When I was a student at UC Davis, I took a course on American Literature. This was the first time I was introduced to Their Eyes Were Watching God, a book written by Zora Neale Hurston which was published in 1937. Hurston’s literary impact is enormous. In honor of Black History Month, I am featuring her because she has had impact on me and many others. Hurston was born in Alabama in 1891 as the fifth of eight children and Hurston grew up in Florida. Her father was mayor of the town that she grew up in, Eatonville, which was one of the first all-Black towns in the United States. Later, her father served as minister to the town’s largest church. She was formally educated and she attended Howard University, Barnard College, and Columbia University. She was a central figure of the Harlem Renaissance and she wrote about contemporary issues in the Black community. Hurston often used Eatonville as a setting for her stories.
Hurston’s writings reflect a deeply anthropological lens and this is not by chance. She was educated with this lens and one of her main goals was to prove similarities between ethnicities. In 1920, she was one of the first initiates to Zeta Phi Beta, a sorority for all Black women. Hurston was married three times. Her first husband in 1927, a jazz musician, Herbert Sheen, who later became a physician. Their marriage ended in 1931. In 1939, she married Albert Price, but their marriage ended after a few months. In 1944, she married James Howell Pitts. Again, this marriage also lasted less than a year. Hurston has no children and she traveled extensively in the Caribbean and was immersed in local practices – a true anthropologist. Much of her work’s focus was around preserving cultural practices and she was also a documentary filmmaker. Hurston’s legacy lives on to this day.
Deborah Brand is a British fashion designer who specializes in corsetry design. Deborah’s bespoke pieces have been worn by many celebrities, including Amal Clooney, Salma Hayek Pinault, Kim Kardashian, and Adriana Lima. She is based in London and has a studio in Notting Hill that is by appointment only. Linked here is an Instagram video of a woman putting on one of her corsets in under a minute. Please follow her on Instagram @deborahbrand.
Bianca: How long have you been a fashion designer?
Deborah: I have always been a designer. I started when I was 20 and if you look at the index on the anthology on my website, I started with sexy stretch dresses in my twenties and eventually leading up to corsetry. Lifelong obsession with design! I was born a fashion designer!
Bianca: Your corsetry design is bespoke. Was there a juncture in your design career when you realized, “I really want to get into corsets now.”
Deborah: Yes, there was actually a big event. I have always designed sexy bodycon clothing, I have always used the female form as a canvas. In the early 90’s, I did a corset dress that was sold exclusively to Harrods, but never did an actual corset. About 15 years ago, I had a horse riding accident and I broke my back. I was out for nearly a year. When I came out of the accident, I had to learn to walk again and my body had completely changed shape. I didn’t have a waist anymore. Part of the design of the corsetry focus was getting my femininity back.
I was blessed with a very curvaceous figure my entire life and like everything, you take things for granted and you probably may not even like so much… but when it’s gone, you think “oh no, I really miss that!” I had no waist, I didn’t mind being larger, but I really minded having a stomach. In order for me to design, it was a crossover of two things at the same time… I was resculpting on the dress form and wondered, “how could I design something for myself where I could look curvaceous?”
I basically developed the corset, initially, to wear myself to feel sexy. Once I got into the world of corsetry, there was no going back. It’s incredible what you can do. It is a real art, fashion design is fun and wonderful, but corsetry is really artwork. It’s an art form. I took three years out of my life to master it all. I can make women look photoshopped! It’s so great seeing their faces when they put on my designs. I love making women look and feel fantastic. I absolutely love what I do.
Bianca: Wow, you have so much meaning and purpose connected to your designs! That is so inspiring. When I came across your designs, I was really awestruck. There is something to say about the bespoke aspect. For example, mainstream shapewear is now a norm. Do you see that your product is a differentiation of that? Where do you find inspiration?
