What I Think About When I Think About Buying Clothes

July 30, 2018

by Gracia Ventus

“Should I get it, or should I not?”

That’s the question that I often found myself grappling with. It’s certainly nothing new for most of us who have an interest in fashion.

The item in question was a The North Face (henceforth known as TNF) Summit L5 jacket. The person that I was two years ago would not give it a second look, let alone give it a long ponder, many umm and ahhs. The person I was two years ago was still deeply entrenched in the simple sportswear and intricate designer pieces. I know nothing about synthetic fabrics other than polyester a la Comme des Garçons and pleated Pleats Please. I kept myself warm in winter by wearing three to four layers of clothing - they weighed me down and tire me out within the first hour of leaving my house. If it started pouring - a frequent occurrence in Shanghai - I did not own anything in my wardrobe that let me go out without an umbrella.

The North Face Summit L5 Womens Jacket-1

Wearing: The North Face Summit L5 Jacket; ROSEN-X Minerva trousers; Salomon shoes

I first saw this jacket at a TNF outlet store in Gold Coast. I’m not quite a fan of brick and mortar shopping as I have been truly spoilt by the Internet, but outlet shopping still holds the magic of bargain hunting. My first memory of outlet shopping was in Bicester Village in Oxfordshire, known for their list of luxury brands. The year was 2010. I had scored immensely beautiful Burberry Prorsum runway coats at 70% off - from their best season too. And just like that a pleasant memory had imprinted a positive association towards outlet stores inside my head. Conversely, it is quite likely that if a terrible experience had transpired instead - like losing my passport - it would have turned me off outlet malls in a subconscious way.

It was my partner who first brought up the existence of this specific jacket and suggested that we should look for it. He admired the built quality of the garment. I trust his expertise in the field of technical clothing. But a brand’s quality of production does not necessarily kindle excitement within a consumer. For example, I know that Zegna makes good suits and fabrics, but I don’t get excited thinking about the brand. On the other hand, TNF has been collaborating with my favourite designers such as Junya Watanabe and Sacai - and the collections were done rather well, though the branding could be less blatant. The positive association towards TNF has thus been strengthened, so I entered the store with much enthusiasm.

The North Face Summit L5 Womens Jacket-2

The person I was one year ago was a little less ignorant about synthetics because I had tried to make clothes with them. I had a more in-depth understanding of their intended use, benefits and array of differences in various materials, and with that understanding comes a greater appreciation. Armed with that appreciation, I took the TNF jacket in my hands. I could feel its substantial built, it’s armour-like tactility that does not correspond to how light its weight is, and the matte texture that was neither rough nor plasticky, as if it’s been coated with very fine powder that feels good when brushed against the skin.

“Uh oh, I think I like it. What do I do?”

This TNF jacket is part of the Summit range - built for extreme weather conditions for the most prolific athletes who dare to conquer the highest peaks of the Earth. I may have been a competitive athlete in my younger years, now a religious gym goer and the casual rock climber, but none of those would qualify me as an avid mountain climber. I have done plenty of hiking, but not the sort that involves ice-picks, snow and treacherous weather conditions. For an urban dweller such as myself, most of the breadth and depth of the technical qualities of this jacket would be lost on me. This jacket is made of Gore-Tex 3-Layer membrane; absolutely waterproof yet breathable; hardy in abrasion-prone areas, but still soft and lightweight. It is meant to protect the wearer from constant pouring rain and snow in sub-zero temperature.

“But I am neither a mountain climber, nor a frequent hiker. I'm sure it will work well in the cities that I live in, but does that warrant a purchase?”

Heidegger postulated that we are products of the time, place, and culture within which one is born, lives, and dies. If he were alive right now next to me he would be telling me that wanting this jacket is a culmination of external forces such as commercial interests and positive reinforcements of my experiences and those of the person(s) whose judgments I value influencing my decision making process. I am adrift, floating as part of the herd; being inauthentic. On the other hand Sartre might argue back to him that my personal experiences have shaped me into the person I am and I have internalised them to become a part of my identity, therefore I may possibly be trying to be authentic. As my internal dialogue carried on I tenderly put the jacket back on the rack.

