Meet Aishleen Lester, the visionary founder of Le Ster, whose journey from sculptor to fine jeweller is as captivating as her exquisite creations. With a background steeped in fine artistry and a passion for storytelling, Aishleen seamlessly blends art and craftsmanship to craft miniature masterpieces that transcend the realm of jewellery.

Through Le Ster, she not only celebrates individuality and self-expression but also champions sustainability and ethical practices, embodying a vision of elegance and rebellion.

Join us as we delve into Aishleen’s inspiring journey, exploring the inspirations, values, and creative processes that shape the essence of Le Ster…

Le Ster

Your journey from sculptor to fine jeweller is fascinating. Could you share more about what sparked this transition and how your background in fine art influences your jewellery designs?

After completing my Masters at the Royal Academy, I was fortunate to work on a commission for a large-scale installation at Selfridges. Constructed from resin and sugar, it formed a dream-like environment through which people could walk. That experience ignited my desire to create pieces that not only engage the visual senses but also invite physical interaction and touch, aiming to leave a lasting memory or narrative.

I also sought to work on a smaller scale, using materials that were both easier to transport and durable. Hence, I enrolled in several evening courses, where one of my tutors introduced me to the world of jewellery. Intrigued by how jewellery interacts with the body, I was drawn to its accessibility—it doesn’t require a gallery to be appreciated; it seamlessly integrates into everyday life.

In my designs, I intertwine stories with imagery and narratives drawn from the realm of art. I consider my jewellery as miniature artworks that people can wear; for me, there’s no greater satisfaction than this fusion.

The name “Le Ster” carries unique significance. Could you elaborate on its meaning and how it reflects the ethos of your brand?

“Le Ster” is a play on my surname, Lester, with “ster” suggesting possession of quality—the idea being that the wearer embodies the quality of the jewel. This concept underscores our brand ethos of empowering individuals to embrace and embody the inherent value of our pieces.

Your jewellery is described as weaving together stories with imagery and narratives found within art. How do you approach this storytelling aspect in your design process?

Every piece, whether bespoke or from our collections, begins with a story. For instance, our first collection, “Light the Grey,” stemmed from the inquiry, “How can I instill confidence that outlasts lipstick?” Inspired by the transformative moment before a significant event—when one looks in the mirror, applies lipstick, and feels ready—I aimed to capture this energy in jewellery.

Drawing from Pop Art, particularly Roy Lichtenstein’s “Bang,” I juxtaposed graphic elements with the soft lines of fireworks in the sky. The resulting collection embodies a balance of contrasting elements, symbolising how both subtle and bold design can illuminate life’s gray areas.

Could you share insights into the traditional fine jewellery techniques and innovative technologies you combine to create your pieces?

While jewellery-making techniques have roots in ancient craftsmanship, modern advancements like Computer-Aided Design (CAD) offer expanded creative horizons. In my practice, I utilise both traditional handcrafting methods and CAD. I begin by crafting models by hand, which are then scanned and refined digitally. This iterative process—melding traditional and contemporary approaches—culminates in meticulously hand-finished pieces that marry timeless elegance with innovation.

The concept of the elegant rebel is captivating. How do you aim to amplify individuality and self-belief through your jewellery designs?

In a world often demanding conformity, I view my jewellery as a subtle celebration of uniqueness—a gentle nod to elegant rebellion. Through creative expression, I aspire to empower wearers to embrace their individuality, mindset, and ideas, fostering a sense of strength in creative thinking.

Sustainability is a core value of Le Ster. Can you discuss your commitment to ethical sourcing and how it shapes your production practices?

We prioritise sustainability by utilizing recycled gold and adopting small-batch production methods to minimise waste. Additionally, we conscientiously source stones from trusted suppliers who adhere to responsible practices.

What challenges have you encountered in sourcing sustainable materials, and how have you overcome them?

As a small business, sourcing sustainable materials presents challenges, particularly in acquiring stones directly from mines due to quantity constraints. To address this, we’ve established a network of reputable suppliers committed to ethical sourcing, ensuring transparency and accountability throughout the supply chain.

Handmade in London is a cornerstone of your brand identity. How does residing and working in the same city as your craftspeople contribute to the uniqueness of Le Ster’s creations?

Being based in London affords me direct involvement in every stage of the production process. 

Collaborating closely with craftspeople allows for real-time feedback and iteration, enriching my understanding of materials and enhancing the design process. This intimate engagement ensures that each piece not only looks captivating on paper but also exudes a special quality when brought to life.

Emphasising pieces that withstand the test of time aligns with slow fashion principles. How do you ensure your jewellery remains relevant and cherished for years to come?

Rather than chasing fleeting trends, we focus on crafting pieces that resonate with clients’ core design preferences—a timeless design DNA that transcends temporal fads. By creating enduring pieces that connect with individuals on a personal level, we cultivate lasting relationships built on shared values and appreciation for craftsmanship.

Can you share stories of customers passing down their Le Ster pieces through generations, and what these heirlooms mean to them?

Recently, I collaborated with a client who inherited an emerald ring from her godmother, passed down through generations. Despite its sentimental value, the ring remained unworn due to loose stones and outdated style. Seeking to honour its legacy while infusing modern flair, we transformed the stones into a new, personalised design.

Upon wearing the revamped piece, the client expressed not only her love for it but also her anticipation of passing it down to her goddaughter—a continuation of the cherished tradition. This narrative illustrates the profound emotional connection forged through jewellery, bridging generations and preserving cherished memories.

Collaboration appears integral to your process. How do you approach collaborations, and what qualities do you seek in potential partners?

Collaboration is at the heart of our creative journey, whether with clients, artisans, or cross-disciplinary creatives. We seek partners who share mutual admiration for each other’s work and possess a common thread that sparks synergy.

Successful collaborations thrive on open communication and a willingness to embrace diverse perspectives. By fostering an environment of trust and creative freedom, we cultivate unique partnerships that yield truly exceptional results.

What role do you envision jewellery playing in storytelling and self-expression, particularly in today’s fast-paced world?

In an era characterised by rapid change and disconnection, jewellery serves as a tangible link to personal narratives and self-expression. By wearing meaningful pieces, individuals can ground themselves in their identities and forge connections between inner thoughts and outward expressions.

Your jewellery is described as “miniature covetable sculptures that can be worn every day.” How do you balance artistic expression with wearable design?

Our pieces are designed to seamlessly integrate into daily life, evolving alongside wearers as they navigate their unique journeys. Balancing artistic expression with wearability requires a deep understanding of materials and meticulous craftsmanship. By prioritising durability and comfort, we ensure that each piece remains not only visually captivating but also practical for everyday wear.

Could you share insights into the inspiration behind your latest collection and recurring themes in your designs?

Our latest collection, “Meant to Be,” explores the intangible essence of love—a complex emotion defying rigid definitions. Through extensive prototyping and experimentation, we sought to capture the dynamic, ever-evolving nature of love, infusing each piece with a sense of fluidity and momentum.

One recurring theme in our designs is the concept of potential—an acknowledgment of the limitless possibilities inherent in every creation. Whether exploring love, identity, or personal growth, our designs invite wearers to embrace the inherent potential within themselves and their stories.

What advice would you offer aspiring designers seeking to create sustainable luxury brands?

Lead with authenticity—embrace your unique values, interests, and strengths. In a crowded market, authenticity serves as a beacon, attracting like-minded individuals drawn to your distinct perspective. By staying true to yourself and prioritising sustainability, you can carve out a niche that resonates with discerning consumers seeking meaningful luxury experiences.

How do you envision the future of the fine jewellery industry, particularly regarding sustainability and ethical practices?

I believe the future of fine jewellery lies in prioritising quality over quantity, fostering a culture of mindful consumption. By creating enduring pieces that stand the test of time, we can shift towards a more sustainable model that values craftsmanship and ethical sourcing. Encouraging a “buy less, make it last” mindset will be key to advancing sustainability and ethical practices within the industry.

Can you share memorable moments or milestones from your journey as the founder and designer of Le Ster?

Rather than singular moments, Le Ster’s journey has been punctuated by numerous small milestones— from securing our first press feature to winning emerging designer awards and crafting bespoke engagement rings for clients. Each milestone has contributed to our evolution, shaping Le Ster into what it is today—a testament to perseverance, creativity, and passion.

What does success look like for Le Ster, both presently and in the future?

