Ethical Bohemian Fashion

Handmade, handwoven or handloom fabrics are good for Mother Earth, our climate and for the people – Hand weaving is an old traditional skill that has been passed down through generations. Using wooden looms and natural threads to create pieces of art inspired by culture and nature, the artistry and skill involved in handloom cotton fabrics is phenomenal. Handloom cotton throws printed in the kalamkari hand block fashion are beautiful artisan made artwork and are perfect for nature lovers.

Several million people make a living by hand weaving in India. Each region has its diverse ethnicity and the prints are inspired by regional colors and nature. Handlooms are powered by the person operating them, and do not use electricity so only 9-14 yards of fabric can be produced in a day. An old traditional skill that is disappearing fast we empower these artisans and tribal communities when buying garments made from handloom fabrics, helping families to stay out of poverty, and giving their children a good education.

Handloom Khadi cotton is gorgeously natural and beautiful in its rawness, yoga pants and tunics made from these breathable cotton fabrics carry the beautiful creative energy of the weaver. Fabrics woven by hand have a natural color variation giving a uniqueness to the cloth. Going back to the roots and the times of our grandparents where everything natural reigned supreme.

Using sustainable and eco friendly fabrics is my motto, recycled sari wrap skirts, sari silk caftans, boho hand embroidered maxi dresses, and artisan made clothing are beautiful in their feel and good for the earth. The excruciating impact that fast fashion has on environment and humans is not something I want to encourage so I try to stay with natural and handmade clothing.

Ethical fashion creates culture inspired, unique pieces of garments such as chikankari tunics and kashmiri embroidered lounge kaftans, empowering women and providing sustained employment to artisans who weave magic with their fingers. Handcrafted by women artisans using old world fabric techniques like block printing, tie dye and kashida embroidery our cotton caftans and loungers are unique one of a kind pieces of art.

Kashmiri embroidery also known as Kashida embroidery is a unique form of art, carrying the true ambiance of the beauty of the paradise state of Kashmir. The exquisite painstaking detailed needlework that involves a single long stitch to create the intricate beautiful design was worn by the royals on fine muslin and silks robe, making Kashmiri embroidery an aristocratic fashion statement. Pastel color palettes or bright jewel tones the artisans aimed at merging or contrasting the thread with the base color to create a phenomenal effect. Kashida embroidery motifs take inspiration from the beautiful valleys of Kashmir and feature maple leaves, lotus blooms, birds and vines.

6 Ingredients For Meaningful And Productive Meetings

Meaningful meetings are possible, desirable, and should be the aim of every executive. Many people say meaningful meetings is an oxymoron, and they have a point. Research shows consistently that most meetings waste time and cost significant sums. Some studies show over 75% of meetings waste time. Get a Klu, a corporate coaching and training consulting firm found that professionals lose 31 hours monthly to unproductive meetings. Besides, they show that of the eleven million meetings held in the U.S.A. daily, half are wasteful meetings.

Curtailing wasteful meetings boost personal effectiveness and morale and improve company-wide productivity. I estimate that at least half of the hundreds of meetings I attended at work, church, and elsewhere, were unnecessary. We could have achieved better results without a meeting while not impeding relationships.

We must strive to hold meaningful meetings and stop the meaningless meetings epidemic. Always err in the direction of not holding a meeting. Still, as I show below, sometimes we need to meet. Meanwhile, here are six elements needed to hold meaningful meetings. Although they are not exhaustive, when followed, the chances of positive outcomes will improve significantly.

Meaningful Meetings Ingredients

These few basics will create the foundation for attendees to be effective at the meeting and following, and will aid the productivity of the group:

Convener
Purpose
Agenda
Targeted invitees
Start & End Times & Meeting Etiquette
Air Traffic Controller

Convener

Conveners have a responsibility for making meetings meaningful to produce specific results graciously, and compassionately. Conveners or their delegates arrange the meetings-including developing the purpose, agenda, and expected outcomes, with relevant persons. They ensure the right people record highlights and take needed actions, but they do not perform these activities themselves-they merely ensure others do them.

The convener needs someone to assist her to look at the process during the meeting. Without concern for the process, a few people will dominate, and discussions go off topic. It is crucial folks understand that the process determines the outcome.