The North Face Summit L5 Womens Jacket-3

Photography: xeoniq

“I’m pretty sure I should get it. I don’t own anything as practical as that. No doubt I wouldn’t be hiking the Everest any time soon, but it would be a useful jacket as the weather gets cooler, protecting me from rain so I don’t have to carry an umbrella, which means my hands will be free to carry more bags.”

The mental gymnastics that I did to justify my purchase was a familiar process, but luckily one that I have not done too often these days. I have concluded that my decision buying process when it comes to clothing is part of an attempt to craft an identity; one that is built on personal background, lived-in environments, and secret fantasies. This intangible value is carefully weighed alongside its practical functions and built quality of the garment. At the end of the day though, I am a consumer. I consume. I am no saint in this Capitalist system that I partake in.

Three months later I found myself going back to the store, twice more, before I finally turned my nose up at Heidegger, and carried the wonderful jacket to the cashier.

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July 26, 2018

by Gracia Ventus

At the time of writing, the plane was flying somewhere over Australia’s Northern Territory. I have not had the opportunity to do any form of writing in the last few weeks as I had been racing against time trying to complete the latest ROSEN collection, only a couple of weeks after the previous one was released. That collection came to be known as ROSEN-X, the synthetics-heavy counterpart to ROSEN.


From fabric selections to sampling, a capsule collection that only consisted of eight pieces - versus the usual twelve to fifteen - proved to be a challenge for my tailor and me who are used to working with natural fabrics. It didn’t help that I was pedantic about the fit of the garments, especially on what was to become my favourite trousers in the collection - the Europa cargos. In the quest for the perfect cut, I ended up making four samples of the same garment versus the typical average of one.

My design approach for ROSEN has always remained singular - to create fuss free garments that complement the clothes made by our favourite designers. I do not seek to create ornate clothes - simply because I do not have the expertise, manpower and financial resources to make intricate clothing well. I do however - with the expertise of local tailors - know how to make not-so-ornate but slightly-more-interesting clothing well. And that combination of design knowledge and tailoring expertise are brought over to make ROSEN-X pieces.

All ROSEN-X garments are available on ROSEN-STORE.COM, customised sizing available upon request.








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What Is It Like to Produce in China?

June 4, 2018

by Gracia Ventus


And so it was that the summer collection of ROSEN was launched over two weeks ago.

In continuation from the last post about clothing production, I would like to post an answer I gave in an interview that asked me what it was like to produce in China.

“I can’t speak for the majority of the production methods that are available in China. The following information is purely from my own experiences and what I have learnt from others. Generally, Chinese producers are extremely eager to win your business, and they have can-do attitude which is highly contagious. Most aren’t afraid to consider taking up a business outside of their scope of experience. The upside is that they are willing to experiment together with you, as long as you are willing to foot the cost. When the end result works out as planned, everyone wins. The downside is that sometimes they are biting more than they can chew, and the result can be a spectacular failure. When you are working directly with tailors doing custom orders, or hiring in-house tailors and seamstresses in a private studio, this risk can be minimised but it increases costs of production per piece. Dealing with a factory in a mass production process would bring down costs per piece, but it means involving three different parties - the designers (me), the middleman (salesperson, pattern makers, pattern cutters), and the factory (factory managers, production team, factory workers). Every single stakeholder in each entity has different ways of thinking and knowledge of production, which means that there are a hundred and one ways in which the entire manufacturing process can go wrong - from sampling to final production - especially when making unconventional garments. Some design houses would spend a long time sourcing the right factories to work with by making samples. However, there are a thousand and one factories in China to choose from, each with their own middleman, hence it is necessary to put their works to the test. Very soon the overheads increase exponentially. And in order to recover these sunk costs, it is necessary for companies to either charge higher prices, or increase sales volume.

