The Modern Career: The Unconventional Road to Success

For most of us, the pressure of going to college/university, picking a major, and following a related career path, has been chiselled into our brain. A lot of our parents have worked in the same job, for the same company, for twenty to thirty years or more. Our parents will, or have already, retired with a full pension, and will die knowing that they lived comfortably doing the same job their entire lives, without ever having, or following, a craving for something more.

But we are not our parents. We have grown up in a vastly different landscape. The world is a different place than it used to be, and younger generations seem to crave something more than just 8 hour work days and full benefits. I am not saying every young person is following a non-linear career trajectory, but more people are following more creative pursuits, and going down the road less travelled than ever before. Some might even say that despite our job market being increasingly more competitive than the decades before us, our generation is happier and more fulfilled with our careers than generations before us. While some traditional things are still important, for many of us, we see that there is more to life than Keeping up with the Jones.

Sarah Milan created her own business known as Sarah’s Soaps to fulfill her needs for natural, preservative and chemical free skin care. As a result, she began creating handcrafted, natural, vegan, artificial free body lotions, bath soaks, and soaps.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do or where I saw myself in my future career, so I struggled with what to take in school. I wasn’t driven towards my program, so I always searched for new creative outlets to explore. I was searching Pinterest one day and came across soap making. It was one thing that I never actually heard of anyone doing so I gave it a try and instantly fell in love with how practical yet artsy the process is.”

Her goal was to create a good product that would also be good for your skin and overall health. By doing so, she also was able to contribute to her local community in Niagara. She sells her products at a local craft market, salons, as well as online on the official Sarah’s Soap website.

“For me, it has totally been worth it. I am the kind of person that chooses to do things based on happiness – if something will make me or others happy I am going to do it. Life is too short to sit at a boring desk job day to day. That is just not for me. I am a creative person, and I need to be hands on,” says Sarah. “Since I have started my business I have met so many amazing like-minded individuals whom I have inspired and taught me so much. You can tell when someone is passionate about what they do, it shows.”

My Experience

What I’ve learned recently is that it’s okay not to have all your ducks in a row at 24. I’ve also learned that it’s okay not to follow a conventional career path. You are not confined to be defined by one single thing. You can be a server and a journalist. It’s allowed, and totally doable. You can be an owner of a business and also an aspiring opera singer if you want, and doing that doesn’t make you any less of a person, or mean you are less intelligent, or that you will be any less successful in life.

When I finished school, I felt this innate pressure to find a job in my “field.” The pressure wasn’t necessarily from my parents, but from comparing myself to this idea of what I felt I should be doing. I was serving tables and applying for jobs, and the more interviews I had, the more I realized two important things. One that I didn’t want to work Monday-Friday from 9 to 5 and sit at a desk all day. Two that I didn’t want to work for someone else. I realized I was the creator of my pressure and stress. It was my life, and I was allowed to do what I wanted. Why should I spend my life doing something I don’t like? I would rather be happy and follow my passion for creativity rather than conventional, and I think a lot of people are starting to view their career path in a similar light.

The Moral of the Story

At Novella, many of us are in this together. We chose to follow our passion and work for Novella while balancing other jobs to help sustain ourselves. We do it because we love it, and it makes us happy, and it’s what we WANT to be doing.

So, stop apologizing for doing what you want and following a career path that is seen by some as non-traditional. It’s your life, not theirs. And at the very least, at least you’ll know you tried. There are so many cool and amazing people doing amazing and creative things that would never have been considered, or even possible twenty years ago, so why not be one of those people? For fear of sounding cliche, just remember, you will always regret the chances you didn’t take.

As for Sarah, her advice for those who are struggling with the urge to follow a “non-traditional career path” is simple.

“Just do it. It is super cheesy and cliché but it is true. A career is a career at the end of the day, so why not do what you love?”

Sarah Milan, Sarah’s Soaps

Toronto Dancer Creates Beyoncé and Rihanna Sweaters to Help Charities

Owner and creator of 1Club, Shawn Bracke says his 50/50 percent cotton/polyester sweaters are perfect for an active person, someone in a creative space. Photo by Sveta Soloveva

Whether he’s teaching a dance class or sketching in his notebook, Shawn Bracke always uses his art to support charities. Now he creates sweaters with faces of celebrities on them and donates 35% of the proceeds to a different charity each month. Founded in September 2016, his online clothing brand 1Club stands for the idea of “all for one and one for all”.

