How Nicole Bridger changed my life

In celebration of Earth Day 2013.

In spring 2011, I saw an article in the Style section of the Georgia Straight. It featured a local designer named Nicole Bridger and her newly opened boutique on West 4th Avenue in Kits. The article included a picture of a dress called "Surrender." It was simple but beautiful: sleeveless, draped neckline, handkerchief hem. I had to have it.

At that point, my consciousness of sustainable fashion was pretty much at zero. For the most part, I bought what I liked. I did tend to favour clothing made in Canada. I often made purchases from small local shops. But I had not yet learned to look at the fabric tag.

My knowledge of the fashion industry's incredible environmental impact lagged far behind my general knowledge of ecologically sound practices. Sweetie and I had been recycling for many years. We shopped for organic food with reusable bags. We kept trying to find ways to reduce our environmental footprint. Yet we bought clothes without much regard for how they would affect our efforts to be greener. We rarely threw anything away, but having old clothing picked up by Big Brothers or one of the other charitable organizations that offers the service was all we did. We didn't know what Value village did with any clothing that they couldn't resell.

Buying that first dress at Nicole Bridger set off a major change for me.

I don't remember paying that much attention to Nicole's design philosophy—the use of sustaiable fabrics and responsible production methods. Mostly I knew that I wanted that dress. I was not usually in the habit of paying over $200 for a dress, but I could afford to splurge this once.

I still have that dress. It's still one of my favourite summer dresses. It is amazingly complimentary for me. And it wasn't a one-time splurge. When Nicole released her Fall/Winter 2011 collection, I paid attention. And kept paying attention.

Even though I had always been interested in fashion, I dare say my serious fashion nerdliness really began with that first Nicole Bridger dress. I started to look not only at origin tags but at fabric tags as well. I began to learn more about fabric and garment production. My enrolment in a Fashion Merchandising program in spring 2012 came directly out of this increase in knowledge and interest. So did my volunteering at Eco Fashion Week that autumn.

Buying clothes is a big part of my life, so a change like this was significant. I no longer "shop till I drop." I avoid polyester and conventionally produced cotton as much as possible. I don't consider paying $200 or even more for a dress to be excessive if I know it's a dress I will wear for a long time. And I wear favourite pieces for a long time. I try to avoid buying anything that I won't want to wear for more than a season. I have fewer, better items of clothing.

Wherever I go, I seek out shops that sell sustainble, responsibly made clothing. It's not easy to find, but hopefully over time, with increased demand from people like me, there will be more of it. I found it in Brooklyn. I found it in Seattle. Last night at Nicole Bridger's in-season show on the first day of Eco Fashion Week, I spoke with a woman who is about to open a shop in Portland to sell ethical clothing. The movement has a long way to go, but it's growing. Even H&M wants to appear and hopefully actually be more responsible.

When I shop, it's often at Nicole Bridger, my loyalty based both on her production values and on the fact that her designs tend to look really good on me. I buy from other shops and designers with similar values (Obakki, Devil May Wear, Lilikoi, and more). There are holes in my personal ethical supply chain, I know, most prominently shoes. But I continue to work to reduce my fashion footprint. And not only have I not sacrificed style in doing so; I dress more stylishly than ever. These are not your mother's hippie clothes!


The new boy

Way bigger than he looks here but just as sweet
He's somewhere between three and four years old. He weighs a solid 15 pounds. He's a grey tabby on top with pure white below. He has beautiful green eyes and a little goatee around his mouth. He can leap tall buildings in a single bound—or at least onto the kitchen counter, something we are working to discourage. He is fierce with his mouse toy. He talks a lot. And he is beautiful and cuddly and a perfect fit for our little home.

He's our new kitty, of course. His name is Hornby, not after the island or the street but rather the author Nick Hornby.

The grieving process for Marley, our previous kitty, had taken longer than we expected, but in hindsight that should not have been surprising. She was the first cat we had adopted together. She was with us for almost nine years. She was beautiful and loving and had the loudest purr in the universe. Letting her go was one of the hardest things we had ever done, but it was clearly time. And the memories were strong.