Purpose

Not all meetings have the same purpose. However, each meaningful meeting must have a purpose. There are at least three meeting categories: information sharing, accountability and or reporting, and problem-solving. Why would anyone call a meeting without an explicit purpose? Often, a meeting is the ideal way for some folks to procrastinate-defer a tough decision. Then again, the convener, and maybe a few other folks, know the purpose, but do not articulate it to others in advance because that’s the way things happen in that firm-poor communications is the norm.

Sometimes people call meetings out of habit. They hold weekly and other meetings because that’s been happening for years. And nobody asks, why. I recall being invited to be an elder at a church. The pastor said they had weekly elders’ meeting, and I asked why. My response shocked him. Why wouldn’t I know? Still, I said, why do we need to meet weekly? The answer: That’s what we have always done. I declined the invitation.

Measningful Meetings in Japan

I saw two differences between business meetings there and in the West. First, most of those meetings were meaningful, but long, unlike here where meetings are meaningless and long.

Second, often in Asia, they tell you the purpose before problem-solving meetings. Then, they invite folks who plan to present at the meeting. Here in the West, many people come to meetings unprepared, but ready to give their views.

Third, the group paid attention when each person spoke, likely because of respect for elders and hierarchy. Participants listened to each other and built on each other’s contributions. In the West, when one person speaks, others don’t listen but plan his and her statement, which might be unrelated to what was just said.

In the West, sometimes you don’t know the aim of the meeting until after it starts. Many times the invitation does not mention the nature of the meeting. Then again, in the meeting, we compete for airtime. People don’t listen to another person’s view with an open mind. Instead, we interrupt one another in mid-sentence to add our views, even when it does not build on the speaker’s point.

In Japan, we defined and agreed the purpose of the meeting at the outset. Then we focus on solving the problem. Each person did not compete for airtime. However, I found this system weak in information sharing and accountability meetings. For instance, I was on the board of two Japanese public firms and the dearth of data given to shareholders and the brevity of shareholders’ meetings amazed me.

Meaningful Meetings Have Agendas

The ideal vehicle to define the meeting’s purpose is a carefully crafted agenda, with a starting and ending time. It should be comprehensive and indicate clearly items for discussion: ideally, with a starting and ending time for each agenda item. Besides, it should show a person or persons responsible for each item and the expected meeting outcome. Often we spend time on the first few items, especially if they are non-controversial, and rush the remaining, irrespective of their importance.

Targeted Invitees

Folks who attend meetings need a reason to attend. If the session is to share data or receive reports from others, only those folks relevant to those matters should attend. When the session is to solve problems, the size and invitees will vary based on the issue. These sessions need careful planning and a skillful convener to make sure each person explains his view without interruption. Folks must listen, hear, and consider what the speaker says before giving their ideas. It is crucial that folks know others’ views before debating and dismissing them.

Here are procedural matters to help us stay focused during a problem-solving session.

Explain fully, specific proposals before debating them.
Differentiate clarification discussions from challenges to substance.
Finish one proposal before moving to another.
Convener should encourage out-of-the-box approaches that challenge the status quo; never suppress discussions until each person understands the issue. Unusual proposals may be the basis for the solution; don’t restrain them just because they are unfamiliar.
No one should monopolize discussions.
Convener should be sensitive to different personalities: some folks will need encouragement to present their views.
Meeting should agree action items: Someone should record key developments and specific follow up activity for each proposal including the following:
Who – responsibility for specific action
What – nature of action
When – timing of next feedback
Cost – source of resources necessary until next feedback

Although many of the above items apply to all meetings, they are particularly essential during a problem solving meeting.

Start & End Times & Meeting Etiquette

When the convener or other person call the meeting, the invitation should show the start and end times, and time and responsibility for each agenda item. The meeting should not last longer than 45 minutes to an hour-and should stick to the allotted times.

Do not allow late attendees. Advise all invitees that the meeting will start at the appointed time, so each person needs to be there a few minutes before to ensure an on-time start-and stick to the allotted times. The most offensive thing I see happening in meetings and events is when the convener says she will wait on more people to arrive. That’s an affront to those who arrived on time and merely encourages a sloppy, lateness culture.