Sveta: Hi Shawn! It’s exciting to learn a new artistic side of you besides dancing. How did you come up with the idea of creating your brand?

Shawn: The idea was always charity, donations. But not all. I was sketching a lot for the last five years or so, and I started putting it on clothing myself. People really liked that. On top of that, I was donating once a month from classes that I teach to different charities. So I kind of just fused the two ideas together. I thought, instead of donating from the classes I would start a brand.

Sveta: Did you have any background in fashion?

Shawn: Yep, I used to be a stylist. I used to live in London, U.K. I was a stylist there for two years, mostly just like on set for music videos, TV, and films. So it’s not the most creative because you can’t do really much with film and TV — you literally give them like this template —, but I definitely had an understanding of the industry. Honestly, fashion doesn’t really apply to my brand. The whole goal for it is to be comfortable and wearable and easy.

Sveta: How does the design of your brand express its idea?

Shawn: We stand for all for one and one for all. So the goal of the brand is essentially to create all-inclusive type of company, something comfortable and supporting. Originally, they [sweaters] are just faces of people that really inspired me. People who are using their celebrity styles to make a change in the world. There are pretty big names, like Beyoncé and Rihanna, Gigi Hadid, Victoria Beckham. They all are known for what they do either as musicians or designers, but I love all of them because they are affiliated with charities. And obviously, I know that people would love to wear a Beyonce sweater or Rihanna [sweater]. And I like that it’s all strong women. A lot of charities that I focus on are geared towards helping women.

Photo by Sveta Soloveva

Sveta: What are some charitable organization you work or have worked with?

Shawn: Right now we are with Red Door Family Shelter. We’ve worked with Covenant House. They are cool. They are like a shelter for the homeless slash for people who are distressed. So they help a lot of women who are in bad situations with their husbands or who are trying to escape.

Sveta: What is exciting for you about working with charities?

Shawn: I’ve always loved donating to charities, but as a dancer I would just do it with my credit card online. With the company there’s different formatting. You obviously have to build relationships with them [charities]. It’s been very cool to see their responses and meet different people within the charity. And also, knowing where the money goes is comforting. I was kind of nervous going into it, that these different charities wouldn’t be that interested and would just kind of take a donation, but they all have been so lovely and so caring. Just hearing the cool things they do to change people’s lives is awesome.

Sveta: Does anyone help you to run the business?

Shawn: Yeah, so the sketches I do myself, and then I have a company, actually, a friend, who prints all the clothing. He works in film and TV, so it’s cool we have that relationship. And I also have some friends who help me to run the company. Primarily, it’s just me, but we do a lot of events. We go to different markets, so I have a crew who sometimes writes the emails and does the administrating.

Sveta: What is the most difficult part of running a clothing company?

Shawn: I would say, continuously promoting our brand. The more promotion you do, the more you need new people. And it’s not even bad. The most difficult is the most fun in a weird sense. I think it’s just the nature of any creative person: anything that’s difficult, you like doing because you know that it’s a challenge for you. I don’t know if as a journalist and a dancer you can agree with me. I hope that answers the question.

Sveta: I think I agree with that. Would people who wear your sweaters be creative as well?

Shawn: Obviously, I would love everyone to wear the sweaters. The goal is to benefit charities and feel comfortable and cool, yeah? But, generally speaking, the people, who have been gravitating towards it, are people like us, who work during the day and take a dance class or a yoga class or go to the gym at night… Or maybe they just wanna have like a Sunday-cozy sweater to go to a brunch and go for a walk after. My mum and her friends wear it too. They wear it on Saturdays if they go out for a show or something.

Sveta: Do you have your favourite sweater?

Shawn: Right now the Beyonce-embroidered is my favourite just cause I haven’t seen anyone do an embroidered sweater and I just love the texture of it. I’m excited that my drawing can be transmitted into an embroidered sweater.

Photo by Sveta Soloveva

Sveta: How do you build your collections in terms of frequency, colours…?

