Why the clothes on your back don’t really have anything to do with ‘sustainability’.


After working at a clothing company that constantly prides itself on being ‘sustainable’ as its main appeal, I’ve realised:

You can’t sell sustainability. Sustainability cannot be objectified. Sustainability is a mentality, a culture, a way of being. 

The sentiment brings me back to a conversation I had with my master’s thesis supervisor, Kate Fletcher, on the importance of being present, noticing and taking delight from one’s surroundings.

She shared the following anecdote with me:

‘I realised that what I felt which was much more vital to the success of fashion going forward, or more generally to sustainability, wasn’t that my children understood where clothes were being made (as was the mantra of Fashion Revolution), but actually that they, fully dressed in whatever clothes they were wearing, were able to fully engage with the world…

And in that moment, that day, when that [Fashion Revolution day] was happening, we just went in our old, most tattiest gear, nothing that would be considered a ‘look’, and we just made a den in the woods, and hung-out, and looked at the moss, and we just were being, we weren’t doing anything’.

Sustainability isn’t something you can attach to a product, it’s how you think about and interact with the product, from its design, to its manufacturing, consumption, and evolution into new life.

Sustainability cannot be judged or expressed solely by people’s clothing on their own, but rather by the person’s craft of use.

We cannot say Joey is ‘less sustainable’ than Sheila only because Joey is wearing a t-shirt printed with plastisol butterflies that he received as a gift from a friend, and Sheila is wearing a 100% naturally dyed organic hemp shirt.

Let’s say Joey has sustainability engrained in him and Sheila doesn’t. So even though Joey got this plastisol printed shirt as a gift from a friend (thank goodness it’s organic cotton, though) that he’s wearing anyways, because he still loves the shirt— he’s just going to be careful about washing the shirt to ensure the plastisol bits don’t fall off, and that when the time comes for the shirt to go into its next evolution, Joey won’t just put it in landfill.

For Sheila on the other hand, ‘sustainability’ is more trendy than anything else. After posting on social media about her ‘oh so sustainable’ shirt, she then gets ready to make her next purchase of a jacket made of recycled water bottles, because she was told it’s ‘sustainable’, and hasn’t heard about micro-plastics yet. Sheila doesn’t really know anything about sustainability, she’s just trying to make herself feel and look like she’s helping the planet because it seems ‘cool’ and boosts her ego (even though the planet doesn’t need any help, and would be better off if Sheila and all her friends just left!)

In this example, Joey represents true sustainability as engrained behaviour, and Sheila represents market manufactured sustainability as ego-driven consumption.

Sustainability is not about ‘saving the world’ or constantly making it seem that you’re helping poor starving brown people in the Global South by having them make your clothes and paying them ‘fair wages’, and patting yourself on the back, ‘to feel good’.

Sustainability is about knowing how to save yourself by reconnecting to an inner nature unadulterated by consumerism, an inner self that is able to read and understand the language of Earth’s forces, an inner self that is aware of ego.

People truly tuned in to this inner self are able to read the signs of Earth’s nature, as many peoples of animistic and traditional cultures do. People truly tuned in to sustainability do not compare who or what is ‘more or less sustainable’. People aware of ego do not compare at all. True sustainability is not driven by ego. It just is.











What is ‘sustainability’ without cultural integrity?

‘Sustainability’. The word often conjures up images of  solar panels, clothes made of recycled water bottles, or ‘plastic’ made of sweet potatoes. Lots of talk about scientific innovations, but what about speculation into social, cultural innovations? Particularly in the realm of fashion & sustainability, giving cultural integrity a focus is paramount for conversations within this sector to develop into realistic and earnest action.

What is culture, and what is integrity?

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) defines culture as, ‘The arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively.’ In a more nuanced way, as culture is manifest within the spoken or unspoken experience of every human being, culture has been defined in my earlier work on cultural policy as: ‘The collective thoughts that form a fabric through which we view and interact with our world. Culture exists at different levels, that of the individual’s experience, or differing group sizes that share a culture. Culture cannot be consumed nor produced, but only influenced or experienced at different levels. Culture can therefore not be commoditised.’