Once a relationship (commonly known as guan xi) is established, however, it is necessary to maintain it well. Loyalty is very much cherished. We cut each other some slack when mistakes are made, payment terms become more flexible, and our orders are prioritised over others. During important holidays like Lunar New Year, or coming back from an overseas trip, it’s common to bring gifts for parties you’ve established good business relationships with.”


There were of course some things that I left out, because I didn’t want to end up writing a long essay in an interview. It was important to add that laws and regulations do little to enforce the working culture of China. Flexibility is expected when operating in a large grey area. And in many cases, businesses would take it upon themselves to push the limits, which can be good or bad, depending on the situation. For example, if one’s business relationship is good, both parties would be more willing go out of their way to accommodate each others’ requests, improve the quality of production, or do favours for us at the risk of bending the law. The tailor whom I've worked with the longest confided that the work and finishes that I demand from him have pushed him to improve his standards and exposed him to more complicated designs. Fortunately he has a good attitude that is willing to embrace such challenges. There are some other tailors who refuse work that goes beyond their comfort zone. On the flip side, shady companies might also decide to cut corners on your products to see what they can get away with in order to save costs. And I’ll tell you why.


The entrepreneurial spirit is common amongst the Chinese, whether we are born in the mainland, or are the fifth generation born overseas. My dad is a businessman, and I’ve followed his footsteps. Many of my relatives did the same, a late uncle sold poultry in a traditional wet market in Jakarta until he died in an accident, some distant aunt has been running a noodle shop for decades - she still makes the best Indonesian beefballs I have ever had. Contrary to common practices in Western countries, Chinese businesses tend to start really small, often with borrowed capital from friends and family. It doesn’t matter the size of the business, what matters is doing it. When mainland China finally freed itself in the late 70s from the utter failure of Mao’s economic reforms, the flames of entrepreneurship were rekindled in full force. The masses were hungry for food, for wealth and for productivity. Informal businesses sprung up next to state-owned enterprises. People worked hard to earn their rice bowls. While this are all very good things, the hunger to survive also made competition much fiercer. Without proper government regulations and watchdogs in place at the beginning of the economic reforms, some unethical businesses resorted to underhanded means to increase their profits. Bear in mind that unethical business practices can occur anywhere in the world - one simply has to look at the financial collapse less than a decade ago - but how and why they manifest differ. As the government constantly tries to play catch up, Chinese business laws and regulatory framework have to be revised every so often, so much so that it becomes difficult for companies to keep up, especially when many of them are small, family-run businesses. They continue to operate within what they think would be within acceptable boundaries, until they are warned or fined not to do so.

2 6

This is why there is a common adage in China that it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission. It is with this mentality in mind that flexibility can be a risky factor. Hence it is important to find business partners that have moved beyond simply trying to make money on a one-off basis and evolved into the type who are keen to develop a working relationship based on integrity and creating a win-win situation for both parties involved. Thankfully as the market is maturing, most producers are now realising that they cannot simply rip someone off because keeping long-term customers happy has been proven to be more cost-effective. Not only that, the business relationship that has been fostered often transcends to loyalty and personal friendships, which is a valuable advantage for running a business for reasons outlined in the beginning of this essay.

While the payoff can be great, not everyone can tolerate the ambiguous nature of Chinese business culture, especially not for those who are more comfortable with conformity and clear boundaries. The acceptance and ability to navigate through these cultural differences are some of the most important key factors in determining the success of a foreign business in this country.



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A Sneak Preview of ROSEN’s Next Venture

May 22, 2018

by Gracia Ventus

“If at first you don’t succeed, walk.”

Whenever I begin a new project at full speed, I tend to fail.

I’m the sort of person who gets overly excited by new ideas. Ideas that are novel in my life, and at the same time not too overly grand, realistically achievable within my lifetime, with as few number of people as possible.


