What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

Here’s a loaded question – one we were often asked as kids. It’s a popular title of many primary school compositions. These days, it’s one of those questions potential employers ask during interviews, hoping that the answers will shed some light about our ambitions and how we have navigated our careers in the light of them. Well, when we were kids, there were only 5 legitimate occupations to choose from: doctor, lawyer, engineer, policeman or teacher. These days, kids dream of becoming YouTube celebrities, bloggers, online game designers … but that’s a different story.

As teenagers, we were told to study hard, get good grades and find a steady job that pays well. In our twenties, we join the workforce and become go-getters in our careers, working hard to climb the corporate ladder. By our thirties we’ve dated, got married, had kids and life with kids is a whole new ballgame. In our forties and beyond, we look back and realised this wasn’t what we wanted to be when we grew up!

Somehow, life always finds a way. Things happen. We had to re-calibrate our lives many times over, make adjustments, sacrifices, compromises, relocate – it’s all part of modern living. Though our faces seldom show it – since we’ve long learnt to hide our feelings - our hearts carry the scars and our wardrobes the memories of the many seasons of our lives.

I never imagined I’d become a fashion entrepreneur. Yes, I was dressing my dolls with my sister’s clothes that she outgrew and I was doodling my own designs for my WuXia paper dolls (“WuXia” is a genre of Chinese swordfighting stories told in books, manga and my favourite drama serials), but I figured so was every other little girl.

Well, little girls grow up, and straight out of university I jumped on the fashion bandwagon, earning my stripes with Esprit (Hey in those days all the hip kids wore Esprit!), before moving onto do fundraising with a local charity. I thought doing something meaningful and getting paid for it was a bonus, until of course I heard about the gold taps… that’s another story.

In the years that followed, I got married, moved to London, then Spain with my man, returned to Singapore and rejoined the fashion industry, landing my dream job as a luxury brand manager and so began what I like to call my Reservoir Dogs /Pulp Fiction days. Very glamourous, very fast-paced, jetsetting fashion buyer high life days. The irony is that there is not a dull moment, no “downtime”, ie. NO LIFE!

You can imagine what that does for a marriage, so eventually, I “scaled back” and joined a local department store instead. The kids came along, but at least with a local department store, I'll have time FOR the kids - or so I thought. Unfortunately for me, the store was venturing into China, so there were lots of buying trips, market surveys etc to factories in China, in fact, at one point, they were even contemplating “planting” a permanent merchandising position to do sourcing in China. It certainly didn’t feel like I “scaled back” at all!

The final straw came when my dad passed away suddenly, and it fell on me to look after my grieving mother. I decided to say goodbye to my corporate career because my life had changed. There was no way I could cope with the demands of my day-job (although my employers were understanding during the time of bereavement), care for my mum, love my man, raise the kids and still have time and energy left for well – me. Throw in the fact that my mum-in-law, decided to come live with us as well, I felt like a boulder fell from heaven aimed directly at me!

I’ve always been independent, self-sufficient and more than able to care for myself and my family, and yet here I was – I had quit my job, had no clue what was the next step and had all these people whom I love, needing me to care for them! I could only pray that God will send help and tailor a way out for me without compromising the welfare of my family.

It was at this time that a friend invited me to visit her sister in London, and after discussing it with hubby, we both agreed that I needed to take some time out for myself – maybe the fresh air in London will help me to clear my head. Looking back, that was the first step of my entrepreneurial journey. Walking the streets of Portobello, watching young and old people pedal their wares with enthusiasm, enjoying the interactions with customers, whilst boasting how awesome their stuff were, I started to imagine what it would be like to run my own business. I wondered aloud to the friend I was visiting and the next thing I knew, we became business partners for what is now “Butterflies & Marigolds”.

Of course there were all sorts of humps and bumps on the journey, especially during those initial startup years, but honestly, one of the key turning points for me was my wardrobe. I kid you not, I’m an incredibly vain person – but during those transition times, my retail therapy and by default my wardrobe, morphed into such a monster, it frightened even me. I had clothes from my “used-to-be” young and casual Esprit days, 1980’s power suits from when I was fundraising with the corporates, luxury labels from my brand manager days, wools and angoras for my stay in Europe, even shapeless (which I hated) maternity clothes but nothing that represented the current me!

I know life is more than clothes, but surely I’ve got to wear something half decent – “Naked people have no influence in society” according to Mark Twain! That’s why I’m so passionate about helping women regain control of their wardrobes – because the state of our wardrobes is a reflection of the state of our lives. It’s not about the shape, the quality, the brand or the quantity of the stuff that you have in your wardrobe - it’s about YOU. When I looked into my wardrobe then, I had all these stuff, but I couldn’t find “ME” in any of them anymore.

Then I thought, if it could happen to me – who’s been in fashion for more than a decade, I wonder how other women deal with their wardrobes when they go through transitions? Sometimes, you feel so down, getting dressed is an enormous challenge in itself.

Since I’ve been round the fashion circuit, I’m able to source, design and produce clothes for today’s modern women – effortlessly chic and comfortable clothes so that they can feel good about themselves, then go and do the stuff that matters to them. That’s the mindset behind the merchandise and clothes I curate for Butterflies and Marigolds. Clothes that stand back, so that “YOU” can show up.

The entrepreneurial journey is not for everyone. My business is my own, there are no boundaries except those that I impose. There are no off-days, no downtime, no “passing-the-buck”. Since I am a fashion entreprenuer, I shop for a living – so my wardrobe is in constant danger of getting out of whack – but precisely because of that, I have learnt to train my sensitivities to the latest trends, colours, silhouettes etc. I am acutely aware of what suits me, what works and what doesn’t and that’s how I keep my wardrobe in check.

Everywhere we go, we bring our wardrobes with us. You know you have to dress up, show up anyway, so why not dress up, show up, as who you are – all grown up and in style!

If today’s sharing resonates with you, if you’re currently going through a life transition or if you’re struggling with your wardrobe every day and dressing up feels like a chore, help is on the way. Come watch my FREE video training series about “How to Overcome Wardrobe Boredom” and get yourself out of the rut. I’ve been there, so I am well acquainted with the pain points, but if I can overcome wardrobe boredom and regain control of my personal style, I can help you do the same. CLICK HERE to find out more.

Have a great week!

Cheers,

Elsie

PS: I didn’t know that I will be a fashion entrepreneur when I grew up, but I’m mighty happy that I did! What did you want to be when you grow up? Would love to hear from you in the comments below.