Success for Le Ster entails expanding our clientele of elegant rebels, creating bespoke pieces that resonate on a personal level. Additionally, we aim to develop curated capsule collections showcased in select retailers, establishing a presence both domestically and internationally. Creatively, we aspire to engage in more collaborative projects across disciplines, fostering innovation and creative synergy.

How do you engage with customers and incorporate their feedback into your designs and business decisions?

Customer feedback is invaluable, guiding our design process and business decisions. Whether through bespoke commissions or general inquiries, we prioritise active listening, seeking to understand clients’ preferences, desires, and feedback. By fostering open dialogue and transparency, we cultivate lasting relationships built on trust and mutual respect.

Our readers are avid travellers. What destination tops your bucket list?

Mexico— renowned for its vibrant culture, rich history, and delectable cuisine. I’m particularly drawn to exploring the Aztec ruins and immersing myself in the country’s colourful tapestry of sights, sounds, and flavours.

When lacking motivation, what quote inspires you?

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao Tzu. This quote serves as a reminder that progress is achieved through small, consistent actions—a source of motivation during challenging times.

What’s a must-do activity you recommend in London?

Witness the sunset from the Blue Bridge in St. James Park. Standing amidst iconic landmarks like Buckingham Palace and Horse Guards Parade, it offers a breathtaking panorama of London’s timeless beauty—a moment of tranquility amidst the city’s hustle and bustle.

Lastly, what message would you like to convey about the essence of Le Ster and the values it upholds?

Le Ster embodies a celebration of individuality, self-belief, and timeless elegance against the backdrop of modernity. Our jewellery serves as more than adornment—it’s a conduit for personal narratives, fostering connections between past, present, and future. Through craftsmanship, creativity, and ethical practices, we aim to empower wearers to embrace their unique stories and express their inner rebel with grace and confidence.

For more inspiring interviews and captivating stories, don’t forget to visit House of Coco. Get ready to be inspired and discover the extraordinary talents shaping our world today.

Meet Alexandria Cruz, the visionary behind FLORA, a blossoming fashion brand that intertwines the worlds of artistry and sustainability. With a childhood steeped in the vibrant hues of Puerto Rico and a passion for textiles inherited from her interior designer mother, Alexandria’s journey into the realm of fashion design was inevitable. Drawing inspiration from her multicultural heritage and early experiences surrounded by lush flora and fauna, she embarked on a quest to redefine feminine fashion through FLORA by Alexandria.

In this exclusive interview, Alexandria shares insights into her creative process, her commitment to sustainability, and her vision for empowering women through fashion.

Join us as we delve into the heart of FLORA and discover the intersection of art, style, and self-expression with Alexandria as our guide…

What inspired you to start FLORA by Alexandria, and how has that initial vision evolved over time?

I knew from an early age that I was inspired by textiles. My mother was an interior designer, so I was always surrounded by fabric samples and large reams in all kinds of prints and styles. That love of textiles grew to a love of fashion design and more specifically, floral prints. I realised I’d have to visit five different stores or brands to check to see who was carrying floral prints so, I decided there needed to be a one-stop shop for floral fashion. This is where the idea for FLORA by Alexandria emerged.

We are a newly launched brand as of November 2023. As we evolve, I see incorporating a mixture of loud and soft florals and ones that have been hand-painted and designed by myself.

Your designs are described as balancing between feminine and masculine auras. Can you share more about the philosophy behind this unique approach?

Sure! The classic idea of masculine fashion: blazers, collars on clothing, button-downs, pleated trousers is something I’ve been very inspired by. I call this look the handsome woman look. These are typically cleaner silhouettes lacking extra ruffles and frills. That, paired with the femininity of floral prints and silky fabrics is where the duality of masculine and feminine auras meet.

How do you incorporate your floral paintings into your designs, and what significance do these prints hold for you?

I typically start with a paintbrush and a few reference images of florals that I’m interested in or inspired by. I then scan my paintings (acrylic, oil, or watercolour) into Photoshop and play around with the composition to make it a repeatable pattern. I’ve learned through this process that not all paintings look great on fabric, even though they may look spectacular on your wall. Therefore, it’s a huge trial and error process that requires a lot of patience.

I lived in Puerto Rico for the first five years of my life before moving to my hometown of Charlotte, NC (I’m half Puerto Rican, half white). I spent most of my days on the beach or surrounded by the flora and fauna of the island and so, I believe my love of florals began through this very peaceful, early childhood experience of growing up in such a vibrant place. Also, not to mention it was the late 80s/early 90s, the height of Gloria Estefan, Selena, and Kenny G- what a magical time, Puerto Rico in the 90s.

FLORA places a strong emphasis on using natural or recycled fibres. Could you tell us more about your commitment to sustainability and how it influences your design process?

While sustainability is difficult to accomplish, particularly for a newer brand, I felt that it’s important to start somewhere in the process of becoming a “recognised eco-conscious brand.” Therefore, we started with the part we can control the most, and that is the quality of our fabrics. Each material is selected for its natural qualities, even the buttons, and we choose to stay away from polyester items typically used in fast fashion.

Can you share some insights into the three-question quality test your team employs to ensure lasting quality in FLORA garments?

No one likes to wear clothing that makes them feel hot, sticky, and uncomfortable. Our clothes are designed for warmer weather climates, therefore, we generated a three-question test to make sure we stay in line with our goal to produce breathable, easy-to-wear styles day and night:

  • Is it gentle on the skin?
  • Is it breathable?
  • Is it a natural fibre?
  • Before a garment is sent into final production, it undergoes several tests to check the three questions above. These checks are accomplished through material washes, fit checks, and so on.

Your letter to the FLORA community mentions rewriting the narrative together. What changes or shifts in the fashion industry are you most passionate about championing?

FLORA is designed for the woman who doesn’t want to be put in a box, no matter her age. She’s the woman who can fit many different roles and enjoys doing so, from conservative to flirty, from the boss to the mother. There is a little something for every mood, phase, or life quest at FLORA.

In what ways do you hope FLORA garments empower women to express themselves creatively?

There is just something about putting on a vibrant floral print that elevates your spirit. It’s hard to be in a bad mood when you’re wearing yellow florals, for example, and we believe there is a creative being in all of us waiting to be engaged. Therefore, we hope that by wearing FLORA, the creative spirit rises within each of its wearers and inspires women to engage their natural-born imagination and creativity.

How do you see fashion as a means of promoting self-confidence and empowerment?

The saying, “when you look good, you feel good” couldn’t be more true. When women dress in clothes that truly represent themselves, there is a sense of pride and joy that coincides which is ultimately empowering.

What challenges have you faced as a small business owner in the fashion industry, and how have you overcome them?

Finding the right manufacturing partner was a challenge and took a lot of research to find. Now, we are grateful for our partners in Vietnam and San Francisco and look forward to building a long-term partnership. Also, the idea that not every brand aspect needs to be solidified from day 1 and that it’s okay to learn and evolve through customer feedback has been a difficult lesson to learn but one that holds a lot of truth.

Your purpose statement emphasises inspiring others to live fully. How do you envision FLORA contributing to this mission beyond just clothing?

I used to be an art therapist and mental health counsellor and saw that most humans just want to be seen and heard to reach self-actualisation, and when you’re happy you tend to take more risks and live with a higher sense of self. So, at FLORA, we want to help women feel seen.

As our small business evolves, we would love to empower under-resourced women through a social responsibility arm of FLORA.

What advice would you give to aspiring designers looking to create their own sustainable fashion brands?

Just start, don’t wait for all the stars to align, you can always figure it out as you go.

How do you stay connected to your customers and their needs as you continue to grow FLORA?

Many of our customers have been seeing the brand grow from the behind-the-scenes posts I’ve shared on my personal Instagram @alexandriacruz. We also are transparent with our customers through the FLORA Instagram account @florabyalexandria and show behind the scenes of the photoshoots before styles have been released. As we grow, I’d like to share more of my painting and design process through our social channels and email communication.

We may even let consumers vote on the next print!

Could you describe the typical FLORA customer? What characteristics or values do they share?

A typical FLORA customer is a natural beauty, curious about the world, has an appreciation for art, love of warmer climates and of course, florals.

Our readers love to travel, what destination is at the top of your bucket list?

I’ll be traveling to Spain and the South of France soon; they have always been a bucket list place for me. Next, Portugal!

What’s your go-to quote when you are lacking motivation?

