Friday, October 29, 2010

Nelesc Designs Tiny Little Fall Collection

Well, here it is, my tiny 2 piece fall collection. It's really a three piece collection but I still have not had time to photograph the last piece and I couldn't wait. I wanted to keep true to my passion for reconstruction/refashioning/redeeming so these are made from reconstructed sweatshirts. A lot of people really like the puff sleeve jacket which makes me so happy. I have been making various versions of it and it's been such a wonderful process. View more pics in my shop .

Puff Sleeve Jacket, $60.00

Asymmetrical Big Collar Sweatshirt, $40.00

These are made to order and can be made with different color combinations and icons. You can check the shop for details. Tell me what you think.

Monday, October 25, 2010

"Take This from Me, You Take My Life"

Tumani (Hope), 38. Tailor
“This sewing machine is all I could take with me. It was heavy, difficult to carry, but I couldn’t leave it behind. This sewing machine feeds my eight children and me. If someone were to take this from me, they would be taking my life.”

I saw this image on Amayel’s blog. Amayel (not her real name) is a woman after my own heart, she's a peace advocate, likes fashion, reads, is a thinker, and I love her blog! She writes a lot about African politics, muslim issues, and everything in between, like me. She is very well-rounded. I am definitely a follower.

Anyway, this photo really hit me. This is how I am feeling more and more about my sewing machine. It has really provided me a way of contributing to my household as well as participating, in my own way, in this thing we call fashion. I cannot compare my situation at all with Tumani's but Tumani, I am with you, take this and you take my life!

Now, for a little background: this photo was part of portrait photographer Rankin's latest exhibition which focused on survivors of the ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The exhibition, called From Congo with Love, opened in February in London's South Bank. It was a collaboration between charity Oxfam and the man who has previously photographed Kate Moss and the Queen.

Eastern Congo is one of the most violent places in the world. Two million people have been made refugees and live with host families who take them into their tiny shacks. Rankin said: "My style of portraiture is about bringing people out of themselves, getting them to share something. I chose to photograph the people against a white background instead of in their physical environment. "The expressions in their eyes and on their faces - their humanity - was what I wanted people to notice and relate to."

Here are some other images:

Furaha Vumilia, 65. Basket maker
“It takes two weeks to make a basket – but it only sells for 260 francs (25p). How can you work for two weeks to make 25p? I fled when the war came. People were throwing bombs into our houses. I was living with my son. He and his wife were killed. I fled with my two grandsons. One is 15 and the other 13. They are orphans now.”

Rehema Buera, 52. Restaurant owner
“I lost my husband and four of my children because of this war. After the attack, there were dead bodies everywhere in my village. I found the dead bodies of my husband and my four eldest children – all shot in the head. That day, 175 people from my village were murdered.”

Banza Masamba, 47. Hairdresser
“There are 24 of us in the camp, living in four small huts. The worst moment in my life is right now. We want peace. That’s all. Peace so that we can go back home. We want you people to talk to the politicians and ask them to stop this war.”

Wow. I'm speechless.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Mountains That Take Wing, Part II

I am so late with this post. I was supposed to do it right after the 18th. Anyway, here are some things that I learned about the movie, Mountains That Take Wing, that I didn't already know.

1- Angela Davis' mom was also an activist, "the seeds were sewn", she says.

2-Davis started an interracial group that met in a church to discuss issues of discrimination and race. When did she start this group, you ask? AT AGE 11!!! Isn't that amazing? How many people are thinking about this stuff at eleven years old?

3- Yuri Kochiyama corresponded with Lolita Lebron while she was in prison.

4- Both Davis and Kochiyama work heavily with political prisoners today and the issue of prisons in general. They educate the public about the business of prisons and the racial discrimination that exists within this institution.

5-Puerto Rican political prisoners were the longest imprisoned group.

I learned a lot more but I wanted to give you a little tid bit. I really hope this movie will be available to the public. I definitely would like to have a copy. To learn more about the movie, go to

Monday, October 18, 2010

Mountains That Take Wing, Part 1

On Sunday, October 17 I went to see MOUNTAINS THAT TAKE WING, a documentary that featured "conversations between Angela Davis, an internationally re-knowned scholar-activist, and 88 year old Yuri Kochiyama, a revered grassroots community activist and 2005 Nobel Peace Prize nominee." It was held at the Brooklyn Campus of Long island University. I went to see this film with my Titi (aunt) Nellie. It was a wonderful educational experience and seeing it with my aunt made it even more special.

