I’m in New York City this week, and it couldn’t be more perfect timing. I’m here for COTERIE, one of the fashion world’s premier trade shows for women’s fashion and accessories. This month also marks the twenty-year anniversary of my first foray to the Big Apple—for fashion—and the one-year anniversary of Art of Marina Inc. I’m nowhere close to where I want to be yet… but I do appreciate these moments of serendipity that make the journey feel a little less scary, and little more according to a universal master plan…
Flashback: September 1999
I remember eighteen-year-old me in my high school bedroom. My mom and brother literally jumping on my bed with a HUGE, fat envelope from Parsons School of Design in NYC.
I’m WIDE awake now. “OMG, Marina, a fat envelope is a good sign!”
They were right.
Next thing you know, this girl and her dream of becoming a fashion designer is on her way to the Big Apple. Reflecting on that moment, I can’t even handle how much emotion comes up. All the fear, insecurities; the sheer overwhelming idea of it all… But holy shit. How super exciting is this?! So I did it. I went for my dreams—I lived them.
New York, New York
New York, new beginnings. Opportunity and ambition buzz in the air. Scarves and boots in the store windows. It’s pure magic—and just enough sun sparkling between the high rises to keep your face freckly. All the dreams you’ve ever had, plus 100 new ones, shoot at you like the gusts of wind whipping down the bustling streets.
New York. All the songs have been written. And they’re all true.
I’ll Always Have Paris
As if it couldn’t get more dreamy, I also went abroad to Parsons Paris on an exchange… Then 9/11 happened. It wasn’t my country, but it had become my home, and I couldn’t go back and face what had happened. So I went home-home for the summer and decided to take a year off, not realizing in that moment I’d become a “drop-out.” Ugh. Even writing that feels unlike me.
But I rationalized it at the time: I won New & Upcoming Designer of the Year during Vancouver Fashion Week 2003. Did I really need a degree in fashion if the industry already thought I was on my way? So I worked, instead. I styled, designed, started my first label, travelled to Asia, and mostly lived in Bali. Looking back, it was a dream.
The thing that never changed? I was always designing resort wear along the way. It’s part of MY fabric; the ocean flows through my veins. I loved designing the story, the colour palette and the prints—the MOOD!
A decade after dropping out, I reapplied to Parsons. I still made the cut. I was accepted—and I was on a mission this time. I did my thesis on endangered sea life and designed ethical silk made from my watercolour paintings. It was, of course, resort wear. I could feel I was onto something big, But I still wasn’t ready for my own dreams…
Always a Canuck.
I left New York in 2012 with a shiny degree in Fashion Design and went straight into a job at Joe Fresh in Toronto as a print and pattern apparel graphics designer. I loved it. I slowly moved on to more responsibility and before long, got offers to design for other brands. After seven years in various roles at various companies, I reached a creative director role that was perfect, and I really could have done it forever…
Twenty Years Later
Then I got into that car accident last year, and honestly, I was hurt. I suffered a great loss. It was one of those life-changing moments people talk about and you think it’s for the movies, but became crystal clear to me: I had to give my real dreams just one more try. All I wanted to do was go back to making art for ME. That was my healing process.
So, with great risk, and no fear… I left my job. Driving was a trigger, which made going to the office a daily trial, and working from home wasn’t an option. I left the job I loved for something even more important: my self-love. I returned to designing my own collection: silk scarves and kimonos featuring my watercolour artwork. I started doing markets and growing a little at a time.
I’m trying to heal by going after my dreams. I’m beyond lucky to have the support of my amazing husband, family and friends. Because of them, I know this is possible. So here I am, back in New York. Seven years after graduating and showcasing my collection at COTERIE the first time. A 20 year journey has led me full circle—but oh, how I’ve changed.
This is what dreams are made of.
This time, I will fly!
I love you, New York.