Why I’m Giving Up My Design Business (& what I’m doing instead)

Give up your outdated dreamIt’s taken me a long time to come to terms with writing this post. No one wants to admit their creative failures. But I’m here today to tell you that I’ve given up my design business. There, I said it.

Almost three years ago now I started what was my dream business – a women’s fashion label with a focus on sustainable design. I had poured years of my life into planning this business and I was so very excited about every single detail.

Where it all began

The day I left my corporate job to pursue my dream was pretty much the best day ever. I’d been working an office job for an insurance company for the previous 12 months, spending my desk days dreaming up my creative business. It had been a hard slog, and an incredibly stark contrast to my creative and carefree days as a student of design.

I’d loved every minute of my fashion design diploma. I loved the creative freedom. I loved working with fabric. I loved designing collections.

Ever since I had started my diploma, and every minute post graduation, I had been dreaming up starting my own fashion label. I’d taken my corporate job in the interim, to save up some money and launch in full force, as so many creatives do. But my heart was always set on this business.

The day I quit will forever be a wonderful memory. Creative freedom I thought, bliss.

And it was. My first year of my design business was carefree, wonderful and full of optimism.

I set myself up with a studio in a big artist’s warehouse full of artists and designers. It was pretty much the best thing ever.

I loved creating in my studio, more than almost anything. It brought me such joy.

Reality sets in

As time went on reality set in as a few things became increasingly clear.

First and foremost, my business just wasn’t making enough money to support itself long term – a very sobering fact. I was making money, but not nearly enough to cover all my material expenses, studio rent, pay myself a wage and consider growing the business beyond what it was with more investments.

Beyond the money, my business just wasn’t what I thought it would be before I began. The realities of designing a specific product for a specific market (aka what a designer does!) meant I didn’t have the real creative freedom I craved. I had to design what sold, not what I wanted.

The constraints of designing a purely sustainable product tied me into limiting ways of working which made scaling things difficult, if not impossible, given my environmental ideals.

And then there was the sewing. Oh god, the sewing. Now I love sewing, but when you’ve stitched the same seam on the same bag more than five times you start to feel more like a production line worker in a sweatshop than a designer.

I realised that I didn’t love my business. In fact, sometimes I felt like I didn’t even like it.

And I’m talking about the bad days, of course I am. I had wonderful days too.

But I didn’t love what my business had become.

A struggle to make money.

A constant tug of war between saleability and the work I really wanted to do.

A constricted, unscaleable environmental ideal.

A production line.

And that’s when I realised I didn’t want to run a fashion business anymore.

Outdated dreams

Give up your outdated dreamIt wasn’t serving me. It was serving an outdated dream. A conception of who I thought I was. An ideal of a business I thought I wanted to run. Perhaps once upon a time, this would have been the ideal business for me. But it wasn’t who I was anymore.

I was scared to write this post for a long time. I write about loving the creative process and getting inspired, and here I was, struggling to find the inspiration.

But I’ve realised over this last year, that as creators we need to be true to ourselves.

So earlier this year, I shut down my fashion business. I officially called it quits.

I was scared to make that decision for a long time, because I thought it meant giving up on my creative dream. But I’ve realised now that it couldn’t be further from the truth.

What I am giving up is an outdated dream, an old conception of me and who I was.

I’m shedding that creative skin to make room for what is more me, more true.

I’m making way for the new.

Making way for the new

I’ve discovered these last few years my love of writing. I’m writing more than ever now. Not just here on For the Creators but for a multitude of purposes. And I’m making money doing it. On my own terms. Working for myself.

I’ve realised that I love sharing my ideas and my knowledge. I love helping people find their creativity, get motivated, inspired and unstuck through the ideas I share here on For the Creators and in my eCourses.

I haven’t left my studio days behind either.

Quitting my design business wasn’t the all or nothing I thought it might be.

I have a wonderful studio where I create to my heart’s content.

I’m experimenting with techniques and materials and I’ve found a passion for jewellery design.

My studio days are fun again and it’s so so refreshing.

Calling it quits

I might do fashion again. And I might not.

I can dabble in fashion. I can be a hobbyist. I can even spark up another fashion business in the future if that’s what I decide I want.

But till then, I’m calling it quits on old dreams and moving forward.

Fashion design was one evolution for me. A necessary and wonderful step to where I am today.

Giving up doesn’t come easy

Giving up can be tough. Admitting that something you’ve poured so much into isn’t what you want anymore is incredibly hard.

But it’s essential to moving forward. Onwards and upwards. Towards doing work you truly love. Towards doing work that serves you.

If there’s something in your life right now that isn’t serving you anymore, it’s time to take a real look at it and ask yourself ‘is this what I really want?’

