How to Build Your WorkLife Around What Engages and Inspires You

And How to Let This Guide You In Managing Setbacks Along the Way

A Case Study: Liam’s Story:

Liam had quite a creative upbringing. He learnt to stitch and sew before he could read and write. He loved nothing better than working alongside his dad, Bill, and granddad, William, at the family tailoring business that had been established by his grandad out of a room of the family home. The business had grown from strength to strength when his dad and grandad had opened a Tailoring Shop together – a first for the family and the local community. Both men were known for working magic with their needles – their ability to fix a whole host of clothing problems, and their talent for creating hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind suits, brought men flocking from near and far – for their alterations and their bespoke suits.

It was always a given that Billy was going to follow at their fingertips. And so, going to Fashion School was an easy choice for him in taking the first steps to building his WorkLife around what engaged and inspired him. But having been accepted onto the Bespoke Tailoring course at The London College of Fashion, he had to turn it down when his dad suffered a heart attack. His granddad came out of retirement to help out to try to keep the business afloat, while Bill focused on his recovery. But Liam knew it was too much for him on his own, and as much as his dad and grandad protested to him not taking up his place at college, he knew it was the right thing to do.

And so, when he should have been leaving for the bright lights of London, Liam stayed in his home town in Ireland, where he soon discovered the lights weren’t burning so brightly. He came to learn that the tailoring industry was in decline. It had suffered at the hands of the rise in fast fashion. His dad had actually been struggling to keep the lights on, causing him considerable stress, which his doctor said had been a contributing factor to his heart attack. He hadn’t told Liam because he knew he would have wanted to help out by staying at home and doing what he could, rather than going off to college. 

And, of course, his dad was right. That’s exactly what Liam set out to do – to try and save the family business from imminent closure if it couldn’t get back on its feet. 

So, how did Liam go about tackling fast fashion? He adopted a slow fashion strategy. After all, that was what he knew. The family business had been weaving fine Irish cloth since 1961, and staying true to their heritage had been crucial in their success. He set about finding a way of weaving their future by going in search of the tailors of tomorrow. Maybe he couldn’t go to fashion school, yet, anyway, but perhaps there was a way of bringing fashion school to him. He approached colleges of fashion in Europe and America with a proposal to collaborate on a project to bring old and new fashion together on a weaving journey from the past, through the present and onto the future – a future that’s sustainable for both the present day and the next generation of tailors and designers.

Liam believed this was a win/win for everyone. Why? 

Because the colleges would get meaningful work placements for their students. The students would get meaningful hands-on experience, learning from a master tailor – Liam’s granddad. The family business would get meaningful learning from the students. 

Liam also believed that together they could create a meaningful narrative using the subject of fashion – past, present and future, together with the importance of the industry in driving economic and social transformation in shaping the lives and livelihoods of the people involved and their communities.

And he was right. 

Four fashion schools agreed to his proposal, and at the beginning of the autumn term, a student from each college arrived to work with Liam and his grandad and to learn from each other – Sarah from London, Emilia from Paris, Tommaso from Milan, and Seth from New York. 

They worked to a brief to develop their own practice within a sustainable narrative, combining best-practice technical skills with novel approaches to heritage, craft, handwork, the re-purposing of materials and design for longevity to build new visions for bespoke tailoring. 


Their semester together culminated in a fashion show which attracted an audience from near and far. It was a huge success for everyone involved. People loved the concept and the men’s clothing range they had individually and collectively designed. Orders started flowing in. Thankfully Bill had recovered well enough to manage the team of tailors that were joining the business. Together William and Liam were preparing to welcome four new students for the next term.

Epilogue

Liam had saved the family business from closure. Not only had he gotten it back on its feet, standing strong in the present while respecting its past, he also had it stepping forward into a sustainable future, driven by a desire for economic and social transformation in shaping the lives and livelihoods of the people involved and their communities.

Liam had built his WorkLife around what engaged and inspired him while engaging and inspiring the people within his industry and the communities they served.

He shares these:

Words Of Wisdom

Believing in what you do – the thing that engages and inspires you in living a fulfilled WorkLife will give you the courage to ‘Buckle the trend’ – to move in the opposite direction to the broad market. A powerful reverse signal indicates a turn against the prevailing market direction. 

Adopt an Opposite Approach Strategy To Guide You Through a Setback In Your WorkLife Assignment

When you experience a setback in your WorkLife and then hit a roadblock in trying to navigate your way through it, draw on what engages and inspires you in answering the following four questions: 

1. When other people are following one path, what is the opposite path I can follow? i.e. Liam took the Slow Fashion pathway as opposed to the Fast Fashion pathway. 

2. What have I got that will allow me to navigate that pathway? i.e. everything Liam knew was based on the heritage of weaving fine Irish cloth.

3. Who can help me along my journey? i.e. for Liam, that was the Fashion Schools and their students.

4. Why would they want to work with me – What’s in it for them? i.e. Liam identified why it was a Win/Win for all parties.

If you found this post helpful, you may also like to take a look at The School Of WorkLife books, which are designed to help you fine-tune your learning, development and growth in the areas that are most important to you.

Carmel

Published by Carmel O' Reilly

Carmel O’ Reilly: WorkLife Learning Practitioner & Writer Author of WorkLife Book Club, Your WorkLife Your Way and The School of WorkLife book series. Created to help you manage your WorkLife Learning. Blogger & Podcaster: Telling people’s powerful stories about WorkLife challenges & successes Founder of www.schoolofworklife.com My guiding statement is to help people pursue their WorkLives with greater clarity, passion, purpose and pride by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes that are accessible to everyone.

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