Through the intimacy and depth of conversations, which span 13 years, we learn about Davis' and Kochyama's shared experiences as political prisoners and their profound passion for justice. But we also see a humanity, an intimacy, a "regularness" (if you will) to these powerful women. They were laughing and joking, sometimes struggling for words. Kochiyama was sitting on her bed and Davis sat across from her in what seemed like a revolutionary pajama party I was so blessed to be part of, even if virtually. It was great to see them in this relaxexd setting.
After the show, I reiterated this to my aunt "it was so good to see them in that way, in such an intimate setting." I am so used to seeing these women in posters, t-shirts, MY OWN TOPS AND JACKETS, in iconic stance, powerful, confident. The kind of woman I want to be. My Titi Nellie said, "well you finally humanized them." That really grabbed my attention, "I finally humanized them." She was right. Davis and Kochiyama ARE regular people just like you and me. Regular people have the potential to be activists, to speak up, to advocate. Hmmm. Perceiving these iconic people solely through their images on posters and t shirts does them a diservice. They lived radical regular lives in order to inspire us to do the same.

We watched Yuri and Angela in conversation and this led to my Titi and I having a conversation. My aunt is another outspoken women who grew up in th 60s and 70s. She has always been one of the stronger women in my family, she lived by her own rules, didn't bow down to convention. I always longed to be like her; worldly, knowing, sophisitcated. As we sat down to dinner at a restaurant on 91st, she shared a lot with me. I'm not a little girl anymore so our relationship is more on a peer level now. She was vulnerable and raw. I guess I too made her into an iconic figure of liberation in my life. I romanticized her into being something she in reality wasn't always. She also became more human to me that night. And that's a good thing. Seeing Angela's, Yuri's, and my Titi's vulnerability made me want to strive more too. Made me want to work out my own style of activism and liberation in my own vulnerable, regular way. Now they have become even more powerful in my eyes.
Tomorrow I will talk about what I learned through the film. Some little known revolutionary facts. Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Show Your Sari

I was very intrigued when I saw this article, a while back, in the November 2008 issue of Working Mother magazine. According to Show Your Sari, "new research suggests that middle schoolers don’t need to feel trendy to feel good" and that "11-14 year olds who dress according to the customs of their own ethnic group are less likely to have mental health problems than those who don’t."
I started thinking about my middle school years. I used to really dress up for school! I would wear ruffle blouses, dresses, and skirts. Maybe it had to do with the fact that I wasn’t allowed to wear pants because of my very legalistic, Pentecostal church upbringing. Although I wished I could wear pants, I did like dressing up so perhaps my frilly get-ups and my feeling good in them did contribute to my not having a mental breakdown. Lol. It really goes to show that when you feel good dressing in your particular style, you don’t have to bow to trends.
Here are a couple of pics of me in Junior High School. This one is from my JHS yearbook. It's hard to see the detail but I am wearing a very high collar ruffly white blouse with a skirt. I definitely did not dress my age!

This is me in seventh grade. I LOVED this pink tie neck top. I don't know how many times I wore it. I know it was a lot!

Wondering what ethnic cultural dress keeps me sane now? ....My Pedro Albizu Campos tops! This one is still available in my shop!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Reconstruction from the Vault

As you might know, I love to reconstruct clothes. Taking an existing garment and transforming it, gives me such a sense of satisfaction. It's Fashion redemption!!!! I love it. I just got my burdastyle weekly e-mail. They had a remake challenge that they posted a while ago. I am trying to concentrate on my shop so I didn't enter any of my stuff, but if I had, I might have entered this little number that I made back in 2008. It's kind of space agey but I love it. It was my mom- in-law's sweater. She gave it to me a while ago but it looked a little frumpy so, voila! I turned the collar around, placed the placket diagonally across the body, cut the sleeves, and added ruffles to the shoulders. I look like a space age Jedi fighter. I like it. What do you think?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Another Etsy treasury

I am catching up here on some shop news. So here is another treasury from September in which a Nelesc item was chosen. RoseofLinden chose my purple Nina Simone top for her theme, Antartic Traveler. I think she was mostly interested in the color of my top than Nina, but that's okay. I am just happy she chose it!

Here's a close up.

The items in this treasury all have a tinge of purple in them. Very beautiful. RoseofLinden makes really cute jewelry. Check out her shop here.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Etsy Treasury #2

It feels so good to be recognized. Back in August my Che Guevarra cuff was chosen for an Etsy treasury. I was too busy to post it then with the kids out of school and all, but here it is.

And here's a close up.

It's the second Che Guevarra item chosen for a treasury. I love seeing it in this kind of context with other people who create in honor of this cultural hero. Thank you Indira Villalobos for choosing my piece. Indira and I have a love of Frida in common. Check out this coral Frida bracelet from her shop.