Perhaps that’s why I couldn’t bring Velamen to fruition. At that time, I had little knowledge of synthetics fabric, textile manufacturing, production flow, let alone actually dealing with factories. This was months before ROSEN was started. The project began with the design ideas provided by an ex-business partner who had made a sample of an exoskeleton suit. I had some idea as to how a typical manufacturing process pans out, but not the nuances and the hundred and one ways in which it can go wrong. As someone who has never studied fashion formally, I did not have the network of suppliers and factories whom I have worked with, especially not in a foreign country. I had to start from ground zero in terms of fabric sourcing, textile manufacturing, factory visits and technical clothing production. It was a steep learning curve for someone who deals mostly with natural fabrics and conventional garment construction.


The final prototype of ROSEN's cargo trousers, to be released in June

Despite all the hiccups, the exoskeleton-like suit designed for Velamen was getting close to its final form. My tailor - to the best of his ability, despite never dealing with Cordura and DWR-coated fabrics - had done the third and fourth iteration of the sample. The suit was beautiful in a very rough-edged way, despite not having the refinements of the actual custom-made fabrics we had ordered from a Shanghai textile factory. It was now up to the factory in Guangzhou (for your reference, Shanghai is in the central eastern seaboard of China, 3 hours away on a plane from the southern coast of China where Guangzhou is) to do the final prototype for production, complete with waterproof aqua vislon zippers, heat-taped seams, and custom-made 3L-membrane DWR-coated fabric. Excitement was high, expectation through the roof. After months of research, sourcing, factory visits, testing and sampling, I was sure that we had done our due diligence, and it was going to be smooth sailing from here. After all, it was a matter of replicating the final sample with additional technical qualities that only a factory could provide on an economical scale. A week after sending the order to them, the prototype arrived on my doorstep. The custom-made fabric that we’ve picked out from the textile factory was beautiful. However, everything else was a disaster and nothing in the suit was elegant nor refined. What was even more baffling was that the sizing was severely off by an inch or two, width and length wise. As to how this could have happened, I have no idea, until this very day. The sales rep was unable to provide any reasonable explanation. No-one wanted to own up to the mistake.

I relayed this story to a friend who works for a well-known Chinese label, and she understood my predicament immediately as she had several horror stories of her own. In her case, it was knitwear. The world of knitwear is a different ball game almost entirely. Specifically, the world of luxury knitwear requires a specialised knowhow in running industrial-sized machinery AND hand-finished details. Every round of sample produces a different mistake. Let’s say the weaves were incorrect in the first round. That mistake would be corrected in the second round, but the sleeves would magically grow longer than the first sample. And so several more rounds of sampling would be required.

Due to these series of technical difficulties, Velamen had to take a hiatus with no definite plans of resurrection, especially since it coincided with ROSEN taking a life of its own. What started as a small experiment with beautiful sandwashed silk in a comfortable cut became an unexpected hit that remains to be the best-selling item of the brand. Three quarter of the year has since passed; massive changes have taken place in my business and personal life, all of them for the better. I run ROSEN on my own now. I have learnt many valuable lessons along the way, tested my limits and boundaries in clothing production, while discovering the tools and resources available at my disposal. Due to these boundaries I am forced to be a creative problem-solver. But the single most valuable lesson I have learnt is that simplicity is the best starting point. Don’t get me wrong, I love my complicated garments. I simply need to recognise that I do not have the manpower nor technical knowledge to execute complicated designs without the risk of them looking cheap and shoddy. I have been so used to wearing intricately-constructed clothes that I put on a self-imposed blinkers. What I had failed to realise that some of my best-loved garments were made with conventional craftsmanship method, albeit in beautiful fabrics and cut. I had fallen into the trap of fashion school thesis mentality, where grandeur is valued over functionality, idealism over reality.


ROSEN's sporty version of the Plato suit, not final prototyope

It was thus still a bit of a surprise to me that I have embarked on my own personal brand of Velamen. Now that the original partnership has ended I have no wish to resurrect the brand. However, I am now in the midst of finalising garment samples in synthetics, with final results that are ready to be released in the next few weeks. With the approach I had taken with ROSEN - tactile fabrics, beautiful cuts, practicality over frippery - and equipped with a better knowledge of fabrics, the upcoming diffusion line will concentrate on activewear in synthetics, with minimal approach to aesthetics. Think 80s Issey Miyake, 90s Prada Sport and Jil Sander, with a subtle oriental slant that ROSEN is known for. It still adheres to my original ethos of making fuss-free garments that complement our favourite designers. All the clothes that are produced are tested personally by me as I run around Shanghai carrying out my business, from lugging 10-20kg of work and fabrics, getting in and out of cars, and traveling across different cities in China.


