A Gender-less, Season-less Wearable PJ Brand That's Building Schools In Bali & Preserving Ancestral Heritage
Today, “sustainable” fashion brands are in abundance … but how often do you see brands truly take that 360 approach in when it comes to ethics and education?
We were so honored an excited to sit down with Tess, the founder of Love Stories Bali. During our chat, her magnetic energy embodied pure passion and organic love for fashion forward change. Wait until you hear her story!
Let us first start by sharing how she landed in Bali from a corporate job in New York City:
“I grew up in corporate world and was in corporate all my life. I’ve travelled the world as part of my job and I’ve been to 66 countries to be exact. I was posted in Switzerland to work in Europe for 7 years. After touring Europe - I said this is it, I’m ready for community service! I applied for a job and was offered a position by a woman in California (Susan) who runs an international humanity foundation (honored by the white house).
After receiving the one year job opportunity- I packed my things , closed my apartment in Manhattan, gave up all of belongings and set out to start a new life. I left with 2 jeans and 6 tee shirts.
Before I left for Jakarta which is where I was assigned, I went to Bali to relax for a mental detox to prepare for my new job.
(… BUT I WENT TO BALI AND NEVER LEFT BALI! )
Once I landed in Bali - I discovered that there were so many things in Bali. On my third day in Bali I signed up for a co-working space and realized it was a hub for entrepreneurs and millennials who are change makers. I became a member and I literally talked to everyone for 2 weeks straight.
On my third week I joined a tour - they were giving a tour of Bali of poor leaders helping the poor communities. During the tour I met Agnes - a 38 year old education revolutionary! When I met her - her school - Paud (Pre-School) Cemara Kasih (love for nature) - was 6 years old. She founded the school in 2010 and because she’s didn’t have a lot of money - she made jewelry and sold them at the market until she had enough to open her first classroom the size of a hotel room. And there she had 17 children from extreme poverty. The school grew because she became very popular in the community. Those who could afford would pay and those who couldn’t …wouldn’t! However, those who had a disposable income, would pay for the parent’s who couldn’t afford to pay for their own children. It became a community school and I fell in love with it because it was a poor but passionate, and revolutionary woman who was building a community - not just a school.”
After spending many hours volunteering at the school, Tess ultimately resigned from the Jakarta project and dedicated her work life to building sustainability in Bali. Having resources in Wall Street, Tess was able to acquire some financial support for the school but quickly realized that asking friends for money wasn’t going to sustain the school’s expansion goals.
So I went to every batik workshop - learning how to batik - natural dying, hand painting batik (not stamping). It’s the only place on Earth that does hand painting for batik patterns.
Africa and Malaysia do stamping - Indonesia, they do hand painting. After going to these workshops - I realized that if I open a shop, women will buy and will be able to donate to the school. So I’m making women get something in return when they buy.
It’s beautiful that at inception, Tess asked herself , “How can I get women to buy something and bring joy to yourself because you look so beautiful but also bring joy to hundreds of children.”
So this savvy corporate mogul turned entrepreneur started a brand called Love Stories Bali. She decided to do pajamas because it was a product that wasn’t oversaturated in the market place. Also, she was drawn to the idea because it wasn’t an unnecessary project in which she would be designing “stuff” just for the sake of producing more clothing.
So Tess started with pajamas that are wearable outside.
“Two years later - we have evolved to pajamas and wardrobe essentials that are genderless and most size are inclusive. Because I would hate for a woman to say “I’m too thin” or “I’m too fat” to be wearing that. I just want women to be celebrating themselves. And it’s genderless because … why can’t I wear his and why can’t he wear mine!”
Indonesia is a gem that filled with rich culture and craftsmanship. It’s an art country that not many people are savvy to. It’s ancient. It’s tradition. It’s heritage. It needs to be celebrated and preserved.
“I’m doing this so that so that as you look good - you’re also helping others. I’m preserving heritage craft and elevating the livelihood of these artisans whose ancient batik making skills is eroding because nobody else would like to do it and it’s not trendy anymore.”
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everything we wear is supporting a cause - why not?
Tess donates 50% of her proceeds to helping these eco educational efforts in Bali. She pushes every fashion company, brand and business to start just 1% or 2% donation to a good cause!
Fashion means 3 things - I’m not hurting the planet, I’m not hurting people and I’m helping others. That’s my dream - that everything I wear is going to those 3 things. Today I’m living my life consciously. Sustainable fashion changed me. It has built me and made me a very different person. I’m living a conscious lifestyle because of the brand.
It’s not sustainable fashion that I’m upholding - it’s a sustainable way of life.
Today I’m not perfect but I’m consistent!
Truly just the belief that we should be preserving tradition and We can use heritage craft that is healthy for the planet, your body and is sexy!
It’s not just sustainable fashion anymore! Diversity is sustainable. If you’re a sustainable fashionista and the rest of your life isn’t sustainable - then I will question that.
One of the most beautiful aspects of Tess’ testimony is how transformative her journey has been. Her approach to sustainability is from a 360 degree lens because she has immersed herself in culture which has allowed her to take a transformative approach to how she sees and understands fashion.
Locally she sells her goods in boutiques alongside 15 other local artisans. Local stores in the village even sell preloved clothes in which Tess can upcylce (alongside collected scraps). There’s such a beautiful mosaic of eco education in schools, DIY workshops, arts and crafts and simply supporting the creativity of young people.
She did however, express how she wants to go back to corporate - but with a different purpose. She’s interested in challenging herself to spark sustainable change within corporate culture.
At the moment she’s working on a new collection with a zero waste natural dyer who works with plant ink. He produces his own inks with only 5 natural ingredients - mango, turmeric, saffron, mahogany, indigo and even filters the water through recycling processes.