“If it weren’t hard, everyone would do it” – helps me remember it’s supposed to be hard!

I also wrote this mantra for myself: I am going to make mistakes, they may be costly, it’s part of the process, How I pivot and learn will determine my success, just keep going, don’t give up.

Finally, what message would you like to share with the readers of House of Coco magazine about FLORA and your journey as a designer?

Looking outside of myself and noticing the beauty around me has been the driving force behind my artistic vision and creativity. So, I encourage your readers as they travel the world, to take it all in, inspire and stay inspired– always!

Ready to explore more captivating journeys? Dive into House of Coco for an abundance of inspiring stories waiting to ignite your imagination and fuel your passions.

The Cumberland Hotel’s History

Standing proud in the vibrant streets of London, The Cumberland Hotel shines as a beacon of timeless elegance and unparalleled hospitality. The hotels illustrious history is intertwined with the rich tapestry of London’s cultural scene, make it not just a place to stay but a destination imbued with a legacy of music and entertainment.

Originally constructed in the 1930s, The Cumberland Hotel has long been a cherished landmark in London’s cultural landscape. Over the decades, it has played host to an array of music icons, from legendary bands to solo artists, who have graced the halls with unforgettable performances. The echoes of past concerts linger in the air, adding a sense of magic to every stay.

One of the most notable periods in the hotel’s history is its association with iconic musicians of the 1960s. During this time, The Cumberland Hotel became a hub for the burgeoning rock and roll scene, attracting artists and fans alike with its vibrant energy and unparalleled hospitality. Legendary bands such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones frequented the hotel, often staying in its luxurious suites and making impromptu appearances at its bars and lounges.

In the following decades, The Cumberland Hotel continued cementing its reputation as a haven for music lovers. Artists ranging from David Bowie to Queen have left an indelible mark on its legacy. Today, The Cumberland Hotel continues to pay homage to its musical heritage while offering guests a luxurious retreat in the heart of London. With its exclusive Backstage upgrade, guests are treated to a truly immersive experience that goes beyond traditional hospitality.

Backstage Upgrades and Rock Star Status

My recent stay at The Cumberland Hotel offered me more than just a luxurious retreat; it provided a journey through the hotel’s rich musical history. As a delegate representing the United Nations CSW68, celebrating International Women’s Day in London, I sought a place to unwind and celebrate after fulfilling my duties. Stepping into the lobby, I was immediately embraced by an ambience steeped in history, with echoes of past performances reverberating through its halls. I was also embraced by the hotels signature scent and a vibrant buzzing lobby, the perfect tone for my evening of self-care and celebration.

The Backstage upgrade, with its exclusive amenities and indulgent offerings, served as a fitting tribute to the hotel’s musical heritage. As I lounged in the relaxing seating area, savouring the most delicious dim sum delicacies and fine wines, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of reverence for the artists who had once graced this very space with their presence.

The exceptional service from the Backstage staff truly elevated my stay at The Cumberland Hotel to rock-star status. Each time I visited this exclusive area, I was treated with attentiveness and care that made me feel like a VIP. Whether anticipating my preferences for food and drinks or providing me with options of personalised music to enjoy in my suite, the staff went above and beyond to ensure that every aspect of my stay was nothing short of extraordinary. Their genuine warmth and dedication to creating memorable experiences left an indelible impression, making me feel like a true rock star throughout my time at the hotel.

A Suite Life

Stepping into my suite at The Cumberland Hotel felt like entering a sanctuary of luxury and comfort. Impeccable cleanliness greeted me at every turn, with every surface gleaming and inviting. The attention to detail was evident, from the perfectly arranged furnishings to the pristine linens adorning the bed. My highlight of the suite was the expansive and beautifully decorated walk-in wardrobe, complete with a selection of designer robes and slippers, offering a touch of indulgence that exceeded expectations.

As I explored the suite further, I discovered a fully stocked mini-bar offering an array of beverages to suit every preference. The music theme continued in my suite, a treasure trove of musical memorabilia. From vintage posters to LP players to guitars. However, what put the biggest smile on my face was the thoughtful gesture from the Backstage staff – a chilled bottle of fizz and a beautifully arranged fruit platter awaited me upon arrival, setting the tone for a memorable stay. Each element of the suite exuded a sense of refinement and sophistication, ensuring that my time at The Cumberland Hotel was nothing short of exceptional.

During my stay, I had the opportunity to immerse myself in the hotel’s live music experience during dinner at the Sound Bar, where talented musicians serenaded guests and lifted the atmosphere with lively melodies and infectious rhythms. It was a magical evening, reminiscent of the legendary performances that had once electrified The Cumberland Hotel’s stages.

Beyond its musical offerings, The Cumberland Hotel continues to excel in providing unparalleled hospitality and luxurious accommodations. Situated just moments away from Hyde Park and Oxford Street, it offers the perfect blend of tranquility and convenience for travellers eager to explore all that London has to offer.

In summary

My stay at The Cumberland Hotel was a journey through time and music, where the echoes of past performances mingled with the sounds of the present. From the exclusive Backstage upgrade to the impeccable service and stylish accommodations, every moment was infused with a sense of history and sophistication. For travellers seeking a truly unforgettable experience in the heart of London, The Cumberland Hotel remains a beacon of luxury and cultural heritage, inviting guests to become part of its storied legacy. Would I stay here again? A reSOUNDing yes!

Key Facts

  • Hotel Name: The Cumberland Hotel
  • Location: Marble Arch, London, United Kingdom
  • Average Price for a 1-Night Stay in a Suite with Backstage Upgrade:
    • Weekday Rate: £350 – £450 GBP per night
    • Weekend Rate: £400 – £500 GBP per night (prices may vary depending on the season and availability)
  • Amenities: Backstage Upgrade (exclusive access to Backstage area with complimentary food and drinks), fully stocked mini-bar, luxury linens and designer robes, personalised service from attentive staff.

Want more hotel ideas? Check out our hotel and spa’s page.

Imagine being born on February 29th 1992 and thinking you are 32 years old – but actually, on a technicality, you’re only eight years old. Mad, right?

Unlike many of us, leap-year babies only get to celebrate a birthday once every four years. Of course, we’re sure these savvy individuals have indulged in celebrations (and most importantly, presents) on February 28th, but it’s still a bit trippy.

leap day year babies win travel holiday
Leap Day babies could win a £1000 holiday this February….

Well, loveholidays agrees that there’s a little bit of unfairness going on from the universe and has given little leaplings the opportunity to win a £1000 holiday. Suddenly we’re a bit envious of this particular birth date…

To celebrate Leap Day 2024, online travel agent loveholidays is giving away five £1000 holiday vouchers to those born on February 29th because…well because they’re out there doing God’s work, really.

According to the Office of National Statistics, 10,796 people have been born on February 29th in the UK, since 1995. Okay, so the odds aren’t quite as high as some Leap Day babies might have hoped. But still…

Commenting on the giveaway, Al Murray, Chief Marketing Officer at loveholidays says: 

“Birthdays are a time to celebrate another go round the sun, and more people are choosing the gift of travel above anything else to do so. Having a birthday every four years means those born on leap day can miss out on the usual birthday fuss, so as part of our random acts of sunshine, we’re offering them the perfect opportunity to make up for ‘lost time’.”

How to enter the Leap Day competition

According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), 10,796 people have been born on February 29 in the UK since 1995. If you’re one of these people, you can enter the giveaway until the end of Thursday 29th February. Entrants will need to submit their full name, email address and date of birth. T&Cs, including I.D. verification, apply.

Five lucky winners will be able to use their vouchers on a well-deserved break, selecting from millions of holidays, from short-haul city breaks to longer-haul package holidays. Not a bad trade-off for being a Leap Day baby, we don’t think…

Your brand identity is more than just a logo or color scheme—it’s the essence of your business that resonates with your consumers. It encompasses the values and personality that you convey through every interaction. When this identity is echoed in your unique packaging, you create a cohesive brand experience that can significantly enhance customer recognition and loyalty. Eye-catching and memorable product packaging not only sets your products apart on the shelf but also reinforces your brand message in the minds of your customers.

Understanding how to align your brand identity with your packaging is crucial for success in today’s competitive market. Consumers often make purchasing decisions based on first impressions—and your packaging is often the first point of contact. By innovating with print boxes for your business, you can ensure that your brand story is being told consistently and effectively from the moment a consumer sees your product to the unboxing experience.