The Story So Far Part Two

April 22, 2018

by Gracia Ventus


Everytime I plan and do the samples for a new collection, self-doubt creeps in.

ROSEN is now a solo project run by yours truly. There are two new capsule collections slated for release in May and June, both vastly different from each other.

Despite my excitement and optimism for the future - especially with these two upcoming collection - the fear that I may be making terrible designs rears its ugly head. What if the designs go so awry that I have to scrape the idea altogether? What if people hate it? The critical inner voices are always mild at first, but as time passes by while waiting for samples to be done, these voices grow louder, so much so that I have to direct more mental energy to quash the discouraging thoughts.



I have a habit of waking up early, usually around six or seven am, to do my reading and writing before I get on with the day's work. Today was especially bad. I woke up at half past three to answer an email from someone dear to me, inducing a surge of oxytocin that carried me way past the act of pressing the 'send' button. My mind had lost the will to sleep, so I laid in bed finishing a Kurosawa movie - Stray Dog - I had fallen asleep to the night prior. Loved the suits, was amused by the awkwardness and sincerity of early cinema, hated the not-so-subtle misogyny. Welcome to Japan. At the back of my mind I kept reconfiguring the next iteration of ROSEN's Earhart jumpsuit for summer.


Half past five. I felt more awake than ever. There was no point in trying to fall back asleep, so I washed up and got dressed. Looking like a PI, I made my way to Family Mart - my favourite convenience store in China and Japan. I thought I might camp here until Starbucks opens its doors at seven. I used to hate the coffee chain until I realised they'd let me modify their drinks any way I want so the coffee tastes less burnt, without resorting to any sugar nor syrup. Plus they open at seven. At Family Mart I picked out my favourite crisps - things I'd normally deny myself six days a week. Today, however, is Sunday. On Sundays all bets are off. I can eat whatever I want, whenever I wish, within reason. I tried being unreasonable once and by the time dinner came, I was so overfed that I spent my meal time dry heaving in the restroom when I was supposed to be enjoying a lovely Peking duck.



I took a place by the corner with my crisps. Noone was here yet on Sunday at sunrise. I had just finished a Salman Rushdie after the aforementioned Kurosawa, so in a bid to discover new authors I started on Jorge Luis Borges's short stories. Not bad so far.

Writers often talk about their writing process, their personal thoughts, their daily lives and habits. But very little is documented by designers. I can only surmise that the visual nature of our profession does not warrant the need to pen our thoughts, or that the non-inclination to write is the reason for their chosen career. Not that I'm calling myself a designer. Rick Owens is a designer. Rei Kawakubo is a designer. I am merely a curator of ideas, putting together elements of garments into pieces that adhere to my vision.


Half past six. I battled a gentle wave of drowsiness that was not unexpected considering I only had three of hours of sleep. And probably due to my body digesting sugar. Time flies a little slower when I'm not running around the fabric market - buying fabrics, relaying orders to my tailors, explaining new ideas to them in a half excited half apprehensive state because a lot of things can be misunderstood even when we're speaking the same language.

The only things keeping me awake now are Borges and scribbling on my notebook, which I will transcribe online when I'm done. I love the act of writing; of putting ink on paper and feeling the tip of the pen scratch smoothly on the surface. Céline Dion is playing in the background, bringing back vague memories from forgotten years. Soon I will be making my way to Starbucks to finish my writing, answer emails and interviews, hoping some coffee will wake me up. Sunday - another work day. The work doesn't stop unless I decide it stops, which usually doesn't happen because I've resigned myself to being a workaholic. At noon I will find myself in the fabric market again to make further adjustments to the new collection. Onwards to the next stage of ROSEN.


