Written by Ozlem M. Manness
Deep breath in... Long breath out...
Here we are, we meet again, only this time I have the chance to talk a bit more about so much of what I shared this past year, uncensored, and in great detail; because it’s all in the details, right?
Let’s start a few years back.
In the spring of 2019, Joseph, a fresh PR graduate from MSVU, joined the House of Moda family; and when I hired him, I told him my biggest goal for the year was to revamp our website and to integrate it with our social media channels, especially Instagram. We had a great website up and running, don’t get me wrong, but things were changing and I could see it coming fast; we needed to change a bit too. So we welcomed Joseph and started the process together, day by day.
We worked tirelessly as a team, spending so much time and effort throughout the spring and well into the fall on our brand; we experimented, tested out new ideas, and we learned many new things. On top of our daily tasks, this added in quite a bit of extra work, which was challenging as my biggest daily task was first and foremost being a new mama. I remember sitting on my patio for hours that summer trying to take in the day, but finding myself frustrated and worn out; I may have wanted to smash my laptop a few times. If you are wondering, I have a major love/hate relationship with technology, believe it or not; you heard it here first.
You see, all I wanted was for things to be more simplistic. Is that so much to hope for? I wanted our website development to continue to reflect our brand, to be personal, and to be easy to browse, all of the things I look for when I am online. Nothing complicated... I simply wanted everyone who browsed the website to have the same feelings they experience when browsing in person at the boutique. I wanted it to be perfect... Sounds easy, right? Unfortunately, not so much.
When it comes to what you see online, it isn’t ever just a quick and easy process. Since we design and produce our own jewelry and accessories ourselves, we don’t have professional photos or product descriptions provided from companies. Therefore, we find ourselves, at the helm, taking each individual photograph, writing every single detailed description personally, and trying to find time to breathe in the meantime.
At the time, and sometimes even now, I’m not sure why I was pushing so hard for this project in summer of 2019. At times, my husband said I became a bit obsessive; but there was something inside of me, telling me to do it then, a feeling that there was a deadline I was going to be met with... I pushed harder than I knew I would have to, as more and more obstacles reared their ugly head. It felt like the harder I worked, the greater the rejection from the work itself.
Instagram repeatedly called our account a lifestyle brand rather than a business; this was one rejection that I fought repeatedly. I explained multiple times, and through lengthily emails, that I was a manufacturer, a wholesaler, and a retailer; it didn’t get any more “business” than that. Sure, lifestyle is a piece of who we are, but I run a business, even if I run it with my heart. I explained to Instagram about our community, how doing business is so personal for us. That was the biggest argument for me, and I wasn’t going to back down because it couldn’t be more true; and I finally won. I was able to showcase the love, power, and connection of community, and it felt great, truly.
Fast forward to October, we received notice at our old building where we were located; the rumours were true, they were going to tear down the building and we were going to have to move. That to me, was the push I didn’t know I was waiting for, yet kept feeling, and I was ready for it. Moda 2.0 was in the making.
I knew it was going to be A LOT of work, but I was up for the challenge. This was my opportunity to rebrand and introduce new things, even new ways to shop. Since our business model is quite different, I began searching for a new and unique retail space, something that would fit a new Moda. Finally, there it was, the perfect fit, The Doyle. Situated on the most picturesque corner, where Spring Garden Road and Queen Street intersect, was just the perfect place for this new project of mine. I now call it the Times Square of the Maritimes.
As things continued to evolve with our rebrand, I traveled to New York City in early January for some meetings and inspiration. At the end of January, I went to Toronto, like I always would, for my jewelry show. I remember when I was in Toronto, my dad sent me a news article about the first Covid 19 case in Toronto.. To be honest, I didn’t think much of it then, but I remember sanitizing a lot and being extra cautious during the show.
In February, I took my second trip to New York; this is where I met with Ace and many more lovely designers for my capsule collection apparel projects. I remember finding New York in February a little different from January. People were starting to talk about Covid, but it was still nothing too serious.
The first week of March, I started seeing dramatic changes in the news, in European countries’ protocols, especially in Italy. I started getting a little nervous. At this point, things were changing every day. When the second week of March came around, the WHO declared Covid 19 a global pandemic. Even now, as I think about it and as I write this, I get chills. I can still remember worrying about my parents who were in Turkey; we were talking about “coronavirus” daily, yet still in disbelief I think.
Since my mother had sold her condo here in Halifax, she was to travel back on March 14th for its closing. On March 13th, I was in a meeting and I remember leaving the meeting to call her to tell her not to come, that she had to cancel her flight, that things were changing every minute... I told her that I had a feeling that if she were to come, she would not be able to leave for a while. She insisted on coming, and I am so happy that she did. She arrived on the last day of normalcy, but had to quarantine for 14 days in her condo; right after, things changed dramatically... The pandemic we never saw coming... the real tests and lessons were awaiting whether we were ready or not... Then and there, I made a decision and chose to close my boutique right away.
Of course, I was trying not to lose focus on my projects, but I was so consumed with anxiety. Was this really happening? What was going on? How long was this going to last? Was I going to be able to open my new store? Would we all be safe? Later on, I understood that these were going to be the least of my worries and there were bigger challenges waiting ahead for all of us.
When I think back to making the difficult decision of closing the store, I remember talking to my staff, announcing it on social media, and shedding so many tears as I was filled with uncertainty and fear. Shortly after posting about the decision, I remember the outpouring of love and support from everyone; my inbox was flooded with messages from individuals everywhere expressing how they shared the same fears and worries. People began reaching out, checking in on me, and told me their stories too. So when I think back, I remember the bad parts vividly, but the good parts? Well, I remember them even more.
This is why I am here, writing this. Because I will never, ever, for as long as I live, forget the day I decided to close. I know I made my argument to Instagram about “community” a year before that, but I truly, fully, and whole heartedly understood the meaning of community on that very day. We were all worried about our families, our children, our loved ones, our livelihood... our future... and even though we were comprised of different people, from all walks of life, we came together as one beating HEART. That was “community” right there in every sense of the word.
This community, this feeling of love, significantly grew since March 2020. I have felt this love in every way possible and I hope I have given mine back to you. I feel as though I have connected with so many of you, old and new, and in doing so I began to understand that not holding back is a blessing. Our hearts are so much more beautiful when united. Life is short; judgement is unnecessary. It couldn’t be more clear after the year that we’ve had, the freedoms that we have lost, but also all that we have gained.
I have to say, once again, in case you need to read this today: if you are not happy with an answer you’ve received, if something doesn’t feel right to you, fight for it, don’t settle. 2020 taught us all in some way that we have the ability to overcome and we can move forward in the face of adversity. If I hadn’t have fought for my business in all the ways I did this past year, if I had have accepted online rejection, I would not have been able to connect with you all in the way that I did. I will be forever grateful despite all of the difficulty I faced.
So thank you. For your love. For your unwavering support. For your hearts.
For the community you’ve helped to build. I will talk about this for the rest of my days.
Remember to chase those dreams; we’ll talk more later.
To be continued...