By investing in packaging that reflects your brand’s core values and appeals to the aesthetic of your audience, you reinforce your brand’s place in the market. It’s not just what’s inside that counts; the exterior is a powerful tool for connection and communication. Whether you’re an established company looking to revamp your packaging or a startup making your debut, aligning your brand identity with your packaging choices is a pivotal step toward building a strong, recognizable brand.

Developing a Cohesive Brand Identity

To build a cohesive brand identity, you must grasp your brand’s core values, implement consistent design aesthetics, and maintain uniformity across all customer interaction points. A well-defined identity fortifies your brand’s promise and shapes its perception in the marketplace.

Understanding Your Brand’s Core Values

Your brand’s core values are the cornerstone of its identity. They articulate what you stand for and guide every aspect of your business, from your mission statement to your brand message. To connect with your audience meaningfully, clarify your values and ensure they resonate with your customers’ beliefs and expectations. Reflect on what sets you apart and weave these differentiators into your communication efforts to create brand familiarity.

The Role of Design and Aesthetics

Crafting your brand’s visual identity extends beyond just the logo; it encompasses the selection of fonts, color schemes, and imagery that convey your brand’s personality. The design elements should align with your brand values to create a visual language that’s instantly recognizable. Think of design as a tool to communicate your brand message—including your brand’s mission and promise—in a way that appeals to your audience.

Consistency Across Touchpoints

Consistency is the key to reinforcing your brand strategy and ensuring a cohesive identity. It is critical to establish a consistent voice, tone, and style across all communication channels—from packaging to online content—to aid in developing a strong brand perception. Every point of interaction with your customers should reaffirm who you are and the value you provide, solidifying their trust and loyalty.

By aligning your brand identity and packaging innovations with your core values, design aesthetics, and maintaining consistency across all touchpoints, you will build not just a brand, but a lasting legacy in the minds of your customers.

Innovating with Unique Packaging

Crafting a distinct packaging strategy ensures not only the preservation and presentation of your product but also creates a compelling narrative for your brand. As you explore ways to innovate, consider the materials and design elements that resonate with your customer base, all while focusing on sustainability and uniqueness.

Elevating the Unboxing Experience

Your packaging is the first physical touchpoint with consumers, and it’s critical in developing a memorable customer experience. The unboxing event should engage customers through various elements like color schemes and imagery that reflect your visual identity. High-quality materials combined with innovative design can transform a simple act of opening a box into an entire event that customers may share on social media, expanding your brand presence.

Eco-Friendly and Sustainable Practices

In an era where sustainability is a consumer priority, the use of eco-friendly and recyclable materials in your packaging design can make a significant statement about your brand values. Sustainable practices are not only crucial for the environment but also can foster a positive emotional connection with consumers who share these values. Opting for recyclable or biodegradable materials clearly conveys your commitment to the planet.

Customization and Personalization

The appeal of customization lies in its ability to foster a deeper engagement with your customers. Personalized packaging incorporating a customer’s name or a unique design can make the experience feel exclusive and luxurious. Collaboration with your customers during the design process of custom packaging can also enhance customer loyalty and support, as it provides them what they value: acknowledgment and appreciation from the brands they patronize.

By integrating unique packaging options from companies that specialize in Custom Boxes Packaging, you tap into innovative solutions that maintain product protection and elevate the overall aesthetic. Remember, simplicity in your packaging can often speak volumes—complex isn’t always better. Effective packaging innovation requires consistent brand consistency, a deep understanding of your market, and reliable testing to ensure the quality and reliability of your designs.


Aligning your brand identity with innovative packaging is a strategic move that distinguishes your products in the market. By leveraging custom packaging, you create a memorable customer experience and communicate your values effectively. It’s more than just aesthetics; it’s about creating a tangible extension of your brand that resonates with consumers. Consistency in branding, aided by distinctive packaging, builds recognition and trust, giving you a competitive edge.

Having a pet at home is fun and exciting, but you should also be responsible. You should take proper care of it and train it to behave well in public.

There is so much to consider when caring for a pet that it could soon add to your expenses. 

Trips to the vet are also costly, so it is advisable to have pet insurance coverage for your pet dog or cat.

In this post, you’ll learn about pet insurance and how to find affordable pet insurance. 

What Is Pet Insurance, And Why Do You Need It?

Pet insurance is an insurance policy that a pet owner buys. Its goal is to help lessen the overall costs of taking care of a pet, especially in terms of veterinary expenses.

The coverage concept is very similar to people’s health insurance policies. Pet insurances generally cover a part of or the total costs of expensive veterinary examinations and procedures. 

The procedures are similar to life and health insurance policies that pet owners are already familiar with. However, you must compare several pet insurance policies before committing to one.

Why Should You Compare Pet Insurance?

A visit to the vet could be expensive, but so is pet insurance. That is why you need to consider and company several pet insurance coverages before choosing the suitable one for your pet.

Switching pet insurance is not the same as doing so for home or car insurance. It will not save you money but will cost you more because your pet will be much older and less healthy than when you bought the previous insurance policy.

That is one of the main reasons you must compare pet insurance and choose one wisely. You must find the right pet insurance policy at an affordable price.

How To Find Affordable Pet Insurance?

Finding an affordable pet insurance policy is crucial to stick to it in the long run. You must check for insurance deals and compare various deals via insurance company websites and the like.

You must have some knowledge of this subject matter to be able to choose the right insurance policy for your pet.

How To Compare Pet Insurance Quotes?

You can compare pet insurance policy quotes on price comparison websites. These sites will give you an idea of the costs of different types of insurance policies.

Once you visit the insurance company’s website, you must check if the pet insurance policy details match your expectations.

Another thing to note is if the insurance company has the correct details about you and your pet so that the insurance quote is accurate.

What Do You Need To Get A Pet Insurance Quote?

You need the below details to get an insurance quote for your pet.

  • Its age
  • Its breed
  • Its size
  • Its medical history and current health condition
  • Its behavioral history
  • For how much you bought it if bought instead of adopted

Your pet’s breed is vital when choosing the correct type of insurance. Some breeds are more prone to specific injuries, making them more expensive to insure.

Therefore, learn about the needs of your pet’s particular breed, as it will help you find a cheaper premium. 

For example, dachshunds can be prone to back issues and labrador retrievers to cruciate ligament issues. Treatment costs for these issues are very high and can set you back by thousands of dollars.

Cats are relatively healthier than dogs, so that you can consider a lower level of cover. However, cats can be prone to certain chronic conditions like hyperthyroidism, especially later in their lives.

You must also speak to your vet about your pet’s health condition and hereditary issues. They will be able to estimate how much insurance you should get for your furry friend.

Use Cashback Sites To Get Cheaper Insurance

Another type of comparison website is the cashback site. As the name denotes, these sites pay pet owners a cash reward when they buy products and services from their websites. The services rewarded included insurance as well.

These websites are worth visiting while you shop for discounts, deals, and offers. However, they may not necessarily offer you the best deals, even with the cashback reward. Therefore, you need to go through these sites and analyze them well.

For example, a $1000 insurance policy with $200 cashback is far from a bargain if you can get the same coverage from another insurance policy for $700.

What Type Of Pet Insurance Do You Need?

Here are the three primary types of pet insurance.

Lifetime Cover Pet Insurance

Lifetime cover pet insurance is the most comprehensive and popular type of pet insurance available. 

It pays out indefinitely for medical treatment for your pet’s entire life, with annual limitations.

Non-Lifetime Cover Pet Insurance

Non-lifetime cover pet insurance is a less comprehensive form of pet insurance. In this policy, cover for conditions can ‘run out’ within the pet’s lifetime.

Non-lifetime policies exclude health conditions after a cash limit has been depleted or the time limit has been exceeded.

Accident-Only Pet Insurance

Accident-only pet insurance is the cheapest type of insurance that you are able to get for your pet. It doesn’t cover any illnesses or health conditions. 

It will only pay a fixed amount for any treatment due to accidents and injuries.

How Much Insurance Cover Do You Need?

The average pet insurance claim in 2021 was $1050, a significant rise compared to the average paid in 2020, which was $1012. It is believed to have risen due to the increasing cost of treatments.

Therefore, you may need to make several claims, which are becoming common today. To avoid this type of situation, follow these steps:

  • Look for an insurance policy that pays for both illnesses and injuries
  • Stay away from insurance policies from which you can claim less than $2478 per year

Keep in mind that these are minimum recommendations. The pet owner will need to bear Any additional treatment cost beyond the cover amount.

