Lesley Hampton; Toronto;
Let’s say we’ve just met at a cocktail party. How would you describe, in a nutshell, what you do?
I am a First Nations fashion designer hoping to help break the mold within the fashion industry and the media to allow for greater self-confidence in every body type and size.
Where did you go to school and what did you study?
I finished high school in England with an International Baccalaureate diploma, I have my undergraduate degree from the University of Toronto with an honours bachelor of arts in art studio and art history. I have a college diploma in art studio with honours from Sheridan College, and I just completed a college diploma program with George Brown College in fashion techniques and design.
What was your first paying gig out of school? (In your field, or not.)
My first paying gig out of high school was designing and sewing dance costumes for my university’s dance team for competitions. This September is the first time in my whole life that I’m not planning to go back to school so I can’t wait to see where the “real world” takes me.
What was your BIG break? How did you land it?
I think my big break was when I emailed Adrianne Haslet, a ballroom dancer and Boston Marathon bombing survivor to ask if she wanted to . She replied with such incredible positivity and support and the response we received to our runway collaboration in the media was incredible. A small email made such a strong impact.
Describe the moment in which you first realized, I think this is actually going to work out?
This moment happened after this most recent fashion week when I was online googling my name and finding an incredible amount of support from media and individuals about my brand and my message of body confidence. It’s crazy to think a thought you had at 2 a.m. one random evening for a runway theme or brand concept will resonate with so many people on an incredibly personal level.
What would you say has been your biggest failure or shortcoming, career-wise, to date? How did you bounce back?
My biggest career-wise failure was having my personal life distract me from the goals I set for my career. Bouncing back, I cut off the distractions that didn’t fully support my dreams and I continue to self-reflect a lot more to see if I’m living the best way and involving myself with the best people to make my career goals come true.
Name one piece of career advice you always give.
The best advice I always give is actually from business entrepreneur Jim Rohn: “We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.” The best career advice isn’t actually what you do at your job, but the influence you allow people to have on you by spending your time with them.
What’s the worst career advice you’ve ever gotten?
“Never quit.” I dropped out of a master’s program because it wasn’t the right fit for me. To be successful in your career, you need to know when you’re in a situation that’s not working for you and to have the confidence to say “no, this is not for me”—and change it.
Did you deal with barriers in your field because you are a woman? If so, what were they?
I don’t think so. Because I am a woman designing for women, I understand the power of fancy dress or a stylish jumpsuit on your emotions and self-confidence, so I try to give all my clients that feeling of power when they put on my clothes.
Are you making a fair income for your work? Why or why not? Do you have a side hustle for extra cash? If so, what is it?
As my brand is only in its first few years, it’s definitely still in a deficit, although my income is growing each year. I have been lucky enough to be funded by my First Nations band throughout my time at school for housing and tuition so that has given me the opportunity to focus solely on my education and developing my business.
What’s the worst stereotype you’ve heard about millennials at work?
That we spend too much time on the internet or social media. The majority of the time I am not spending on the sewing machine, I spend on my laptop. I have generated the most amount of sales from social media, and I think it’s a great way to spread your brand and message to a wider audience.