Sometimes we cling to outdated dreams because we’re scared. And sometimes we cling to them because we haven’t even realised yet that what we are pursuing isn’t what we really want.

If you’re clinging to an out dated dream, I urge you to muster up everything you have to be brave enough to shed away the old and let the new in.

There’s amazing things out there for you beyond this one dream. I promise.

Is there something you’re hanging onto in your life that doesn’t ring true for you anymore? Will you be brave enough to let it go and let the new in? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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21 Reactions

  1. Beatrice

    This is very brave to do but also very authentic. It takes courage to admit this to oneself and am happy you share this to inspire the rest of us. Wishing you the best in the new business and dreams :)

    • Michaela Cristallo

      Thank you Beatrice for reading and for your support :) It means a lot! Sometimes the things we put off doing aren’t so bad after all hey? Hope your creative work is flowing along beautifully.

  2. Lynn Kenneth Pecknold

    Thanks for your sharing, your honesty,and your creativity. I am a “retired” Art Teacher, still passionate about what is possible,doable,and creative. I appreciate you. Best of success,
    Lynn Kenneth Pecknold, Port Alberni, British Columbia, Canada

    • Michaela Cristallo

      Thanks for your kind words Lynn, I so appreciate having you as a member of the For the Creators community here. It’s wonderful to know that you are still so passionate!

  3. Clare

    What a great post. It’s so refreshing and a relief to read that I’m not the only one, and dreams can get stale for all of us. I probably shouldn’t feel the need for external permission of course, but thank you so much for giving me just that.

    • Michaela Cristallo

      So glad to hear you have received something valuable from this post Clare! I think often as creators we suffer in silence when things aren’t going as planned. You have permission, you’ve had permission all along :) I look forward to hearing about your next evolution soon.

  4. Alysa

    Oh Michaela! Once again, excellent post. I watched a video from an artist a while back who mentioned this: “Some styles, aesthetics, and mediums are simply on loan to you. Be a good steward of it as long as they’re on loan. It’s okay to transition to new mediums and materials — your audience will know that you’re multi-fasciated.” Love that that video and your post are shedding a light on the fact that creativity evolves and it’s completely okay.

    Proud of you for taking a new path (and still creating on your own terms).

    • Michaela Cristallo

      Love that quote Alysa! What a wonderful way to look at it, as mediums being ‘on loan’ to us. Thank you for your support :) It really does mean a lot. Being vulnerable can be difficult sometimes but when you have a community behind you it’s always so much easier. You’ve been here reading since almost the very start I think. I appreciate that so very much.

  5. Denise Cassano

    Wow- I was just thinking of you YESTERDAY. Why you popped into my head I don’t know, I thought “I haven’t heard from her is a while, I wonder what’s going on.” Then this email today. Good luck on the new adventure and congrats on being honest with yourself.

    • Michaela Cristallo

      Wow Denise, what timing! I know you have been a long time reader so I appreciate you being here to read my post today. Being honest can be tough but it actually feels like a weight lifted now. And having the support of everyone here makes it feel easy. Thank you for your support :)

  6. Karen Fields

    Michaela, You are giving yourself the wonderful opportunity to grow beyond anything that you’ve known before. Things never stay the same. You must give your true point of view in your life. Best to you! Karen. Fields

  7. Nela Dunato

    Congratulations on having the courage to do what you feel is right :)

    I wrote a similar post just a year or so ago, called “Letting go of old dreams”. I wrote it from the standpoint of giving projects (which I did, and it was so hard and felt like a failure), but it might as well be said about businesses – the only difference is scale.

    I wish you all the best with your new creative dream!

  8. Linda Ursin

    You’re right, it isn’t easy but sometimes we have to. I’ve let go of several things through the years.

    • Michaela Cristallo

      It isn’t easy, that’s for sure! I deliberated over my decision for a long time. Finally, I took the plunge. It feels good knowing that I’m being true to what I actually want. I’m glad to hear you have been able to do the same in your own life :)

  9. Anab

    Thank you for bravely sharing this Michaela! Thank you thank you so much! I know this post will touch a many! And I just really needed to read this now…It’s true, the power of sharing our stories❤️ And your gift in writing! Go go go!!!

    • Michaela Cristallo

      Thank you Anab :) Your support really means a lot to me. I’m so happy to hear that this resonates with you. Sharing our stories is powerful. I’m all fired up!

  10. Chas

    Thank you for your honesty and insights. Like ourselves, our dreams are continually evolving. “In the measurement world, we set a goal and strive to achieve it. In the universe of possibility, we set the context and let life unfold.” ~B. Zander, ‘The Art of Possibility’.

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