Behind the Brand @ Cici

Hillary: The woman behind Cici clothing line

Lately, I have had to initiate difficult conversations at work. As I cruise through my mid-twenties, I have also begun measuring professional success and satisfaction through a different set of yardsticks. When I shared this with one of my best friends, she emailed me this article in the morning and told me that it is better to start valuing yourself and letting others know to value you while you are still young. It is a life skill.

Overall, with the opening up of Myanmar, I would say that it is actually a very fortunate time to be a single, twenty-something professional woman in Yangon, especially as a repatriate. We really cannot complain. I feel grateful for all the opportunities, timing, and generous help from trusted advisers, mentors and supervisors at work and outside of office.

While things are fairly comfortable for repatriates and large companies with access to capital, it is also worth reflecting that most of Myanmar’s youth is faced with massive insecurity over job readiness, English skills and other training opportunities, the same way most of mom and pop stores struggle with the trade opening of the country. What matters more is employment for the critical mass, as someone wise said at Euromoney a few months ago.

Amidst all of this, I must say I am very impressed with Hillary, the mastermind behind the new clothing line Cici, aimed at dressing young, modern professional women of Myanmar. As a fresh graduate of Swarthmore College and a family with roots in retail and garment industry, Hillary has appropriately taken up her role as a bold business entrepreneur, handling the media, staff and guests expertly and with so much grace. I just love how much the brand is in sync with the woman behind it.

For her first collection, she invited real young professional women instead of models to walk her debut show, which was a real fun experience! The young savvy designers behind the line also made an offer to some of us to give them English lessons in exchange for cute clothing. Deal!

Day -5

Day -5

Project Cici

Day -5

-2 Hours: Hillary graciously handles media

-2 Hours: Hillary and media interviews

-1 hour: remove the consequences of heavy handling by makeup artists...

-1 hour: Removing the heavy handling of makeup artists…

Zero hour

Zero hour

Thank-yous

 

The Wall

Whenever I am outside of Myanmar, I take advantage of much faster Internet speed and gorge on one thing – Ted Talk videos.  They make the best accompany when I go about getting ready for bed in my otherwise hauntingly quiet hotel room after a long day of meetings.  Ted Talk is a great alternative choice when I do not want to hear about planes getting shot down or the spreading of Ebola on BBC News.  Call it a tool for productive apathy.

The Talk Talk that popped up this time around was by Parul Sehgal and her examination of envy in literature and social media:

“Jealousy is exhausting. It is a hungry emotion. It must be fed. And what does jealousy like? Jealousy likes information. Jealousy likes details. Jealousy likes the vast quantities of shiny hair, the cute little pencil case. Jealousy likes photos. That is why Instagram is such a hit…We live in envious times. We live in jealous times.”

– Parul Sehgal, editor at New York Times Book Review, An Ode to Envy Ted Talk

As a recent owner of an Instagram account, I am obviously very late to the Instagram game for my generation.  Because my job expects me to be just a touch keenly aware of the pulse of the popular culture, I have to have a social media presence, even though I initially find the idea of Instagram particularly perverse. 

We all know life does not look like perfectly touched up Instagram photos.  The social platform itself is designed for neither deeper communications nor expressions.  Instagram is not exactly about shared meanings, but it is about brand promotions, more so than other social media platforms.  The Instagram feed feels like seeing someone on the street without saying hi.  It does not allow for an explanation.

Because there is a thin layer between admiration and envy, I feel I have to tread Instagram waters very slowly, taking baby steps.  This blog post is basically a long-ass cry for help in how to use IG. 

In her Ted Talk, Parul Sehgal concludes that jealousy is a problem with geometry, not emotion.  A matter of where we allow ourselves to stand. We do not need to be resentful of others’ excellence. We can align ourselves.  What a lovely idea that makes you pause to think.

Jealousy is my most disliked emotion.  I do not like feeling jealous of others.  I do not want to be an object of envy myself.  I do not want a jealous partner, nor do I want to become one. It is a subtle form of manipulation when a romantic partner tries to get someone riled up and makes him/her jealous.  Jealousy makes workplaces unproductive.  It is stressful and drives people away.  It is like you are on the other side of a thousand layers of glass walls and there is nothing you could do to make better of the situation.

Paro, Bhutan
A wall at Kyichu Lhakhang, Paro, Bhutan
IMG_6421.PNG
Walls TS1 Construction
Downtown Yangon
More walls in downtown Yangon

Thought this song aptly captures the sentiment of this post:

The Wall by Yuck

Trying to make it through the wall
You can see me if you are tall
Looking over…

And I know that I am in space
And I know that it’s not real
It’s just the way I feel
Looking over…