Fashion design saved my life.
Coming from a household of South Asian descent, in the late eighties, my life was pretty much predestined. The fact that I was really creative and gay put a wrench in the, “Be a doctor, get married and have kids,” mantra.
Due to the pressure to conform, I found myself on a balcony contemplating the end, thinking I had no choice. How could I shame my family? That night I decided to follow my passion before I spent the rest of my life trying to be someone I wasn’t. Jeanne Beker on Fashion Television showed me the way. With a lot of debate, I convinced my parents to let me go to Paris. My life, a true life began.
I found out I had a talent for the industry. I worked at Dior in the Haute Couture Atelier while studying and graduated with a job at Balenciaga, Paris.
As I made my way up the ladder, the clothing I would design became less expensive. I started working for myself and had a couple of lines that were sold in the States and Canada. I worked for department stores, chain stores and for garment manufacturers in China and India.
When the recession hit, it left the companies I worked for without freelance budgets so I had no choice but to go back to work full time. I had spent a decade travelling over 7 months out of the year and was burnt out. I wanted to live in Canada with my partner and close to my family.
Choices for an ex-design director were few and far between. Wal-Mart offered me a job as a designer with the ability to stay in Canada. It wasn’t my ideal job but I was grateful to be working when so many of my friends, along with the global workforce, were struggling. I had been dipping into my savings so the paycheque was appreciated.
It was this job that changed my life again.
This time it wasn’t my life that needed saving.
The following are Op-ed pieces written by Sujeet Sennik prior to his journey to Bangladesh with the fifth estate in August 2013 :