Is Pet Insurance Worth It?

The opportunity to claim greatly depends on the pet owner. You are left with no alternative if you are unconvinced about the amount your pet insurance covers.

You can self-insure by saving an amount dedicated to paying vet bills when required. The good thing about this method is that you have the money for any emergency, and it can also earn interest. Its total value may also vary depending on factors like inflation.

However, this fund needs a significant amount, such as thousands of dollars. Therefore, you need to start saving early.

Cheap Pet Insurance For Multiple Pets

Some insurance policies provide concessions when you insure more than one pet. Find out if you can get a discount by insuring all your pets with a single insurance provider. Several pet insurers offer discounts to insure multiple pets, but not all do.

A multi-pet policy will cut your costs more, so you need to find out if your insurance provider does so.

Cheap Pet Insurance For Distinct Pets

Unique pets may be given special attention regarding insurance coverage due to their rarity among pets.

Dogs and cats are among the most popular pets in almost every household. It’s not often that you find spiders, snakes, and lizards kept as pets.

There are also more exotic types of pets, such as rabbits, horses, and birds, that may not be covered under traditional insurance policies.

Speak to different pet insurance specialists to see if your pet can be covered traditionally, or reach out for further help.

More Ways To Get Cheap Pet Insurance

Here are a few ways to get cheap pet insurance.

  • Pay annually.
  • Get your pet insured when it is young and healthy.
  • Microchip your pet and use a GPS tracking device for dogs.
  • Ensure your pet is up-to-date on its vaccinations.
  • Haggle on renewal.

Pet Insurances 

Here are a few of the best pet insurances available.

Final Thoughts

Getting your pet insured is a wise decision and one that is essential to consider. It will help you cut down on all the expensive vet bills you may have to cover during your pet’s lifetime.

Depending on the type of pet you have and its breed, the insurance coverage must be decided. It’s best to speak to your vet about any underlying health condition your pet may have or is prone to. 

There are different types of pet insurance to choose from, including lifetime cover, non-lifetime cover, and accident-only pet insurance. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are The Different Types Of Pet Insurance?

The types of pet insurance are lifetime cover pet insurance, non-lifetime cover pet insurance, and accident-only pet insurance.

Which Level Of Pet Insurance Is Best?

A lifetime cover pet insurance is best for pets as it will have limits that renew every year. Renewing limits will protect you from recurring and long-term health problems during your pet’s lifetime.

What Dog Breeds Have The Cheapest Health Insurance?

Dog breeds like Yorkshire Terriers, Australian Shepherds, and English Springer Spaniels have the cheapest health insurance.

In the serene landscapes of Western Georgia, amidst rolling green hills and snow-capped peaks, an unassuming revolution is brewing. Meet Georgie Styles, a passionate advocate for sustainable tea trade, and the mind behind the captivating journey from Georgia to the UK…

As we settle into the colder months here in the UK, many of us are reaching for the kettle – a tool of tradition that exemplifies Great Britain’s strong thirst for tea. 

Yet despite our love for a hot brew, not many of us know where it comes from. Whilst the Camellia Sinensis (tea plant) is indeed native to China, South and Southeast Asia, it is in fact Kenya that is our largest tea trader, supplying over 40% of our UK tea needs, particularly black tea. 

However in a world of climate breakdown, and in a country with a brewing count of over 165 million cups of tea a day – that’s 60 billion cups a year – is the revival of Georgia’s lost tea industry, the most northerly tea producer in the world, the answer to our search for a more sustainable cuppa?

A Growing Thirst for Sustainability

Set across a backdrop of rolling green hills and snowy peaks in the distance, straw hats bob along rows of tea bushes.

“I love working here very, very much” says Potola Dzneladze, an elderly tea picker giggling with her colleagues as she vigorously snaps leaves off the bushes and drops them in a woven basket draped over her back. 

Potola has worked as a tea picker and grower for over 40 years, also tending to her own home tea garden in Ozurgeti – the capital of the Guria region of Western Georgia. This region is known across Georgia as the centre for tea thanks to its humid, subtropical climate and vast forested mountains.

As Potola speeds along lines of tea bushes, her well trained eye selecting the finest leaves with just a glance, she’s totally unaware that she is at the forefront of a brewing revolution which is set to serve the sustainability needs of the next generation. 

As the world moves further into a state of climate emergency, we are becoming ever more conscious of our consumer footprint. Here in the UK, every three in four adults feel ‘very’ worried about the state of the climate, and almost 70% of 16-29 year olds. Resulting in the rise of ‘climate anxiety’ or ‘eco-anxiety’ – heightened emotional, mental or somatic distress in response to dangerous changes in the climate system

This often goes hand in hand with changes in buying habits as a way to take control and ensure a positive impact on the world. A report by IPSOS on behalf of Yara International, shows that ‘58% of Europeans consider the climate impact important when buying food and beverages’ and another report by Kearney has revealed that by 2030, the majority of US consumers will be directed by the climate – consumer trends the UK is sure to follow. 

With the rise of the climate-conscious eater and terms like ‘climavore’ and ‘locavore’ hitting the headlines in 2023, this year is set to mark a new wave of climate-focussed consumerism. So in an industry that is worth almost £1bn, what we choose to put in our mugs can have a big impact. 

Georgia’s Tea History

Once amongst the finest tea producers of the world, Georgia, a country nestled between Turkey and Russia, is proud to have deep rooted tea traditions, resulting in an age-old tea obsession that almost matches that of the Brits. 

Rich in biodiversity, agrarian heritage and folklore centred around food and drink, Georgia is home to over 8000 years of viticulture, 525 acknowledged indigenous grape varieties, 12 microclimates (ranging from subtropical to semi-desert) and 49 different varieties of arable volcanic soil. Never has a country prided itself on its food heritage and traditions so strongly, and who can blame them? After a long history of occupation and foreign invasion, food has been the saviour of their national identity through generations of displacement.

After the Georgian Prince, Miha Eristavi, started the first tea farms in the region of Guria in 1847, Georgia took centre stage as the most northerly tea producer in the world, igniting a strong reverence for ‘terroir’ or ‘the taste of place’ with every sip of Georgian produced tea. 

However when Georgia was taken under USSR control in the 1930s, focus on the quality of tea production rapidly ended and shifted towards quantity. By the 1980s, Georgia was the fourth largest producer of tea in the world, supplying over 90% of the Soviet Union’s tea needs. Higher yields were achieved by the development of hybrid seeds, which impacted on taste and Georgia quickly lost one of its prized specialities. After the Soviet empire collapsed, Georgia sadly lost its tea production passion and most of their plantations went into disrepair. 

A Brewing Revolution

Fast forward 30 years and there is a revival of Georgia’s lost tea industry, igniting a resurgence of high quality, Nature-driven tea production.

“I really enjoy working in the tea plantations again now, the quality is much better and I get to choose the quality of the tea I pick,” says Lamara, a 67 year old tea picker who studied tea technology at a Georgian university. 

Lamara picks tea for some of Georgia’s 80 tea producers, now churning out 2,500 tonnes of tea whilst repairing their ancient plantations, upholding Nature and redefining quality. Producers are once again harvesting from wild plants, and slowly reviving plantations in line with Nature that have been left untouched for decades.

Geoflower – Georgia’s flagship of the regenerative tea revolution – brews up 100% Organic, FairWild certified, Single Estate mountain tea. Foraging Georgia’s bountiful natural resources, they blend wild roots, herbs, flowers and fruits to create unique flavours fit for increasingly climate-conscious consumers.

“Everybody should take climate responsibility on their shoulders, otherwise it’s not going to work. If you’re only counting how much profit [you have], it’s not going to work – [this is] our philosophy” says Gocha Dzneladze from Geoflower. 

But not only is Georgia now reviving their tea traditions and plantations, they are now marrying their traditional folklore, foraging and drinks production techniques with the future of green technology to stay ahead of the curve in a competitive market.

Geoflower has developed innovative environmental credentials such as tea-drying ovens fuelled by waste hazelnut shells and achieving 90% of renewable energy from solar, reaching their net-zero emission goals sooner than 2030 targets. 

This merging of tradition and environmental innovations, is the new face of Georgian tea. 