Meaningful meetings mean proper time-keeping and the following meeting etiquette:

No latecomers allowed
No talking on cell phones or side discussions in the room
If someone leaves the room to take a call or to talk with a colleague in the corridor, she is not allowed to return
No extraneous discussions: time spent must focus on agenda items under discussion
Meeting will end on time and each topic will get its planned time
No interruptions-each person must finish his thoughts and no one must interrupt. Further, the next comment must refer to the most recent statement unless the convener decides to move to a different topic.
Each person present is valuable and her views are welcomed and encouraged-nobody will be allowed to monopolize the discussions.

In my “on-going meetings” (my classes) I insist that my students be in the classroom five minutes before the start time. Students who can’t be on-time can enter during a break period, but not while the class is in session. My students get it and are on time 99.99% of the time.

Meaningful Meetings Need An Air Traffic Controller

One person trying to take over discussions is the most difficult but crucial to prevent. Often the convener or chair does not focus on the process, so people get off topic. A few folks control discussions, and the meeting ends without attaining its aim. It’s vital the convener picks someone to help to ensure fair air-time for those with needed knowledge. An “air traffic controller” or process consultant (consultant) is the person to do this.

Process Consultant

When the focus is only on the result, shy folks and others who do not want to vie for air-time won’t speak. Others will talk, but will offer little. A process consultant who sits beside the convener to focus on the process and informs the convener, with no distraction, about deviant process issues is vital for a meaningful meeting. While the convener deals with the outcome, the consultant looks at the process to ensure ample air-time for folks needing to contribute. The consultant will look at body language, non-verbals, folks talking too much, people trying to speak but unable, and so on.

The consultant’s role is tough because that he or she is not part of the discussions, but is he or she tries to promote, through the convener, maximum sharing in the group. A well-versed consultant will watch the flow of discussions and ensure folks who would be reluctant to speak, but who wish to speak, offers his and her views on central issues. My experience is that these reserved folks have the most notable positive impact on the meeting’s outcome.

When Do We Need To Meet

Today, we have many different ways to meet electronically. We must be careful we do not meet because it is convenient, and we don’t have to leave our offices. Essentially, as I mentioned before, there are three broad categories of meetings, beyond needed face-to-face, one-on-one meetings: information sharing, accountability or responsibility reporting, and problem-solving. Still, before meeting, folks should ask the following questions:

Why do we need to meet?
Do we need interaction?
Will we merely be telling people what they can read conveniently?
Do we need to work together to come up with ideas?
Will being together be valuable?
Do so many people need to interact with each other?
What if we didn’t meet?
Is this the best use of people’s time recognizing that reducing the number of attendees saves time for everyone-attending and not attending?

Zero Electronic Devices Except For Note-Taking

To increase the probability of a meaningful meeting, we should not allow electronic devices in the room except for note taking. People who are “expecting calls” should not attend. The rule should be simple: If you are invited to the meeting, we need your complete attention. If you expect someone to contact you during the meeting, we will excuse you from the meeting and meet with those willing and able to be present.

To increase the probability of a meaningful meeting, we should not allow electronic devices in the room except for note taking. People who are “expecting calls” should not attend. The rule should be simple: If someone invites you to the meeting, they need your complete attention. So, if you expect someone to contact you during the meeting, excuse yourself from the meeting and ask someone else to brief you on the result. Only folks willing and able to be present, should attend.

Meaningful meetings help firms become more dynamic. These sessions can inspire employees. Every CEO should support them. The converse is true. People getting together with no real aim except to meet, create waste, expense, and crush morale.

To be sure, we need many face-to-face meetings because of the need for human interaction. However, we should question whether we need all meetings we plan to hold. Also, we should question the need for meetings others arrange and invite us to attend, always suggesting appropriate alternatives.

Holiday in Tuscany – Florence

Florence is more than just another place to visit. It is a flame that reignites your inner artist or poet. Perhaps in all of us there is a passion for beauty and genius – for deeper connections with people – for celebrations of the bounty of marvelous food brilliantly prepared, accompanied by great wine. It is in Florence, “Cradle of the Renaissance,” where these inner gifts reemerge for a life well lived and beauty fully absorbed. Your holiday in Florence will claim its spot in your mind and memory well after you return home, and you will forever be the better for it.

