It is appropriate that I write this in the crisp of the autumn breeze, surrounded by natures beauty. You see, dear reader, the person I am about to tell you about is as creative as the autumn colors, as easy breezy as the light wind across my face and as whimsical as the leaves dancing to the ground.
Arlinda is the mother of one of my husbands friends. The gentlemen, her son and my husband were meeting to discuss a project they were working on and I tagged along with my husband. “You’ll love my mother” this co-worker said. Great I thought. I’ll just hang out with your dear old mom and listen to her give me unsolicited marital advice. We’ll watch a game show until she falls asleep on the couch and that will be my hint to gather my husband and head home. That is NOT the dear old mother I met that evening.
When I first laid eyes on Arlinda she was sitting at a sewing machine. TONS of fabulous fabric strewn around. It was a small room and she had somehow given it the feel of an industrial 1920’s tailor. A sturdy machine, a very large and wide makeshift table for cutting yards and yards of fabric. She was accompanied by her daughter in law and they were exchanging ideas about a skirt. Where to place the flower on the skirt to be exact. Her son introduced us, and left.
I knew her daughter in law so she made the proper introduction. I knew two things to be true at that moment. This woman was the Matriarch and if she did not like me I would not be returning to that particular room again, and if she did like me something in my life was about to forever change.
Arlinda made me a skirt, that night right there on the spot and I felt pretty and very special. I felt empowered, because she did not just make me a skirt, I walked away with a friend that made me think creatively. Up until that point I had not realized how creative I was, and that it was ok to be free in that space.
This is what being part of the Sofistafunk Society means to me, and the thousands of women who wear a skirt designed by Arlinda. You see Sofistafunk is not just a skirt it is a lifestyle. It’s the way you enter a room. It’s knowing that you are royalty each and every day. It’s unlearning. It’s spiritual. It’s family.
Arlinda and I made the time to catch up with one another. When we talk it’s usually early in the morning about 6 or 7am but this time it was evening. We began our 20min call at about 6pm and it ended at about 9pm. Typical for friends who have not spoken in about a year. In this conversation I wanted to truly interview my friend, but I quickly realized that my “interview” had turned into another bonding session.
What I wanted to get out of our conversation was more of her history. I found out that she made her first skirt in 1983 from a set of her mothers curtains. She needed money to feed her family and that was her main marketable skill. She survived an unpleasant marriage and stitched herself back together one skirt at a time. Understanding that people would purchase her skirts she began designing to make ends meet.
It was very difficult to keep Arlinda talking about the past, she spoke of her learning experience in her marriage but spent more time talking about how she and her ex-husband and his wife have created a community of love for their family. She shared that families must do what is necessary for the children, be open to every level of love. In her case she gained a new friend in her ex-husbands current wife. “We seriously love each other. I know that sounds crazy to some, but it’s true and it’s the way things should be.” We spent a bit more time chatting about love and the universe and unlimited ideas of enlightenment. That lead us to her sharing about the recent death of her mother.
Arlinda reflected on the recent passing of her mother and how that can affect ones view of life. I sensed that Arlinda was enlightened by her mothers transition. She referred to death as simply being finished, that we move on into uninhibited space. Uninhibited is a great way to describe her these days. We spoke of everything from sex to pop culture. My friend ask only one question and challenges you to answer. WHY. Almost childlike, Arlinda will ask why to life’s simplest questions. For example, when she asks about my 11 year old son, I began to fuss about his “unruly” afro, sharing how he must pick it before school, to which Arlinda, ask “Why?, why is it so very important for him to pick his hair? Is it for you or others?”
What she shared that soaked into my spirit most was how she had been designing from a place of extreme need all these years, sort of like living check to check. ” It is important to make decisions based on the future and not live in fear of your own success.” I loved that part of our conversation, as I too have lived in fear of my own success.
You can see her freedom in her work. As a person who has followed her designs since 2001 I can see the freedom of movement in her most recent collection, The Gathering. The regal flow, and ease of the skirt is indicative of where Arlinda is as a designer. Arlinda has been in the forefront of the ” real women” movement as all of her skirts have always been designed for women of all sizes. Her colors and patterns have been both elegant and whimsical. Mixing up colors and patterns and fabrics, there are no rules.
I have always wondered what Arlinda’s design philosophy was. When I asked the answer was so simple. ” Why Not” Why not wear a big skirt to the mall? Why not have a party because you feel like it? Why not be the belle of the ball everyday? Why do we allow media to dictate what a woman should or should not look like?
That is what Arlinda does. She questions, she pushes the limits and we see this in her endless breezy, fun, designs. There are no boxes to think out of, no patterns. Just being one with her spirit and creating the vision she is given that moment. She makes you feel like you are the most important person in the room and when you put on that skirt, everyone else thinks you are too!