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My Creative Refuge

by Hannah Glenn 20 days ago in designers

Processing grief through making

My ruffle bags.

Since I was a kid, I wanted to be a fashion designer. My Mom always says I had my own mind about clothes even before I could speak. When I was a toddler, my Mom and I were passing by a clothing shop and I kept reaching towards the window at this peach velour outfit. She took me into the shop and I was almost possessed by this outfit. She tried to get me to like the navy version instead but I was sure I wanted the peach. Throughout my childhood and teenage years I dreamed of becoming a fashion designer in a big city and having my own brand. After years of dreaming, I ended up getting into Parsons in New York City to study Fashion Design. I was enamoured with the fashion world and New York. While I was there I did countless internships for brands and magazines, school was fun and creative but by the end of my four years I felt a little bit burned out. I decided to move to London to try something new.

After many applications, I got a job as an Accessories Design Assistant at a high end luxury brand. I thought I had made it. Everything was going well and I had done everything I had dreamed of, but something wasn’t right. At work, I never felt like anyone was listening to me and I never got to design anything I truly loved. I was being told to design stuff that I didn’t really like and no one seemed to have time to hear my opinions. Over the years I became more and more concerned with the environment and the fashion industry's impact on it. At work they didn’t care, they referred to eco friendly stuff as a “trend.” I was sad and deflated, this job and industry I had once dreamed of wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. I knew I had to do something creative on the side that was just for me. I bought a sewing machine and started to sew some bags that I really liked. I posted some photos of the bags on instagram and to my surprise people started messaging me asking to buy them. I was shocked but decided this could be my way out! If I could do this on the side maybe on day I could turn it into my full time job. It was a lot to juggle with work and it started to fall by the wayside. I was stressed and I didn’t have enough time to really make the brand what I wanted it to be.

In February of 2020, my world changed. I got a text from one of my friends from New York asking if he could call me. My stomach dropped because I knew something was wrong. I called him and he told me that one of my best friends in New York had taken her own life. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. We had been roommates while i was in New York, we even lived in the same dorm room. How could someone I at one point had known so well and literally slept in the same room as have been struggling so much and I didn’t know. I had never lost someone like this before, I didn’t know what to do. The next day, I felt so sad at home I decided I should go to work and take my mind of things. When I got to work my heart was pounding, people were saying hello and I could barely open my mouth. At lunch a friend came into the kitchen and said “How are you?,” and I burst into tears. She told me to go home and take care of myself so I did. My world was shattered.

A few weeks later the coronavirus had gotten out of control and we were told to work from home. After a week of working from home I was put on furlough from my job. Suddenly, I was sitting there with nowhere to go and nothing to do after my world had been completely turned upside down. Everything was shut down and I was so filled with grief, I knew I needed to do something with this time. I decided this was my chance to really turn my brand into a real thing and make the life that I wanted. I got together any fabric I could find and made a prototype of my ruffle bag. I loved it, it gave me a true feeling of accomplishment like nothing I had ever done at work gave me. I started making them in some sustainable dead stock fabrics that I ordered online. When I finished, I nervously posted some photos on Instagram. People loved them.

I continued making them to get ready to sell. In May, I was told by my boss that I was being made redundant and they were letting me go. Through a long process of calls with HR and my boss they finally let me go. I was scared and terrified because now my brand really had to work. The thought of applying to more jobs and having to work my way up and not be listened to again sounded draining, and who would be hiring in a pandemic? After being able to make my own bags that I loved and getting such a good response, I couldn’t go back. This was it, I was going for it.

At first it was hard, I’d sell a couple bags a month but I knew I was on the right path. Slowly but surely as my Instagram following grew I started to sell out of bags quickly. It’s almost been a full year since I started the business and I’m so proud of where I’m at. It’s still just me, my sewing machine, scissors, and fabric but I’m growing and getting to make stuff I love. I get to try new things all the time and make whatever I want in a thoughtful and sustainable way. I still get to live my childhood dream of being a fashion designer in a big city, but I’m doing it my own way. I’m so thankful that I had this outlet to help me through this life changing year. It was my chance to be creative and helped me process the grief and anxiety. It has been my refuge through it all.

Hannah Glenn
Hannah Glenn
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Hannah Glenn

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