We are no strangers to mid-life evolutions here at The Fold. In fact, it hearkens back to our roots, and is ultimately what this space was founded on: "Highlighting the ageless individuals who are ever evolving, open to change, and confident to inspire revolution at any age."
It makes sense then that we would create a column specifically honoring this evolution in whatever form it may present—be it professional, personal, sexual, or emotional. We are calling it "Late Bloomers", because that is what many of us are around here, though we don't necessarily believe the timing is late, as life shows us, maybe it's right on time.
For our first installment we asked designer Juliette Sander to discuss her transition to full-time freelance creative to student to designer. Her story below is encouraging and speaks to something we can all channel: the voice within. Also, one lucky reader will win a design of their choosing from her collection—be sure to read the details at the bottom of the post to enter!
Making big decisions for me has not always been easy. It was always much simpler to instead do the should’s, defer to my husband, ask everyone their opinion, and then pick the most low risk option available. That is until one night while opening my closet door, I saw an image of myself, hunched, sad eyed, and resentful of life. This was a warning: Keep going in the same direction and this is what you will become.
In the dark weeds of denial, I didn’t want to become that version of myself, but I couldn’t envision how to move forward to do what really I wanted. I was stuck. At the time, creating change in my life felt like fumbling in the dark, feeling for a glimmer of brightness, a gut feeling, a heart opening. In hindsight, I can now see there was a nice clean thread running through my story the entire time.
I’ve always known I wanted to be an entrepreneurial fashion designer, but shifting the wanting to becoming felt impossible. It was much safer to keep the dream as a fantasy escape, where I felt secure in present circumstances and free to imagine the someday possibilities. Changing careers would mean doing something my parents would not think was smart, and even more, asking me to accept the part of myself that comes from my mother, the part that I’d rather pretend is not there. Our relationship has always been difficult, yet the source of my design talent comes to me through her family. I couldn’t let myself become a designer without leaping across this seemingly impassable chasm.
Then 2014 came along and everything I insured my life on fell apart. Until this point I had built my career as a shadow of the lives others had created: oh I know, I’ll work in marketing, now fashion, oh I’ll be an art director, I’ve always loved photography. During this time the one thing that was constant was that I felt I did not belong. And finally I was forced to listen.
I lost all my freelance work, broke my toe, became obsessed with working out, had a mind-bending psychic reading, took a forgiveness class, had a newfound spiritual and body focus and started meditating everyday. At the time, my husband earned a promotion at work, which took the pressure off me to provide for our family. I now see 2014 as the year all the distractions fell away, leaving me with no choice but to address the thing I had been suppressing all this time. Accept my past and enroll in fashion school. I had nothing to lose.
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On the first night of class our instructor had us sew straight lines on muslin, pretty basic. And yet, hearing the industrial machines humming along, looking down at my hands sewing, feeling the high ceiling and factory vibe in the workroom, I was elated. I looked around and felt calm and buzzy. This is what belonging feels like. I’m in the right place. Never had I felt this way before in my life, but I recognized it right away. As school went along, when I looked in the mirror, I finally recognized myself.
After school I got a job that was supposed to be make me happy and successful—working as a designer on a team at major retailer—a solid buy-in to job security and a regular paycheck. But I instead realized that corporate life was not for me. I am firmly an entrepreneur. My creativity takes off when I have autonomy over my day and activities. I love the challenge of building creative ideas into something tangible, relying on myself and my connections to make things happen. I just couldn’t get that energy flowing working in someone else’s office. I was an outsider, trying to contort myself to be an insider; I quit when it became harder to stay than it was to leave.
I started my design business in early 2019, under my original name—Juliette Fabbri—to claim ownership of my creative lineage. Beginning with nightdresses, I took traditional menswear fabrics, cut them into voluminous soft shapes and created finely sewn dresses that make women feel beautiful and comfortable in their skin. I see creating a different kind of fashion business—one that treats its employees and collaborators respectfully and equally, treads lightly on our shared planet, honors women’s intelligence, and builds a story of personal empowerment to create a truer, beautiful, more just life.
These days when I’m lost in my head and self doubt, I just have to start doing something with my hands—sewing, working on a pattern, cutting fabric—to draw me out of my head and into the moment. I see now I must create to remember who I am, to find my voice and express it in the world.
We've partnered with Juliette's line, Juliette Fabbri, to give away a dress of your choice (from her current collections) to one lucky winner!
1) Make sure you are following both @juliettefabbri and @the_fold_mag
2) Tag a few friends (up to 5) here to share the love! New comment = new entry
3) Bonus: Share this post in your stories and tag us for an extra entry!
*Winner will be chosen at random on Monday, September 14!