It seems like it was only yesterday when I sat down to pen one of these (well not literally pen, but you get the point:)). It’s hard to believe that in those moments between then and now, an entire year has passed, and oh what a year it has been. You know I’ve never been the type that lives in the past, I’d rather focus on what’s now and tend to get very excited about what’s to come, but the past has never really been my thing. Perhaps that’s why memories for me have always been a little bit fleeting, never really sticking around or taking an exact shape in my mind, just always floating there, formless and a little bit hazy. Maybe one of the reasons I feel that way about the past is regrets and how haunting they could become, how damaging to all the progress one makes. I figured since I can’t go back in time and change them, deep down I chose to erase painful memories instead. But as much as this coping mechanism has helped me deal with whatever emotional trauma I’ve been through (as likely every human), it’s been equally responsible for locking away good memories as well and this year was definitely one of those I wish I’ll never forget, even as a 90 year old granny (Yes, I do plan to live that long for those of you wondering), this is one of those years I’ll gladly return to over and over again. And since I don’t want to erase it, I decided that there’s no better time then now to turn regrets into lessons learnt, making this year crucial to the dedication of my system reboot and a brand new Dani 2.0, still an emotional train wreck, but rough around the edges and hopefully with a restored disk to hold all memories going forward.
Right, enough rambling. Let’s dive into the reason why this has been one of the most rewarding, and blissfully delightful years not just in my personal life, but professionally as well. Let’s start with January, shall we? With not much going on and filled with a lot of holidays for us Orthodox Christians, January is generally a month for setting up goals for the upcoming year, along with planning our upcoming spring/summer collection. This is usually the month where our Pinterest runs 24/7 and is in the background of everything we do, as we tend to build mood boards, sketch, brainstorm and go on a hunt for new fabrics. So somewhere in the first week of it, Yoox approached us with a proposal to join their new marketplace they were building in Europe. Needless to say, I was over the moon. Sadly, nothing came out of it, due to technicalities, which we were working at resolving throughout this year, still seeing your work be validated by such a big player in the industry, it gave our team a very big nudge and a reason to keep working.
So somewhere around end of April, I decided to treat myself and take my ass for a much deserved vacation/birthday to London. London and I go way back together, as our love affair started when my feet first touched Lutton’s airport ground back in 2013 when I went there as an intern for the Ethical Fashion Forum. It’s hard not to love a city that has given so much to you and I’m not talking just about work opportunities here, but a chance to be inspired, mentally challenged and stimulated by the many impressive people who have the unique pleasure of calling London their home. Ever since then, it has been my wish to one day see Bastet Noir making its way there. Rewind 9 years later and that wish became a reality. Picture me, flabbergasted, for lack of better words. What was supposed to be a birthday/vacation, has quickly turned into a business opportunity, which is one of the reasons I love the city so much. You never know where the day may take you. Something exciting is always lurking from some corner. For me, well let’s just say I had the rare pleasure of meeting some very impressive people including the fascinating team of Mishcon De Reya. To give you context as to why this was super important encounter for me, it’s the firm that represented Princess Diana in her divorce. Being literally thrown in one of their private parties, don’t ask me how, as that’s a topic for another time, I got to hang with some of the top investors, entrepreneurs and lawyers in the world. Pretty surreal I know and I still can’t believe that happened, as I was definitely not ready, nor prepared to pitch my business. Honestly, I thought I was on a date. Silly me. Even though nothing came out of it, the experience I’ve had has got me thinking a lot about where I see the future of Bastet Noir and has prepared me tremendously to see my flaws and weaknesses and work on them, so that whenever I find myself again in that type of situation and I’m 100% sure that I will, I’m prepared to take advantage of it. See the old me would see this as a regret, but Dani 2.0 knows better. Everything at its own time gals.
Anyway, moving on to another equally important lesson I’ve mastered this year, the power of relationships. Understanding that relationships don’t have to stay the way they always were before and you could mold them, work at strengthening them or just break them altogether has been very liberating for me personally. As I sought approval throughout most of my adult life, I’ve always locked myself down in relationships that quickly became toxic and dysfunctional, as rarely did I impose boundaries or demanded respect and I realized that the blame here was entirely my own. The bonds we hold most dear do not have to be binding for life. Sometimes it just happens that you’ve outgrown the other person and leaving is the only option. I’ve always been terrified of leaving, as I thought that meant that I would be left alone. What I realized though was that leaving a situation or a person that’s causing you pain, anguish, and emotional chaos means that you respect yourself enough to walk away from a situation that’s no longer serving you. It frees you to pursue more meaningful connections that will ultimately make you feel connected rather than lonely. Surrounding yourself with the right people must always be your number one priority or in the words of the wise Mr. Simon Sinek “The highest performing teams are made up of those willing to sacrifice for each other.”
