Reawakening long lost dreams

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My love story with fashion started at the age of four, when I cut out the clothes in my mother’s Vogue magazines, carefully sticking them on pieces of paper and drawing women to wear each outfit. This love continued to grow with each passing year that my father bought me a party dress for my birthday, a tradition that taught me how clothing and emotion are inextricably linked. As I grew older, I found refuge in the experimentation that clothing allowed, with my mother indulging my fledgling fashion sense, making me everything from a pink denim fringe skirt to a sequin bolero and beaded party dresses. My fascination with and deep love for clothing has been a constant in my life, imbued with memory, self-expression, connection and a desire for something more.

There have been two occasions in my life where I nearly pursued my love of fashion as a career; at 18 when I applied to study consumer science at the University of Pretoria, and at 21 when I begin my fashion blog as a way to express my love of clothing. Through my fashion blog, I did get to pursue my dreams, but they fell to the wayside when I moved to Lincoln for love, and began to lose myself in the drudgery of a small city, small life and in the love of someone so controlling that I lost who I was completely for three years.

Still, that small voice inside of me who found its greatest fulfilment in making, touching and imagining clothes never went away. I tried to tell myself that it was too late, that my life in Lincoln was enough and loving clothes in the way that I did was superficial, impractical and a waste of money. And yet, the desire to pursue fashion remained. Eventually I locked away those dreams in a box, vowing not to open it because of the pain of regret and sadness. And there they lay dormant, while I battled through leaving my old life, freeing myself from pain and healing from years of being controlled.

Regret has haunted me ever since, seeping into the memories of the joy I felt in making clothes, writing about the emerging fashion scene in South Africa and living my passion every day. I have listened to her accusatory voice, asking me why hadn’t I been braver or stronger to pursue what I really wanted or why I so easily settled for second best, and a life that wasn’t fully my own. The question of ‘what if?’ has cast a heavy shadow over the last five years, until now.

At the start of 2019, I began to ask myself the questions that I hadn’t had the courage to ask myself before: Who am I really? What is it that brings my soul alive? How can I live with purpose in this world? Who do I want to become? I had become frustrated with the strands of my life not lining up in a conventional framework, unable to reconcile my need for purpose and working to better the world with a love of beauty and design. These ideals certainly weren’t reflected in my current job, and the thought of continuing with a career in marketing and PR felt hollow and forced. With this in mind, I began to research masters programmes to pivot my career trajectory, even considering a masters in creative writing and pursuing a career as a writer. My dreams of a career in fashion were all but gone until on a whim, I googled ‘masters in sustainable fashion’,  interested to see if there was a path in fashion that matched my personal convictions around sustainability and protecting the environment. What came up was a programme titled ‘Masters in Sustainable Fashion and Creative Industries’, based in Berlin, Germany. My initial thoughts were, ‘There’s no way I can move to Berlin. I love my life in Manchester, and I’m settled in the UK.’ The fact that I was a South African immigrant who was used to making big moves had temporarily escaped me…

The more I sat with the idea of applying for the course and opening myself up to try for a career in fashion once again, the more it felt like the loose strands of my life were at last being woven together. My choices over the last ten years now made sense to me. Choosing to major in journalism and sociology instead of consumer science had given me an insight into the vast inequality and disparities that plague our world, in particular South Africa, and birthed a desire in me to work to better the world. Writing my fashion blog had given me a passion for South African craft and design, and an understanding of the industry’s challenges for burgeoning designers. Most of all, the circumstances of being held in a controlling relationship and investing in the renovation of a house that had also served as my prison, had now given me the money and freedom to pursue a masters degree in a field that feels tailor made for me. I’ve now come to see how redemption has been working its way through my life, bringing me back to my childhood dream of working in fashion. The regret no longer sits so heavy, finally giving way to sheer joy at what lies ahead.

All of this to say, come August I am moving to Berlin, and continuing my fashion love story at long last. Here’s to the next chapter.