Deborah: I love being in the sun… I am in Arizona right now because my business partner lives over here. The shapewear question can go down a hundred routes. I still do womenswear, eveningwear, but my focus is now on corsetry. I am a womenswear designer, but now see myself more as a corsetier. When I started crossing over around 2008, the way that the world was back then about corsetry, I had massive pushback. People were saying I was disempowering women… People thought I was taking women back a hundred years… I was saying, “It’s not so deep, I want to make women look sexy and feel great, it’s for that special time when you want to be seen.” When you wear a corset, you’re seen. It’s the most feminine feeling to wear a corset. I wrote 10 years ago, women will want to wear corsets again. I had been swimming against the tides, but now it’s not so, last year was the year it hit… I predicted it. Women want to wear corsets again.
I don’t take your waist in 16 inches like the antique corsetry, I’m going to take your waist in a couple of inches maximum. If you take a woman in a couple of inches, you are putting something on that is giving a shape and you can choose if you want to go tighter. It makes you sit up straight, it makes you more conscious of yourself. It helps you focus on your alignment. It’s like wearing makeup, having high heels, having your nails done, it’s another accessory! It’s not rocket science, we are just trying to have fun here. All of my friends’ children who have grown up knowing me are all fans now. The Gen Z’s are all about it because they don’t know the story of corsetry. They just know it makes you look great.
Bianca: I do think you have been on the right road with this for a long time. How have you felt watching this newfound popularity unfold?
Deborah: The next generation is really understanding it. Now I’m seeing it everywhere. It’s so funny, even two and three years ago, my friends were saying what are you doing? Now, that’s changed. The impact of Billie Eilish wearing a corset for the June 2021 British Vogue cover for example… I think she single handedly changed the industry with that cover. She recently broke down all the corsetry barriers and now there are no barriers!
Bianca: That’s amazing. I was reading on your website about the boning structure of your corsets more specifically. All of your corsets are exquisite, is there anything that makes your designs specifically so unique?
Deborah: Yes, they are like no one else’s. I spent 3 years developing my corsets. They have 40 bones (the rigid parts of the corset) in my design. I also knew if it was not easy to get on or comfortable, a woman wouldn’t wear it. So, I made the corset when you actually put it on, it’s both beautiful and comfortable. It was a lot of working coming up with the right bone structure, the interlinings, what fabric to use… the pattern… things like that. It took a lot of time to get it right.
Bianca: It is clear that the art of this has not changed, but you have modernized and made a classic piece contemporary, which I absolutely love. What else about the history of corsetry do you know?
Deborah: Corsets started to lose favor around Chanel entering fashion and WWI. Women had to go into the workplace and they designed a sports corset so that women could work in the fields. They had to give up the wires of their original corsets to aid the war effort and they donated enough corsetry bones to make two steel battleships. Corsetry started to lose favor around 1920. Later, in 1945, the brassiere was invented. It’s funny to think there wasn’t a bra up until then. I have a couple corset designs with actual bra cups, such as my Swarovski design. The original corset does not have bra cups because they weren’t invented. Another modern aspect is about not being laced in so tight… it doesn’t look good actually. There is a mathematical equation to a beautiful silhouette. Your waist should be 4 inches smaller than your underbust. If you take it in more than that, you start to look contrived. Some people like that, but we are just talking about taking your waist in by a couple of inches.
There are some women who are apple shaped, they are very beautiful, but no matter what they do in life, they won’t have a small waist. They could be size 6, but they won’t have a waist. Some of my clients are now given a waist with the corset and it’s completely changed their wardrobe! You can have so much fun with it. I am 53 now and I wear my corset under my eveningwear.
Bianca: What were some of the challenges you faced when starting into corsetry?
Deborah: I think a big challenge was the niche culture of corsetry that is not necessarily healthy. I believe in everything in moderation and being healthy. Wearing a corset can work your muscles. Women in corsets can be healthy and look great. I hope that one day every woman will have a corset.
Bianca: We have been delving in a lot about your design work. I would love to learn more about you! Are you originally from England?
Deborah: I am British, I was born in Britain, but my parents came from a South American country called Guyana. It’s next to Venezuela. I was born and raised in London.
Bianca: It looks like you have a studio in Notting Hill, correct?
