Alena Tran, blogger with a minimalist and evolving style
For the launch of our Spring / Summer 2018 collection, we decided to chat with people who we think have the "Odeyalo Personality". We wanted to know more about these women who work from home and prioritize comfort, while having an eye for design. Introducing four "comfy-chic" fans this week, read about Calgary blogger Alena Tran.
What does your workspace look like at home?
I am in the process of creating a designated office space upstairs, but in the meantime I like to work either at the kitchen table or on the couch in my living room. If it's during the day, I'll have the window curtains pulled back, letting as much natural light in as possible. I'll have a matcha latte beside me for alertness and mellow beats drifting out of the stereo. In the evening, I keep the lighting soft and yellow, with lamps and candles. I've found that the right atmosphere makes a world of difference in the quality of my work.
Since the beginning of Odeyalo, we've named our clothes after our favourite Montreal cafes, restaurants and bars. It is an infinite source of inspiration and we are always looking for new "spots" in the city. What are your favourite places in your city?
I am the very same. Finding new gems, coffee shops, beautifully designed spaces, and hidden sanctuaries is one of my favourite things about city life. It's possibly the only thing that keeps me sane in a city that sits under a blanket of snow most of the year.
The district of Inglewood is one of my favourite areas in Calgary, not only for the incredibly array of beautiful shops and heritage buildings, but it's also home to a bird sanctuary I used to visit every year as a child – and still do. And of course, coffee shops are a weekly, if not daily, destination for me. I find so much inspiration in their warmth and quiet hum of activity. Monogram is by far my favourite one.
What are the benefits of working from home for you?
Although my income currently comes from my wonderful part-time job at the library, I do spend time working from home on my blog, which I hope may one day be my primary source of work. I'm the kind of person who thrives on flexibility; my mind is sort of all over the place, and I need space to stop and daydream, to take "inspiration breaks" where I'll read a poem or look at inspiring images. Busy, fast-paced work isn't my preference. When I work from home, I have the flexibility of how I choose to go through my day; being able to make tea or take breaks when I need them vastly improves my creativity and work ethic.
You seem to be interested in local fashion and you talk about it from time to time in your publications. How would you describe Canadian fashion?
Canadian fashion is difficult to describe, because it looks quite different depending on which city you're in. I wouldn't exactly call Calgary a fashion-forward city, although it's gradually starting to become more aware of trends and aesthetics. Our fashion here seems to be mostly casual and practical. During the winter, it can be a challenge to dress both stylishly and warm enough for the harsh weather – you can only be so fashionable when it's –28 outside. And then summer Stampede season comes around, and everyone magically transforms into Cowboys and Cowgirls with their Stetsons and plaid shirts and denim shorts. I find it quite funny actually.
When we visit my husband's family in Vancouver, it seems that everyone there dresses much more stylishly, but then I've also heard that people from Montreal make Vancouverites look like slobs. Hah! So it really does depend where you are.
Canadians still do not have as many local slow fashion brands to choose from as Americans do, but I'm seeing more and more brands emerging. It's very encouraging to see more Canadian brands, like Odeyalo, thoughtfully crafting garments in small batches. Thanks for leading the way in slow fashion!
What guides you in your clothing choices when you work from home?
"Loungewear" isn't really in my vocabulary (or my closet). It was instilled in me to always dress presentably, even when spending the day at home. Dressing this way gives one more energy and motivation; it can be easy to fall into laziness and procrastination when wearing pajamas all day (speaking from experience). And you won't have to change if you need to run an errand or if someone comes to the door. However, dressing elegantly doesn't have to mean sacrificing comfort. It's important to me to wear clothes that are both thoughtful, and easy to relax in. I tend to sit in awkward positions when I'm working home alone (hopefully I'm not the only one), so I like clothes that aren't too tight or restrictive.
How would you describe your style?
My style is always evolving; although I've always wished I could be one of those women with one distinct style all her life, my personality begs otherwise. I am forever being drawn to new aesthetics, colours, and silhouettes. However, because I know that my style is always shifting, I try to avoid buying pieces that are too outrageous or trendy. I tend to be a minimalist in the way I approach fashion, and gravitate toward looks that are more classic, in order to build a wardrobe I will love for a long time. Right now, my style is a mix of minimalist, vintage, Parisian, and even a bit of normcore.
How do you manage to work alone for long periods?
Being severely introverted helps! I'm only half-joking – I need companionship as much as anyone, but I feel the most creative and energized when I'm alone. Being around people is more often draining than not, so I am quite happy to spend an entire day getting things done by myself. On the rare occasion that I do feel I need to work around people, I'll take my work to a coffee shop.
How do you feel about your role as an influencer, and where do you hope it takes you?
Arts and creativity have always been a vital part of my life, but I also have a deep need to do meaningful work. Thus, the opportunity to blend my love of visual aesthetics with aspects of social justice as an ethical influencer has been incredibly fulfilling for me. However, it's not an easy process to turn a blogging hobby into a viable source of income. I don't blog and promote ethical fashion because I hope to get paid one day – I do it because I want to share its significance with the world. But I love what I do so much, that I desire to be able to do it full time. And that takes financial support. It can be tough to find oneself in that awkward in-between phase, where you're putting in nearly full-time work but not getting paid for it, in the hopes that one day it all falls into place. So influencing is both a very meaningful and exciting part of life, and occasionally a draining one because of the financial burden. But right now, even just as a hobby, I believe it's worth it. Simply hearing a few people say that I've helped changed the way they shop is so encouraging and compels me to keep going. My hope is that one day, this can be my life... but until then, I'm embracing the waiting period.
There is currently a growing number of Canadian fashion companies for whom ethics is an important factor in the creative process. What do you think of this movement?
As an ethical influencer, there's nothing more energizing and inspiring than to see an increasing number of brands committed to responsible practices. Canada is starting to catch up, but I think our influencers are the ones playing a starring role in leading the movement. I'm not just saying this because I'm an influencer; social media is one of the most effective marketing tools of the moment, and it's one of the only ways people are even hearing about slow fashion and the brands creating it. Influencers are putting pressure on brands to take a hard look at their practices, the ones demanding transparency and responsibility. They're the ones acting as ads and billboards for ethical clothing companies. Outside of Instagram, I never would have come across most of the brands I know and support. It's because of other ethical influencers liaising with these brands and spreading the word that I've discovered them.
Beautiful feature! I love Alena’s style and what she stands for and I’m so glad she introduced me to an ethical, Canadian brand! Lots of love from Regina, SK!
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