On the day following up on Black History Month and marking the start of Women’s History month, as a team we keep coming back to a theme that keeps resonating: that these holidays need to be celebrated all year round. And much of the “work” is really about prioritizing spaces for community care on an on-going basis, especially for those who have been most harmed by oppressive systems. Sometimes that work is in the public, and sometimes it isn't.
Image of the core tonlé team in Phnom Penh, captured last month by Dylan Maddux
As a team made up of People of the Global Majority, Women, Trans folks, Queer and non-binary folks, a big part of our work is not only to create safe spaces externally, but also internally. It is to carve out space for ourselves and others in our community in a fashion world which was not designed with our needs and safety and wellness in mind. It is to practice joy and resilience amidst ever present injustice.
There are many events going on in the world that affect our community personally and on a larger scale. While we continue to practice resistance as much as we can, it’s just as important to prioritize taking care of our team, ourselves, and our immediate communities in these times.
We’re actually releasing a new collection today, but instead of promoting that we wanted to take a moment to talk about what’s really special and important about tonlé: our team and community.
I’ve often said to people that, while we make clothes, that’s not actually our main work. Our work is to carve out a space in this world of fashion that’s uplifting, supportive, safe, kind, and joyful, especially in the face of so much injustice. And today, with everything going on in the world, instead of celebrating the launch of new clothes when things feel so difficult, we wanted to take a moment to celebrate us. To feel proud of what we’ve accomplished as a team, what we’ll continue to do, and the ways that we’ll continue to grow. To celebrate you, our community, and supporters, who make this work possible, who make this space possible. Yes, we sell clothes and that’s what enables us to create this space, to talk about this work, to practice resistance in ways both quiet and loud. And to facilitate that work, we have to keep selling clothes, and we also have to keep prioritizing self and community care, especially in times of such overwhelming grief and trauma. But in times like these, it’s ever more important to prioritize spaces for self and community care, to prioritize rest and ease and comfort for those who have been most harmed by injustice. As humans, we are allowed to feel pain and grief, and anger at injustice while also continuing to fight for justice within our communities and act within our circles of power as much as possible.
When I think of the tonlé team, when I get to witness the incredible work they do that most people on social media will never know about or hear about, I’m filled with an up-welling of pride and gratitude that’s almost impossible to put into words. And I know that there are so many spaces in the world, filled with resilience and joy and yes grief, where people are practicing resistance in their own sometimes quiet and yet important ways. And I’m filled with gratitude and hope because of it.
Image of the tonlé leadership team, captured by Dylan Maddux
I’ve heard it said that activism is not like a marathon, it’s a relay race. In order to create a world that is more peaceful and just, we each must fight as much as we can but know when to pass the baton and rest. No one of us can carry it all on our own, and each of us is important in creating a better future and more kind and collaborative spaces right now. In challenging times, I’m grateful to be in a team that understands and practices reciprocity. The work of taking care of each other is important work, it’s ongoing work, and it’s never done. But it’s the act of practice that creates the future right here that we want to live in.
Thank you, for all the ways this community works to create a better future and fight injustice. We stand with you.
- Rachel, a Co-Creator at tonlé.