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This week, I interviewed Behen Studio, designed by Joana Duarte. Behen Studio creates dreamy and nostalgic feeling pieces with contemporary twist. Its playful, colourful and styled exquisitely - often with real fruit earrings! What’s not to like? Bedspreads and antique textiles are given second life in a completely ‘waste-less’ production ethos. Best of all I love that some of the fabrics are sourced from her Grandmother’s trunks. I was keen to learn more about the studio and how they arrived down this path.

1. How did you get the idea to use bedsheets to make clothing? It started during my master’s degree, I was focused on researching possible alternatives to the use of raw materials and on finding solutions to the current problems in the fashion industry. This research took me to India, where I spent three months interning at an ethical production company that works with Patagonia.

When I returned, I quickly found the same belief in our Portuguese culture, and specially in my family tradition as we still use the layette. In Portugal, old fabrics from the layette are kept religiously and passed on from one generation to the next. So, it was from this concept that BÉHEN was born and took shape. It’s not only bedcovers but also table cloths, doilies, etc

2. What would you say your job as a Fashion Designer is?

Not as glamours as everyone makes it look like. It’s difficult and a roller coast of emotions daily. You have to give your heart to the project and to make hard decisions constantly. But… it’s super fun to be in control of the project and to share it people who feel the same passion for the project.

3. How would you describe your artistic voice or point of view?

Still discovering my voice and learning everyday , but I guess my interest for sustainability, ethical production and political art is what helps me to formulate my point of view as a designer.

4. What advice would you give to a creative trying to find their own voice in their work?

Patience! It’s a hard journey but it’s definitely worth it. Try to create with a purpose, we don’t need more designers we need problem-solvers!

5. Can you tell me about a formative experience you had that lead you to your current path?

Volunteering and social activism is being part of my path since I was very young. During my master’s it evolved into a passion for political art and for ethical production which led to India and to what BÉHEN is today.

6. Can you tell us about something that was a disaster and something that you’re proud of?

I can say that I am proud for having found a balance for BÉHEN. A brand that cares about the planet but also about its people and empowering communities. When I started, I thought something like this was an impossible mission, but it’s been quite a journey and having so great feedback just with a couple months of existence.

I try to be as positive as possible, so I don’t consider that I had some sort of “disaster” they are opportunities to learn and to grow and all part of the process and of the bigger picture.

7. Do you have anything upcoming that you can tell us about or give us a tiny clue?

At the moment we are developing a collaboration with Levi’s. A small capsule collection made from older stock from their collections and transformed into new pieces. We used an ancient marbling technique in partnership with Ricardo Espirito Santo e Silva Foundation. It is planned to be releases very soon!

Quick fire questions:

1. Favourite place.


2. Favourite food

Chana Masala!!

3. Favourite studio snack


4. What’s your working soundtrack right now?

SANA SANA – Nathy Peluso

5. What’s your favourite sketchbook and pen/pencil to hash out ideas with?

I don’t have a favorite sketchbook but the pages need to be clear white and a black pencil.

You can learn more about Behen Studio at their website and follow them on instagram Be sure to follow me on instagram and don't miss the next in this series where I'll be catching up with the lovely Sophie Parnaby!

Optimism is the ace up your sleeve on a gloomy day. It sticks by your side like a good luck charm or coat of armour made of sunny, rose-tinted wonderful matter. Its the silver-lining-finder in the midst whatever crap is going on.

Its there when you dial your favourite Italian restaurant to book a table in one hours time, on a Saturday night. Its setting out without awkwardly carrying a coat when a dark cloud looks about to burst. It's in the colour yellow. Glorious, golden yellow. When running to the post office with five minutes til close it’s tucked somewhere in-between the birthday cards. When watching through the oven door to see if your Yorkshire Puddings will rise, or chicken will crisp, or cake will be golden, it’s definitely there. Blurting out an answer to a question on a stupidly hard quiz and believing it’s right. Asking for a size in a shoe sale and expectedly waiting for the shop assistant to come out clutching a shoe box - that’s pure optimism. Knowing in your heart that your buggy 4 year old laptop has another 2 years left in it at the least. Its reaching for the only ripe avocado, it’s the moment before you get that job, its the toaster popping up just as you stirred the milk into your tea or biting into a solid chocolate kit-kat.

