Color Me Creative
An exuberant force of color and compassion, Gudrun Sjöden Brand Ambassador and New York City flagship shop associate Betti Zucker is a true individual. Betti brings her own stamp of creativity and passion to the way she dresses, thinks and presents herself to the world, imparting her own colorful fun spin to her eclectic way of representing Gudrun.
A first generation American born to parents who immigrated to the United States during World War II before meeting and falling in love, Betti tells it like this: “My father’s European mentality was, ‘Girls are for the neighbors. Girls are second class citizens.’ Growing up, this did not resonate well with me.”
Style-strong and a fashionista from the start, Betti says she rebelled through art and what she wore. “I didn’t want to be one of the crowd. I wanted my individuality to shine through. I didn’t realize at the time that this was my calling card of empowerment. Strength is not only brute force, but also silent aspirations.”
The first woman in her family to attend university, Betti embarked on a path of strong resourcefulness. “The motto in the ‘60s was ‘Women went to college to get their Mrs. degree.’ I wanted more!”
So got it. She became a stylist for a textile manufacture, which opened her eyes and her mind to the power of color. “What I wore not only showed who I was, but also my strength. I developed my own style: bold, colorful and effervescent. It became my calling card. I studied the world through an imaginary looking glass where I found possibilities in the least expected places.”
A multi-hyphenated creative, Betti most recently has become immersed in cooking and the curiosities of different cuisines. “I became fascinated with the smorgasbord of different cultures. After all, New York is a melting pot of cultures. Traveling and seeing the world was not an option, but a must! My zest for life grew. What I discovered, I wanted to share. I did so through teaching art and blogging. Currently, my daughter and I are working on a book titled ‘One Dish Four Seasons,’ encompassing the value of being green by using seasonal, regional ingredients.”
Upon discovering the exuberant clothing of Gudrun Sjöden, Betti says she found a “match made in heaven. I love the mix of polka dots and stripes. I adore her magical flowers and most of all her love of handicrafts that includes slow stitching, block printing, and indigo tie-dye. It’s a true honor to be an Ambassador for the brand. And the shear joy of a stranger coming up to me and saying ‘I love the way you look’ or ‘thank you for bringing some colorful sunshine on to our airplane’ — a quote from the flight attendant on the last plane ride I took!” We thank you, too, Betti, for the color and zest you bring to Gudrun and our shop on Greene Street!
Coloring Outside the Lines
Author and psychologist Rachel Awes is an ebullient force of nature, color, pattern and empowerment, an “art playgroundist,” who equates making art with being at recess. But she’s most powerful at listening and hearing the stories of women’s hearts and souls and then transferring those stories into words and art that speak to us all, lift us up and color our outlook brilliantly. As one fellow artist put it, Rachel is a “rainbow in a human form.”
This colorful Minnesotan might just be Gudrun’s single biggest style fan. There is no holding back in the way Rachel styles her Gudrun outfits, each one a greater explosion of color, pattern and fun than the previous. “What I found in Gudrun is that she captured all this in me, and raised up my wardrobe about who I was. Being an ambassador for her is life changing, it’s saying yes to my own authentic evolution and revolution of being me. I love what Gudrun represents and adore her clothing. When I stand in the sunshine wearing her polka dots and flowers and stripes and luscious colors, I am deeply being myself and inviting others to do the same.”
Rachel embraces the concept of Gudrun’s World wholly, completely and in a very visceral manner. “When I walked into the store for the first time, I was bellowing ‘THIS IS MY FAVORITE STORE EVER!!!’ My sons and husband left me in there for two hours and when they came back, I was in a circle of the girls and the clothes and crying. One of the associates gave me the dress off her back! When I became a Brand Ambassador, it was truly so seamless, so part and parcel of where I’m at, as an individual.”
As a psychologist, Rachel says her passion in healing as a therapist is “to point out what is most deeply beautiful about women and address what gets in the way of them seeing that and what allows them to live out their magnificence. I’m a speaker about peoples’ magnificence and all those things meant to lift people up out of their deepest being.”
