Changing Lives One Bag at a Time

Like many fashion bloggers, I love charity shop browsing. When I was younger I cringed as my mummy stopped in her tracks to get a closer look at an outfit in a second hand shop window. But now, chart topping music, magazines and bloggers glorify preloved pieces, it's cool! When getting my second hand fix I visited a very trendy store called Ten Foundations. The shop is a haven for feel good shopping (and they serve coffee, bliss!). However, the NI based organisation goes a lot further than the store itself. One man had a vision to create a livelihood programme for a community in the Philippines living in poverty, and that's exactly what he did - one bag at a time.

Deemed by it's customers as 'The Hollister of Charity Shops' Ten Foundations is a non-profit, non-religious charity situated in the fitting fashionable Lisburn Road area of Belfast. The place is full of character and purpose, you might be looking at an on trend preloved dress from Topshop while a decorative message on the wall from one of the volunteers catches your eye. The hand written notes do not only inform shoppers of the charities achievements, the mirrors are doodled with complements.

Unlike most charity shops I have been to, the essence of the charity at Ten Foundations is not lost. The shack like counter that serves cosy cappuccinos, is reminiscent of a Filipino store front while the walls hold impressive statistics, reinforcing the immense impact the charity has had on the lives of the Bayanihan community.

It's not just the store that sustains the lives of these women - it's all in the bag! Ten Foundations specialise in school bags, made from recycled materials, these bags are so unique and high in quality. The charity teaches women how to make these bags which in turn are sold to give the workers a wage. The charity states:

"Our shop in Belfast is already making a difference to us. We now have over 30 mothers making these bags and it's the most important thing we do. In 2014, these mothers were living in complete poverty - no money, no education and no hope. Today they are earning up to P10,000 a month, it is all about giving them the ability to change their own lives."

This whole idea started when one man, Ian Campbell, decided he wanted to make a difference. He didn't like what he saw and he decided to do something about it, he made a decision, believed he could and he did. Now Ian hopes to build more livelihood centres all over the Philippines. It is truly inspirational hearing Ian's story, his passion to help others and belief in his decision to do so. It seems that I am not the only person who has been touched by Ian's willingness to help others, as there has been a lot of coverage on his story...

In speaking with Ian about the sustainability of his charity and the 'give a man a fish and you can feed him for a day, teach him how to fish and you can feed him for a lifetime' concept, I loved how it flipped the process of todays fashion industry. Our society has fallen into a trap where many multi national retailers are making profit on cheap labour where the creator of the product is not receiving the benefits and in some cases are being exploited. Ian's charity is showing that it doesn't have to be this way. Ten Foundations are using the creation of a trendy bag to completely benefit the bag maker, it goes against the norms of todays fashion industry which really is, revolutionary.

Visit the store at: 355 Lisburn Road
Find Ten Foundations online: tenfoundations.org
Like the Facebook page: facebook.com/tenfoundations
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My First Airbnb Experience

If you have a computer, read magazines or are a human being, I am sure you have heard about Airbnb. Beyonce bagged a $10,000 a night accommodation with the company during her performance at the Superbowl in San Francisco, the business has been valued at around 1.5bn and the website hosts a collective of unique accommodations like a castle, or maybe you fancy a night in a treehouse? In my (and my boyfriend's) case our accommodation consisted of a cow shed converted into an adorable cottage known as 'The Swallow's Nest' - a haven in the hills of Donegal, Ireland. We met some kind and unforgettable souls on our trip and I say 'souls' because one was our lovely host Allaye, who welcomed us with open arms and brought us mouth watering freshly baked scones, and the other was a sheep called Dolly.

Day Trips

Living the life of serene simplicity for five days might sound like there isn't much to do. No TV, no internet, not even a radio, but the sweet sounds of the countryside and picturesque views out every window was enough to keep us entertained for hours. From reading reviews, it seems that some Airbnb, hosts like to hand over the keys and leave it at that. Luckily for us, Allaye was different, she had prepared an 'off the grid' tour of South West Donegal, to make each of her guests fall in love with the area just like she did. We followed her detailed directions and visited absolutely breathtaking areas of the emerald isle that we wouldn't find in any tourist leaflets.

Glengesh Pass Glenties
Maghera Beach Bridge
Maghera Caves

The Cottage

If you live in the city, you'll particularly like staying at this cosy cottage. Instead of an alarm, you awaken to bleating sheep in the sun. At night, the sound of soft running water in the meadow will help you relax. The mezzanine bed is what makes The Swallows Nest such a clever design. It not only saves space but one side overlooks the living area and vintage style kitchen while the other is lined with a window to the outdoors. It's particularly cosy when it's raining. Allaye told us that she and her husband did all the work to the shed themselves, the interior design is pristine with a healthy mix of homely and fashionable on trend pieces.

