Saturday, January 15, 2011

Stuff of Consequence

Have you ever wondered what you are worth? Have you ever asked yourself why you exist? As vague and existential as this may sound, these maybe the very questions we need to ask ourselves everyday to make life worth living.
I came to such a conclusion when I read about my friend Sheena, who pretty much like me was a regular woman but unlike me was quite prodigious in the field of arts right from a very young age. We went to college together and I still remember the ease at which she conjured images on paper, black board or sometimes even etch on the wooden desks or stone or whatever she got her hands on, graphics, designs, pictures, cartoon, anything and everything. Her art was different, insightful, and extraordinary. We knew she would do great things with her talent and she would go places. She did become famous, but not so much for the obvious reasons of her talent to draw or design, but she went places, because she asked herself one day,’ what am I worth? Why do I exist? What do I contribute?
Sheena moved to the USA as a student in 1998 with a scholarship to study art in Parsons New York; the Mecca for any art student. And then went on to teach there. Sheena later joined a graphic design firm as a chief designer. She was the chief designer for many years and doing very well for herself. But the Sheena just wasn’t satisfied. She felt jaded in her work and wondered if she was another dispensable commodity in her firm, perhaps even the world.
I imagine that she may have asked herself “Why do I exist? Is there something I do that will make some difference to someone’s life?” “Will the world even clinch if I suddenly drop dead?” The sad realisation that except for a few friends and family, nothing would be affected and the world would just go on as it is would’ve shaken her to the core. “No one is indispensable” she would’ve thought to herself. It is a disturbing thought indeed. Perhaps on realising this Sheena may have wanted to do something of consequence. Perhaps she needed to contribute in some way to make a difference. She may have wanted to create her own ripple.
Life needs to be lived deliberately. We can’t simply exist and disappear, we are here for a purpose and we need to find our own niche in the system that turns the wheel of life. We need to be grease that makes the wheel turn better.
Of course anything Sheena did would be artistic. But here it was the thought to be of consequence that stirred her creative juice...and her talent was a mere tool in the creative process. She conjured up from thin air the Uniform Project. Before I go on to explain what that is, what you need to know is, Sheena is today famous in the whole of USA, as a girl in a black dress. So much so, the immigration officer has granted her the coveted celebrity status to continue in the US of A.
The moral of the story: If Sheena could do it so can we. All we need to is perhaps wake up from our sleep walk and think out of the box. Because we need more grease that turns the wheel of life. WE SHOULD BE INDESPENSIBLE.
And to know about the waves Sheena created from her single ripple, read on:

Our Mission
Revolutionize the way people perceive ethical fashion and place social responsibility at the center of consumer culture. Use fashion as a vehicle to make acts of charity more inspired and playful, enabling individuals to rise as role models of style, sustainability and social consciousness.
Our Story
The Uniform Project™ started in 2009 when a young woman realized she was drowning in the doldrums of an advertising career. To counter the uninspired demands of the corporate world, she came up with an unusual creative challenge; to wear the same dress for an entire year – but, and this is where the real challenge came in, she'd have to make it look unique every single day and do so without buying anything new. The challenge was also designed to be an online fundraiser, raising money to send underprivileged kids to school.
Thus, in May 2009, with fashion as her medium, and education her cause, U.P founder Sheena Matheiken launched the Uniform Project, pledging to wear one little black dress for 365 days as an exercise in sustainability and a fundraiser to support the Akanksha Foundation – a non-profit organization providing education to children living in Indian slums. And for the next year, Sheena reinvented her uniform solely using accessories that were either vintage, handmade, reused or donated.

Almost immediately, Sheena and the U.P were hit with a deluge of media attention. The project was featured in major publications ranging from the New York Times, The Guardian, CNN, BBC, Times London, LA Times, MSNBC, NPR, PBS, Vogue, Elle, Glamour, Marie Claire to hundreds of fashion, culture and design blogs, as well as TV shows around the world. By the end of the yearlong challenge, the U.P site received over 2 million hits and raised over $100,000 in donations for the Akanksha Foundation and Sheena was named one of Elle Magazine's Women of the Year for 2009
The U.P now has an international following of supporters, a few of whom have joined Sheena to form the Uniform Project company. The U.P is now in its second year, expanding its first year model as a global platform converging philanthropy, fashion, sustainability and social commerce into an ongoing mission.

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