This epiphany has been extremely helpful when I had to make the hard decision of laying off a member of my team for the first time ever since founding Bastet Noir. While striving to become the leader who lifts up other women and gives them the opportunity to become more in life, I found myself torn between the type of company culture I wanted to build and a person who threatened to compromise that culture by deflecting blame. As much as I wanted to teach her accountability, sometimes the best thing to do is to let them go. You can only help someone so much as they’re willing to accept that help. In theory this sounds easy, in practice it’s quite the opposite. As a person who strives for lending a helping hand to anyone who needs it, the decision to let someone go has been one of the most torturous and toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make since founding this company. I literally had lumps in my stomach for weeks prior.
As you can see there’s a lot to be thankful for this year. Apart from lessons learnt, there was real progress made when it comes to creating brand awareness. Among small victories were the incredible 1.000.000 looks created on Covet Fashion with our items. It seems like people really enjoyed what we did this year and this was reflected through the love we got from fashion media powerhouses. Marie Claire has listed our label among the 44 sustainable fashion brands to know in 2022 and Vogue Italia ranked our Michelle Dress among “one of the best wedding dresses for civil ceremony”. As I’m writing this, I still can’t believe we made it to Vogue. Pretty surreal, ain’t it?
Speaking of surreal things, it’s been almost 5 years since we stopped working with designers to focus on building Bastet Noir as a label. What started as an effort to support a struggling woman who became a single parent, it morphed into a community of women who found safe heaven in Bastet Noir, a place where they could become financially independent and it’s all thanks to you wonderful people the world over. You recognized their struggles and chose to support them, not just by purchasing from our brand, but also by donating to the Women Fund and for that I’m not just thankful, but brimming with gratitude. I do apologize for sounding blunt, but words fail me to express the level of appreciation I feel. Growing this community means everything to me and it’s the reason why I feel so proud with each new member joining in and because of your wonderful support this year we had added 2 wonderful women of domestic abuse to our small production team. From the button of my heart, thank you for being the catalyst for this expansion.
Around the same time when we decided to focus on building the label, we also started a series called Cool Faces of Bastet Noir. The series in its format was meant to inspire and empower you, but I’d be lying if I said they weren’t started for a selfish reason. You see, back in those days, I was in desperate need to find women who understood and shared my struggles as a small business owner to ease the feeling of feeling alone. Through their stories I found motivation, drive and perspective and I can only hope those whose stories we covered had the equally impressionable effect on you as they had on me. Twelve amazing women from different backgrounds and different walks of life chronicled their stories of struggle this year. Being emerged in their narratives, reading about their painful moments and how those situations influenced them to evolve as a person is something that to this day overwhelms me and fills me with positive energy. This is why I’d like to extend a huge thank you to each and every one of them.
Sales wise, this year has seen huge increase in the volumes of orders we received. Unlike other years where these were attributed to direct sales through our website, I’m proud to say that this year we’ve also had 16 wholesale orders as well. I consider this to be a huge victory, since it meant taking the brand from online presence to being physically present in 16 locations across the United States. So for all of these small stores who believed in our label and invested in us this year, let me just say thank you from our small team. You’ve all been detrimental to the success we’ve had.
As the cherry on the cake for us this year came the Wolf and Badger partnership we started in October. As we joined their rooster of designers, this achievement was sort of like a personal win for me also. It took me back to that moment in 2013 when I conceived this dream. It showed me just how much truth lies in what I always believed to be true that regardless of where you are in life, hard work, persistence and patience will always, always pay off. And with that we wrap one hell of a year, filled with incredible, great, amazing, wonderfully spectacular memories worth preserving, wouldn’t you agree?
Whew, that was one hell of a long reflection. Glad I got that off my chest. Now, to understand me and the evolution of me, I’ll leave you with this wonderful quote I read on Instagram, that depicts exactly who I was not so long ago and who I became because of Bastet Noir. If there’s one thing I wish upon all of you is to find your own Bastet Noir, something that will transform you to the highest version of yourself, the way this company and the community I’ve built transformed me.
“One of the most important things I’ve learned working with recovering people-pleasers around the world is that we don’t just stop over-giving by STOPPING over-giving. We have to ALSO consciously, actively, and regularly GIVE to OURSELVES. We have to direct our own care in the one direction it’s scariest to direct it: inwards.
All of these patterns — people-pleasing, codependency, over-giving, and beyond — stem from a dysfunctional relationship with the self. Somewhere along the way, we learned that our Self wasn’t worthwhile, valuable, or safe. And so we erect homes in other people’s hearts, feelings, and needs. But the thing is, no matter how aggressively we care for them — no matter how much attention we pay them — the home of our Self will feel empty until we attend to it properly.” — posted by hailypaigemagee