Shawn: As we partner with a different charity every month, the goal is to do a new sweater every one to two months. The first collection is all white, and the second collection had like that salt-pepper and safari [shades]. And then for the next one we are gonna go back to straight one colour. I definitely want to keep them neutral. For me, as a dancer, rehearsing, I like to wear very basic colours or shades rather. And my clients love that kind of neutral shades, so… We might play with colours later, but for now we are gonna keep it.

Sveta: Are you planning to add more items to your collections in the future?

Shawn: In September we have few other things coming. T-shirts and some other stuff, which I’m gonna keep secret.

Sveta: Were you thinking about creating 1Club physical store?

Shawn: Right now it’s an online-brand. I think we are gonna keep it there for a while. I don’t really have any goals to make it a physical shop… like in the near future.

Sveta: What does 1Club mean to you personally?

Shawn: 1Club for me is a nice escape from the dance world [we both laugh]. That sounds terrible! I couldn’t live without it [dance]. It’s like who I am, but there’s so many sides of me. Just like there’s so many sides of you. So it’s like a break from always focusing on like, Oh, I need to do this with dance. I need to focus on this with dance. For me it’s to meet different types of people with 1 Club that I would never be able to meet in the dance world.

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SKETCH20: Transformations Through the Arts

Photo: Sveta Soloveva

Young artists brought their creative residency at 180 Shaw St., Artscape Youngplace, to life. The rooms were filled with singing, dancing, painting, poetry, serving, and selling art last Thursday. Everyone was celebrating the 20 years of SKETCH, an enterprise that stands for transformation through the arts.

The free event brought together SKETCH’s artists, teachers, their friends, and the grads, some of whom came here 20 years ago. In one word, it was a nice family reunion.

Photo: Sveta Soloveva

The guests were socializing by the festive table decorated with silver balloons and beautiful snacks. With hot drinks in one hand, they were enthusiastically reaching for pink, green, and yellow cupcakes, candy canes, and butterscotch candies.

Then they walked to the Marketplace where students of creative alternative schools were selling their work.

Photo: Sveta Soloveva

Joedee Rackale of the art school, displayed her paintings and looked like an art piece herself. A ring on her nose, labret piercing, silver keys sticking out of her head, and multi pattern outfit matched her futuristic paintings.

“My favourite thing to draw would probably be people,” said Rackale. “I’d much rather be at a school where we can do what we love, learn, grow, and get the credits we need, rather than a traditional school that is too strict, too narrow.”

Joedee Rackale. Photo: Sveta Soloveva

Parr Josephee, a student at Oasis Skateboard Factory, was giving away fliers promoting their skateboards, stickers, buttons, and T-shirts that he and other students made in class.

“We make our own brand and we run our own brand,” said Josephee. “If I sold the skateboard for one hundred bucks, I get 50, and the school gets 50 to get the materials.” Josephee said he prefers his alternative school to a traditional one because he gets more practical skills and experience at SKETCH.

Photo: Sveta Soloveva

“Some people can’t handle a traditional school,” he said.  “You are just sitting in class and writing, and you are just thinking about what you gonna do after school. You are not thinking about the subject. People want to be active. They want to move. Making skateboards, you are always moving. You are making money, you are getting credits. It’s so amazing.”

Some teachers have been working at the Artscape Youngplace for 15-20 years. Craig Morrison, who teaches at the Oasis Skateboard Factory, said he enjoys his job and wants to proliferate his experience at SKETCH and help other communities across Canada recreate what they’ve done.

“It’s amazing to go to school every day and be around such creative young people,” said Morrison. “I think the hardest part of my job is to educate, to make sure that there’re organizations and spaces that get resources to give to this youth. Especially marginalized youth who may not have all those opportunities.”

Photo by: Sveta Soloveva

Live shows — singing, dancing, poetry reading, and painting — were waiting for the guests behind each door at the studios downstairs.

Hip hop and R&B musician Oddane Taylor gathered a crowd of people who joined him in singing and dancing to his songs Say You Know Me and Feels Like I’m Dreaming from the album No Pressure.

Musician Oddane Taylor. Photo: Sveta Soloveva

“I can’t live without music,” said Taylor. “I find it therapeutic. I have to do it every single day. It’s like my passion, my love. It’s self care.”

