meditation, and being in nature. I also value my intimate friendships, where I’m seen, heard and loved.
With all you know now, what advice would you give to your younger self?
I doubt my younger self would listen to advice, and I’m not sure my advice would have helped! Life has been my teacher; only by going through all kinds of wonderful and hurtful experiences did I become the person I am, and content with who I am.
Maybe my advice to young Cath would come with a lot of love and warmth, and be something like this; “Hey sweetheart, however difficult things seem, it’s all shaping the person you are. Every experience you have is leading you to your purpose, even if you can’t see it and feel lost now. Cath, you don’t need to work so hard or be perfect. Be kind to yourself, cherish each moment and have fun! Get help to discover what you are truly passionate about. Focus on finding what you love and doing that.”
Meet Jing Zhang, Fashion Director
Jing is an achingly stylish and ever-curious ‘life traveler’ whose charm firmly stamps into her professional and personal life. A bilingual fashion journalist who calls London, Shanghai and Hong Kong as her homes, Jing’s passion for sustainable fashion storytelling results in columns and clicks from print to digital inspiring readers globally about positive trends - for those who want to listen. Here we tune into the woman we’ve loved to dress since our 2017 inaugural collection.
Jing Zhang wearing our Pascal Blazer from Refashioned
Q: What does "Celebrating Life' mean to you?
Especially after the last 14 months of the pandemic and it’s multiple lockdowns, this phrase is more poignant than ever. Along with learning to be ok with stillness, less travel, less consumption and more consciousness; I feel a huge emotional push to seek out new knowledge, forms of stimulation and inspiration - from places that are unfamiliar as well as those I took for granted.
All our priorities have shifted, and I feel that Celebrating Life means being less jaded, more hopeful, playful and delighting in the realisation that the people you keep around you provide a quite powerful source of inspiration.
How does your ethos around 'Celebrating Life' translate in your clothing choices and how you manage your wardrobe?
I'm now utterly sick of sweatpants, that's for sure!
I've got a desire to dress up more, to embrace wilder looks, patterns, colours & styles - to put an effort in my outfits as they do send a message to people about who I am. I had almost become a bit numb to that before, but I find great joy in the stories each outfit holds now. I'm more conscious of extending the life of my wardrobe, as well- that concept of circularity is just more in the forefront now.
How can we empower women and ourselves through fashion
Before there were fashion magazines and fashion weeks, 'it' bags, celebrity styling and influencer fame, there was the expression of your identity through your sartorial style - it's a visual signifier of who you are in society.
Your music, rebellion, community and culture can all be expressed through style, with anything from uniforms to norm-core, or 'anti-fashion' clothing.
That can be incredibly liberating for women. It's not just about decoration of our bodies; fashion - as we have seen throughout history - can be a powerful communicator to others and a compelling creative outlet for yourself.
Jing Zhang wearing our Pascal Blazer from Refashioned & Welland Skirt from Start From Zero
With your deep experience of both Western and Eastern cultures and fashion industries, how do we curate a dynamic and more realistic global approach to sustainable innovation in fashion and the arts?
I think recognition of all the diverse cogs in the global machine is key. Information and inspiration flows between cultures at an alarming speed these days.
I like tapping into the leading centres of knowledge in sustainability for art and fashion, but I don't like a top-down, preachy, ethno-centric approach when it comes to implementing a shift.
There has to be dialogue and cultural consideration involved- if we are to change a system, we have to entice sustainability 'outsiders' to become 'insiders'.
What is the role of the media in transforming views to positively influence and shape the future?
The media is both messenger/mirror and a powerful opinion leader. It can give a voice to the often voiceless, which in sustainability, manufacturing and factories, can be a big game changer.
Investigative journalism in the field is an obvious way. But also on a softer note, publishing curated options of alternative/better ways to live, think and be can spark positive trends for those who want to listen.
Jing Zhang, Fashion Director & Celebrating Life Ambassador
Photo Credits: Olivier Yoan, Photographer