The New Age Of Tea

Located on the fringes of the EU – and perhaps soon to be a new EU member state – Georgia has growing export potential across the EU and UK, which producers like Geoflower are keen to take advantage of. 

So as the demand for sustainable, emissions-conscious production comes more rapidly than a change in our tastes, Georgia’s captivating tea-revival is well-placed to quench the thirst for shorter supply-chains and high quality, nature-driven products that the next generation of UK tea drinkers will happily sip on.

The growing demand for personalised wellness is on the rise with more consumers looking to proactively prevent illness and boost wellness with biohacking and longevity solutions and treatments.   The Covid 19 pandemic has been pivotal to us taking an analytic interest in our health and how we can best optimise it with science backed, bespoke wellbeing programmes.

This has seen an increase of wellness clinics, providing state of the art technology, cutting edge treatments and solutions, all housed under one stylish, sleek roof.  Want to know more about how you can hack your health?  Here’s my favourite wellness destinations and their biohacking solutions to level up your wellbeing.   


HUM2N is a team of experts with access to some of the best cutting-edge technologies and deep biomarker testing (to flag future health issues). Whether you are looking to improve your overall health, skin or increase longevity, Dr Enayat and his team have your back.   Client consultations kick off your wellness journey and following biomarker testing, expect a bespoke healthcare programme that might incorporate NAD+ therapy, a course of cryotherapy or sessions in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber.  The journey continues away from the clinic, with a dedicated Doctor and nutritional therapists, working with you remotely, providing ongoing care, medication and lifestyle strategies to help keep your health goals on track.  HUM2N clients have seen on average a remarkable 42% improvement in health within 8 weeks. 


This Hertfordshire based clinic focuses on four pillars; wellness, recovery, laser and aesthetics.  The team here know their stuff, whether you are looking to recharge your inner battery, recover from an intense training session or perk up a dull complexion there’s a slew of preventative and regenerative treatments from cryotherapy, NormaTec compression and infrared sauna therapy. 

One of the ground-breaking treatments available at Aqua-Tox is the Emsella Chair, a non-invasive device that uses high-intensity focused electromagnetic (HIFEM) technology to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and target conditions such as stress incontinence, experienced by many women after childbirth and during menopause.  Just one Emsella treatment is the equivalent of 11,000 Kegel exercises in just 30 minutes and is clinically proven to reduce pelvic floor disorders.  The chair is designed to deliver targeted electromagnetic waves to the muscles in the pelvic region, causing involuntary contractions that help to improve muscle tone, strength, and function.  

Grey Wolfe

The biotechnology at Grey Wolfe is precisely researched, backed by credible science and authentically curated to deliver the ultimate recharge.

The BioCharger is a smart piece of tech that works to enhance health, wellness and athletic performance by balancing the energy of every cell in your body. It promises to optimise the frequencies in your body to ease anxiety, energise you, and banish stress by utilising four different energy types; light, voltage, frequencies, and Pulsed Electro-Magnetic Fields (PEMFs) to duplicate and restore the energy cells leaving you feeling rejuvinated and calm.


Remedi London, founded by aesthetic doctor Nima Mahmoodi and integrated medicine practitioner Yasmin Shirazi is designed to help a discerning clientele address a host of physical, mental, spiritual and emotional needs using science-backed treatments and biohacking therapies.

The Rebalance Impulse is a non-invasive stimulation and cognitive training device based on applied neurosciences, devoted to fighting stress and preventing health problems.  A 30-minute session combines a range of exercises and techniques such as breathing, guided mental imagery, cardiac coherence, sound therapy, mindfulness training and binaural synchrotherapy to tackle a host of health concerns.

The Body Lab

Developed and delivered by industry experts, self-care gets seriously chic at The Body Lab where they offer an extensive range of regenerative therapies and services focussed on enhancing health optimisation both inside and out

The operation here is slick, the aesthetics and design similar to a five-star hotel. Access their world-class gym, flotation tank, infrared cabins and cryotherapy room, alongside nutritional guidance, specialist training, physiotherapists and other fitness recovery specialists.

Europe is home to a plethora of photogenic destinations, each offering its own unique charm and beauty. Many destinations can provide a perfect blend of natural beauty, historic charm, and unique architecture, making them ideal for capturing stunning photographs. Here are just a select few of the most photogenic places to visit in Europe…

Santorini, Greece

Santorini is a stunning island in the southern Aegean Sea and is part of the Cyclades group of islands in Greece. It is renowned for its breathtaking landscapes, crystal-clear waters, and traditional Cycladic architecture characterised by white-washed buildings with blue-domed roofs and colourful shutters. The contrast of the white buildings against the deep blue sea and sky creates a visually striking scene.

The most iconic images of Santorini often feature the panoramic views of the caldera, a large volcanic crater filled with deep blue water. The villages of Fira and Oia, perched on the cliffs overlooking the caldera, provide some of the most spectacular sunset views in the world. Oia, located on the northern tip of the island, is particularly famous for its sunset views. The sun setting over the caldera paints the sky with hues of orange and pink, creating a magical atmosphere.

The windmills and the castle in Oiaare popular spots to capture this breathtaking moment. Also for history enthusiasts, the ancient city of Akrotiri, preserved in volcanic ash, provides a glimpse into the island’s Minoan past. The ruins, including well-preserved frescoes, offer interesting subject matter for photography. Whether you’re exploring the charming villages, enjoying the sunset in Oia, or relaxing on the beautiful beaches, Santorini offers endless opportunities for capturing the beauty of the Greek islands.

Hallstatt, Austria

Hallstatt, Austria is a picturesque village known for its stunning Alpine scenery, charming architecture, and serene lakeside location. Here are some photo opportunities you might want to explore.  You can capture the beauty of Lake Hallstatt with the village reflected in the clear waters. Sunrise and sunset are particularly magical times for photographing the lake. Marktplatz, the heart of Hallstatt, is surrounded by colourful buildings and featuring a charming fountain, which all make the square especially photogenic during different times of the day.

The surrounding Dachstein Mountain Range provides a stunning backdrop and it is worth taking a boat trip on the lake or going to elevated viewpoints for panoramic shots. But if you are looking for the classic viewpoint that many photographers use to capture the entire village, lake, and mountains. It’s accessible by a short hike up the hill.

The Highlands, Scotland

The Scottish Highlands offer breathtaking landscapes and diverse photography opportunities. You can capture everything from vast and dramatic landscapes, rugged mountains, serene lochs, and expansive moorlands. Explore the numerous castles and historic sites scattered throughout the Highlands, such as Eilean Donan Castle, Urquhart Castle, and Dunrobin Castle, which are all very dramatic, especially during sunrise or sunset. You can utilise the still waters of lochs for reflections of mountains and clouds – Loch Ness, Loch Lomond, and Loch Shiel are just a few examples worth visiting.

Take advantage of the ever-changing weather conditions in the Highlands. Misty mornings and low-hanging clouds can add a mysterious and ethereal quality to your photos. The differing seasons provide a wide range of photo opportunities. You can capture the changing colours of autumn, the snow-covered landscapes in winter, the vibrant blooms in spring, and the long days of summer. Whatever the season, remember to check the weather forecast and be prepared for rapidly changing conditions. The key to great photography in the Scottish Highlands is to be patient, embrace the unpredictable weather, and appreciate the natural beauty that surrounds you.

Barcelona, Spain

The Sagrada Familia is Gaudí’s masterpiece and one of the most famous landmarks in Barcelona. The architecture of the Sagrada Familia is characterised by its intricate and organic design, inspired by nature. The facades are adorned with detailed sculptures, and the interior features towering columns and a unique play of light. Park Güell, a public park with colourful and imaginative architectural elements is another great photo opportunity within the city.

The park’s main terrace is surrounded by a long bench in the form of a sea serpent, and the vibrant mosaics, known as “trencadís,” add a playful and lively atmosphere. The entrance pavilions and gingerbread-house-like structures throughout the park showcase Gaudí’s playful use of shapes and colours. Photographing these architectural wonders provides a visual feast, to be enjoyed long after your visit.

Prague, Czech Republic

The historic city of Prague, with its charming Old Town Square, Prague Castle, and Charles Bridge, is a fairy-tale setting for photography. Prague’s cobblestone streets, historic architecture, and the Vltava River flowing through the city contribute to its fairy-tale ambiance. The city is known for its well-preserved mediaeval and Baroque architecture, creating a magical atmosphere that’s particularly enchanting during sunrise and sunset.