Integrity, a word with arguably less ambiguous boundaries, is defined by the OED as ‘The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.’

When compounded, cultural integrity means respecting the different social histories and contexts represented by different peoples and their cultural artefacts.

What I find most interesting in today’s conversations regarding sustainability, is that many ‘innovations’ actually have roots in ancient, pre-capitalistic, cultures. Cultures that were ultimately eroded by capitalism, but are now finding their way back to today’s main stage conversations.

Take mycelium (mushroom) leather for example: Today there are a number of start-ups such as Bolt Threads creating a semantic field around the material, as very new and innovative, when in fact, according to the work of friend and colleague Irene-Marie Seelig, mushroom leather was found to have been first used and discovered by Eastern-European peoples before the 14th century.

Cultures that have existed as distinguishable groups for far longer than today’s ‘modern’ capitalistic culture (an era that spans less than two centuries) are indeed much more likely to hold answers to sustainability. It is indeed a pity that the modern capitalistic cultural regime took over and did not have the integrity to respect the Earthly-limit respecting cultures that it brutally eroded! On the bright side, all is not lost, and a strong number of capable peoples from around the globe are bringing back ancient and traditional knowledge for sustainability that largely capitalistic cultures have diminished.

Point in case, acknowledging cultural integrity as well as environmental integrity is vital for sustainability in the fashion industry to become an omnipresent reality in this era. Sustainable Fashion cannot only be about wearing recycled water bottles (that will end up emitting micro-plastics anyways), or commoditising small villages of people making folk products as a mere marketing ploy. There has to be integrity, and a clear respect for culture, not ignorant appropriation of culture. To question and to know something’s history, who made it, and why it exists; to question behaviour, and one’s own behaviour, is vital for this era’s paradigm shift into sustainability.



What does reality mean today anyways?


Today I read an article ‘Why reality is too strange for satire’ on the BBC.  It was very fitting for what I wanted to write.

Being a physical and mental traveller, I often have episodes where my grasp of reality shifts. Having recently moved back to the Philippines, perhaps aided by a bout of jet-lag, not to mention what has been set out by the spectacle of the news recently, I have had another strong episode of shifting reality (we could also attribute Mercury retrograde and me being a sun sign ruled by Mercury).

Like a number of conceptual artists who’ve performed songs like ‘Dream Awake’ , I’ve been recently very confused between the dream world and the world awake. Perhaps it’s because I feel so happy to be alive that my awake life often is just like a dream, whilst nightmares do appear every now and then, they don’t bother me as I can often quite easily analyse their causes, i.e. self generated anxiety.

Like having a totem from the film Inception to to grips with whether one is in the dream or awake world, when such episodes of shifting reality occur often sparked by unthinkable events like Donald Trump becoming president, I have my own little totem in the form of a tattoo. Only I know and remember what it really felt like when it was etched into my skin with a needle. 

Easily visible on my forearm, it’s an Ancient Greek concept revitalised in the 20th century by Martin Heidegger. Pronounced ‘aletheia’, it means truth, that which is unhidden, and reality.

In this most recent episode of shifting reality, I got back to grips with my own reality in realising that reality is not paying complete attention to whatever news you read and see on the screen, and having a handle on how those images may be affecting your daily actions. Knowing that those images of Trump becoming president are not my reality, or the reality. It’s just news. A manifestation of our collective consciousness. And when is there not news in today’s world? Front news headline: ‘Two leaves fell from a tree today in Central Park’. Also a manifestation of our collective consciousness. To be sane in today’s world polluted not only with industrial chemicals in rives and plastic, but also images and noise in our heads, reality begins once you look at and act in the world clearly presented around you through your own very two eyes and not from a screen, like when you go for a walk and look into the smiling (or crying) face of a baby in a pram. If you do happen to go on a walk and see Donald Trump do say hello. This has just been an electronic transmission to go on a walk and see the world through your own two eyes.



Why do I choose to go vegan?


