Meet Nadia Bunyan, Senior Designer at Silk Laundry.
Silk Laundry has constructed a society all its own; a community in which people have come together to work in balance with life, and exchange ideas and techniques in creative and practical fields.
Originally from Australia, Silk Laundry’s luxury wear line, was founded by Katie Kolodinski in 2015.
Its main guiding principles are: sustainability and care:
Sustainability in its garments’ designs, fabrics, and production methods. Care for the people who will interact with the brand near and far, and care for those working as creatives to enrich our lives.
Silk Laundry’s messaging proudly states: “We encourage you to buy better classic pieces, which will stand the test of time, and can be worn over and over again.”
On March 10th, Nadia and Chelsea, colleagues at Silk Laundry, left Montréal headed to Brisbane for a planned meet-up with the rest of the Silk Laundry team. The gathering was intended to celebrate the opening of their new Australian brick-and-mortar, and to connect the team from around the world IRL. Eight days into the trip, covid-nineteen had designer Nadia scrambling to get back on a plane home to Montréal, with fourteen days of self-confinement ahead of her.
I called her a couple of days after her return, to check in.
She sounded just as confused as I did; I felt just as jet-lagged as she did. But, I hadn’t flown twenty-two hours across the ocean and the continent, twice, in less than eight days, amidst rumblings of how the world might, or might not, be grinding to a complete halt.
That morning, we sat together on the phone, in our respective homes now made locations of self-isolation.
We sat with each other in our shared feelings of confusion, and jet lag.
“Everything is shut down now.” I began.
“Yes, I know.” She responded.
“What are you going to do now?”
Everything was a little clipped; a little matter-of-fact, which was far from our normal loud and laughing rhythm.
She paused, and uttered:
I exhaled deeply, reassured that there was still something to be done.
January 1st: Silk Laundry rings in 2020 with a single Celine sandal captioned “Old Celine”.
February 2nd: Silk Laundry announces the upcoming collection with a close-up of Mahany Pery in a Silk Laundry logo print shirt.
March 1st: Silk Laundry sets the mood for “a weekend well spent”; a leather chaise longue, a private pool, some palm trees and mountains in view, in the background.
And life goes on.
Throughout Silk Laundry’s social media channels, gorgeously curated posts are captioned: “Prints for the collection are playful, you can mix and match them.” We lust after images of “fun commutes in vintage cars”, “timeless slip dresses”, “interiors with souls”, and, flora as art.
The brand celebrates a certain kind of freedom, unknown scenic destinations featuring classical busts, “boyfriend shirts in the palest mint” meant to work in. We discover classic black and white portraits of Georgia OKeeffe, sculptors Barbra Hepwort, and Louise Bourgeois. We muse over lilies, out of place on a Spanish beach, a sneak peek at an upcoming Silk Laundry location featuring a texture of adobe, scattered literature, more flora, and more art. And life goes on.
March 14 reads: “With every store opening we are learning along the way and to me, our new Brisbane location is our most thought through design. From custom racking to purchasing and making pieces slowly that suit our ethos and values. This three-meter table was made lovingly from recycled timber by my father-in-law and carried off the truck by him, my dad, and my dad’s friend James. Having people around for all the love and support (and heavy lifting) makes such a big difference.”
March 18 reads: “Since the beginning of Silk Laundry when I ran the brand out of our basement, I have looked and posted on Instagram as best as I could. Jet lagged and in different time zones. But there are times that I just don’t know what to say or what to post. The world is changing so quickly and I would just like to say that I hope everyone is staying calm, healthy and creative as best as you can. This virus is something that has been affecting our business for months not just weeks and my heart goes out to anyone who has been impacted by this. Everything in this world is connected and right now this is so apparent. Katie x”
March 19: An image of words by Danish writer and poet Kamilla Tolnø. No caption called for.
March 20: A heartfelt note by Katie to the entire Silk Laundry family; team members, manufacturers, suppliers, clients. “(…), we’ve been affected by COVID-19 for months now. In December, our factories in China let us know they would be shutting down for their own protection. The people we work with aren’t just factory owners or employees, we consider them friends. We have had countless meals, have met each other’s children and stay in contact even when it has nothing to do with business. They are the friends we have worked with for the last five years to get us to where we are today. (…)”
Life feels like long heavy breaths.
April 3rd: I check in on Nadia.
I had been planning our phone interview for a few days now, but in that moment, I feel like I’d rather let her recount what the last twenty-four days of her life have felt like. “I am not sure.” Her voice is calm as ever.
“I have been focusing on staying sane, busy, and… focused.”
A pause, and Nadia continues.
“I finally organized my home/work space.
I have been respecting my usual work schedule, despite the fact that most of the team is still in Australia, and despite the fourteen-hour time zone difference. The team and I, we communicate at various times throughout the day (email, Slack, Zoom, WhatsApp, Instagram… you know… the new way…). She chuckles.
We share tips on how to schedule our days, we plan for when life will return to normal.” I ask how she’s been.
“Well. Keeping myself occupied and distracted.
I have set goals to improve some of my yoga poses.”
And then she laughs.
“I have realized the luxury of frivolous concerns. The luxury of deciding which dress to wear, which restaurant to meet my friends at for dinner. All that seems like a distant past now.”
I laugh back. I had myself realized earlier that day that my sector of activity is considered ‘non-essential’. People do not rely on us for immediate food, health, transportation, banking, shelter. We are pleasant additions to daily life, recreational in nature…
But then, while we survive without a bar, or a set of new silk pyjamas, or a hug, we don’t survive that way forever. Luxuries are necessities. They’re just not food or medicine. Or maybe they are medicine.
Nadia admits that upon returning from Australia, she had chosen to dive right in to work. And, truth be told, she didn’t know what else to do except focus on something she could control, and something that did bring her fulfilment and joy: her work as a designer. I listen to her narrate the artificial sense of normalcy that she has tried to create in the last couple of weeks: looking out the window into her neighbourhood streets that now feel unrecognizable deserted, but strangely beautiful; the grocery runs that can now feel unsafe; her kids she had not been able to see for weeks in her self-quarantine. Life has changed drastically.
We sit in silence.
Two things have crystallized through our conversation:
One: Humans are highly adaptive creatures. Two: Humans cannot adapt their way out of an absolute need for community, and for purpose. Once we are able to ensure our basic needs for food, health, and shelter are met, our souls need love, of course, but we need fulfilment beyond that. Fulfilment has been too abstract for too many for too long. Fulfilment might be some combination of family and work and leisure, but all these things are forms of love. Love given to family is easy enough to understand. Love given to self through leisure has been elevated greatly in our last few generations. But, love given to our society through work might be something to understand better, as we get back to it, and as we appreciate those still healing us and feeding us.
Society is made up of various communities of people that come together, to meet, eat, think, create, produce, share, and simply enjoy the company of one another.
Nadia designs to inspire people to live full, healthy, purposeful lives. The society she has joined and helps to continue growing at Silk Laundry is designed to care, and to inspire others to care for others who care for others… and the environments they all inhabit.
How do we impact our surroundings near and far?
How do we impact the people who come in contact with us near and far? These are essential questions for our time. These are essential questions for our society. These are essential questions for our species. We have a moment to think.
People… These are essentials. Community must go on, and that circle of empathy must grow.