Archive for August, 2011

Indian Time

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

Saturday, March 6, 2004 Travelogue:  Excerpts from past impressions and experiences in India (see the first travelogue segment we posted)

Pushkar, Rajasthan, Northern India

In the past month, I have had a palm reader tell me that I was fit, and a yoga instructor tell me I would NEVER get fat.  The palm reader worked inside the 16th century Jodhpur fort and with bifocals hanging on to the end of his nose resembled a university professor.  Using more gracious phrasing, he called me a cheap indecisive double-checker who had the most “fit” health he’d read in years.  The robust young yoga instructor suffered from attention deficit disorder and assured me that w/ my long and lean body type I could eat as I pleased.  Good news from strangers, when every face is unfamiliar, is so believable.

We have been in India for nearly three months; a Hindu nation whose population is 13% Muslim.  While in public, most Muslim women do cover themselves in black, some donning a burqa, oftentimes while shopping for brightly colored saris of which we outsiders are allowed only a bottom glimpse.  The Hindu women have exactly the same habit; they also cover their heads and faces in public, but use their fluorescent beaded sari material to do so.  It’s intriguing how the very same social tradition has become doctrine to the practitioners of two different religions.  It’s reminded me that religion, even here, is mythological – a set of social rules disguised as a sacred belief system.

The Indian society retains so much history it is ready to burst.  The practice of arranged marriage reminds me of political alliance matrimony during the middle ages – two people are brought together because it is best for their families, not because it is best for them.  During our SERVAS home-stay in Jaipur, we met a young couple our age, Alok and Anu, married for seven years.  “In your country,” the husband (Alok) said, “love comes first, then marriage.  In our country, marriage comes first, and love comes after.”  Hopefully.

In Indian culture, the marriage of two individuals literally brings together two different families.  It’s called a joint family arrangement – and this structure is vital to society.  Women, as second-class citizens, are rarely allowed to work; most are housewives, and in some cases the Muslim women do not venture forth from the home except to go to market.  Their duties are in the home, and as the matriarch ages, she must have someone to replace her.  Welcome the new bride – the son’s wife – to take things over.  The work is just too hard for an elderly woman, and her duties are too important and must be continued.  Every meal is cooked from scratch and can take hours to make (even the dog food); clothes are washed and sometimes made by hand; many homes have no showers so even bathing is time consuming.  The children must be cared for, and Indian dads work 12 – 14 hour days, often from 10 AM to 10 PM.  The streets are so congested that to get groceries w/ baby on a scooter, sari flying while trying to navigate one’s way through traffic (bicycles, bicycle rickshaws, men pulling carts, camels pulling carts, elephants, goats, auto rickshaws, automobiles, cows, dogs, pigs, bulls, water buffalo, monkeys, pedestrians sleeping on the streets and sidewalks, buses, BIG trucks, small trucks, motorcycles and hundreds of scooters) takes all hell of an afternoon.

Take care all of you.  I’m sure I love hearing from you a bit more than you do me – so WRITE!

yours,

Michelle

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Fair trade for teens!

Saturday, August 13th, 2011

Grab yourself a copy of the back-to-school edition of Justine Magazine on newsstands now.  Justine is a national magazine filled with fun, positive, and empowering content for teenage girls.  This month the mag features fair trade clothing from our Fall 2011 line, out this September.

Check out Mata Traders’ hand-woven ikat Rendezvous skirt in orange on the contents page.  It looks great worn high-wasted with a belt and paired with a blue checkered hoodie and striped top.

Inside the magazine Mata is featured in an editorial layout of fine fall fashions.  The young woman seated on the stairs is wearing our Le Day Off Dress paired with our Bisous Blouse.  I love how those two funky prints look so great together.  Both those pieces and the Rendezvous skirt will be available in stores and on our website mid-September.

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The desolate country – this state is almost entirely a sandy waste…

Monday, August 8th, 2011

Monday, February 9, 2004 Travelogue:  Excerpts from past impressions and experiences in India (see the first travelogue segment we posted)

Rajasthan, Northern India

“The desolate country – this state is almost entirely a sandy waste…”  This is how Jaisalmer’s Palace Museum describes the northern desert-smeared state of Rajasthan.  The temperature has dropped remarkably and I, like every other tourist, have succumbed to wearing shawls (i.e. blankets) around town to keep warm at night.  Our noses are sun burnt red and our lips chapped by the blazing hot daylight sun and contact lenses are an impossibility here in the land of ‘fine desert dust floating through the air.’  Spring is on its way but as we’re traveling north, so the cold gathers.

Jaisalmer – a decrepit fairy tale classic – home to a 12th century fort still standing and housing Indians and havelis – ancient mansions built by once prosperous merchants and although crumbling still romantic to stay the night in.  Arriving in the north has been an incredible shock – Jaisalmer is the type of place one ‘imagines’ when one pictures India.  The fort itself dominates the city; constructed of yellow stone its huge walls rise hundreds of feet to encircle the smaller town within – a Lego castle constructed entirely of yellow Legos.  Cobblestone streets lead from one round castle-topped rampart to another, w/poor houses and havelis in between.