Deborah: Yes, we have a studio by appointment only. Corsetry is complex, we need to give it the time it deserves. When somebody contacts us to have something made bespoke, we have a number of conversations with the individual first. We discuss their vision, what they are trying to achieve, what the event is for… We want to get an understanding of the client first. Sometimes we drop a few sketches to them. Then they have their first appointment where we will take their measurements. A dressform is built to their exact measurements and then we start building their dream. Our customers get to see every part of the process. Once the corset is built, the customer is invited in for their first fitting where the shape is decided and proportions are agreed. We want to get the right amount of depreciation of the corset which fits you best.
A lot of our clients will want it as tight as possible on the red carpet and then loosen it once they’ve had their close up, so we add a large modesty panel at the back. This allows for a 5 inch difference on the depreciation. We can build the corset of our customers dreams. The only limit is their imagination. We are currently designing Ursula’s costume for The Little Mermaid. I want to do a very contemporary version of Ursula, i.e. Ursula meets The Met Gala. I am very good at what I do, I will make sure this looks couture.
Bianca: Do whatever you believe is the most beautiful!
Deborah: Absolutely, I will make a beautiful, very sexy version of Ursula.
Bianca: Many celebrities have worn your designs, how do they find you?
Deborah: I am a corsetiere, they seek me out because there are so few of us. I am yet to meet another corsetiere, it’s a niche market. My best corset design is called the Mila. The Mila corset is, in our opinion, the ultimate in corset luxury and the best ready-to-wear under bust corset on the market today. Designed with ease of wear in mind, our corset glides effortlessly on in under 60 seconds, is elegant and contemporary in design, and surprisingly comfortable to wear. This corset can be worn under and over clothing and will give you an enviable hour glass silhouette. The Mila is a fantastic under bust starter corset for women who have not worn it before. I wear mine all the time. My wish is for everyone to own a corset and for that corset to bear my name.
Thank you, Deborah, for your unique stance on the corset and for sharing all of your experiences with Rosy BVM! ~Bianca
At the beginning of each year, I am cognizant to take note of which dates the Full Moon are each month. I enjoy paying attention to those nights because I do think there is a deep spirituality associated to the Full Moon. The Full Moon is important for many reasons. For myself, I have created my own “Full Moon ritual” which includes meditation with crystals and journaling on that night. It’s a relaxing ritual that’s intended to focus on reflecting on my own life, and also, honoring how powerful the moon is. It presides over all of us, the moon is a special planet to honor. Something I like to think about during my full moon ritual is the connection the full moon has to our oceans and how the ocean never stops in movement. It is never still. The universe is alive.
The Full Moon is a gift to enjoy we should all slow down for it. I find that our prana (life energy) is most pronounced when we slow down and just breathe, and this is in any moment. That is our purest state: just being. Allowing the full moon to be a prompt for engaging in our pranic energies is incredibly important for our well-being. In essence, a full moon is a great reminder to slow down and appreciate the gift of our lives.
The moon and femininity are akin. Supposedly in ancient times, it was ‘said that the natural rhythm of women was to menstruate under a new moon and to ovulate under a full moon.’ (Secret Sisterhood) The bodily connection we have to the moon is a fascinating one. Being at peace with ourselves is when we are most conscious (most alive). We can all do this by simply slowing down and being grateful for the little things in life. It is cliché, but as they say, the little things are the big things in life. The Full Moon is the perfect reminder for that.
Towards the end of the 19th century, Austrian Erwin Perzy (a producer of surgical instruments), invented the snow globe and received a patent for it. Originally, he was working on an extra bright light for a surgical lamp and in the process was reminded of snowfall in the lamp and this gave him the idea for a snow globe. Today, the Perzy snow globe factory has been run for four generations in Vienna! The snow globe is a must-have Austrian souvenir. In addition to selling snow globes, the family also sells traditional New Year’s good luck charms and other ephemera.
The 1941 epic film, Citizen Kane, by Orson Welles features a snow globe in its opening scene. The snow globe featured in the film is one of Erwin Perzy’s designs! Perhaps the dramatic opening sequence is what familiarized Americans to the unique magic of the snow globe… The actor utters “Rosebud” before he drops the Erwin Perzy produced snow globe and dies. This snow globe is an integral part of a classic Hollywood masterpiece.
