In light of Australia Day, I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on what Australia means to me, and to thank you.
Many of you might be out and about in this wonderful sunshine, wearing your hats to participate in the various events around Australia.
Me? I am sitting here with joy writing this newsletter.
At the heart of Australia Day are the people who lived in this country long before white man came. Later, people came from many different places and brought with them what they thought right. More countries will keep coming and adding to the colourful palette of this amazing country.
It’s just like in the world of millinery. New materials come into the market and we sometimes resist embracing them, until one day we cannot imagine ever having been without them. Nevertheless, at its heart there is a beginning to Australia, just like the first millinery skills and techniques of millinery.
I am a newcomer with a funny accent and some blunt Germanic behaviours.
At my heart is a commitment to hats, a passion for people, and a mission to provide the highest quality in all I do.
Australia has been very good to me since I have arrived here in this country in 1983 as a backpacker who was looking for her purpose in life. Magda Urban, also a migrant from Israel, gave me my break in Melbourne: first by taking me in and start me off in millinery, and then by selling me her business on a handshake with no lawyers and no contracts.
Australia not only provided me with my passion in life - hats, of course - it also embraced me in many other ways.
Life has often been hard. I have had my fair share of ups and downs, and many Aussies came to my aid when disaster struck, provided me and my family with pies and quiches and their ever-present attitute of smiles, ‘she’ll be right’, and ‘no worries mate’.
At Torb & Reiner, our clients have been behind us, supported us, moved and grown with us as new things came into the market.
Australia is home to me, just as much as my country of birth, Austria, is. I feel like I am a little tree planted in Austria and my roots grew towards Australia where now they are deeply embedded.
It gives me great joy and pleasure to be able to say THANK YOU to many people in Australia and of course all over the world for the support you have shown towards Torb & Reiner and to me personally as I travel. I thank you for your trust and your belief in what we do.
Over the next two weeks, you will find a little gift in your orders, regardless of whether you call yourself Australian or not. Australia is what we make it, and through that, we can affect the world. HOW? Well, in my case, with hats, of course!
Warm thoughts, and a hatty new year to all, Waltraud Reiner
This is my last newsletter for the year. WOW! 2013 is coming to an end.
Thank you for all your support over this year, and for the ongoing generosity many of you have shown towards us. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be of service through hats.
Yesterday many of you shared a milestone with me in our store.
We had our first book launch for Hats for Happiness, which will carry on raising money for mental health and well-being. I want to take the opportunity to share with you the passage from the book that I read out on the night. It expresses what I aim to live by and practise daily when things seem dark or my light within shines somewhat low.
It is HOPE which lights the flame again.
Hope for me is one of the cornerstones of a meaningful life.
I have learned to see the difference between being hopeful and just being optimistic. Optimism to me is about thinking that ‘the future will be better than the present’, while hope is about believing ‘I have an active role to play in making it so’.
Hope comes with movement, work and action.
Does this mean always getting what you want? Of course not! But surely you can be more joyful if you hope, plan and act, rather than just thinking positively. It is up to you to reach out to get what you want from life.
Optimism leads us to believe that no action is required, yet for any dream to be realised, it is necessary to act from a place of hope and never lose sight of that.
With this in mind, I wish for you a wonderful festive season. I hope you delight in the sharing, the giving and receiving of gifts.
My gift to you is the book which came about because many people gave me their gifts of skills, support, craftsmanship, and above all, the gift of support for my vision.
Spring Carnival is in the air! Australia is getting into the fever of excitement for shoes, fashion and HATS. Even though I am not into horse racing whatsoever, I must say this time of the year also grabs me. The feeling of joy and excitement in the air is contagious.
But fashion, as beautiful it can be, has its traps which can be loaded with pain.
The pressures around beauty, body and self image are often factors. Of course it impacts the body, the health and the people around us, but more than anything it affects the self.
I myself suffered from bulimia when I was 24 years old, and struggled with it for five years. I understand the illness intimately. Depression, mood swings and self hate were only some of the symptoms which I experienced as a price for creating an image which I would never see in the mirror anyway.
Looking back, it was bulimia which started me on the road to self love. Not only was I concerned about myself, I was concerned about the children I would raise and how they would see themselves and the opposite sex.
Working in the world of fashion, as I have all my life, I am exposed to many ideals which are not at all about accepting of who you are. Fashion demands theatre, illusion, drama, non-reality. We are bombarded by images of long thin legs, collagen-injected lips and airbrushed bodies. Media, men, and worst of all, other women look at us through the lenses of their own illusions, and we allow it by trying to live up to their expectations.
