real impression : moss
This month we chat with Syreeta and Rob, founders of MOSS. Moments Of Sense & Style is a Lincoln based lifestyle store and studio, with considered design and crafted product at the forefront. Born out of a life altering trauma, this couple have an exceptionally powerful story. With determination and hope at their core, to say they're inspiring does not cut it. Meeting, chatting with and capturing a little of Syreeta and Rob was a genuine privilege. They love well, speak with wisdom and have grown something exceptionally beautiful together in their brand. Watch this space and read carefully, something I'm certain of is that they and MOSS are going to go far.
As ever, for those just joining and wondering what this is:
Real Impression is a monthly series combining portraits capturing person and craft, alongside interview style chats about the realities of starting something from the ground up. From the perspective of artists, creatives, entrepreneurs and the like, 'Real Impressions' aims to be authentic, tell stories, create community and give insight and support for those during the daily grind.
How would you describe where you are now, and how you came to be here?
It’s quite the tale. I would describe it as playing the cards we’ve been dealt, as life changed in a heartbeat just over 3 years ago.
Rob and I met whilst we were living and working in Hong Kong, both designers, working hard and playing hard. On 27th September 2014, Rob suffered a near fatal brain haemorrhage and stroke. To make things more complicated, we lived and worked in Hong Kong but this all happened on the second day of a holiday in Sydney. Life changed instantly. We went from being high flying Design professionals, working hard and playing hard, to dealing with intense trauma. It’s been quite the journey to get this point. We had to move back to the UK for family support and although I did try to maintain my old role, I had to give up work to support Rob in his recovery.
The business idea came to me at my lowest ebb; unable to find work, I decided to create something beautiful out of the darkness. It started with a blog, a Tumblr and it went from there. Moments Of Sense & Style, MOSS, was an outlet, a creative and cathartic project for me to deal with what had happened and to find myself again. The name came from the old adage, which rings true. A rolling stone gathers no moss. Our life before was hectic and always on the move, urban nomads, never still. Life and tragedy made us stop; stop rolling, time to, take roots; gather moss. The brand has developed and runs parallel to caring for Rob, dealing with his recovery and our life as it is now. It’s developing at our pace and I am proud to have created a platform for both of us, to forge our new path.
What motivates and inspires you?
Rob: Life! And Syreeta! Syreeta motivates and encourages me to get better, to get stronger and to create. I am inspired by everything, inspiration is all around. I will always be a designer, always problem solving and thinking of how to make things better. I love Pinterest for seeing new ideas as it’s easy for me to use with my brain injury. Magazines and books are also a great source for me. My drawings have developed from my need to communicate. I learnt to draw again after I came out of my coma and Syreeta helped me do this, as I couldn’t speak. I used to draw to communicate. then it was therapy and now it’s for pleasure. My drawings are inspired by travel; where once it was far and wide, now I draw on our trips around the UK or even locally as the history is on our doorstep in Lincoln.
Syreeta: Rob inspires me daily, with his calm gentle approach, drive and determination; his sheer will to live and laugh. I find great pleasure in gratitude; the simple moments, beauty in the mundane inspires me. The last few years have made me appreciate the tiny details, the little things are actually what make us. The fleeting moments we normally wouldn’t give a second glance to, that is what’s most dear and most precious. You miss them when they are taken from you. There is beauty in every day, if we would only just stop and look, just change our ways of seeing. I am motivated by the opportunities to share this beauty with everyone. But more so as a need to create. To create, to work and put my experience within industry to use. To use my skills and talents to build our life again. I also take inspiration from poetry, music (which is essentially poetry with beats!) and literature too. I too am inspired by travel and our adventures as they are now.
What are the biggest hurdles to building your brand and how have you overcome them?
From a personal perspective, my confidence has been knocked since Rob’s brain injury; it happened to him yet it happened to me too. Our life shattered to pieces. Where most folk have one constant in their life to hold them up when trauma happens, we had nothing to hold on to; we lost our homes, our jobs, our lives as we knew it and had to start again. I felt like we were at sea, in a deflated dinghy without oars. My confidence is still taking time to rebuild. Yet, I have faith. I have got us this far. I started as I had nothing left to lose; we were starting from scratch. The hurdles have been plentiful, especially as I am balancing rebuilding our life with all this, teaching Rob how to live again. And there have been many doubters, yet there always will be if you are challenging the status quo. One of the biggest hurdles has been finding my feet in a new city; Lincoln was Rob’s hometown, not mine, so I have had to build a network here. Within that there have been many lessons learnt in terms of trust and who is genuine, but overall I have stuck with it and seem to finally be finding like minded souls.
What are your hopes for the future?
Rob: Personally, to physically be stronger and get back on my bike! I endeavour to be a successful artist in my own right yet my one wish for the future, is to be well enough to support others who may have suffered similar to me.
Syreeta: Absolutely, to live life to the full and make the most of what we have. We hope to grow the business enough so we can build a home and studio of our own, a creative hub. A place to support the community and others who have gone through trauma and brain injury. As sadly, society seems to decided your fate and throw you off a cliff. Just because something has happened to you, does not mean you lose your sense of style, taste and ability. I feel passionately that everyone has potential, something to offer, if only given the chance.
And that’s the approach I took to our situation. I tried to hold on to the coat tails of my old life and job. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it, but life had changed; I had changed. The whole experience has affected me deeply, especially witnessing the approaches and attitudes to recovery. I could not simply allow Rob be written off.
I came at it from a different angle; my strength in my creative problem solving. I saw the spark in Rob, I knew from the moment he was out of his coma. Rob was very much him and still as driven and determined as he ever was. I knew he simply needed love and encouragement, a reason to get up each day; purpose. Fundamentally that’s what we all need, a reason for being. To find the thing that makes us tick, then do that. And if that means wandering off the set path of university/career job/working way up the ladder, then why not? Challenging societal norms aren’t for the faint hearted, yet if one is brave enough, it can set you free.
What advice would you give to those embarking on their (and their brands) journey?
Life is short. You’ve only go so long. Find your purpose, fuel your passion and do so with an open heart and mind. Just try, go the edge and push, what’s the worst that could happen? Take fear and doubt by the hand and jump. But saying that, do it your way. Do things differently. at your own pace, carving out a path that’s true to you. And no matter how tough things get, keep moving, keep momentum.
How do you define success?
Rob: Living! Each new day, another win! Syreeta was told I was dying, so to be here and talking to you is itself an achievement.
Syreeta: Success is based on our accomplishments in life and I’d have to say, where I am right now, by continually moving, no matter at what pace, inch by inch is what has got us here.
I am extremely proud of how I have dealt with the most humbling experience over the last few years, where I have dedicated myself to Rob’s rehab and recovery. I taught him to hold a pen and to draw once more, along side supporting his speech and physical rehabilitation; I gave him hope. The fact Rob is here, fighting, enduring and making progress each day is my success story. It’s a constant and long road, yet we are doing it together and have managed to stay solid as a couple in all this too.
I am forging a future that works with our life as it is now. It’s unconventional, but “life is for living”. If I can earn a living, establish a future for ourselves and enjoy what I do all at once, then I’ll have it made.