Lately, I’ve been preoccupied with the topic of passion, largely stemming from a desire to transition to a relatively new field, post MBA. The last time I felt a sense of focused passion (note the difference from general passion) was with FashionAlbedo.com, a website dedicated to fashion business and development news, that I founded and managed from 2009-2013.
I was just starting my 3rd year at McGill and, with the rigor of foundational courses tapering off, found myself increasingly bored with my Economics major. Instead, I spent copious amounts of time on Style.com, writing up what I thought about the collections I saw and the fashion industry in general, on a platform I feverishly set up in one night. I called it FashionAlbedo, drawing inspiration from the course I should have been studying for at the time – ‘The Economics of Climate Change’ (Albedo is a measure of the reflective capacity of surfaces. At the time, I thought it clever in a ‘reflections on fashion’ sense. No one understood it, but it did make for a pretty good conversation starter, that almost always touched on its phonetic similarity to the word ‘Libido’).
For some reason, people actually started to read what I wrote. I entered into a three year phase, navigating a niche only I seemed to know had been accidentally stumbled upon. I knew close to nothing about fashion, but fell in love with the promise of an industry that celebrated being different and experimental. I had always felt different, not in a ‘I’m special’ kind of way. I had never completely fit in anywhere and finally, here was a field where it would be accepted, if not embraced.
Every comment became a source of affirmation; every view or new follower urged me to spend more time on site redesigns and improvements. Soon after, people started requesting to contribute and companies offered money in exchange for advertising and reviews. My emotions became tied to intuitive targets on post traffic (Read: Must be higher than the day/week/month before) and sales of spin-off creative services and consulting. I took an additional minor in Communication Studies in an effort to hone in on whatever this thing was. For the first time in a long time, I felt purposeful and powerful. I understood what it meant to be passionate; to care so much about something that it becomes indistinguishable from yourself. That summer, I turned down a paid internship in finance in Ottawa to slum it in New York as an unpaid fashion intern. When people questioned the move, I quoted Goethe, “Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it”.
3 years later, I shut down FashionAlbedo.com for good. I had lost steam juggling a full time job and countless other spin-offs. I was also admittedly jaded by the industry, or more so my actions within it. I wasn’t coasting effortlessly in the field I was born to be in; I was struggling to fit in, with the cold glare of my laptop screen as I worked on FashionAlbedo.com at nights, as some kind of shield. I can make this work, I just need to stick at it, I don’t know where it’s going but it has to go somewhere, this is my passion.
I quit FashionAlbedo.com because I lost focus. There was passion and now, as I reflect two years later, I realize it’s still there, cast over by the thinnest film of guilt. A part of me regrets it everyday. I didn’t think through the decision to quit as much as I probably should have. For months, I had internally questioned where the purpose had gone. While FashionAlbedo.com’s initial successes came from coverage of topics such as the effectiveness of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) on Gambia’s struggling industry, or the impact of frequent power outages on production in Bangladesh, its latter months were squarely focused on data. What would boost traffic – A piece on Lagerfeld or an up-and-comer like Lucas Nguema Escalada? The sad truth is, the majority of fashion lovers do not care about critical appraisals of global policy on the industry. For the majority, their focused passion is the look, the make, the name behind a garment. Of course, one could always work to change that, but to have spent another three years catering to that felt empty. As I let the payment on the domain lapse on January 9th, 2014, the only way I could cope was to approach it with the same emptiness; no final goodbye post, no warning, I kind of just.. ghosted.
Lately, I’ve been thinking less about what I would start myself, and more about what I could do forever. It comes from being asked the best question ever and one that has stumped me since over a year ago, “What could you absolutely go on talking about, like, literallywax lyrical like a crazy person but then have it be so clear you win a Nobel prize at the end of the day”. Like I said, best question ever.