(This week HCMC journalist Ruth Namanya got to sit down for an exclusive with Suman Faulkner from Lata Designs. Here’s what she found out!)
I had the opportunity of having a sit-down chat with Suman, a talented fashion designer here in Vancouver. I was completely blown away by her positivity and her zest for life. Suman has been through so many challenges including moving from her home in Fiji at the age of 18 as well as facing a threatening illness that nearly claimed her life. Nonetheless, this hasn’t deterred her from pursuing her dream or continuously giving back to the community. I hope that you will be just as inspired as I was after reading the excerpts from our interview.
Can you please tell us your name?
My name is Suman Faulkner and I am a fashion designer.
Growing up, did you always want to pursue a career in fashion, or is it something that came up later in life?
I am from a small island in Fiji and growing up in an Indian household every girl had to learn how to sew. I got into crocheting from a young age- at maybe 8 or 9 as I watched my aunts do it, and I picked up embroidering from my mom…
I never really thought I would pursue it as a career. When I moved to Canada at the age of 18 as a nanny, I went into a different field. I guess you could say that I was involved in the fashion industry because I did hairdressing for about 6-7 years but it just didn’t feel like something I was supposed to do.
You started out as an accountant before you switched to fashion. Why did you decide to make that transition?
I worked as an account for 12 years but I had a life altering experience that completely changed perspective on life. I fell seriously ill for two years. While at the hospital I remember thinking that if I got a second chance at life, I would pursue my true passion which is fashion. I enrolled in school as soon as I got out but that dream didn’t come easy. As a mature student it’s hard because you are living off of your savings.
I moved to Canada alone so I had no support and of course being a student at the Art Institute isn’t cheap. I actually withdrew from school at one point because I was overwhelmed by all the realities that surrounded me. I had medical bills to pay and I wasn’t working. I watched my savings deplete and I knew I couldn’t continue. When the new quarter started, my teachers and other students contacted me asking why I wasn’t at school. That’s when I realized I was meant to do this and had to do whatever it took to make this dream happen. I got a job at Walmart and worked hard until I graduated.
What’s the story behind your Burlap line?
I read an article on facebook about Courtney Barich. She was going to wear burlap to her prom in order to raise money for an orphanage in the Philippines. This happened after I had just graduated, and I was still figuring out what to do next. Courtney’s cause really touched my heart because I wanted to have a positive effect in the fashion industry. I didn’t really know her at the time but she had already contacted the Art Institute.
We came up with the design for the dress together; after all she is the one who was going to wear it. Working on the dress was a bit challenging because I had never worked with burlap and I am allergic to it! But I kept reminding myself why I was doing it.
Once the dress was completed it sort of went on from there. We didn’t expect the overwhelming response we got through the media. Her initial goal was to raise 10,000 dollars but in the end, she was able to go to the Philippines with almost 18,000.
Have you worked with any other charities besides Courtney’s?
I volunteer at a lot of events. Before working with Courtney, I used to volunteer my time teaching crocheting to whoever wanted to learn. While I was a student I volunteered my time to work with other students at the Art Institute. I am involved with the Asian Committee and we are trying to build a committee in Fiji to give the girls acknowledgement for the work they do.
We are going to have a fashion show on August 7th in support of this and I will be making some of the garments. I also just designed a dress for one of the delegates at Miss World Canada, and seeing the smile her face was amazing. To me that’s what it’s all about. I am a giving person and I love giving back to the community.
You seem very grounded and comfortable with where you are at.
I was picked on when I was younger because I had dark skin. Most Indians have light skin, but I was teased about my skin colour, my body type – I have long arms and long fingers so somehow I never fit in quite well with other people. I used to take it really personally and I didn’t have any confidence in myself. Now I am proud of who I am because that’s who God made me. I always tell people to embrace who they are because they are different and unique.
What advice do you have for young people who are trying to find themselves and discover their passion?
Most teenagers end up doing certain things just to please other people. They have culture restrictions, obligations and they seem caught up in what everyone else is doing. If you however go after what you are passionate about, whether it is insignificant to other people or not, you will succeed and you will go places.
Sometimes it doesn’t lead to ultimate success and maybe 10 years down the road you realize it isn’t the right fit but it can still serve as a learning experience. Don’t be afraid to try new things because of what everyone else might think. Just follow your heart!
Follow Suman Online!