Skip to main content

Freelance Fashion Writing

Keep your feet on the ground when in flight

Waiting in the airport in Lilongwe, Malawi, the capital city of the country known as, “The Warm Heart of Africa,” is well, unremarkable. Remember this is a country that got its first working escalator in 2018. To be completely accurate there was an escalator 29 years ago but it broke and like many, “improvements,” in Malawi  or S.E. Africa remain unfixed, half finished and abandoned.   If you are over 50, it is unlikely you have stepped on those moving stairs leading to higher ground before. 

I guess during those initial four years of living in Malawi, my attention had not been on the existence or non-existence of escalators. That I do find remarkable and telling. What we choose to pay attention to or ignore creates our world.  I only noticed the lack of escalators when I encountered a group of people hanging onto the side of what I knew as an, “escalator.” Teachers from inner city ghetto’s had brought their young charges on a field trip to this new amusement mall ride. Many frightened little ones had to be carried down. 

I am wired for the, “unremarkable.” My world thrives on random connections at coffee houses on drizzly Vancouver days, to spontaneous dances with local Malawian women selling tomatoes on the side of the road. 

My iPhone 6 rings. A sought after phone in my current locale inspite of iPhone XS being Apple’s latest release. It is the management crew from Indonesia’s first Eco-Fashion Week calling. They wanted to let me know that there would be a driver and escort to pick me up at the airport and that we would directly proceed from the airport to the Embassy where an official government ambassador would be both welcoming us and hosting a formal opening dinner reception to launch the inaugural week. They suggested the appropriate, “wear,” for the prestigious event was Batik, the most widely recognized Indonesian national attire. 


To be honest I can’t really remember the exact details of the conversation. My focus was on what I was currently wearing.  Jeans, soiled with continental reddish-brown earth and a T-shirt emboldened with some music logo. I had been rushing prior to getting to the airport and just threw on the closest clothes laying on the floor to get me to the airport, thinking I would just go to the hotel on arrival via an anonymous taxi driver.  

Ok, ok…for those who know me, I am always adorned in what I like to call, “comfy,” clothing. I suspect when my bestie says to me, “You know there is a fine line between dressing street and actually looking like you live on the street,” that I need to recycle in some creative way the 25 year old sweatshirts with sleeves frayed and unravelling at the wrist. It’s painful to part with clothing that has travelled with you throughout your life from pre-kid to kids leaving for university and getting married.

This flight would take me through Ethiopia and Dubai prior to landing in Jakarta. Travel time was 15 hours. No biggie for me but long enough to know I wanted to lounge in comfy well worn clothes. My commitment to using the least amount of money to get me from point A to B involves least-cost routing. I am accustomed to over 30 hour voyages including waits at airports that are often a little shady and where I definitely do not want to be seen as someone with money while I sleep on the floor with bags wrapped around me, waiting for my next flight.

I see one small trinket store in the waiting room of this unremarkable airport. Feeling my feet on the ground, always replaces fear with openness and trust. I will find something to wear to this auspicious event. There are about 10 dresses, each of which is made with African textiles, kinda. The textile is ironically made in Indonesia. I take one from the rack, size it up and agree to purchase the one with African huts. Yes AFRICAN HUTS! Lets just call it a panic buy.  I know I will also have an opportunity to shop in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I have stopped over in this airport multiple times enroute from London to Lilongwe but just in case there is any rioting, which can happen, I know the hut purchase worn with the grace of gratitude will suffice if rioting closes the more upscaled stores. A, “make do/chill,” attitude is a gift I have received from my Malawian relatives. This gift is far greater than anything I can ever offer my African family.

Fresh off the plane at the Ambassadors house to celebrate the 2018 launch of Indonesia’s first Eco-Fashion Week. 

Photo with some amazing female dignitaries and eco-designers. My eyes are barely open after over 30 hours of no sleep. I managed to replace the huts with a dress actually made in Africa and a woven accessory.  Scarves I find serve as, “security blankies.”  

From the moment I greeted my new friends at the airport until I left to go for a week in Bali, I was surrounded in kindness, generosity and acceptance. I was the only Caucasian at the gathering and one of very few westerners invited to this auspicious event. I felt incredibly honoured at my good fortune to not only be flown and hosted during this week by Merdi Sihombing, the organizer and famous eco-fashion designer but also to be given the opportunity to curate a runway show of five Malawian fashion designers.

Merdi Sihombing
Merdi is an accomplished and world renowned Eco-Fashion Designer and opera singer.  I met Merdi in Perth Australia where we were both curating runway shows. After interviewing Merdi and meeting members of his team I later received an invitation to their inaugural show in Jakarta.  


Be the first to comment.
All comments are moderated before being published.