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Story Road

The Lizelle & Co. Origin Story

The story of Lizelle & Co. starts here. This brand is a collection of stories and apparel woven together through tales of past and present. It paints a picture of who I am and where I came from.

Click here to read the whole story

The Lizelle & Co. Origin Story

by Lizelle van Vuuren

A year ago

This story and the entire Lizelle & Co. collection is giving back to The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. We will donate $1 on every sale of all items in the entire Lizelle & Co. collection for as long as the collection runs. 

Time to Explore...

  • What happens when I open up and let people in.
  • How high I can fly now that I’m taking risks in a healthier, more mindful way. 
  • Why it’s so important I’m doing this now.

Anchors up, let’s set sail.

At the end of 2018, exactly one week before Christmas, my body shut down. Again.

I was experiencing yet another mysterious massive flare-up. All of my internal systems had launched an attack and it felt like my heart would explode. I’d developed a chronic sinus infection over Thanksgiving that simply wouldn’t quit. I had zero clue as to what was going on - maybe it was a reaction to the nasal spray I’d taken to try and break this terrible sinus head. I didn’t know. I was tired. I had severe brain fog. My body was screaming at me. And I was in panic and in pain.

Up until this point, I followed the tech industry’s unspoken motto: Speed Is Everything. I’ve been working in the tech and startup world for over 17  years. I was (and am) damn good at it. Until recently, I took pride in how fast I could go. It was obvious I was a competitor who loved to win. However, that pace caught up with me.

In reflecting on the past three months (it’s May 2019 as I write this), it’s hard to wrap my brain around all that has happened. In short, shit got real. The symptoms I was experiencing were totally overwhelming. In a state of utter desperation, I pulled up a list of local naturopaths and began leaving one voicemail after the next. Miraculously, one called me back that same day, and she was able to squeeze me in for an appointment the next morning. It was on that day she uncovered the mystery behind my pain. She helped me start making a plan to rebuild my health.

It is because of her wisdom and guidance that I am finally piecing my health back together.

I was diagnosed with Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, more frequently referred to as SIBO. It’s an autoimmune-related diagnosis. People living with SIBO have excessive bacteria present in the small intestine, frequently caused by the overuse of antibiotics, mold exposure, and stress. All three of these things have been present in my life. The most shocking realization was that mold toxicity was part of the problem.

Coincidentally, I had my first nightmare health scare ten years ago due to antibiotics I was given. That’s another story for another day. While similar to how my body was reacting at the end of 2018, there were some significant differences. The fact that I’m ten years older might be relevant, too.

Another factor behind my SIBO diagnosis? Stress - the deadly friend that is always showing up uninvited. Stress has always been around; I can’t remember life without it. I had an amazing childhood,  but I was around a lot of emotional toxicity, too. My mother and father divorced when I was only four. Back then, I had wanted to live with my mother, but I was too young to be allowed a choice. I should note, I grew up in a lineage of alcoholism and domestic violence and have my share of childhood trauma and likely suffer from PTSD but we’ll get into that in another story.

My doctor had a hunch that mold might be a prevalent issue. After being tested, lo and behold, we found that mold was definitely in my system, and also present in my house. How long? Not sure. Am I working on getting this toxicity out of my body now? You’re damn right I am. But, I’m unsure  how long mold has really been in my body. While small traces of mold were recently detected at my house, we’re not sure if it was a minor symptom or the actual culprit behind my diagnosis. For all I know, I could have been exposed to it when I was a kid growing up in South Africa. In the end, how and where I wound up with it in my system is inconsequential - what’s important is that I’m hitting it all head-on now.

My life had to change.

Sure, this wasn’t the first time the thought had crossed my mind, but it was the first time I felt the true urgency behind it. Besides, my body left me no choice - it forced me to respond and change things. Our bodies will do that. It’s quite incredible.

In January, I was dealing with a lot of pain, both physically and emotionally. During that period, I dropped 15-18 pounds. Fortunately, I quickly put a few healthy pounds back on. I experienced panic attacks where I was convinced I wouldn’t get through the day. My abdominal pain and bloating caused tremendous mental and physical anguish. All of my muscles hurt to the point I could barely walk around a single city block without exhaustion. I had brain fog - forming cohesive thoughts was also exhausting. There were entire days in January where all I could do was rest on the couch with funny movies playing in the background as I sketched ideas for Lizelle & Co.

I don’t share these details to gain pity from anyone. I share it merely to paint a picture. I’m already doing a lot better. This is a tale of progress, not perfection.