She empowers women on so many levels. “Loving people is transformative. And the ripple effect of loving each other is good for the planet… I think in terms of not wanting to harm the earth. I see the animals and the flowers and the earth as living beings that we can learn from and I care what happens to them. Sustainability is about being in a relationship and caring about all of that and the beloved beings that need protection.”
The more she empowers others, the more she empowers herself. “In my 40s, the decade of writing and illustrating my books, I was drawing these girls and these outfits and affirming these women deeply. And I couldn’t do it without being ME. I started to dress more and more like them. And then the more I dressed like them, the more I realized who they were. They were me!” Meet you on the playground, Rachel!
Moving with the music, healing with the heart, feeling the beat through exuberance and empowerment. That’s San Francisco-based Dr. Deborah Cohan, M.D., obstetrician, gynecologist and Gudrun Brand Ambassador, who specializes in care for women with HIV and reproductive infectious diseases. When Deborah was set to undergo a double mastectomy four years ago, she danced her way into surgery — and right into our hearts. Her video flash mob “dance party” went viral, viewed by millions worldwide and garnered attention on national morning news. Boogie-ing to Beyoncé was more than just a distraction for this doctor; the ritual encapsulated the healing power of dance. Which instantly made her a Gudrun favorite and brand ambassador all in one fell swoop.
“When I found out I was going to be a Gudrun ambassador and travel to NY, I called my sister and she nearly fell out of her chair!” Deborah claims that’s because she never considered herself “fashionable.” However, being fashionable wasn’t really what drew Deborah to Gudrun and Gudrun to this miraculous dancing doctor.
“Gudrun clothes feel very much in alignment with my goal to leave as small a footprint as possible. Basically, my clothes are from thrift stores or cherished clothing that my friend gave me. Her clothes are meaningful to me in a way I would have never guessed.”
Deborah finds Gudrun’s “use of design and color a newer exploration for me. My very best friend, Michelle, died last year. She was a designer and the most fashionable person at any party. I used to joke that she was hip and I was hippy. She honored color and she delighted people with that. Up to that point of deepening my friendship with her, I was missing that what we wear can be an external manifestation of who we are on the inside. Wearing bright joyful colors can have an impact on others. It’s like putting your finger in a still pond. It creates energy and then the impulse gets expressed in clothing. That doesn’t happen when you’re wearing jeans or yoga pants. It happens with clothing that is fine and supple enough to have it’s own dance. The fabric accepts the energy.”
Besides dancing fabrics, her favorite thing about Gudrun? The environmental stewardship. “That part is VERY important to me. And going along with that is my core values around being an activist or changing HIV policy.”
As a doctor and a dance instructor, she teaches body awareness and mindfulness as a way to help patients cope with illness and other life challenges. Much of her work is with patients who have an intense history of trauma, who are immigrants and don’t speak the language, who are in abusive relationships. “I deliver babies. I also offer embodiment work for those with cancer. Gudrun’s designs have a subtlety and complexity to them that are a metaphor of how I try to approach my emotional evolution. How I try to connect with others."
“One of my most favorite roles is to help women realize not only that they can but they are doing it. I often say ‘I want to remind you that you thought you couldn’t do this. I want you to remember this experience and that you have much more power than you are giving yourself credit for.’ This dramatic intense experience. Talk about what’s being open to new narratives.”
Deborah raises consciousness and empowers women through her work with people with cancer. “Most I work with feel quite detached from and betrayed by their body. I lead them through a series of exercises… in order to have an experience of joy or connectedness to their body. It’s a total 180 about how they are reacting with their body. It’s the ultimate source of inspiration. ‘I had absolutely no idea that I had that in me,’ they will say. It’s me providing space and facilitating their realization that they had it in themselves the whole time.”
For Deborah, being a Gudrun Brand Ambassador means being eccentric and creative. “I continue to open up to new ways of expressing myself and I feel really deep gratitude to have this opportunity to express and explore myself. It’s been great and really fun.” Just make sure to save us some room on your dance card, doctor!
As one of the Mayo Clinic’s formidable plastic surgeons, Dr. Valerie Lemaine performs breast reconstructions and gender reassignments, empowering women, and people, from the outside in. But that works both ways, says this quiet brand ambassador.