But by mid-March, we both felt that we were ready for a new resident. We had reached the point where we knew this would not be a rebound cat. So Sweetie began to search the site of the group she volunteers for, Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue (VOKRA). Not long after she started to search, she came upon the description of a kitty that sounded great for us. Alas, we were about to take off for New York, so it would not have made sense to start an adoption process. And not surprisingly, he was snapped up. There are a lot of kitties that need homes, so we knew we would find the right one eventually.

When we returned from our trip, we got a surprise: the adoption had not worked out! The woman who had wanted him already had another cat. Apparently this was fine with Hornby but not with the resident female, so back he went to the shelter. And we had our chance! I'm not a "things happen for a reason" kind of person, but maybe my goddess was doing a little manipulation here. Or maybe it was this squib of a witch.

We met him on Good Friday at the home of his foster mom. Immediately, he was up on the sofa cuddling with both of us. His size and strength were a bit alarming after our previous overweight (when she was healthy) but delicate-featured kitty, but he won us over. His foster mom was sorry to see him go, but she was glad he was going to a good home.

He settled in quickly. He watched TV with us that evening (Game of Thrones season two on DVD) and later slept between us on the bed. He figured out right away where his food and litter box were. He explored everywhere.

Sometimes he sleeps this way!
It's only just over two weeks since he's been with us, but it feels as though he has been with us for longer. That's how well he fits in! He got over his insecurity, although he still loves frequent attention. He has a lot of kitten in him, which can make him quite a handful. He wants to play with anything that dangles, including the shade pull on the back door and the belt of my dressing gown before I have done it up. He's a good learner, though, so little by little he is finding the limits. Right now, we're saying "no!" and clapping a lot.

Hornby was his shelter name, but we decided it fits him well. We also call him the Dude, because he's big and, well, a dude in a house with two women. And sometimes I will call him Beavis, because his vocalizations remind me of Beavis's mumbling, especially when he has too much capuccino and turns into the Great Cornholio.

At first I would still cry a little remembering our beloved Marley, especially when Hornby would do something that she would have done. In some ways, he is like her. But in most ways, he has his own distinct personality, and that's for the best. We are very happy that we can give him the good home that he deserves.


Broken toy

It was toward the end of the session. We had been talking about the band and music. I had wanted to interject something earlier about songwriting, but for once my therapist was talking more than I was, a refreshing change from my usual babble. At the end of the session, I had my opening. It was nothing I hadn't said to myself before. I've even blogged about it. But somehow saying it aloud in this context was different. And devastating.

"I write songs and make music because I don't think I have intrinsic self worth."

Cue the waterworks.

I've been through a lot of shit in my life, including a childhood and adolescence that weren't always happy, but I thought that for the most part I'd had things pretty good. I hadn't been beaten. No physical or sexual abuse. A good home. Two parents who loved me.

Loved me. Unconditionally? Ay, there's the rub. Somehow, I seem to have received a clear message: to do is to be. Funny how I used that as the title of a recent post. My worth was in what I did, not in who I was. If I didn't live up to expectations, I wasn't good enough.

This is hardly unusual. Lots of people deal with this. I guess it hit me so hard because I didn't think I was one of them. I thought I had come through the shit rather well. I thought I had dealt with my demons and reached a point of happiness. And for the most part, I think I have. But that doesn't mean there might not be a serious crack or two in the foundation.

In Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy, it doesn't matter where things came from. You don't have to dig into your past or find someone to blame. CBT is about the present and fixing things now. So I will be working on this in the sessions to come. I have to. Cracks in the foundation can bring down an entire structure, and I don't want that happening. It teeters alarmingly already. At least now I have a good idea why that's so.

I have to admit that I'm a little nervous. It's important to me to be creative, to make music, to write songs (and other things, like this blog on all-too-rare occasion). What if that creativity is based on my being fucked up? I'm not sure that mental health and creativity really go together. But maybe that's foolish. Maybe if I can fix a deep-set problem, I can be more and not less creative. It's not like I'm writing that much now. Maybe my problems are holding me back, not fuelling anything good. I can still draw on plenty of things in my life and in the lives of others. Healing a deep wound might be just what I need to create even more.