Some of my earliest memories were of my maternal grandmother teaching me to sew. She was incredible: making the most amazing clothes out of nearly nothing. She could turn literal scraps into exquisite garments and reupholstered furniture faster than most people can pack for a trip. Thanks to what she taught me, I was able to put my sewing skills to work in support of my rapidly changing body. Not only early puberty, but extreme weight fluctuations characterized my early path of self-discovery. From round to chubby to curvy... to thick to athletic to skinny fat to big mama... and back again. My body has been so many shapes and sizes, it's astounding. As an adult I've been 150 lbs and I've been 250lbs. On the journey to discover what my ideal self and lifestyle look like, making clothes for myself (on a shoestring budget) has become an unexpected dimension of a deeper awareness and resilience.
Outwardly recreating an inner dimension of the self is what makes fashion more than a superficial trend, but a primal connection to inevitable change. This process has followed me my whole life, even when I didn't want it. In truth, it was passed to me from a lineage of strong women who used their creativity to cultivate healing in their own lives and to use their resources to help care for their loved ones.
SolaVita, like all my creative lines is just one of several mindfulness practices that helps me connect to source. It is born of a desire to support the well being of other young women who are searching for love and acceptance of their own bodies like I am. It's not just about looking good, it's about showing up to honor all that our bodies do for us. Physical adornment is a primal urge. We should embrace it as a channel for gratitude, empowerment, and sustainable practices.
SolaVita was founded in 2013 as I finished a course called Community Collaborations. We were asked to design a project that served a community need. At the time, our University had just announced that our program (the only one of its kind in the country) would be closing. Our cohort would be the last to receive the degree and if we wanted to stay on the Consciousness Studies path, we had to condense our thesis time frame by 6 months. You can rush a butterfly in its cocoon. Our sacred community was not only being rushed to complete our thesis work, but it came with the knowledge that the legacy of the program ended with us.
As part of my thesis, I designed a project collaborating with each of the women in my cohort. I wanted to understand their relationship to their bodies, to fashion and holistic health. It became interesting and powerful research. What most of us would deem 'fashion' or a sense of style, at its core, was linked to deep constructs of the self and long held (often limiting) belief systems, rooted in agency, self-efficacy, and resilience in the face of perceived failure. As I interviewed each woman, we arrived at an intention that they wanted to take forward. After some fun fashion shows with old clothes they'd brought as donations, I presented some sketches. Over the next 6 weeks, I created a new garment that embodied their intentions, made from our old clothes. I paid them for their interview time. In exchange, I charged that same amount for their garments. Perhaps a silly break even scenario to some, but the exchange mattered to me. Money is energy and this symbolized an important exchange.
SolaVita Exchange was born. Below are photos of some of the finished garments and the book I made in application for a grant that I did not receive, but chose to move forward with the project, ultimately turning it into a business. Now it has transformed into an entrepreneurial empowerment and leadership training platform for single mothers transitioning off of public assistance.
Wear your beautiful struggle proudly, my Sola Sista.