Prepare to be awed as you fly into Florence, locate your lodgings, and head towards the river for your first view of the Ponte Vecchio. Plan to spend at least five days here (more, if possible), residing on the left bank of the Arno River, called the “Oltrarno” (Oltr-Arno- “other side of the Arno”), within a short walk to the Ponte Vecchio. Here you will become 21st-century “neighbors” of the Medici, around the corner from their opulent Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens. You will be close to restaurants and bistros too, as well as to neighborhood grocery stores that offer an abundance of luscious produce, delectable deli items and freshly baked bread, along with excellent and very affordable local wines.

By staying near the river on the “other” side, you will be within a short walk to two convenient bridges, one of which is the Ponte Vecchio, that will take you quickly to the busier side of the river where the dome of the Duomo dominates the skyline. As you walk along “your” side of the river, or lunch at a window table at the Golden View, you will have before you the full spectacle of the Ponte Vecchio, with the imposing Uffizi Gallery bordering the river across the way, and the Duomo dome behind it.

Start Your Florence Visit with the Bridges and Piazzas

There is no better way to learn any city than by seeking out its main bridges (if it has a river), as well as its major squares or piazzas. Florence has the most photogenic bridge of them all, the Ponte Vecchio (“old bridge”). It is likely that what inspired you to visit Firenze (Florence) in the first place was seeing one of the many stunning images of the Ponte Vecchio.

The Ponte Vecchio was the only bridge across the Arno until 1218, and it will be your primary route across the river during your stay in Florence. And what a delightful pathway this will be, coming and going, with its views and its intriguing shops.

There have been shops on the Ponte Vecchio since the 13th century. Initially these were shops of all types, including butcher and fishmonger shops that created an offensive stench in the area. So, in 1593, Ferdinand I decreed that only goldsmiths and jewelers would be allowed to locate their shops on the bridge. This ruling was “in order to improve the well-being of all as they walked over the bridge.”

As well as learning the bridges, you will need to master the Piazzas. Florence is a city of narrow, serpentine streets, bordered by tall canyons of buildings. So, whenever you approach a Piazza, you will feel like you are bursting forth into a vastness of wide-open space. These expansive town squares have been used for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years as gathering places for the populace. It was in the piazzas that important news was announced, and preachers delivered their messages. And it was in the piazzas that public executions were held.

Piazza della Signoria will be your place to start learning the piazzas of Florence, located directly outside the Palazzo Vecchio, palatial home to the obscenely wealthy Medici family. This square is filled with sculpture and fountains, including a copy of Michelangelo’s David (the real David is now preserved and displayed at Galleria dell’Accademia). The Dominican priest, Savonarola, staged his vehement burnings of books and art in Piazza della Signoria. And it was here that he himself was burned after his reign of terror ended.
Piazza della Republica comes next, surrounded by majestic arcades, with an imposing triumphal arch as an entrance, and a Merry-go-Round. This square was the Forum during Roman times. Now it is a favorite place for outdoor dining at one of its canopied restaurants, with plentiful opportunities to people watch.
Piazza Santa Croce was once a gathering place where public meetings were held, and Franciscan monks preached to the crowds. This square is now home to local artists, showing and selling their creations, and many charming local shops. Meetings and monks now have been replaced by street entertainers.
Piazzale Michelangelo, with its bronzed replica of Michelangelo’s David sculpture, is perched high up on a hill in the Oltrarno, offering one of the most panoramic views of the city. As you sit on this hilltop, high above the Oltrarno neighborhood, you will be at eye-level with the iconic red roof of the Duomo across the river. Return here late in the day to see one of the most stunning sunsets in Florence.

See Some of the “Must See” Sights

Take ample time to attend to the “must see” sights of Florence. Start with these five:

The Duomo and Baptistery: The 13th-century Duomo had no dome until two centuries after it was built, when construction of such an architectural marvel became possible. Walk inside to take in the celestial vastness of its interior space, and to marvel at the carpet of mosaics covering the tile floor. This structure was designed to shock and awe. Sit at an outdoor table for lunch, in full view of the intricate white, green and pink marble mosaic of the exterior. You will need at least a full hour to take this in.