Undoubtedly, the Erwin Perzy snow globe is unique and special and still in production! Please make sure to acquire one of these special snow globes.
The snow globe is a quintessential souvenir item and it’s critical to remember the importance of tradition, especially when that tradition means honoring generations of commitment to high quality craftsmanship! Austria is known for its inventions, and for people with an inventive spirit, and the snow globe is another example of how wonderful Austria is. If you are in California this winter, like myself, maybe you can be reminded of the true magic of the holiday season with a snow globe. ❤️☃️️
There may not be a more endearing depiction of the holiday season than the holiday ultra-classic, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, first released in 1964. Its various spinoffs over the years are heartwarming, but it’s undeniable that the original animation of the 60’s is the most endearing. In 2020, the original puppets were sold at auction for over $300k and put on permanent loan to a puppet museum in Georgia. The magic of Rudolph and his friends is something to enjoy year after year. According to the SmithsonianMagazine, the film was groundbreaking because of its use of stop motion puppets for the time. The article states that GE spent roughly $4.5 million at the time to put the puppet film into production, so this was no small task. The intention was to use Rudolph as part of an advertisement for an electric toaster, electric can opener, and electric blanket… Well, how much more Rudolph has stood for since 1964!
The year that I received stuffed Rudolph puppets for Christmas when I was a kid, I was positively over the moon. I thought it was one of the best Christmases ever… Rudolph as a character has such endearing qualities and it’s lovely to teach children. Rudolph is brave in the face of adversity, despite knowing he has very real challenges to overcome (including the social embarrassment that his glowing red nose causes him!). The ability to overcome challenges with a hopeful heart, and a commitment to a cause outside of oneself, in Rudolph’s case, it’s leading Santa’s sleigh through a snow storm with his bright nose is a story that should and will endure.
The cultural impact this film has had is also clear. Recently, ColourPop Cosmetics released a Rudolph themed cosmetics set. The bottom line is that we should always embrace our authentic selves, which means not shying away from “kitsch” if it speaks to you! “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, you’ll go down in history!” is sung in the song for a reason.
While Thanksgiving 2021 arrived and left, the spirit in which Thanksgiving shines a light on the ideal of living in gratitude is highly important. Beyond a holiday that brings families and friends together, focusing on having a general attitude of gratitude in your life should be a priority. For myself, I leaned into this practice more intensely when the pandemic began to weigh down on the world and it almost began feeling like a chore to ‘think positively,’ under such bleak and dire circumstances. I do believe there is such a thing as toxic positivity, where making ‘lemonade out of lemons’ takes a higher toll than the actual reward. Sometimes you need to see a spade for a spade and call it as such. It’s important to keep a realistic mindset always, however, that doesn’t mean you can’t achieve everything you dream about and more. The first step to really initializing how you reset your mindset (there should always be a mindset shift) when you pursue a new goal is to recognize how much you already have. For example, when I am motivated to work on my fitness goals, I think “I am grateful that I am healthy and physically able to exercise like this” rather than seeing any barriers to what I am hoping to achieve. If you enter your life everyday with an attitude of abundance, it’s as simple as recognizing that the day itself is actually a gift and we can never replicate the current day we are in again, you are also believing that your attitude of abundance will help you. Understanding the depth of gratitude and its power means you are equipped to stay motivated to know you are capable of going after what is perceived as “I don’t have.” It’s the psychology of knowing “I have” versus “I do not have.” Awareness is a critical part of gratitude. Being aware of what you have enables you to tap into recognizing how much you do have. The law of attraction plays a critical role in all of our lives. If you begin manifesting what you do not have as what you are going to have in your mind, instead of focusing on the not having it, you are well on your way to achievement! This is the concept of manifestation in practice.