“Restoring body image is so empowering. But my patients empower me by trusting me to change their lives! The past two years or so I’ve been involved in gender reassignment, to help others, without judgment, and to make people feel better about themselves. It’s so empowering to help someone make that change.”
As an educator of the next generation of plastic surgeons, Valerie also helps more and more women get into her professional field. “As I get more comfortable with the power I have on others and its impact, I make an effort to put myself out there.”
Part of that power is reflected in her choice of dress. “I’ve made a conscious effort to wear more colors, which affects how I feel and my mood, and how people react to me, probably in a more joyful or positive way,” noting she fell in love with Gudrun’s fall collection because “especially on days that I do surgery, I want roomy, comfortable soft clothes. My body hurts after. In the locker room the women ask, ‘where did you get this?!’ The clothes are like a big hug! Comforting and soft. It’s a boost to your self-confidence. Which comes back to empowerment…. I’m proud to be representing the brand.”
Thank you, Valerie, Gudrun is proud to have a doctor in the family, too!
Art & Joyous Clothing
Do you love the sweater (or tunic or scarf or…) you are wearing today?! I love it when you make joyous clothing or home décor choices. As a “possibilitiarian” (her word), brand ambassador Kelly Rae Roberts does, too. She segued as a social worker into her true voice as a creative artist 11 years ago, making art her business, and she’s never looked back.
“There are a lot of women like I was, living but not awakened to their own voice and power,” notes Kelly Rae, who also teaches women to silence the noise and look into themselves to feel empowered. “I think of my offerings as an invitation to awaken our possibilities. And the lives waiting within us. We get to be the pioneers of our own empowerment and that often involves clothes, and colorful clothes at that.”
Like Gudrun’s clothing. The Portland-based mother of one says Gudrun’s clothing has broadened her color palette, in a very unexpected way. “Before I started to wear Gudrun, I never owned anything black…but that super cute embroidered black tunic introduced me to black and I LOVE it!!!” She hasn’t given up her bright hues and ecstatic adornment, though, and is just as likely to be photographed for her blog’s outfit-of-the-day posts in Gudrun’s rich red tones and embroidered items, especially the tunic. “I own so many of the Gudrun tunics. I would say my favorite is the cream linen dress with the pink tulips all over it!”
Kelly Rae asks women to be mindful about how and what clothing they wear. “It’s really about making what is inside of ourselves — inside our hearts — visible and wearable.” She loves the realizations that result, which is the thread that runs through all her offerings. “Awaken to new ways of seeing yourself, make the decisions on decorating your houses, spaces and adorning yourself conscious and joyful. This is everything Gudrun’s about…” We concur, Kelly Rae!
Water & Women
Humanitarian, philanthropist and fashion model Georgie Badiel, aka The Water Princess (we love her book of the same name), remembers her “aha” water moment well —crack o’ dawn in her homeland village in Burkina Faso, when she was still a child. “Men weren’t allowed to fetch water, it was only the woman's duty. The young girl's duty. I grew up with 5 boys and I was always mad I was the only girl. That I had to wake up early to gather the water with my grandma. At 8 I already started to complain, ‘it’s not fair, not normal, everybody needs to be involved in it. Why do we have to walk so far, why isn’t the water clean, why does it have to be boiled?’ So my grandma planted the seed in me without me knowing…’do something about it,’ she said.”
So Georgie did. She now spends her life as both a model and a role model. Planting trees, restoring wells, helping raise funds so that millions can have the right to clean drinking water, education and sanitation facilities in Burkina Faso as well as neighboring Sub-Saharan African countries. As one of Gudrun’s most powerful Ambassadors, Georgie’s core values resonate with those of Gudrun’s, as she empowers girls and women, fights for sustainable practices and educates for the unalienable rights for living beings and the environment.
“I’m a happy person who loves to give, be joyful and to empower women,” Georgie says, whether by educating and training women on the ways to obtain healthy water or by claiming the power of colorful clothing. “I love color. African woman, we love color!!!! Gudrun has happy, joyful colors that pop on my skin. Everywhere I go people compliment me on my Gudrun!"
Georgie adds: “I am a person that dreams to see a better world.” She’s making that dream reality, one drop of clean drinking water at a time.