Thankfully, I immediately began seeing improvements in my overall health as soon as I changed my diet. I was on Twitter discussing SIBO and a guy who follows me (who was literally dealing with mold toxicity himself), pinged me and told me to look into the SCD diet. He referred me to the incredible book, Breaking The Vicious Cycle by Elaine Gottschall. I told my doctor I was reading the book and it was really resonating with me. She confirmed that ultimately this was the diet she’d intended me to incorporate into my life The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (also known as SCD) is a very strict program that eliminates complex carbohydrates.

Shortly after starting this food regimen, my mind started to clear and my body started to cool off. Fortunately, my creativity slowly began to return. By February, I was already starting to think about what kind of project I could work on that would make me feel good. I wanted to do something fun - something that would aid in my healing. I got excited and started believing I could tackle something beautiful - a dream I didn’t realize until that moment I truly wanted to feel out.

I wanted to create the vision behind the name Lizelle and Co., but I didn’t know then what it could become. Now, I do.My intention was to work on a project that would bring me joy and, in turn, open some new doors. It would give me the chance to meet new people and collaborate in creative ways.

It’s time to introduce myself.

I began journaling about powerful and fun stories from my life. These are the stories I’ll be sharing with you.  They paint a picture of who I am and where I come from, one little story at a time. My intention is to write until I get all the stories out there, and I’m guessing it will take the rest of my life. Sharing our stories is owning our narrative and that became very important to me this year. It also allows us to heal and rewrite some truths for ourselves.Last year, I was struck by the fact that most folks didn’t really know me. I had allowed my community to give me a specific boxed-in character and personality. Hold up, that’s bullshit - I allowed it to happen. And I didn’t like it. So, here I am, creating something fun for us to give you the chance to meet the real me. I want to get to know you, too. This project is a way for me to reflect, play and invite you to come along for the ride.

This is the beginning. By sharing one story at a time, I hope to continue to report an improvement in my health and also create an impact with my apparel collections. I also really look forward to brands, companies, startups and corporations who are exploring an authentic voice for themselves to reach out and work with me and my incredible creative team. Together, we bring some of those special features of your products, services, and your people to life in new and creative ways.

Because my stories are so vivid in my mind, I’m thrilled to bring them to life. I’ll be putting some aspects of these stories on products that people can relate to and enjoy. I want to inspire you to explore unique experiences from your life as well.

One of my many cravings has always been to launch my own apparel brand.  I’m addicted to starting companies, this I know. Now, I have the chance to do that in a fun, fulfilling way that not only helps me continue to heal, but also causes a ripple effect to positively impact others. Most of the collections I’ll be introducing through Lizelle & Co.  will be tied to a charity. Giving back to others is a gift itself.

Time to Explore.

My first collection showcases an anchor, you’ll see it in my brand identity. Anchors have been showing up in my life a lot over the past years. At times, I saw the anchor as an indication I was stuck, trapped at the bottom. More recently, it’s provided a more optimistic interpretation for me, as in, “Anchors Up, Let’s Set Sail!”  

Also, it’s illuminated another metaphor: Anchored in Love. No matter where you are and what you are dealing with, we have the choice to determine whether it’s light or heavy. This has been my experience. We get to choose how we control the narrative of our lives ultimately and that is being anchored in the present.

It’s time to explore who we are and get to know ourselves better. It’s time to get out in the world, meet new people, and experience new adventures. To heal the parts of us that have been stuck, we must get outside in nature because that’s where we’ll find the answers. But also, we need to look within, as this is where the true keys to healing and happiness reside.

Thank you for letting me share some of my stories with you, I really hope this inspires you to explore some things in your life.

Read the stories. Wear the threads. Create some impact. Share your adventures with us on Instagram by tagging @lizelleandco and using the #lizelleandco hashtag. I can’t wait for us to learn more about each other.

With gratitude,
Lizelle van Vuuren
Founder, Lizelle & Co.


This story and the entire Lizelle & Co. collection is giving back to The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. We will donate $1 on every sale of all items in the entire Lizelle & Co. collection for as long as the collection runs. 

 Shop the Lizelle & Co. Collection


Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to be notified when new stories drop monthly. Reach out to the studio if you’re interested in designing a collaborative collection or simply want to hire Lizelle to create a new brand experience for you. Lizelle & Co. is officially open for business.


  • Lizelle I connected with your story. I’ve recovered from adrenal fatigue and helping others connect with healing and help is the passion behind my Integrative Health Network. There are some amazing providers in our area, like Resilience Code in Englewood. Food sensitivities, toxins, stress, disease and more can be cured.

    Monica Stuchlik on

  • “No matter where you are and what you are dealing with, we have the choice to determine whether it’s light or heavy.” As I read your story, that sentence completely hit me and brought me to tears. Maybe I’m tired, or stressed, or a little hungover this morning, but I just gathered my coffee and my cat and headed to the backyard for a little nature and contemplation.
    Caroline on

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