Photographers often find inspiration in the interplay of light and shadow on the city’s historic buildings, the reflections in the river, and the overall romantic atmosphere. Whether capturing the intricate details of Prague Castle, the lively scenes in Old Town Square, or the timeless beauty of Charles Bridge, there’s no shortage of captivating subjects for photography in this enchanting city.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, is a picturesque city with numerous places for capturing beautiful shots. Explore the iconic canal belt with its historic houses and picturesque bridges, especially in neighbourhoods like Jordaan and De Pijp, taking a canal cruise can offer you unique perspectives of the city. The sea of bicycles is a quintessential part of Amsterdam’s culture.

Look for bike-lined streets and dedicated parking areas.  Depending on when you visit you might catch the tulip season (typically April) and the Keukenhof Gardens, located just outside the city, is a stunning location for photographing the colour-packed tulip fields. Remember to respect privacy and local regulations when taking photos, especially in sensitive areas such as the Red Light District. Additionally, capturing the essence of Amsterdam often involves exploring its charming streets and canals, so don’t hesitate to venture off the beaten path for hidden gems.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Dubrovnik is a stunning city with its well-preserved mediaeval architecture, charming old town, and picturesque coastal setting. Take photos from various points along the city walls for panoramic views of the red-tiled roofs, the Adriatic Sea, and the surrounding landscapes. Or wander through the narrow, cobblestone streets of the old town and capture the charming architecture, vibrant flowers, and local life. If you are feeling adventurous tTake the cable car or hike up Mount Srd for breathtaking sunset views over the city.

The changing colours of the sky against the city’s silhouette make for a magical scene. Early morning or late afternoon light can add a warm glow to your shots. But at night the city takes on a magical atmosphere at night when the lights come on. Capture the illuminated buildings and the reflections in the polished stone streets. Whether you’re capturing the city’s historic sites, its natural beauty, or the daily life of its residents, Dubrovnik offers a wealth of photo opportunities.

Each of these destinations offer a mix of natural beauty, historic charm, and unique architecture, making them ideal for capturing stunning photographs. All that is left for you to do is pack your camera equipment, get it to your chosen destination and get snapping.

Immerse yourself in the vivid world of Sumi Haleem and her eco-conscious swimwear brand, Funoas, as we dive into an inspiring narrative featured in House of Coco magazine. From the crystal-clear waters of the Maldives to the global stage of sustainable fashion, Sumi shares her journey of intertwining art, culture, and environmental advocacy.

Discover how Funoas has become a symbol of change, leading the way in eco-conscious practices and influencing a movement for a more sustainable future. Join us in celebrating Sumi Haleem’s dedication to reviving her ancient culture and leaving a legacy that transcends the shores of the Maldives…

Sumi, can you take us back to the moment when you first started scuba diving in 2014? How did that experience influence your perspective on the Maldives’ coral reefs and the environment?

When I first started scuba diving, I fell in love with the whole process of submerging myself under the sea, amidst the coral reefs, as an observer of this extraordinary alien world. I was obsessed with capturing the weird and wonderful sea creatures, their movements, and behavior. I was just completely fascinated by all of it.

My experience as a diver made me truly understand and appreciate the deep-rooted connection between myself, as an islander, and the coral reef systems. As a Maldivian, our livelihood and culture are shaped by the coral reefs, almost like a symbiotic relationship where one depends on the other for survival, especially now in the wake of climate change.

The beauty and vulnerability of coral reefs inspired you to create Funoas. How did you decide to translate that inspiration into an eco-conscious swimwear brand, and what were the initial challenges you faced?

I wanted to create awareness about the very real climate crisis that our island nation faces; we might disappear within the next 100 years. I am not a marine scientist, and the only way I knew how to tackle this problem was through art. Being an islander, the ocean is a core part of my identity, and I wanted to share my experience and my culture while creating a space to discuss environmental issues. So, I started Funoas, a slow fashion swimwear brand where the fabric designs are derived from our unique culture and the vibrant patterns of the islands’ coral reefs.

When I started 8 years ago, as a startup small brand, sourcing sustainably and ethically produced fabrics was very expensive and hard to find. As a slow fashion brand, it was important for me to make sure that every aspect of production was conducted in a way that had the least impact on the environment, from the dyeing process to the packaging. That was the most challenging part of the initial setup for Funoas because there was very little transparency in the manufacturing process. Things have become a lot more transparent and accessible since then.

As a Dhivehi artist and textile designer, how did your background and artistic skills shape the unique patterns and designs of Funoas swimwear, reflecting the rich indigenous heritage of the Maldives?

Our culture is completely entwined with the ocean, creating a very unique way of life for us. As a Dhivehi woman, I wanted to share our story and our culture that has shaped our lives for thousands of years. I was raised by my maternal grandmother, who is from the Maizan clan. The Maizan family is predominantly artists, artisans, and designers, so everything I know about art and design has been passed down to me from my grandparents, aunties, uncles, and cousins, all of whom are influenced by the Dhivehi way of life.

I also use my photography from the dives as a reference to create the prints using watercolor and mixed media. I think that the bold, colourful prints of Funoas swimwear very much reflect that sense of identity present in people of the sea.

Funoas is not just a swimwear brand; it’s a platform to spur discourse on climate change and the fragility of the Maldives. How do you envision your brand contributing to this important conversation?

Whenever I tell people I am from the Maldives, they automatically assume shiny, happy islanders sipping cocktails in luxury water bungalows, which is very much not true for the local people like myself. Through Funoas, I am able to start conversations about how global warming and sea-level rise are displacing our people and destroying the coral reefs. This is one of the main reasons I use patterns derived from sea creatures, so when people wear our swimwear, it is a reminder of the beauty and vulnerability of my island home.

Funoas is a great way to put our feelers out for collaborations with other artists and environmentalists to make a difference. We have collaborated with local and international artists, freedivers, environmentalists, and recently in the fashion industry. I am also very much interested in promoting slow fashion.

In the third world, it is near impossible to make sustainable brands because people can’t afford it. It is so much more affordable to purchase from fast fashion brands than to wait for an expensive print-on-demand piece. Through Funoas, I want to promote and practice the concept of recycled fabrics, upcycling old clothes, made-to-order clothing business models because we need to change the mentality to slow down the growing climate problem.

Sourcing sustainable and ethical materials is a key aspect of Funoas. Can you share some insights into your process of finding and utilizing these materials, and the impact it has on the environment?

When I first started Funoas, I spent a lot of time doing extensive research on different types of textiles and the yarn used to weave the fabrics. I found ECONYL, and they made recycled polyester which can be used to make swimwear. So, I found a factory that used these fabrics and also printed using the dye sublimation technique, which uses almost no water and is machine-operated. I made leggings and board shorts also from the same company based in Hong Kong.

This process was very tedious and time-consuming, and being Funoas being a one-woman show, it was extremely challenging, especially during COVID-19. During COVID-19, I was forced to change my business model to online to keep it afloat. This was actually a blessing in disguise because it opened this pathway to a print-on-demand business model. This model is very automated, and a lot of little companies were running the print-on-demand manufacturing.

This was a tipping point for Funoas in sustainability and ethical manufacturing because all our products were now made to order and no dead stock was ending up in landfills. Also, our swimwear is now manufactured in Europe where strict ethical codes and sustainability guidelines have to be met. The company I work with for Funoas is very focused on sustainability from having a transparent manufacturing process to packaging. I think going print on demand drastically reduced our carbon footprint as a company. We also use Squarespace as our host for our website, which is working towards using 100% renewable energy.

Starting a business is never easy, especially one with a strong ethical and environmental focus. What were the defining moments that kept you motivated during the early days of Funoas?

When I first started, I did not see Funoas so much as a business but more as an expression of myself and my identity. It was a way for me to process my scuba diving experiences and my beliefs. For me, Funoas is a way of doing my part in creating noise about the problems faced by my people and our islands.

Since then, we have grown both in popularity and as a business, so things have definitely become more serious since the early days. It is definitely a growing business now, but my core values for Funoas still remain the same and I think this is what motivated me then and still does now. Funoas is and always will be a labor of love.

The vibrant patterns in Funoas swimwear reflect the beauty of the Maldives’ coral reefs. How do you hope these designs will connect people to the environment and encourage a greater sense of responsibility?