We raced here for the 2004 Desert Festival, being held during the full moon days of February, and drawing hundreds of flabby eyed tourists much too willing to part w/ their money.  We’ve come across so many North Americans I developed a staring problem, as I was so unused to hearing a familiar accent.  The Desert Festival lasted three days – camels and entertainment galore.  New friends all over the place and dances to make your heart stop – I saw a man spinning round and round for thirty minutes or more while he swung an arm full of swords, balancing one on his raised finger, one on his wrist and one on his raised forearm.  While still in motion he also managed to create a peacock from a blue piece of cloth and fly it to and fro.  The women are wearing electric colors you only normally see in your minds eye as headscarves, and their babies eyes are covered in black kohl w/ foreheads appropriately dotted to keep away the the evil eye.  There was a turban tying contest and a Mr. Desert competition, along w/ a beauty pageant, sari tying competition and a tug of war.  Indians and foreigners – igniting a bit of racial tension but the Indians won so all remained swell.

We narrowly escaped a steaming whiz of camel piss while wandering out in the desert for the last day of festivities.  Camels are fascinating creatures – giraffe necked w/ slumped humped backs towering over 10 feet high, knobby knees and short tails which apparently they spin while peeing in order to spray their scent, marking territory.  They are more like dinosaurs than any animal I have seen – furry dinosaurs w/ large teeth and lips that stretch for miles to chew, and Brontosaurus toes.  Camels ROAR.

Camel races and camel decorating competitions and sunset vs. moonrise over the sand dunes kept us busy that last day.  We befriended a 12 year old named Raj who braved the elements to take care of three women twice his age – we would have been eaten alive w/o him as the camel drivers were unable to resist their compulsion to question us LOUDLY at any moment:  “Madame – CAMEL?”  Our first reaction – NO!  We don’t want a @#$^&$* camel…But then I decided it might be fun to take Raj – who’d never been on a camel’s back before – and ride off into the sunset.  Believe me, all sand dunes look exactly alike especially when covered in hundreds of people and no established meeting place.  Just hill after bigger hill of shifting, floating sand soft enough to sink your feet into.  I would have lost Jonit and Maureen for good had it not been for little Raj’s wise eyesight.

Yesterday, while wandering the streets we happened upon a wedding procession.  The bride’s family was weeping the loss of their daughter and she was surrounded by women sobbing their grief.  Before we knew it Maureen and I were balling too while the turbaned husband rejoined the procession, stoic and scared.  All this in a street filled w/ ancient buildings covered in intricate carvings resembled a medieval nightmare.

The intense beauty and incoherent age of Jaisalmer makes it a magical place.  Long haired goats w/ screw shaped horns walk the streets w/o bending their legs.  Handsome illegal-length mustachioed men in pointy Aladdin shoes w/ bright yellow turbans and both ears ear-ringed really bring that encyclopedia book page describing India to life.

Michelle

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Indian Street Style – men’s fashion edition

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

Last summer in India, Maureen pointed out to me how some young Indian men have a flair for fashion.  As soon as she mentioned it, I started to notice these guys who dress to impress.

The back of our auto-rickshaw driver's shirt (same kid as in the photo above) says "STAND A SIDE funny-boy is wacking in."

He doesn't look too pleased to have his picture taken, although in my defense, I did ask his permission.

Sometimes even an older gentleman has a certain je ne sais quoi.

Looks like I've been spotted during a drive-by shooting; you can see my camera in the side view mirror of the auto-rickshaw.

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It’s August Already?

Monday, August 1st, 2011

This summer has been scorching.  Also, this summer has been the busiest.  Lots of exciting projects!  I’ve pretty much resorted to wearing dresses only.  This slightly cuts my prep time in the morning – dresses are no-brainers because it’s like an instant outfit.

(dress Mata Traders 'Charity', shoes Target)

(caftan Cabi, clutch and sunglasses vintage, sandals Gap)

These dresses are perfect for summer.   Summer festivals require pieces like this, and I can totally see myself floating around LouFest and Lolla wearing these.  Speaking of Lollapalooza, Mata Trader’s will have a tent on Green Street South, by the main entrance.   Stop by to see the girls and treat your closet to a couple refreshing summer pieces!

(cuff Lia Sophia, crucifix ring Altemuellers, knot ring Spirit of the Red Horse, wire bangle Alex and Ani, turquoise cuff vintage, serpent ring vintage)

wearing Maybelline Colorsensational in 'Red Revival'

Here are a couple more things in constant rotation this summer.  Red lips lend something to an otherwise plain outfit.  And a little pile of my treasured silver jewelry.  The newest acquisition is Alex and Ani’s ‘Path of Life’ wire bangle:

“Emblematic of life’s zenith and nadir moments, this charm illustrates life’s twists, turns and unexpected winds, all the while complimenting the beauty in it’s pattern.  Wear this charm to proudly celebrate your own willingness and strength in traveling toward life’s fruitful moments.”

Stay cool! -Laura

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