In my late teenage years, I often asked myself, “Why am I working so hard for my annoying and demanding boss, especially an employer who doesn’t even pay me enough for my talents and skills? Furthermore, why am I working so hard to make my boss richer, while my paycheck remains the same?” As I got older and gained more life and work experience, I realized having my own business and becoming a fashion entrepreneur was the only way for me to get rich and control my own destiny. I did not want to be somebody else’s slave for the rest of my life.

I got into the fashion industry at a very young age (15). I finished my fashion training when I was just 17, and, by the time I turned 19, I already had started my own business. Now that I am much older and wiser, I have had time to reflect on my disappointments and my successes. One of the biggest disappointments in my career was all of the time that I wasted attending a very expensive private fashion design school located in Toronto, Ontario. According to my accountant’s calculation, what I spent, decades ago, on my tuition fees back in the old days would be equivalent to $60,000 today, for a two-year fashion design program. Upon graduation, I inherited a huge amount of student loan debt that took me years to pay off. I was a young, naive and gullible kid at the time, and, just like so many other victims, I did not do my research or ask any crucial questions ahead of time. My fashion school snared me in its web of lies and deceit. It took many years for me to realize that my own school had swindled me. As I started my job search after graduation, I discovered that my fashion school did not provide me with enough training to qualify for any of the jobs for which I applied. To make matters even worse, my school offered no job placement or assistance, even though it said that it would. I recalled, one time, when I contacted my school for a job placement, my school HR department staff told me that I needed to find a job on my own, and that I should get a job as a retail salesperson in a clothing store in Toronto Eaton Centre. As disappointed as I was, I held my head high and kept on going with my job search because I knew that I really needed a job, as soon as possible, to pay off the enormous debt for which I was personally responsible.  As far as I can remember, I received many rejections, at the time, because, whenever any employer tested my technical skills on the spot, I often failed. It really affected my self-confidence and I felt deflated. I realized that I had no real technical skills or experience to offer to any of my future employers. Due to my sheer determination to succeed, and the fact that I refused to accept defeat, eventually I was able to obtain employment. My very first job offer was actually for a sewing operator position with the Girl Guides and Scouts of Canada uniform garment factory, and I accepted the position instantly, even though the pay was just plain awful. I took the job anyway because it would allow me to learn basic skills, as well as gain some relevant experience. I desperately wanted to learn more techniques in pattern drafting and sewing on my own, so I decided to take on more side contract work to expand my knowledge, technical skills and experience. During that time, I was literally working seven days a week and, sometimes, I would be juggling up to three jobs at the same time, working in different garment factories around Toronto.

Luckily, my past employers were kind enough to take me under their wings; they mentored me and taught me all of the tricks of the trade because they recognized my talent, dedication and commitment to the fashion industry, but, most importantly, they believes in me. From there, I just kept going and never stopped.

After I achieved success, I discovered that my fashion institution had published a story about my success in its monthly newsletter to potential new students to impress applicants to their fashion design program. The school that I graduated from many years ago, which turned its back on me then, was now taking credit for all of my hard work building my career. What my fashion institution did was morally wrong and in very poor taste.

Based on my personal experiences, as well those of my clients, every single fashion institution will tell you exactly what you want hear from them but, at the end of the day, once they have taken all of your money, they most likely will not deliver on any of their promises. It is hard for me to say this, but I am a victim of the classic fashion institution fraud that occurs every year and, sadly enough, the government is not doing anything to change things because the government itself is also a big part of the problem.

Even though my fashion career was bumpy at the beginning, due to my poor preparation and lack of research, I have no regrets about choosing a fashion career for myself. Every day, when I arrive at work, I feel so fortunate to be able to do something that I love to do, and my fashion design studio is like my playground – I get to come to work to play. Vancouver Sewing Classes (VSC) is a place where I have the opportunity to design, teach and mentor the next generation of talented fashion entrepreneurs with real technical skills, so they can find their own niches and compete globally. In addition, I am able to create and make clothes for others to wear my designs on the runways, at red carpet events, and on special occasions. Furthermore, I feel very privileged and honored to have had so many great opportunities to work with many wonderful and loyal clients, garment manufacturer owners and directors, garment factory workers, medical professionals, models, politicians, charity organizers, celebrities, and so on. In addition, I have been able to travel around the world and visit many awesome cities and places where most people have never travelled and may never do so in their entire lifetime. This fashion design career has opened many doors of opportunity for me, both business ventures and employment. I am very grateful to have had a long, illustrious career since the age of 15. I love being my own boss. I love the pressures, the challenges and the competition in the fashion industry because it motivates me, it inspires me, and it pushes me to bring out the best in me. I love the spontaneous changes that go along with this business. My fashion career has also offered many great health benefits, such as keeping my mind as sharp as a razor, and the job that I am doing is keeping me fitter than ever before because I am constantly on the go, moving around.

Are you tired of: your boss; politics at the office; your low paying job that is going nowhere; others telling you what to do on a daily basis; feeling caged in your small little cubicle 9 to 5; having a boring job with no opportunities to be creative; and/or just feeling lost? If so, you may be at a crossroads in your life and this may be an excellent time for you to consider fashion design as an alternative career to pursue. Fashion design may not be for everyone, but you may be able to achieve the same level of success that I did with my career and business, if you: are willing to take some risks and work hard; make this a priority commitment; accept the challenges and the competition that go along with the business; love to design and sew garments; and enjoy working with numbers and making good money. I believe that, when you get into fashion design, there are many great opportunities to grow and capitalize on. Since you only have one life to live, this may be the perfect time for you to make that change and create your own happiness and success in the fashion business.

– Chris Falcon is a Canadian designer and fashion educator with over 30 years of experience in the garment design and manufacturing business.