I made a pledge to myself when I opened my first business in 1990, not to lose sight of my aim to live a life of self love and self acceptance, which is a daily practice as I learn things about myself I did not know were there.
So what does this all mean for those of us working in fashion as we go into another Spring Carnival season?
For me, it means remembering the difference between what fashion can do to us, and what it can do FOR us. I do not believe in using fashion to hide and disguise. I wear hats to express what I think is beautiful, what I am feeling, what I want to express about myself. And always I remember that I am not the hat I wear. I shape my hats - they do not shape me.
Spring Carnival is a chance to dress up and be proud of our beauty.
Spring Carnival also means fun, joy and gratitude for all I have in life, including a body which serves me dearly every day from morning to night.
See you at the track!
PS. Please watch this amazing spoken-word poem by a girl who seems far too young to be so very insightful about self acceptance.
Well, Audrey the Hatmobile and I are back again in Melbourne after having driven 11,000 km in seven weeks, and I am right back into the Spring Carnival fever which is about to take over many of us.
Over the last two months on the road, I have met some amazing people once again who shared their stories, food and generosity. Many of those people around the country left part of their spirits with me and touched me in one way or another.
I say thank you to all who came into my life during this trip and stayed for a moment, or for a little while, and some who might hang around a bit longer. Each one of you has not gone unnoticed. You are a part of my journey of curiosity and interest in the world, which I so often seem to explore through hats.
I stayed with a lady in Alice Springs who spent six months crossing the desert with camels. She reminded me of zest for life and courage. I stayed with people who opened their houses and made me feel welcome, reminding me of generosity.
I stayed with a woman in Mareeba who supported me to get my Indigenous art-printed hat range photographed, reminding me of kindness.
I stayed with a woman in Pine Creek who did not tell me about the king brown snakes she stepped over at night time, reminding me of caution, prudence, and discretion.
I saw accidents on those long straight roads of the Northern Territory which reminded me of self-control and self-regulation.
I met so many people in those classes from Brisbane, up the coast, across to Mt Isa, the Northern Territory, and back down through Alice and Adelaide, who reminded me of the importance of the love of learning.
Each time, when the days in my truck were lonely and I was tired, someone would be there at a rest stop to remind me of hope, optimism, and future-mindedness.
Again I met the vast vast landscape of Australia, which never ceases to remind me to practice modesty and humility.
And I met MYSELF, over and over, as I moved across Australia kilometer by kilometer, reminding me of the importance of not losing sight of my spirituality, sense of purpose, and faith. It was such that kept and still keeps me going.
I wish for all of you out there to have an amazing season - may it be autumn or spring - and may you each have people in your life always reminding you of SOMETHING...
Those who have been reading my newsletter know by now the love I have for well-being and positive psychology, which always seems to find its way into my teaching.
This way of thinking helps me in my daily life with work, friends and my own self. When I travel long distances, as I am doing right now, it helps me to stay grounded. When I am under pressure it helps me to centre, and when I am elated it reminds me to breathe.
As an artist I feel the highs and lows of the environment around me very deeply. I have learned over the years that by accepting rather than fighting this, I can add depth to my being and gain opportunities to expand.
After every low time, I discover I have access to wonderful growth which was not available to me before.
We all know the saying, 'what does not kill me makes me stronger'. This kind of strength is resilience, which aids in the process of growth. How does it help us grow? Well, would you like someone to feel and experience the struggles you have gone through on your own? Most likely the answer is no. After times of pain, we come to relate to people in a more connected and compassionate way.
We all have certain character strengths, and we can train ourselves to build on them. Of course, I believe there are plenty of possibilities to build strengths through hat making.
Character strengths have a great effect on our life satisfaction, and practising them triggers an increase in our sense of well-being. So how do I practise them in my life?
Curiosity- what can I do with this material?
Gratitude- oh, how lucky I am I to make hats!
Optimism- this hat will become something beautiful even though I am not yet sure how
Humour - every hat turns me into an actor!
Enthusiasm-let's make hats, let's wear them, let's have fun. Let's make one NOW!
And so my daily practise continues. Well-being is just like any other muscle - it needs to be exercised to be strong.
Every day I let myself be touched - by colour and texture, by the scenery flying past me as I drive, by savouring the conversations and connections I make on the road, and by lying down in my Hatmobile at the end of a long day of hat making with a cup of coffee and a piece of dark chocolate, listening to the beautiful sounds of nature outside, feeling utterly grateful for the blessings in my life.