All featured ROSEN garments are available on ROSEN-STORE.COM. Photographs are taken by me and Dylan Knight.

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Lessons I’ve Learnt Upon Turning Thirty

April 18, 2018

by Gracia Ventus


1. My cat is a troublesome companion.

Not sure why I put up with him. Oh right he’ll die if I leave him outside.

2. There is a lot of sex, drugs and hip hop in fashion

The first two is nothing new, the third changes according to the era.

Fashion is a world filled with attractive looking people. Combine that with unequal power dynamics, it’s a recipe for consensual casual sex as well as a bubbling cauldron of murky situations ripe for sexual assaults.

Many things in fashion are influenced by music, and music loves to immerse itself in fashion, especially now that a musician’s image is becoming increasingly important in the social media era. Models are now moonlighting as DJs, music producers are best friends with stylists and photographers. Everyone’s snorting white powder in the bathroom.


3. Authenticity is a myth

Everything you see is curated, filtered, veiled. We can do our best to be sincere in our thoughts and actions, but there will never be absolute authenticity. Firstly, we don’t truly know ourselves, partly because we lie about who we are - to ourselves and others - so we could feel better about our shortcomings and ignorance. Secondly, the world is a stage, and we are all players putting our best foot forward so we could be accepted and understood by the people whose validation we seek - parents, friends, lovers, any peer group we want to belong to. We manipulate ourselves in order to manipulate other people’s perceptions of us. Whether it’s done deliberately or unconsciously is not relevant. We are all doing it, one way or another. It is simply human nature to want to present a good façade despite our shortcomings, because a sense of belonging and acceptance is the panacea to loneliness.

In the words of Michel du Montaigne, “kings and philosophers shit, and so do ladies.”
No matter how rich, beautiful, or famous someone gets, or how high up the pedestal social media crowds place them, we are all subject to the madness of our brains and the limitations of our physical condition. We mustn’t be fooled by these superficial signifiers, because underneath all of those lurk the inner demons that go by the names of insecurity, anxiety, depression, amongst many others. Our bodies break down and we fall ill despite our best efforts. We are also verging towards death everyday.

It would be thus rather wise to remember that nothing we see on the internet is ever all that great.

4. We are all children on the inside

No matter how old we get, there is an inner child lurking underneath. No matter how mature we grow, the moment we find someone we can be vulnerable with, there will be instances in which we sulk, cry, throw a temper tantrum, and be a difficult person to get along with. To the recipient of such child-like behaviour, this may seem like a nuisance, but we should find comfort in knowing that there is someone who sees us as a secure source of comfort; someone whom they can truly be themselves with - exposing their vulnerabilities and insecurities that stemmed from childhood trauma. And I take solace in knowing that the times I falter as an adult and revert to my inner child, I will not be abandoned by the person whom I’ve revealed my vulnerabilities to. What separates maturity from pure childishness is how both parties deal with the situation when it arises.


5. Most people are too tired or too stupid to develop the capacity for critical thinking

And we are ill-equipped to navigate through life because we don’t possess the scientific literacy nor philosophical intelligence, or at least enough to have the wisdom and knowledge to make important decisions in life. We struggle everyday to make ends meet, to juggle responsibilities, to pursue our dreams, not to mention dealing with debilitating modern illnesses such as depression and anxiety. All of these leave us with little to no energy to read, write and think. Hell I know people who don’t even like to read. Like mice in a maze, it is instinctual to take the easy way out, thus we find ourselves opting for activities that numb our mental struggles and dumb us down. Instagram, Wechat, Facebook have thus become the go-to options for escapism. Maybe Plato was right. This is why democracy is not living up to our expectations. Plato feared that our freedom will be the downfall of society because we will strive to appease our desires (for wealth and fame especially) rather than uphold morality. He thought that a just and functional society is only possible when governed by a select few who only strive for wisdom plus a set of other virtues that he had defined. The society he envisaged also doesn’t have a monetary system. Clearly those ideals would never be achievable for the time being, since we are deeply entrenched in the capitalist system. It is perhaps the main goal of capitalism to create ignorant masses so they can continue to consume and not think for themselves. When one does not possess the capacity to develop critical thinking, one is not able to make wise decisions for oneself and the greater good. We would be more prone to listen to our biases, rumours and preconceptions.