On a much deeper and more existential level, the idea that we are not serving our own path per se, but that we are part of something much larger which is occurring in the universe is a deeply humbling and mystical thing. I believe that connecting with the idea of the ‘we actually don’t really know everything that’s out there in the universe’ can be empowering, because too often we can fall into a mindset of ‘I know I can’t have this or that,’ well… in reality, if we don’t fully know everything about the universe, then how could you possibly think that your individual life has such limitations? Each of us are the universe in a fragment. I personally think that it is likely we are not meant to know everything that is going on in the universe. If humanity knew everything about the universe, then we would be limiting our own possibilities, because ‘knowing everything’ is technically like a quantity. However, the universe’s possibilities are likely not quantifiable for a reason I believe.
There is an adorable Audrey Hepburn quote that quantifies this philosophy well:
“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says I’m possible”
I’m possible is literally inside the word ‘impossible.’ As coincidental as that may be, it’s a fabulous way of recognizing how we are part of our own limitations sometimes through our attitudes. If we confront life with a deep gratitude for the gift of our life, for the people in our lives and for the opportunities which we can pursue, in whatever form that may be, we are on a path to living deeply enriching lives. While success may be determined in society by the ideals of capital gains and wealth accumulation and the idea that ‘being above’ someone else is enabled because of this, that is a mentality everyone should shed. The Earth itself is suffering from that mentality – climate change is one result. The best motivation is a deep intrinsic motivation that we can all tap into once we have focused on how much there is to be grateful for.
Each day I write a journal entry in a notebook that is a page filled of what I am grateful for. It can be anything, such as “I am grateful for another day,” or “I am grateful I am aware,” or even “I am grateful for this moment.” There is always something to be grateful for. If you maintain this, you will cultivate a deep sense of joy.
As large and expansive as the observable Universe is, it’s still finite, with a finite amount of information to teach us. Beyond that, the ultimate cosmic truths still remain unknown to us.
Each year on Rosy BVM, I put together a selection of unique items that I suggest as a holiday gift guide. This year, I have searched and found items which fall into the realm of fantastical or fairytale as a theme. While we may face so much unprecedented hardship in the world, there are ways to cultivate goodness. This begins with supporting inspirational nonprofits and brands, and staying inspired yourself. This is rosy… The most unique of all items for this year’s gift guide is the opportunity to help replant coral reefs with Coral Gardeners, an organization that works to replant and successfully regrow corals. This is a rosy endeavor, as are the other items, which have unique and personal significance in some way. Always remember that you are in part controlling your destiny, so your “Once Upon A Time” is also how you want to see the world… Infuse love into everything! This holiday season, we must see that more than ever.
Adopt A Coral – Pocillopora Verrucosa (You can select a digital or print image of the coral that you are helping to have regrown. If you have opt for a digital image, you can have the coral named.)
Despite living in a world which displays chaos, division, and fragmentation in a digital world as a norm, we are truly more connected than we may realize. Rather than passively consuming the ‘news of a global world,’ we can play a more active role in shaping our community outcomes on micro scales than we may often think about. There are scalable positive outcomes for communities all over the world when people commit to their communities. While we may not determine every outcome in our lives, we each play a role in shaping the outcomes of our collective communities without a doubt. We are a piece of a larger whole in any situation. This is ultimately what social responsibility entails (and furthermore, the concept of CSR – Corporate Social Responsibility which has become a policy norm for businesses but has much to expand in).
Community Involvement Is Critical
Humans are social beings, we are not meant to feel disconnected, which the COVID-19 pandemic has shown far too many how devastating the impact of isolation can be. Community involvement has a more critical role to play than the ‘mere socialization’ that is necessary for a person’s health (which is critical for overall health). The health of communities is determined by the individual relationships which shapes it. This occurs and is displayed in nature. When I interviewed UC Davis postdoctoral researcher about his PhD research on ant behaviors, Dr. Daniel Ari Friedman, he stated that “Our research [on ant colonies] was some of the first that looked at how epigenetic and neurophysiological variation among ant colonies was associated with collective behavioral differences in natural settings.” Essentially, he is sharing that ant colony health is determined both by environmental factors and by the behavioral differences in how they respond to environmental changes. Essentially, being responsive and highly adaptive enables survival. This concept can be applied to community life more generally and how we play a role in supporting ourselves and our communities. Furthermore, this theory connects to networks (in technology) and complex systems theory more generally.
