Dressed With Legacy: Atishca Makan Allows the Memories of Our Loved Ones to Live On Through Their Clothes
Second-hand clothing and items hold a unique charm. Not only do second-hand shops allow us to buy into a sustainable way of living, they are also filled with history: each item has its own story to tell and in purchasing one, we are allowing it to live on and write new stories. If you’ve ever stopped to study second-hand dresses, blazers or trinkets and considered their past, it is likely that you felt overwhelmed by emotion thinking about all the hands they passed through, all the bodies they have beautified, all the special meanings they held for their former owners.
Atishca Makan, bereavement guide and founder of Dressed With Legacy, has always been drawn to the stories behind the many garments and items that fill second-hand stores and charity shops. “I have always been interested in getting to know the other side. Where did things come from, what homes and families surrounded these items, what stories did they witness unfolding. My husband and I love DIY projects and enjoy restoring and repurposing old furniture. I think it’s also the sustainability angle that attracts me, the fact that these items get another chance,” Atishca told Fashionomics Africa.
Atishca is a brand and communications consultant by profession and has worked with big brands such as Talk Radio, Eyewitness News and LeadSA for the past ten years. She was born and raised in Durban, and has been living in Johannesburg since 2005, along with her husband Ritesh and her dogs Rogue, Nitro, Bianca and Damon. Following the loss of her father, Roy Sonna, Atishca felt the need to do something meaningful and to reach out to people who were also grieving loved ones.
“My dad battled with Rheumatoid Arthritis for twenty years. I never went out, I loved staying home with him because sometimes he just could not do things physically. This made me quite socially inactive – I don’t regret it, but I have no exciting stories to tell at firesides. I love my dad and taking care of him was a privilege and honor. He was my best friend and no matter what happened, I never wanted to leave his side. Mentally, towards the end I did have caregivers’ and compassion fatigue. I was tired. Tired of seeing him in pain for over 20 years and tired of the hospital visits. I was just emotionally tired.”
It can be hard to put grief into words, but Atishca’s description of her own experience is very relatable. “It looked like chaos in a teacup. From the outside I was still looking like a functioning soul. But internally is was lost. What do I do with myself if I wasn’t taking care of dad? The first year I was on auto pilot. In the Hindu Culture we have many different ceremonies during the first year of a persons’ passing, so we had something to do that distracted us and kept busy. The 2nd year I crashed hard. I was put onto anti-depressants, I saw a psychologist and honestly, I don’t know when the shift happened, but I woke up one day and decided not to feel like that and find a way through it. I started taking better care of myself. Invested in finding the me I had no idea existed,” she shares with us.
Once Atishca found the strength to pull herself out of this dark space, she focused all her energies on developing an initiative that would help others through their own grief. “I founded the Dressed With Legacy initiative in 2018. It is dedicated to remembrance and charity through storytelling and the memories of our loved ones that have passed on. I help people share the memories of their loved ones by attaching those memories to the items they would like to donate to charity. We take printed cardboard clothing tags and write the memories on the back of those tags. For example: Roy Sonna was in the South African Navy for 21 years. It’s quite therapeutic to the person grieving, as sharing these memories of their loved ones is a reminder that their existence mattered. It also allows the recipient to get to know the person whose Legacy is dressing them.”
DWL is a non-profit organisation, there is no cash exchanged for the collection of the clothes and their subsequent donation to charity. All Atishca seeks is a willingness to share this concept with others in the hope that it will become something greater. “The response to DWL has been great and people are genuinely touched when I mention what it’s about and why I started it. It encourages many people to think about their own mortality and what memories they are leaving behind for their loved ones.”
The touching response to DWL prompted Atishca to consider the grieving process of children too. “A friend of mine, Dani Donald, is a counsellor and we bonded through our work as Future Females Johannesburg ambassadors. Dani does incredible work with children and families in Hospice and came across two beautiful girls whose dad had died from cancer. They were seven and nine years old at the time. I was collecting clothing donations for Dressed With Legacy and Dani wanted to gift the girls something to remember their dad by. So, we collaborated and gave the girls a bear each, dressed in their dads clothing. We then made a bear each for ourselves and as word got around, it’s become something we offer the families to purchase as a keepsake. My bear smells of Deep Heat ointment, a smell I grew accustomed to over 20 years massaging my dad. I can only imagine that the feeling I get when my bear is near, is the same comfort other kids get too.”
Atishca’s work as the founder of Dressed With Legacy led her to become a bereavement guide. “It happened quite organically. I had managed to put my life together and this was noticed by some incredible souls who thought that I could help others on this journey. They then offered me a space to do that. The funeral home and the Healing Centre that I work for, both believed in my ability to resonate with people on an authentic healing level and this is why they have entrusted me with becoming a part of the offering to their clients.”
Dressed With Legacy proves that clothes are much more than just fashion statements – they inform our personalities and form part of so many memories, not just for the wearer but the loved ones that surround them. Atishca helps us keep these memories alive by sharing them with others and encouraging them to add on to the stories that keep on unfolding.