But it’s really quirk is that it doesn’t matter if things are going your way or not. Miraculously it works either way. Your Yorkshire puddings can be flat as a pancake, you can get caught in the rain, your laptop can wheeze goodbye when watching the last episode of a gripping Netflix show. You can have that embarrassing moment when you give completely the wrong answer with total assurance in front of everyone. Because no matter what is happening now, optimism says something better is coming. And that’s it’s magic, tucked away up your sleeve ready to be played.

Style. It’s a loaded word. Everyone seems split between those who have it and those who are trying to find it. I remember the moment clearly when I found myself suddenly aware that I was in the ‘lacking in style’ category, when it was abruptly pointed out to me 10 years ago in art class. After casting an eye over my work which at the time was just a random collection of stuff that felt good to make, the assessment was that I was still trying to figure out my style. But reassuringly I was told it would just develop over time and I didn’t need to worry about it. It sounded like getting adult teeth, or one day deciding that you finally like the taste of olives. Let me tell you, finding your style can be as painful and exciting as growing teeth and more confusing than inexplicably now liking the taste of something.

It’s hard to say exactly what ‘style’ is, because it could be literally anything. In its core it’s about what makes you different. So what do you have to say that no one else does? And how are you going to say it? Those are pretty big questions that still spook me sometimes. Perhaps what is meant by not having one is you haven’t gathered enough from the world yet to make up your mind. Perhaps it’s the exact opposite and you have gathered too much and not sifted through all that you’ve plundered to be able to communicate your ideas through a perfectly coherent voice. To me it seems like this magical thing that one day I’ll capture with both hands and keep it safe like a little firefly in a jar.

I imagine everybody deals with this, I think of doctors reflecting on their bedside manner style, bankers worrying about their strategy style in an investment portfolio, or even fishermen honing their unique way of casting a rod into the sea. But I think it’s felt acutely by creative types, where uniqueness of style often equals value above anything else. People want to see something they haven’t seen before and agents are on the look out for something fresh to attach to a campaign. So here we all are, searching for thing that sets us apart, joyfully rummaging through our lives for our own je ne sais quoi.

So how do we find it? It seems bizarre to look for something that in theory we all intrinsically have. If we look inward, there is no one like ourselves, with our experiences, interests, friendships or even specific odd sock collection. I’ve read that often the problem, is nothing more than your skill level needing to catch up with your taste level. Therefore the answer is good old practice. I think that’s something quantifiable we can all do (which is great when facing something so hard to define). To me however, this only skims the surface when so much of style is about your personal philosophy. And I don’t mean you have to become Aristotle. I recently joined an artist talk, and they spoke about just saying the truth — whatever that might be to you. In my case I think this could be as simple as saying I like drawing crazy shoes, or bigger truths like how the fashion industry effects me and others. This inward approach requires us to explore our inner selves to gather and distill are uniqueness down into something with a stronger flavour.

The opposite approach is to understanding our style is to look outward. In other words we understand style through comparison and exasperate those differences. For example I can tell my work is loose, by looking at work which is mathematically drawn. And I do take a lot of joy sometimes in creating a big mess and throwing paint around with a smile on my face and not bothering at all about how something should look. This final way (and the way that I find to be the most fun) is just getting out and about with my sketchbook. I draw what feels interesting to me that day. To discover my style I rummage through pastels, paints, new brushes or by using no brush at all and using my finger tips to stamp my work with colour. I go on excursions and search amongst passer by’s I’ve committed to the page in my sketchbook. I peruse for inspiration on Pinterest, on and on Audible. Sometimes I go to galleries or museums and scribble with joy when I find a little snippet of inspiration or inkling that I’m on the right track. It’s kind of like a game of warmer or colder with things that appear closer to what I’m trying to get at.

When talking to people who clearly have a very distinct character and voice within their work, they often don’t see style as important. I wonder if this is like money not mattering when you have it, or if there’s truth in it. But I’m an optimist, and for that means choosing to believe that it doesn’t matter so much. It makes it much easier to enjoy what I do and just go with flow of my creative interests. And besides, we can all curate our work if we wish to show a certain side of ourself on instagram — which is a great shortcut if you ask me. What I do to move forward is to think about the day in hand, and keep my mind focussed on the newest idea I’m excited about. So as much as we all try, the search for your style isn’t in fact something you can really pursue. But it will happen as a result of exploring what you like. It will probably all happen without you even noticing and If you ever need a reminder of this, eat an olive.

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