Written By Ashley McDonnell
Spending so much time in the same space during the global pandemic has opened my eyes to the environment I live in. I notice the tiny details: the way the lighting falls and changes in my home throughout the day, the same birds that sing outside my window every morning. I also think about all the places I’ve been over the years, the people I’ve met, the food I’ve tasted. I realise that something I miss incredibly is the adrenaline rush that I’ve felt from embarking on adventures - my favourite activity - with a suitcase packed of colourful and carefully planned outfits.
Cambodia, in particular, will always have a very special place in my heart. My travels and work there have shaped me as a person. Over the past 10 years, I’ve dedicated my energy, imagination and thoughts primarily to travel and art.
For me, travel is experiencing something completely different, learning about cultures and feeling like I’ve witnessed something that doesn’t exist at home. Art, however, has been less of a concrete pursuit of mine. I love the creative industries: fashion, film, photography, beauty, perfumes. Having always worked within luxury and through living most of my professional life in Paris, art seemed to encompass everything. The architecture, the street style, the jam jars in the grocery store, the pastries - even the parties.
One thing that remained consistent for me was the link between art and fashion. Whether it was discovering Jean-Michel Basquait’s creative brilliance in the Louis Vuitton Foundation, or walking through the studio of Yves Saint Laurent on Avenue Marceau - art and fashion remained intertwined and something that I was experiencing.
In my latest series, Banana Leaves, I draw on my experience in Cambodia. In 2015, I spent a hot, humid and challenging summer cycling through Takeo province. I taught English to children in an NGO, cycling 20km every day to get there and back from the nearest guesthouse. The cycle itself was difficult, passing through never-ending paddy fields, encountering wild animals and even wilder dogs.
Every day at lunchtime, an old lady on a bicycle would come to the NGO. She had pots and pans and bits of trees hanging off the sides of her bike. The unique clamour that this combination made would mark her arrival long before we could see her. For 500 riel (10c), lunch was served: warm, sticky rice with a sprinkle of coconut chips and palm sugar. Served not on a plate, but in a simple banana leaf.
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Join us on Instagram Live with Ash LATELIER on Wednesday, May 6th at 5.30 PM for Paint&Debate. Ashley, artist and Global Luxury Manager at Google, and Edel, CEO and Founder of Rag Revolution will be discussing The Love Affair Between Fashion and Art.