After a ten-year hiatus, the Metropolitan Fashion Cluster is relaunching Montréal Fashion Week. LaSalle College jumped on this opportunity to hold a panel discussion open to its students and the general public on September 15.
During the conference, which was moderated by Natalie Rivière, CEO of communication agency Commetta, speakers Josiane Stratis and Marie-Josée Trempe spoke about a still taboo and often overlooked topic: professional failure. With the aim of helping others learn from their mistakes, they had a frank discussion about their professional failures, how they felt about specific events and their hopes for the future.
The conference was inspired by the global F.U.N. (Fuckup Nights) movement, which celebrates learning from professional failures through various events and talks.
“A career goes through many peaks and valleys, and when you’re in a low spot, you really feel like a failure,” explained Natalie when opening the discussion. “Being resilient is being able to make your way back up when you’re at your lowest point,” added Marie-Josée.
Marie-Josée Trempe, the founding president of modelling agency Specs, started her career in fashion by working as a makeup artist for over 10 years. She has worked with the biggest names in fashion photography and the top fashion magazine editors. In 1990, Marie-Josée made a career change and founded Specs, a renowned modelling agency.
But the fashion industry is a “tough” industry, as she says. “Some people glorify the fact that you’re sacrificing yourself for your work […] I wanted to change things, but I was told I was being too ‘soft.’ I wanted to fight to get better working conditions for my models.”
This endemic mentality in the industry had a major impact on Marie-Josée throughout her career. She who considers herself as “hyper sensitive and hyper emotional” started to doubt her own fundamental values and believed she was a failure. In fact, she explained the dichotomy that exists in her profession when it comes to certain emotions in the workplace: “Some emotions are valued, while others are seen as a weakness. Crying in a professional context is still very much frowned upon.”
There is a larger spotlight on mental health these days, but it remains a taboo topic, especially in some industries. In the end, Marie-Josée stayed true to her values and learned a great amount despite the doubts that the fashion industry planted within her: “You just have to recognize your boundaries and get to know yourself: how it feels when you’re doing well versus when you’re not. And when you’re not doing great, you have to take a break. Taking care of your mental health is not a sign of failure.”
Josiane Stratis, digital strategist and former influencer, gained notoriety by launching, in collaboration with her twin sister, a fashion blog that quickly became immensely popular. This popularity led to her becoming an influencer, but then being called out, in 2020, by former collaborators. Today, Josiane is back at school and working as a digital strategist in the business world, an industry that could not be more different than the one she used to work in.
During the discussion, Josiane revisited the events that ended her influencer career last year and she shared her regrets, her thoughts and the lessons she has learned.
“I realized that I had not set nearly enough boundaries. I overlooked a lot of things that I shouldn’t have. So I’d say that my biggest fuckup was trying to save face at all times,” said Josiane. “As women, we’re not taught to set boundaries. Especially as entrepreneurs,” added Marie-Josée.
Josiane also talked about how the fallout from the accusations affected her. She received insults and threats on a daily basis. Despite her psychological distress, Josiane managed to get her life back on track and start a new chapter of her life: “I needed to take a pause for a year to find the person I used to be before these events. I’m more mature and I’ve learned more about myself.”
These thoughts and discussions have led the two women to ask future generations to be more lenient with themselves and each other: “We’re all human, and the message we want to share is that everyone makes mistakes, and no one is perfect. It’s important to remind people of this, especially younger people.” This just goes to show that you really can learn from others’ mistakes!
Watch the following video to listen to the entire discussion (available in French only):