My journey into fashion began with a pivotal moment. While serving as a United States Peace Corps Volunteer, I had a vivid dream that I would one day own a women's shoe store called Wild Women Wear Red. One week after that vision, I was evacuated from my site in Okongo, Namibia due to civil unrest and I was given a one-way ticket to Washington DC, where I proceeded to work for a children's non profit. But that vision kept haunting me. Two years later, Wild Women Wear Red was launched. At 27 I was married, owned 4 homes and had a successful business that was lauded in both national and international publications. On the surface I was an international human rights lawyer turned boutique owner, but underneath it all, I had a yearning that wasn't satisfied.
I packed my bags and sojourned to Mallorca, Spain. Solitude on this small island in the Mediterranean led to the birthing of Off the Beaten Path; an international travel and fashion web series. I couldn't have picked a worse time to move abroad. It was 2008 and the world was going through a global economic crisis.
Ultimately, I found myself at an e-commerce startup in Santa Monica, California. I thought I had growth potential with this company and in fact, created a personal styling initiative that was projected to result in $2 million in revenue. When I was called into the conference room a few days before Thanksgiving of 2017, I never suspected that I would be laid off.
As I contemplated what the future would hold, interviews, early commutes and arbitrary office politics was not what I had envisioned for myself. I booked a one-way ticket to Zanzibar. A petite and fabled archipelago off the coast of Tanzania in the Indian Ocean. My lay-off was an unexpected opportunity and I grabbed it with both hands.
The plan was to travel the world, shooting Off the Beaten Path, while using Zanzibar as my home base. I hadn't anticipated that it would be so difficult to access the world from a small island. After living on Unguja (the main island) for 10 months, I desperately needed some city action. I journeyed to Kampala, Uganda. While there, I met Cinematographer, Simone Atuha. He believed in my vision and was the blessing I prayed for. I decided that we would be more productive if we resided in the same country and I was right.
Since moving to Kampala, I have traveled throughout East Africa and borne witness to beautiful people, places and things. I want to share them with you. Taking you on a shopping tour to the city's best ateliers, boutiques, galleries and markets is my pleasure. I receive instant gratification from seeing the look of joy spread across your face when you've discovered something you absolutely LOVE.
Beauty is Universal is an extension of the web series, in which I offer a personal shopping service + fashion & lifestyle tour in Uganda and Rwanda. It is an organic result that stemmed from viewers of my Instagram and Facebook posts entreating me to select, purchase and ship shoes, clothing and accessories abroad. I'm happy to do it and I hope that you experience sheer delight when you receive what I have in store for you. The unintended benefit is that you are also supporting the African economy, the small business sector, women owned businesses and independent designers. This is how we create real, sustainable change by sowing into businesses that honor and represent us.
I have lived, worked and played on 4 continents. It gives me life to observe how women throughout the world adorn themselves. I pay close attention and adopt aspects of the stylistic rituals that resonate with me.
As a young girl growing up in Los Angeles, California, the beauty paradigm was extremely narrow. Throughout my travels, I have seen beauty manifested in women, men and children all over the world. Those personal experiences led me to create Beauty is Universal. Now I bring it to you. By breathing oxygen into this project, you are in fact acknowledging that beauty is transcendent and exists in many forms.
-Toddre' DaLaura Monier