Picking Up + Moving

December 18 2017 – Joanne Stewart

Those of you who know me well may be attune to the fact that spontaneity is often a synonym for my life. Thus, ending up in Toronto after what seemed like an overnight decision is just another check to add to the long list of random things I’ve done.

But I like to think of it as a little life epiphany.

Let’s rewind a bit.

At the end of August, I travelled to TO to attend the Apparel Textile Sourcing Show. This was the one and only time I had spent any time in the city, prior to moving.

It’s my third day at the show and I’m a little past done. I’ve looked at every fabric vendor ( which has to be over 100 ) and although looking for another post secondary program is the last thing on my radar, something intrigues me about one more booth. After a little poking around, I eventually get into a discussion with Marilyn McNeil, director of the new Fashion Exchange program at George Brown College.

Informing me of their programs, I discover that they have the manufacturing capacity to do small production runs right there on site. I am thrilled to hear this, as I have been hoping to find a small batch manufacturer to team up so I can keep my entire production process in Canada.

Almost all of the other vendors at the show are representing overseas factories, which isn’t where I want to go with my brand. In contrast the Fashion Exchangeprogram and production facility focuses on sustainability and working with small batches. Obviously quite refreshing to hear after you’ve been talking to vendors whose minimums are 1000 pieces per style for two and a half days.

Fast forward now. Less than 24 hrs left in TO - and I email Marilyn to express my interest, asking if there is any possible way she can meet up with us at the campus to show us the manufacturing facility. (Our flight leaves in the afternoon so we only have the morning for appointments). To my delight, she has a meeting over at the new campus and is willing to accommodate us as well.


Fashion Exchange Toronto


Marilyn has a radiant personality. One of the most lovely ladies I have ever met, she smiles while she talks in a way that I have never seen before. Not to mention, she attended university in Saskatoon which gives us an instant connection.

While we originally go to the campus with the intent to check out the manufacturing side of it, I end up asking more questions about the Apparel Technical Design program. I’m sure my mom is probably getting a bit nervous about where my mind is going at this point, but she graciously encourages me to explore my options and doesn’t say anything to sway my opinion one way or another. 

Bare in mind that the fall semester starts two weeks from now. Half of my heart is telling me yes; the other half can’t bare the thought of parting with YXE and my little 1032 fam. My mind says I’m crazy for even entertaining the thought. .

Arriving back in Saskatoon, I attend an interview the next morning, before facing the madness of finishing my collection for #SFDF on Saturday and Sunday. But no matter how much is going on around me, the thought of picking up + moving across the country keeps pricking at my mind.

With the weekend rush over, I find myself going through the biggest battle I have had with my own mind in a long time. I spend hours convincing myself that it is a rather far fetched idea followed by hours of convincing myself that I should just do it. And the minute I finally finalize the decision that I will stay, all of the reasons that I should go come flooding back.

I remember my mom telling me once, "if you don’t make a decision, one will be made for you.”This was not given to me for the particular dilemma I’m facing now, but it’s a thought that keeps resurfacing.

What do I actually want?


What Do We Want


It’s an exciting, yet utterly terrifying reality setting in that this is one of those situations where I have to make an intentional choice to step out of my comfort zone and just believe that everything will work out - or else continue life as i know it.

I am in love with my life and friend group in Saskatoon and can barely fathom the thought of leaving all that behind. I think this is where I go through the whole regret of even entertaining the thought of moving. If I never encountered this opportunity, I feel like my life would’ve been so much easier.

But do I want what is easier?

I consult with my family + roommates, trying to delay the decision - all the while attempting to speed up the process at the same time. At the end of the day, knowing that no one is going to make this choice for me.

In the meantime, there are various hoops I am jumping through to even get accepted so I’m not entirely sure yet if it’s even a possibility.

The course I’m applying for is a postgraduate program, so I need to get my credits transferred from the Academy of Fashion Design, a private school in YXE, to George Brown College. This isn't as easy as it sounds, nevermind the fact that I had missed the admission deadline months ago. (What else has changed? 🙈). It feels like an endless rollercoaster of up’s and down’s, hearing from admissions that my credits will be accepted and then that they won’t be - so on and so forth.

Friday, a little over a week before classes start, I get the call that I am accepted into the program. Not really sure how I even ended up here, but I accept the offer.

Something about it terrifies me, but it also just feels right.

[I would also like to give a little shoutout to my mom who when I call and simply say “I’m going to do it,” replies with “I will start looking for flights.”]

The next few days are composed of much packing, fam suppers, bike rides, fabie stops, and a few tears in-between.


Via. Brooklyn June - Flight


Tuesday - I’m TO bound.

Wednesday - I’m sitting in my first class of Apparel Technical Design with all of the other students. As I listen to each one share their introduction, it is clear to me how distinctly different each one of our paths are - but we are all here together.

Through my time here I will make connections with these people and grow to love them. And then in nine months, we will go our separate ways. Some of us may stay in touch, yet some of us may never see each other again.

We will share moments of joy and frustration. We will help each other grow. I find myself hoping that I can bring joy to the people that I now share my days with, but know inevitably that there will be days I make someone else’s day longer. In the end though, we all share this human connection brought together by a common passion. I think that’s the most beautiful thing.

Looking back, I sometimes wonder how on earth everything worked out so perfectly but I wouldn’t change a moment of it for the world. Yes, I miss my friends and occasionally (more than occasionally?) get nostalgic for the things that I love about home, but I am also so grateful for all the amazing people and experiences that have come into my life. It’s a little bit crazy to think of all that I would have missed if I hadn’t embarked on this journey.

I think it’s about more than just moving for school or a business opportunity. It’s about discovering what I really value, and learning lessons that broaden my perspective of people + the world. It’s about human connection, and experiencing things that can never be shared through words.

These are the moments that you can only feel.

My mom loves bicycles. When I first moved away from home, she re-decorated my room. One of the pieces she placed in it was a little picture of an old fashioned bike. Above the bike is a quote that reads, “Life is like a bicycle. To keep balance, one must keep moving."

As I’m writing this, I find myself laughing because I’m no longer just talking about the literal fact that I moved, but just the thought of being open to things that might require moving out of your comfort zone.

Don’t be afraid to completely flip your life upside down and backwards in the matter of two days.

I did it. And I promise it’s worth it.

Xx, Jo



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