Walking around one of my favourite cities on this planet we call home thinking about the WHY.
There are so many WHY’s crowding my mind, but the one that takes the front seat is the WHY do I want to create my own apparel line.
I was out on a date last week and the guy sitting next to me asked WHY I was so passionate about this. WHY did I want to have my own business?
Turns out he was a business advisor in a past life and so he knows the right questions to ask.
He was right.
This question kind of annoyed me, made me angry made me frustrated.
Didn’t he know WHY? Just look at me.
WHY do you think I want to create my own clothing?
I kinda liked this guy and wanted him to like me so I debated in my mind how to answer his question. Do I go all philosophical and talk about my need to be true to my identity?
Was he ready for that?
More importantly, was I ready for that?
So I started off on a rant about the corporate world and how I hated having to get approval from at least 50 people (perhaps a slight exaggeration?) before I could implement a change and how I wanted more from a job than just going to the same place every day and doing the same daily tasks.
In a really calm and patient manner, he pushed me further.
But WHY do you want to create your own business?
So, then I realized he wanted me to get all (what I call) philosophical. Why was I so passionate about creating clothes?
So, I changed tack and started talking about identity and self expression and representation of brown people in fashion.
I paused to take in his reaction and he looked thoughtful and said, “But I don’t see colour.”
I sat on the edge of my chair and said, “And that’s part of the problem.”
He sat back in his worn-in, comfortable Grandpa chair and looked at me, cup of tea in hand.
“If you don’t see colour, then you don’t see me. Part of my identity is being brown, is being mixed race. Part of me is staring right at you and you don’t see it.”
That was also a bit of an ah-ha moment for me.
On a side note, I had had a similar conversation a few years ago, with a friend who was wheelchair bound and I said, “I don’t see your wheelchair, to me, you are just you.”
And I genuinely meant that. She was my friend because she made me laugh, I enjoyed our conversations and she gave me a perspective that I had never had before.
And she responded with, “Part of me is my wheelchair.”
So, I kinda knew where this guy was coming from.
I appreciated the fact that his intention was that he treats everyone the same no matter their skin colour and that he takes people by their character.
However, coming from a white male, that also showed me white privilege.
Another blog post, for another day, perhaps!
After looking intrigued, and not at all pissed off that I had called him out, he let me continue about my WHY.
Inside I could feel myself start to well up, and if you know me, if doesn’t take me much to get emotional. And when I talk about things close to me, things that REALLY mean something, emotion shows up.
I continued and prayed that no tears (big or small) would sneak out of my eyes.
“When I was a kid, I didn’t see myself represented in magazines, on TV, in my school. And I wanted to belong. And visually, the other thing that I could see. that would show I belonged was the clothing I wore.
That would show everyone that I was one of them. That I belonged. That I wasn’t different. That I was just like them.”
As I got older, more and more brown and black people came into my world.
Michael Jackson. The Cosby Show, Sesame Street, Boney M.
Then later as a teenager A Different World, The Fresh Prince, Snap, Demi Hines.
Then I got into sewing. I would embroider handkerchiefs, make teddy bears for all my family for Christmas (and yes, there are a few still hanging around!) and then in high school, I started making my own clothes.
At high school a friend of my sisters made and sold bags and then went onto fashion school and I remember talking to her and also talking to a careers counselor at school that said I had 2 options.
To either study home sciences at University or go to Polytech and study Fashion.
I chose the latter, after discovering that chemistry wasn’t for me.
To belong. To be a part of something. To connect.
And in the past couple of years, after 20 years in the apparel industry, this has morphed into self expression. To identify myself. To show my true self. And this changes on a daily basis. Sometimes multiple times within a day.
And I need to be comfortable in my clothing in order to be me. To be my whole self.
Let me repeat that.
I need to be comfortable in my clothing in order to be me.
To be my whole self.
How we decide to express ourselves to the outside world in an effort to belong, to attract attention, to blend in, to connect. Some all of the above simultaneously. To just show our SELF.
And this is why I create clothing.
Creation brings me peace and joy and comfort and it pushes me to try something new. To learn something new about myself.
But more importantly, there is ease in what I do. I love what I do.