Pasta and Campagne
The Shed
Cottage Window

The Soul Cleansing Countryside

Driving to the accommodation you will witness mother nature at it's finest. The cottage is conveniently situated close to a little town called Glenties. However, it is tucked away in the hills just enough for you to experience the bracing Irish wilderness. The words 'ruggedly beautiful' come to mind when describing Donegal. My stay genuinely made me feel like I had pressed pause on the everyday hustle and lived a little snippet of time being adventurous and free. The Swallowest Nest did not only cleanse my soul, as a couple we spent a different kind of time together. We stayed up late drinking wine and playing board games, cooking together, getting lost on country roads and most importantly feeding our new best friend - Dolly the sheep in the mornings. If there is one thing I have taken away from staying at The Swallows Nest, it is that having a connection with nature is much more important than having a connection to wifi, without a phone to waste your time, the world is truly at your feet.

Sheep in the Sun

Need your fashion fix? Here are some fashion related facts about Donegal:

McElhinneys: McElhinneys is a family owned department store in Ballybofey Donegal. The luxury shopping haven has been recognised for its business excellence winning Best Ecommerce Website in Ireland in the European eCommerce awards in 2015 and Best Search Marketing Campaign at the Digital Media Awards this year. Visit their online store at mcelhinneys.com.

Zara Mc Daid: Zara is a fashion blogger and art teacher from Donegal, she has been featured extensively in magazines across the UK and Ireland including Xpose and U-Magazine, while also listed in RSVP magazine's one to watch list. Want to know more about Zara visit her blog at ZaraMcDaid.ie.

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The Festive Fashion Windows of Belfast

With fashion retail, comes visual merchandising. I could talk about visual merchandising all day long, from the perfectly posed mannequins to the eccentric theatrics creating a stage on the high street. Retailers are keen to grab our attention and communicate the brand image, throwing modern techniques such as digital screens and social media into the mix. Video fashion shows and hashtags are slowly creeping into our window shopping routine. But with all these advancements in fashion visual merchandising, the big question is did Belfast live up the mark this year? Yes, but with the contemporary displays came the old school glamour and downright quirky, bringing a little more depth and imagination to what could have been a host of simply festive windows.

Marks Spencer

A few days before Christmas Marks and Spencer had a combination of windows luring over the busy streets of panicked shoppers. One included glossy oversized bow wrapped gifts, another featured a screen playing a video of M&S's latest fashion while the most extravagant of all displayed three impeccably dressed mannequins with fully bloomed orange petal wigs. What I have always loved about the Marks & Spencer mannequins is there life-like poses, it looks like they are genuinely hanging out together in the window. This particular window was to advertise the pre-Christmas sale, it certainly got my attention with its playful colour palette and stylish simplicity.

River Island

River Island incorporated Christmas into their window this season but kept to the fashionable cool the brand represents. The slogan 'Style is Not Just for Christmas' was used with a party wear backdrop. The display was finished with a posh dog and cat decal sticker, giving the feel of a high-end street in London or some other prestigious city. The smart play on the phrase is one that stands out, and although I am obsessed with Christmas, it was refreshing to see a retailer have an alternative approach. It would, of course, be a sad scene if all retailers had a window that had so little festive presence.

New Look

New Look did festive but with a cool edgy vibe. The icy tones were brought to life with the sharp striking collective of snowflakes, glitter backdrop and blue linear lighting. The mannequins were dressed in trendy clothing with black and grey colours dominating the window, fitting in with the overall theme. The window was a head turner with all the bells and whistles. It shows the new range well while instilling that festive feeling. 

Ted Baker

Always outstanding in the areas of creativity, theatrics and creating a buzz, Ted Baker in Victoria Square have created an original and interactive window display this Christmas. The 'Abominable Snowman' is a seasonal marketing campaign, where you can go online, pick a song and take a selfie, with the end result being your face placed on the snowman's body while it sings a holiday song. This fun yet eccentric concept was highlighted in their window display using the link tedbaker.com/tedpresents to encourage passers-by to get involved. Not to mention, the snowman's tongue was moving, which added to the fun factor. Well done Ted, well done.

Local Boutique Alert!

I wanted to give a special mention to Peel Boutique situated on Bloomfield Avenue Belfast. They shared their stylish winter wonderland on social media where they impressively incorporated their fashionable high-end pieces with the Hollywood glamour festive setup.  The boutique commented:

"It was all done from scratch, with wrapped up boxes, all three floors are decorated." 

To see more follow them on Instagram @peelfashion.

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