Constantly moving as a youth, homeless person a few times, Taylor said SKETCH helped him to get off the streets. “SKETCH is essentially my career,” said Taylor. “When I came to SKETCH, I found my confidence and network with a lot of people in the industry and people who are currently my team.”

R’n’B musician Rohan Wallace ‘R Love’. Photo: Sveta Soloveva

Taylor isn’t the only one who has gotten his enterprise off the ground and experienced the transformative powers of the arts at SKETCHSince 1996, this powerful and creative enterprise has changed the lives of 10,000 young people around Canada, inspiring them to make things, make friends, and bring positive changes to their communities.

Artscape Youngplace, the 7,500-square-foot creative hub, has studios for music, culinary arts, ceramics, and textiles. Three times a week they open their doors for street involved and homeless youth to do workshops on beatboxing, recording music, and painting.

From left to right: Dale Roy, Russell Pulkys and Jams Blackmore. Photo by: Sveta Soloveva

“For some people just getting to SKETCH is sometimes an accomplishment,” said Dale Roy, marketing and communications associate at SKETCH. “Maybe they are dealing with addictions, maybe they are dealing with inner conflict. For other people just being able to participate in something over a period of time is also an accomplishment.”

Roy shared some successful stories of their artists: “One [enterprise] called Just Clay was three young people who had a knack for ceramics. They were able to work with Evergreen Brickworks to create their own class every Sunday. And they invited families and kids.”

Musician Dynesti Williams. Photo: Sveta Soloveva

The new year will bring even more exciting things to SKETCH. For example, it is about to launch a new media art department in January.

“We haven’t  really been touching digital arts or computer programs and coding and staff like that. So it’s very exciting for us,” Roy said.

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Dress To Dare: Fashion Risk Takers


sugegasa hides his face and a blue ruffled dress covers his body — just a few dreadlocks that are sticking out of the umbrella-like hat tell us that it is not a samurai. The hidden figure is Atlanta rapper Young Thug on the cover of his mixtape, Jeffery. 

This amount of steeze could astonish or freak you out. The truth is, Young Thug and many others are breaking fashion rules and creating their own.

Jaden Smith beams with confidence when the 18-year-old actor and rapper appears in different skirts and leggings, whether he’s on the streets on in the pages of Teen Vogue, which named him one of its ultimate fashion icons.

Rihanna, who received the CFDA Style Icon Award and was honoured as “fashion’s most exciting muse” by Vogue in 2014, continues to inspire women and designers to experiment with rebellious looks. From hitting the summer streets of London in her oversized Raf Simons to her Fenty Puma Creeper winning Footwear Shoe of the year, Rihanna’s continued influence on fashion is undeniable.

Photo: Peter Ash Lee
Photo: Peter Ash Lee

When choosing what to wear, some people might attribute themselves a particular gender. For the current rule breakers, however, gender is irrelevant when it comes to fashion; everyone is allowed to express themselves in whichever way they like. Finally, some are just tired of fast fashion that seems to change its trends few times a week. The fashion-wise vote for kookiness and creativityThere are no rules, particular trends, or formulas when it comes to personal style anymore.

“It’s good to step outside of the box sometimes and expand what you wanna do,” says Cole Ryan, who owns ODNAB, men’s clothing store located at 677 Queen Street West. “I’m pretty open-minded in terms of what I wear, like C2H4 Los Angeles fur jacket is one of my favourite pieces,” Ryan says. “It is something that a lot of people don’t really want to wear because it’s a little bit too much, but I like flashier stuff, and I feel that I have to set my style a little bit above the norm because I have a store.”

Ryan is a big fan of Scott Disick’s style because the TV personality has very interesting swag: “He wears a pair of En Noir jeans with Chelsea boots, and he also wears a purple suit with slippers.”

Since women try on and buy items for themselves at ODNAB, Ryan is not sure anymore whether his business is just a men’s store: “Everything is turning to unisex as opposed to separate male and female clothes in terms of fashion. I have a lot of female customers, and at the same time everything in the store is what I personally would wear.” Many girls find baggy items both comfortable and stylish.

