“You’ll stay in this business just like I will until we’re too old to get other work,” a merchandiser told me after a gluttonous Michelin-star dinner. We were capping a stressful New York fashion week and she had enough wine to tell me the truth about my fate as a designer for a mass-market manufacturer.
“Then we’ll be replaced by young, exploitable girls clamoring for our jobs, willing to put up with sleazy owners and salesmen.”
By the time I heard this diatribe, I was out of love with my career. I cherished the process of design, but hated the people I worked for. I can thank this woman now, for she had a point. My biggest fear was to live the same life I saw everyone around me living…to not have the courage to break out of my comfortable yet unrewarding routine even when getting out of bed each morning was tougher.
To its credit, the garment industry did show me the world, albeit an often bleak one with substandard factories and slave labor. The glamorous high streets of European fashion capitals were a glaring contrast to the slums of Mumbai and the back alleys of Hong Kong.
Travelling for work rescued me by changing my perspective, revealing how many ways life could be lived.
Then a random encounter walking down a street in a Turkish town literally changed my life’s direction. I realized I could work with the people I chose to make the things I loved. I could design a life that benefitted rather than exploited. “Aha” moments like these spur us to face our fears and try something different.
What “aha” moments have changed the direction of your life?
California native Catherine Salter Bayar creates knitwear, seeks textile treasure, lives near the splendid ruins of the ancient city of Ephesus, and writes about it all in her upcoming book, Weaving Our Way Home.