What Is Rhizomatic Theory? Why Does It Matter?
As a student at UC Davis I became familiar with Rhizomatic Theory, a theory by French philosophers, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. In short, the rhizome represents a thought structure that is a metaphor for networks and connection: rhizomes (mushrooms) pop up at random. Nature reflects back to us a physical manifestation of thought. Nature’s image is a reflection back to us as we are (for example, think about how we have damaged the Earth and we are now seeing the effects of this human generated damage on the earth in more catastrophic climate change events than ever). If we show love, we see love reflected back to us. The Rhizome itself, as a theory, is an image of a thought. It is a social map and a representation of all networks, similar to how neural networks operate in the brain.
By comparison to this theory, Plato’s concept of the ‘tree theory’ is a well known concept that is rooted in the idea that all thoughts grow like a tree grows. Yet, the tree is a separate entity from other trees, so I believe Plato’s theory was incorrect in regards to the natural manifestation of ideas. Deleuze believed that thoughts occur like rhizomes (mushrooms) and and we are part of an interconnected social map of rhizomes. In rhizomatic theory, we are truly all one connected entity and there is no beginning or end in that framework. We are all connected, we are not as divided as we appear. This theory can be applied in unending ways – for our community involvement, in technology, etc.
Empowering Human Connection + Networks Enabling This
If we recognize that our individual outcomes are tied in a way to the overall health of our communities, we all stand to live in a world that can be better equipped to manage and survive through growing climate disasters etc. Mutual cooperation, tolerance, and respecting differences serves our own interests more than people will readily admit. The concept of the individual and the individual’s imperatives should always be valued, but a sense of social duty to one’s community, in its purest, loving form is also natural (i.e. the maternal and paternal instincts). As Eckhart Tolle writes about how shedding the ego to recognize the awareness of the human condition as a temporary state, we stand to gain more in our shared narrative of being human. Our communities, across a multitude of spaces, serve as networks for positive connection if we consciously cultivate it. There is a reason that we teach “sharing is caring.” Sharing is caring and our collective survival might depend on it.
We are officially in spooky season in the lead up to Halloween! The 1960’s TV hit, Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? first released in 1969 is a perfect combination of spooky and groovy… the show is not exactly scary, but it’s a little spooky and a lot of groovy! Scooby-Doo is the perfect vibe for this Halloween season indeed. Even the ghosts in Scooby-Doo seem to be dancing! There is so much to appreciate about how this show is rooted in wholesome fun. From the classic Mystery Machine van to the adventurous isles of mysterious haunted houses, the backdrops and settings of Scooby-Doo are adorable and exciting!
Beyond the unique settings of Scooby-Doo (how cute is Crystal Cove?) and fun characters, there is an interesting back story. When writers Joe Ruby and Ken Spears wrote the show in the late 60’s, there was intense political unrest at the time in the US. Its intended purpose was focused on being a source of joy (and light heartedness) during dark times. While Scooby-Doo will always entertain, it does seem to especially resonate today as we continue to be in a global pandemic. The original broadcast was on CBS from 1969 – 1974. Despite the era’s dark points, it was also a groovy and special time in history, which I think Scooby-Doo reflects so wonderfully. The show was ranked by TV Guide as being the ‘5th greatest TV cartoon of all time.’
The sequencing of each show is structured and predictable, but not too repetitive in storyline. For example, “every episode of the original Scooby-Doo format contains a penultimate scene in which the heroes unmask the seemingly supernatural antagonist to reveal a real person in a costume.” (Wikipedia). This tactic is especially adorable because it removes the fear factor related to the antagonist (evil character) and shows the viewers that there is nothing left to fear. The show reaches a natural resolution in each episode in a way that is both clever and fun! That sequencing is ultimately what makes Scooby-Doo so enjoyable. We all need to remember, we can always make life fun! Whether you identify with Daphne, Velma, Shaggy, or Fred, there is definitely a Halloween costume idea for you, too.