Make time to study the three sets of gilded bronze doors on the exquisite octagonal Baptistery. The first set of doors, facing south, were designed by Pisano and took 6 years to complete. Ghiberti’s north doors required 21 years of work, then another 27 years to complete the east doors, for a total of 54 years of work by the masters to create the doors that now stand before you. For the east doors, Ghiberti employed the recently discovered principles of perspective to give depth to his compositions. Michelangelo declared these doors to be the “Gates of Paradise.”

Palazzo Vecchio, Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens: Imagine the lifestyle of the wealthy and powerful Medici family as you visit their place of business in town center, Palazzo Vecchio, and their opulent residence across the river, Pitti Palace, surrounded by the lush Boboli Gardens.

Cosimo de’ Medici commissioned these two locations, work and home, to be linked together by a private passageway, the Vasari Corridor, positioned above the city streets and crossing the top of the Ponte Vecchio. This passageway spanned a full kilometer, from the seat of government in Palazzo Vecchio to the Medici home in Pitti Palace, exiting beside the famous Grotto of Buontalenti in Boboli Gardens. This private corridor allowed the family and their guests to move freely and safely back and forth, observing the people below while they themselves remained unnoticed. A small carriage for two took the Medici and guests back and forth along the passageway when they preferred not to walk.

Medici Chapels: Add one additional Medici monument to your “must see” list-the Medici Chapels. Visit the sumptuous octagonal Chapel of the Princes, another lavish testament to the greatness of the Medici. The crypt beneath this chapel became the mausoleum for this notable family. Michelangelo himself worked on the sculptures of the sarcophagi, completing the statues of brothers and co-rulers Duke Giuliano and Duke Lorenzo. The master sculptor also created remarkable allegorical statues of Dawn and Dusk, Night and Day, as well as the Madonna and Child.

Michaelangelo’s David at Galleria dell’Accademia: Your visit to the Galleria will focus on the glorious sculpture of David. Stand beneath this towering marble masterwork, pristine and aglow under a circular skylight. It will take your breath away. Spend some time just to take this in. But also explore the other intriguing works by Michelangelo, including the Hall of the Prisoners that leads up to the David statue. The pieces on display here are ones that Michelangelo never completed. His unfinished work creates the effect that each of these figures is trapped for all time inside his own block of marble.

Uffizi Galleries: Enter the Uffizi (arrange in advance for an assigned time!), then move up the grand staircase to the gallery, with its frescoed ceilings and labyrinth of rooms crammed full of masterworks. Follow the U-shape of the building, veering off into the side rooms to see the displays. Cosimo de’ Medici commissioned Vasari to create this grandiose building beside Palazzo Vecchio to house the offices of government. A secret entrance to the Vasari Corridor lies behind an unmarked door on the first floor.

This building that was once the locus of Florentine government, is now home to a vast treasure chest of art. Find the large works by Botticelli first (Halls 10-14)- Allegory of Spring and Birth of Venus. Locate the portraits of Michelangelo and Raphael (Halls 35 and 66), and also Leonardo da Vinci’s one-and-only panel painting. From the far end of the corridors, pause to look out the windows to spot San Miniato, high on the hill across the Arno, just above Piazza Michelangelo. Look more closely at the Ponte Vecchio to see the windows of the Vasari Corridor that runs along the top of it.

Visit the Markets to Interact and Find Treasures to Take Home

Florence has a vast heritage of craftsmen. When it comes to shopping, you will find on offer a tantalizing variety of goods, including leather jackets, bags, shoes, belts and gloves, marble mosaics, intricate jewelry and cutting-edge fashions. At a minimum, visit the leather market near the Medici Chapels and shop for original artwork in Piazza Michelangelo.

Visit the outdoor market in Piazza Santo Spirito and the Mercato Nuovo, the covered loggia with a bronze sculpture of a pig out in front. Watch the fun of children petting the pig’s nose for luck. And feel free to haggle a bit if you decide to make purchases. Also stop in at some of the shops along the Ponte Vecchio to admire the hand-crafted jewelry and select a unique pendent or two to take home.

Your travel to Florence will be a life-changing, deeply enriching experience. “One’s destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things” says Henry Miller. And Florence is a destination that consummately inspires such new ways of seeing and living.