I think us as human beings are very much an “out of sight, out of mind” sort of species. What we don’t see, we tend to forget which is why littering in the ocean is a big problem. We don’t see the vast marine ecosystem that we are hurting when we throw ghost nets and plastic bottles into the sea. When someone wears Funoas swimwear, the textile prints represent a beautiful sea creature that lives in this marine ecosystem.

It makes the wearer of the product think about the animal and therefore makes a visual connection, a gentle reminder to be respectful to those incredible animals that live in these intricately woven coral reefs. The hope for us is that through wearing these representations of Maldivian coral reefs, people can develop a sense of responsibility to care for the delicate coral reefs and everything that feeds off them, including the Dhivehi people.

Being the first eco-conscious swimwear brand from the Maldives is a significant achievement. What message do you hope Funoas sends to the fashion industry and consumers worldwide?

Our message is to say that it is very possible to start a slow fashion, environmentally friendly brand even if you are a small, self-owned startup like Funoas. The challenges and obstacles are there, and we still have a lot of work to do to make every single Funoas product 100% eco-friendly. The fast fashion industry must be abandoned to restore the health of Earth, and we want to encourage other small brands to also go eco-friendly. This is our message to the fashion industry and consumers worldwide.

Funoas was born in 2016. Looking back, what milestones are you most proud of, and how have they shaped the brand’s journey?

I am most proud of one particular design that was in our first collection. The Thaana print is one that still resonates with Maldivians and people who have lived in the Maldives. We have a unique language and writing system called Thaana Akuru that is only spoken and written in the Maldives and previously in the Laccadive islands (was a part of the Maldives in ancient times). Our Thaana design is a scatter of the letters and vowels against a black background. I think this piece brings a sense of belonging to Maldivians and nostalgia to anyone who is familiar with these letters.

It is still our most popular print. Being featured in British Vogue for the 2023 summer campaign was a huge deal for Funoas and myself as a designer. I am not one who is particularly interested in accolades, but this was a defining moment for me as a designer. I did a collaborative project with a local designer Assadh Thaufeeg and his father who was a traditional Koari maker. Koari is the traditional fisherman’s hat that we have worn from ancestral times.

It was first made using palm leaves, then with cloth but due to westernization, this hat was slowly fading away amongst the younger Maldivians. By collaborating with the artisans through Funoas, I was able to revive this motif and bring it back into the modern world. We sold out in one day, and that made me realize how much this piece resonated with people, old and young. I also realized how much we subconsciously crave for our Dhivehi-ness. I am quite proud of this project and hold it very dear to my heart.

How do you balance the cultural elements of the Maldives’ heritage with modern sustainable fashion trends in your designs?

Maldives has changed a lot over the past couple of decades, from when I was a child. Almost everyone now speaks English, and a lot of Maldivian children don’t speak Dhivehi language. Along with language, our island lifestyle is also changing to a metropolitan one. I have this sense of urgency to capture elements from our Maldivian heritage that are disappearing. I thought the best way to keep the young people interested in our old ways of life is to create a fusion between then and now.

The Koari fisherman’s hats really worked out in this way where we infused modern bright bold Faana fish print with the traditional fisherman’s hat design. I also like to make capsule collections that are limited editions. As our products are never mass-produced, this works well with popular designs because it is only available for a given period.

We have a Newspaper design that is a collage of historical events that took place in the Maldives, that people have started to forget. We always make limited edition capsules with this design, and it starts trending, without mass production and having dead stock ending up in landfills.

Can you share a specific story or moment when you felt the impact of Funoas on raising awareness about climate change and environmental issues?

A few years ago, we made reusable bamboo coffee cups with Funoas designs on them. At the time, this was a very new concept in the Maldives, and people did not catch on to the idea. We sold only a few cups, and the rest were sitting in a room, and I had scrapped it off as a loss. The government banned single-used plastic a year after I released the cups, and there was a sudden spike in the popularity of the reusable cups. We sold out, and everyone was using it.

Other brands also started bringing in different styles of reusable cups. We also collaborated with a local environmental agency, SIGS Maldives, and did giveaway challenges. I think that was a moment that Funoas was able to deliver a message and make a positive change, a little change but it is something I like to hold on to as making a difference in society.

Your journey involves intertwining art, fashion, and environmental advocacy. How do you see the synergy between these elements creating a unique identity for Funoas?

The beautiful thing about art and fashion is their ability to draw attention and deliver a message in a boundless space. I genuinely believe the best way to reach out to people or get yourself heard is through art, be it painting, writing, music, or dance and not through structured institutional and bureaucratic measures, which are showing to fail, especially with the growing presence of the internet.

I try to make designs so that they are bold, contrasting, and eye-catching patterns. When someone wears a Funoas product, it draws attention to the outfit. This will automatically drive people to discuss the designs and the conversation about our message of climate change can begin. Once that conversation starts, the opportunities to make a difference are available to everyone participating in the conversation. This is the aim of Funoas, to create a talking point for the bigger issues using wearable art.

As the founder, how do you cultivate a culture of sustainability and ethical practices within your brand, ensuring alignment with your core values? Whenever possible, I prioritize the use of ECONYL fabrics for Funoas swimwear, rash guards, and board shorts.

In terms of sustainability, staying informed about the latest innovations is crucial, as new products are continually emerging. Funoas, an extension of myself, mirrors the way I live my life. Ethically, I collaborate with a manufacturing company that adheres to a strong ethical and sustainable model for our print-on-demand/dropshipping online store. Additionally, Funoas’s website is hosted by Squarespace, which operates data centers using 100% renewable energy to run their servers.

When stocking products in the Maldives, I ensure that resorts or local shops align with Funoas’s ethos. We predominantly collaborate with local shops to support small, family-owned Dhivehi businesses.

The Maldives faces unique environmental challenges. How does Funoas contribute to the broader conversation on climate change and inspire positive actions? We engage in collaborations with local artists and NGOs, creating designs and products that raise awareness about the challenges faced by the Maldives. For instance, we are currently developing a product with the local environmental group Save the Beach, aiming to restore coral reefs damaged during land reclamation.

All profits from the sale of the product will directly support the Save the Beach NGO, encouraging both Maldivian and international communities to actively participate in the broader conversation through positive actions.

In what ways do you engage with local communities and artisans in the Maldives to ensure that Funoas remains deeply connected to its roots?

The Maldives’ primary economy is tourism, and Funoas ensures its products are sold in local islands, collaborating with small, locally-owned businesses to distribute our swimwear and other products. Our favorite approach involves working with various local artists and artisans, granting them creative freedom when developing product concepts and providing a significant percentage of profits from sales. This approach helps regenerate culture at an individual level and facilitates sharing it with others.

The global fashion industry is undergoing a sustainability transformation. How does Funoas lead by example and influence other brands to adopt eco-conscious practices? From its inception, Funoas has embraced sustainability as its motto, laying an eco-conscious foundation for future Maldivian brands. We hope to inspire up-and-coming brands to adopt similar ethos while constructing their brand models.

Funoas is not just a product but a movement. How do you engage your customers in this movement, making them active participants in the mission for a more sustainable future?

Funoas is not solely profit-driven, and by remaining true to our message, we’ve organically attracted an incredible group of like-minded individuals worldwide. Staying authentic in designs and art naturally resonates with customers, drawing them into the movement.

Looking ahead, what are your aspirations for Funoas in the next five years, both in terms of business growth and environmental impact?

Business-wise, I aim to expand further within the Maldives, working on projects based in the country. We also aspire to collaborate with international and local environmental groups on new products that contribute positively to the planet’s future.

As a female entrepreneur and environmental advocate, what advice do you have for aspiring individuals who want to create a positive impact through their ventures?

My biggest advice is to act on your vision or idea without spending excessive time trying to perfect it. Launch that product, take the first step, and get started. The most crucial aspect is to begin. With determination and authenticity, everything will align naturally. Also, be open to criticism from various perspectives; this will enable you to think outside the box and make necessary changes for the better.

Funoas has become a symbol of eco-conscious fashion from the Maldives. What legacy do you hope to leave with your brand, and what do you want people to remember about the journey of Funoas and its founder, Sumi Haleem?

I haven’t deeply pondered Funoas in this light because I believe there are still many ideas to be fulfilled through my art and design process. Currently, I see myself at the initial stages of something more significant than it is now, making it challenging to answer this question. For now, I want people to remember me as someone attempting to revive and restore her ancient culture and heritage through art and design, in the way she knows best, before it is too late.