Fashioning a New Path
George Brown courses help graduate launch a denim company
Although he had explored art and animation in his early adulthood, Craig Williams had built himself a successful career in IT. But it wasn’t making him happy.
In 2013, buoyed by his dream of a career in fashion and an uplifting online talk by a motivational speaker, Craig decided to take the plunge by registering for a George Brown College Continuing Education course – Introduction to Industrial Sewing. But, when the time came to attend class, Craig found himself worried he’d made a mistake.
“I was completely nervous my first day,” he remembers. “I was 41 years old, I had a full-time job, I had a 4-year-old child, I hadn’t been to school in so long – I thought I wouldn’t fit in. But when I walked into the classroom, I saw the cutting tables and the industrial steam irons and the machines, and I was like, ‘This is exactly the room I’m supposed to be in right now!’”
Craig only planned to complete one course, but he enjoyed the experience so much that he kept returning. In the end, he chose to complete the courses required for the Essential Skills in Fashion Certificate and finished his last course in 2017.
“I just wanted to take one class – one step in the direction of my dreams – but the instruction, the format and the diverse course options were intoxicating!” explains Craig. “So I kept taking courses and eventually gained direction. I liked that the certificate program was very easy-going yet structured and that the teachers presented topics in a very real-world kind of way. The teachers were all so different and had different approaches to teaching and knowledge of the fashion industry. You definitely had a sense that there would be a place for you in the industry.”
As Craig learned such fashion essentials as fashion design, apparel construction, fashion illustration and pattern drafting, he also started to a gain a clearer picture of his career path. While midway through the certificate program, he saw a video of someone making jeans. For years, he had altered his own denim, and he soon decided it was something he wanted to try to do more seriously.
“Denim became this huge passion, which developed from the abilities I got at George Brown,” Craig says. “I didn’t learn how to make jeans at George Brown per se but, when I put together what I learned there, I gained the whole picture. I’m able to apply all the techniques I learned there to do this. That’s still happening when I’m in my workshop trying to figure out something. I still have my notes, and I’ll think, ‘Wait a minute! Isn’t that what I did in that one project?’ and so all those notes are still so beneficial.”
“I wouldn’t be doing this without those courses. There’s just no way. It gave me the courage to believe in myself. It gave me more than just sewing skills; it made me ask myself, ‘What else can I do?’”
That workshop is where he now runs Williams Denim – a company he conceived of creating before he had even finished his courses. He says the college’s focus on industry practices, essential business considerations and practical operations gave him the tools to get started. But the experience gave him even more.
“I wouldn’t be doing this without those courses,” Craig states. “There’s just no way. It gave me the courage to believe in myself. It gave me more than just sewing skills; it made me ask myself, ‘What else can I do?’ Well, apparently, I can build a workshop, I can build a website from scratch, I can meet suppliers in California for denim. I’ve even fixed some of my machines. And these are all by-products of taking the courses. That’s the benefit: you’re acquiring all these skills you never thought you’d acquire. You’re getting what you need. This is bigger than fashion for me. I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my entire life. My certificate sits high on the wall in my workshop, and I’m more proud of that than almost anything I’ve ever done … so far!”