It’s hard being vegan. Even for someone like me. I ate cheese yesterday, but didn’t realise I ordered it, but I ate it anyways, because it was in front of me, and I was weak. I ate feta and cream at brunch today. There is regret. It takes a lot of effort to be yourself in today’s world. I didn’t forget to thank and pray for the cows and goats though. You can only pray so much however and if you aren’t taking any action the praying probably isn’t coming from the heart.

So it’s ‘Veganuary’, as disgusting as that may sound to some… But hey! The Animal Agriculture Industry is the number one contributor to green house gases and human induced Climate Change.  And if, unlike Trump, you hopefully believe that climate change is real, like me and many others, you’ll decide to go vegan, at least a couple times a week, if not everyday.

Choosing to go vegan however hasn’t just been an ethical issue; being vegan has provided a number of quality of life benefits (aside from making me less anxious and more hopeful that Climate Change will slow down if more people go vegan):

-clear skin

-higher energy levels

-lower food bills (in theory, as meat becomes less and less subsidized, and more vegetables and other crops are planted to feed people and not livestock).

But where do you get your protein from?

When people say that plants have feelings too… Plants don’t show the clear feelings of fear and pain that cows, pigs, chicken, and fish do. Plants don’t quite run away. Plants were designed to be harvested. Humans designed ways to hunt and kill, by choice. Have you ever seen or read about a man killing a deer, antelope or cow just with their teeth? Nope humans aren’t lions.

The milk of other animals was meant for the babies of those animals, not for humans! 

And if you think that the dairy industry in Europe is humane, small dairy farms seem to be quickly disappearing

And unless you really know where your eggs came from…  Don’t eat them.

At the end of the day, since all animals and animal products originate from plants, instead of inefficiently going through animals for nutrients, why not just go straight to plants? Well maybe because more land in the USA, for example, is used for Animal Agriculture rather than edible plant agriculture, so fresh veg is generally more expensive than it ought to be…

Anyways less talk, and more action! Go vegan and plant more vegetables.


American Citizens to the land of America please continue taking to the streets and continue protesting the backwards electoral college until change happens. Urban streets weren’t just invented for cars. They were built as a free place where people can express themselves.

Don’t just let it pass. Hillary is still winning the popular vote; Trump ironically said himself that the electoral college is a disaster. His family didn’t seem look too happy on stage to announce his said victory; not to mention his son’s expressive faces during Trump’s electoral victory speech.

The constitution is a work in progress. The United States of America is a work in progress. It is the duty of every citizen to contribute to this work, by gracefully expressing our sentiments.

I could not be happier to see thousands of citizens taking to the streets to express their outrage at the electoral system, and its ability to allow a narcissistic product of the media that does not understand that his past public actions throughout only the past year, cannot be erased, and will only enable those who do not have the critical strength to make their own moral compasses, but instead to only be driven by false media. Only two days later we are seeing crimes of bigotry, undeniably enabled; by the electorate college system and the hollow, money-driven, superficial, individual it elected.

As the Miss Universe pageant taught us last year; the first announced ‘winner’ isn’t always.




sf pride 3

Thought Fractals

When you focus on something through your instruments, it expands in ways beyond the initial perception.

When I focus on asparagus, the more I am able to feel its density and texture, etc. Aside from its physical properties, the mind then connects to memories and pulls up the most potent asparagus associations: off-putting odours of urine, images of wine country, and past intimate relationships.

Focused relationships in particular, and their following associations, have taught me many things in our fractal, interconnected world: from knowing to use your ring finger for its gentleness to apply eye cream, to learning a new language.

The next time you have a worthy thought or see something interesting, focus on it, and enjoy where it takes you.




@ The Sentinel Building

coppola building-1

A historic landmark at the foot of San Francisco’s Little Italy neighbourhood- one of my favourite flat iron buildings in the world. Built in 1907 and owned by Albert and Connie Der Family Trust, one of its most prominent tenants is filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, owner of Cafe Zoetrope occupying the majority of the building’s ground floor. Right across from it is another great place to people watch on the sidewalk under the sun, Réveille Coffee Co’s Northbeach branch.