6. Which brings us to the fact that we’re not as open-minded as we think.

Given an evidence that contradicts what we believe, we buckle down further on our opinions. I chalk it up partly to the backfire effect, and partly to our superiority bias. The former is a type of confirmation bias in which, when presented with evidence that contradicts our beliefs, we do mental acrobats to circumvent that and buckle down on our existing position, letting our emotions take over instead of evaluating the new information critically. The latter is the belief that we are smarter than average, on the whole or on a particular subject. Combining both, we think the the person who challenges us is stupider, hence incapable of making intelligent opinions for us to even reconsider. That, or we think we are someone with above-average intelligence who has valid and valuable opinions, so a person who doesn’t share the same opinion as ours is probably not as smart as us, hence not to be given serious consideration.

This applies to both the liberal left and conservative right.

7. Consumers seek self-esteem through the material things they consume

Be it clothes, music, food. You name it, someone’s going to defend the hell out of it as soon as a criticism is thrown at a subject matter they have emotionally invested themselves in. It’s one thing to defend with reason, it’s another to feel butthurt and take criticisms as a personal attack. This is why we have football hooligans and cliquey fashion communities. Underneath the seemingly innocent consumerist façade lies catty fashion sub-groups. I remember once writing a scathing opinion about streetwear which was reposted onto Reddit. I do believe the word ‘bitch’ was thrown about a few times in the thread, but none dared to tell me directly.

8. The path to a fulfilling life begins from reading, and reading well.

“There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance.” - Socrates.

Regardless whether Socrates really exist, I am biased against people who don’t read. I’m not saying that the habit of reading, or lack thereof, makes someone good or evil. As I’ve said previously, the act of reading should be done in the pursuit of knowledge. Knowledge is important to hone our critical-thinking skills and make the most rational choices for ourselves and our society. Humans are often governed by our irrational emotions. To have the capacity for love, kindness, anger and melancholy is a beautiful aspect of our sentience. But there are many times when emotions have to take a backseat, and let logic and rationality lead us in our decision-making process. We cannot vote for the future of our nations and children when we cannot overcome our tribal tendencies, fears and insecurities.

Even if we are not reading for a noble cause, we read to learn from our predecessors; hear their thoughts; absorb their wisdom; avoid the mistakes they’ve made. Personally I have used reading as a coping mechanism during hard times. In the midst of melancholic solitude I take refuge in knowing that my experiences have been shared by brilliant minds. The ghosts of history speak through time to console me when confronted with the sad realities of our existence.


9. Everyone has their own battlefield.

Life is hard. Some of us struggle to eke out a living. Some of us struggle to love and be loved. We will always be plagued by insecurities. We struggle to reconcile our disdain for capitalism and joy in consumerism - I love clothes and relish the rush of completing a checkout process, despite knowing full well that the fashion industry is exploitative; I still eat meat despite my inability to trace how the chicken was raised before it arrived on my plate.

We will never know the full extent of every individual’s hardships, and how these hardships have shaped them. A person who snapped at us when we accidentally knocked into them was probably dealing with his broken dreams. Some guy who bumped into us and didn’t apologise probably just found out his wife was cheating on him. All we can do is be kind, forgive and forget, because we hope that other people would do the same with our transgressions.

10. “Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.” - Immanuel Kant

Humanity is inherently flawed; we know very little about our reality. What we know we don’t know, amounts to much less than what we don’t know we don’t know. We are ignorant, foolish animals with eyes that aren’t designed to perceive our universe on a microscopic and cosmological scale, prone to make unwise decisions because we are ruled by our emotions. It’s a miracle that every generation manages to progress further than the last.

And so with this knowledge in mind, I step forward into another year of my life. Thank you for reading, as always. All photographs were taken by @xeoniq.