Always Follow Your Heart

Be hard on yourself. Ask ‘Do I make sense? Am I crazy?’ You can listen to everybody [else], but follow your heart. The worst mistake is to do something and then realize, I didn’t really want to do it but so-and-so told me to
— Diane Von Furstenberg

Reading this quote probably brings up memories of decisions you've made at some point in your life as well as in your business. One relatable experience that stuck with me happened when I was in fashion school: 

As a young designer I had a very distinctive design perspective and didn't want anyone telling me what they thought about my ideas as I had no intention to compromise my artistic views whatsoever. Needless to say, I was full of confidence (maybe a touch too much) to the point that when viewing my designs for my final collection, the head professor of the project told me, “I’m sorry, but these designs are not commercial, they are not realistic, not wearable and cannot be done.” Translation: "there is no way that you can make these tight, fitted body suits from plastic sheets that have no stretch; regardless, who is going to wear them?" I tried to argue my point but she wouldn't budge and finally said, “Either you take a week to redesign your collection or I will dismiss you from this project and you will not graduate!

I chose the 2nd option and left the room (I told you I had confidence…).

Luckily, one of my other teachers who was kind of my mentor from day one in school convinced the professor to give me 3 weeks to make one item to prove my concept was doable.

For the next 2 weeks I turned my apartment into a mini lab where I experimented with creating new fabrics and patterns. I barely slept and barley ate with only one goal in mind. 

When I met my mentor in a coffee shop to show her the end result her big blue eyes lit up and a huge smile covered her face as she told me, “I knew you would get it done! Now go home and finish the rest because you are already 2 weeks behind.” She left before her coffee had even arrived.

For the next few months I worked on the rest of my collection. It was a ton of work, as I’m sure many of you have experienced, but it was also an amazing and really fun time. It was some of the best work I had produced thus far.

The big day to present our lines arrived. Four years of hard work was now on the line. This was it! I stood there in front of 6 outside critiques (all of whom worked for well-known European brands), examining every detail up close and pounding me with questions about every step of the process. After this nerve racking critique, my collection received amazing reviews. I couldn't have asked for anything better and I even got my first job offer right after!

After the presentation my professor walked over to me, looked me straight in the eyes and said, “this is incredible work. I didn't think it was doable and I am very sorry that I didn't believe in you. I am very happy that you stuck to it and proved me wrong. My biggest advice to you is to ALWAYS FOLLOW YOUR HEART!” I gave her a ton of credit for admitting that. 

As a designer, your brand’s biggest competitive edge is YOU! It is the ONE thing that no one else has. Your vision is unique to YOU and your job is to believe in it, nurture it, and protect it from any destructions.

I know that sometimes it’s easier said than done. It’s hard to stick to your guns when so many things are on the line every second of every day. Every small decision counts so there is no room for things to go wrong. Pressure can often keep building up to the point where you can’t tell anymore if your inside voice is the true you or just your ego! Gambling on your gut feeling under these circumstances is not an ideal situation.

The only way that you can do this in a positive manner is by building the right environment for you and your business to operate in. Here is how:

  • Be honest with yourself. I know it’s not easy sometimes but how can you trust your gut if you lie to yourself, right?
  • Take responsibility, especially when things don’t work your way. Making a wrong decision is better than not making a decision at all. Mistakes are an opportunity to learn something new, adjust, and improve. Embrace the challenge!  

  • Build a strong support system around you. Surround yourself with people/advisors/consultants that you trust and only seek their opinion! Asking everyone and their mother for their opinions will only confuse you more.

  • Do your research and test things first on a small scale before committing to an idea on a grand scale.

 Now go out there and let your true YOU shine!