Chantelle Blagrove at Kit and Ace on Queen West/Photo Credit: Sveta Soloveva
Chantelle Blagrove at Kit and Ace on Queen West/Photo Credit: Sveta Soloveva

Chantelle Blagrove, a team leader at Kit and Ace on Queen Street West, says she admires those who explore and create new crazy styles. Watching the Grammys and film festivals, she often sees women like Rihanna wearing a suit or men like Young Thug wearing bows. Balgrove says because those young celebrities are in the spotlight now, they could educate people on how there’s no straight lines in the way someone dresses.

“I think it’s dope that someone can just leave their house in full confidence not really caring what people think about them,” says Balgrove who just bought an Oak + Fort oversized denim coat with sherpa lining. “Eighty percent of my wardrobe is menswear because it’s comfier. I don’t like things close to my body and sweaters and hoodies just fit me better.”

Blagrove says she is proud to have a better vintage tee collection than a half of the guys she knows. “Most guys are going to borrow my clothes,” she says, laughing.

C2H4 Los Angeles fur jacket/Courtesy of ODNAB website
C2H4 Los Angeles fur jacket/Courtesy of ODNAB website

Style conservatives could knit their perfectly fashionable brows but street culture and adherence to originality have taken a huge bite out of the fashion world.

Today, more than ever, fashion is beginning to challenge our way of thinking. “People don’t care if you do something normally,” Ryan says. “You walk down Queen West and observe things around you. You see something you saw in a magazine. You see guys wearing women’s clothes. It’s cool. Where fashion is going is positive because it’s not so black and white. There are grey areas which are fun to explore.”

Invisible Brush: Deana Nastic at Izzy Gallery

Courtesy of Izzy Gallery

Art is based in feeling and that was made pretty clear during our conversation with internationally recognized, Toronto-based, Serbian artist Deana Nastic.

While at the University of Belgrade, her private tutor introduced her to German Expressionism. This made a huge impact on her career as a painter. Her signature style has always been associated with watercolours and figurative work. However, her latest creative project, Invisible Brush” at the Izzy Gallery in Yorkville, features a black and white portrait series.

With just a few years of photography experience, Deana took a risk and created a captivating and inspired exhibition featuring Yasmin Warsame, the acclaimed model.

Novella had the opportunity to meet this passionate and talented artist to learn more about her first experience using an “invisible brush”.

Courtesy of Izzy Gallery

Celia Fernandez: As a painter, how did you start feeling that attraction and curiosity about photography?

Deana Nastic: Over the last six years I was fortunate to meet and spend time with great photographers like Ellen Von Unwerth, Albert Watson and Roxanne Lowit. They inspired me to pick up a camera. I had never tried photography. I painted and sculpted. Time came for a new medium for me as an artist. That’s how it started.

C.F.: What are the pros and cons about photography vs. watercolours and paintbrushes?

D.N.: What I like the most about photography is that spontaneity with just one click. Watercolour, sculpting and oils take much longer. But, in photography, preparation takes much longer than people know. There’s a lot of psychology and prep involved.


C.F.: This was your debut as a photographer. When working in all the pieces and getting everything ready for the exhibition, were you especially nervous about it just because it was your first time?

D.N.: No. I’ve had many shows. But I am equally nervous for every show. If I didn’t have those nerves, I don’t see the point in doing it. I am so invested in the whole process.

C.F.: How was the process you followed to come up with all the final pieces?

D.N.: I started with collage and mix of photos, not knowing where it would take me. Days and nights working in my studio led me to simplify things. It ended up with pure photography and my models would have their eyes closed most of the time. I wanted a certain mood to come to life.

Courtesy of Izzy Gallery

C.F.: What exactly you were hoping to capture with “Invisible Brush”?

D.N.: Mood. It’s all about mood and certain feeling. They are disappearing. A lot of people think they are not photographs.

C.F.: In your own words, how would you define your signature as an artist? What makes you different from other artists?

D.N.: That’s a tough one. I think reviewers and art critics could explain this better. I am an artist because that’s what I do. It’s my life.

C.F.: What does art mean to you?

D.N.: Art means life for me. And anything that moves me in life is art to me.

Courtesy of Izzy Gallery

To learn more about Deana Nastic, click here or follow on Instagram via @izzygallery and @nasticdeana909.