What advice would you give your 18 year old self? It’s my favourite question that I always ask successful people. And I posed it again to fashion industry leaders at today’s CAFA (Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards) Fashion and Retail Forum. Their answers won’t surprise you but they will remind you of those essential elements of success.

I'm with Byron and Dexter Peart of Want Les Essentiels

Twins and co-founders of Want Les Essentiels (a high-end luxury label and retailer of accessories), Byron and Dexter Peart have a similar approach to life and business. “Stick to your passion,” Byron would tell his 18 year old self. The brothers were determined to be the first luxury fashion brand to source their production in Africa. While they couldn’t fulfill that mission, they remain committed to the idea … and continue to pursue it. Dexter touched on the inherent fear that we all have in going after what we really want. He would tell his 18 year old self to be fearless, and to meet and manage those fears at an early age. “In the next ten years, we want to be even more fearless in our business approach.” Up next for the twins is a new store in the Lawrence Park neighbourhood of Toronto.

I interviewed Dax Dasilva, founder and CEO of Lightspeed

Dax Dasilva is the creative mind behind Lightspeed, a cloud-based commerce platform used by more than 45,000 customers worldwide. While he came from a Vancouver-based family of designers and artists, he describes himself as a “geeky nerd” kid. He learned to code very early but valued his liberal arts education at university. It gave him a balanced start to his career – an appreciation of arts and culture with sharp business skills – that has made him one of Canada’s most successful entrepeneurs. And he’s also the founder of Never Apart, a cultural non-profit showcase housed in Lightspeed’s former offices. I’m guessing he’d be giving that geeky 18 year old a little pat on the back. 

Jeanne Beker interviewed Edward Menicheschi

With publishing companies such as Conde Nast (Vogue and Vanity Fair) and Fairchild Fashion Media on his resume, Edward Menicheschi has had a long impressive career. “Don’t second guess yourself” would be his advice to his 18 year old self. He knew at 9 that he would move to New York, and was the only kid, he laughs, in a hundred mile radius of his Hershey Pennsylvania hometown to likely have a subscription to GQ. While he admitted there were moments of self doubt, he always worked hard for his success. “Every time you think it’s too hard, work harder,” he would tell his younger self. “It’s a crime against your life to half-ass it. If you can’t do that, give it up and go do something else.” His childhood town gave him the option of a life farming or working in a factory. Instead he left for NYC at 19. “Don’t for a second regret anything. Tell yourself – you chose this.”

I'm chatting with Anne Martin Vachon. Photo by FashionSavage

Anne Martin Vachon is the President of The Shopping Channel, one of Canada’s best kept secrets – it’s one of the country’s top retailers. Anne has an impressive background in the beauty business (Procter & Gamble, Bath & Body Works, Lise Watier Cosmetiques) plus fashion (Nordstrom) so I was eager to hear her advice. 

“Find your passion,” Anne would tell herself – and her two adult children. “Do something you love so much that you will find excellence.” And I appreciate her second piece of wisdom. “Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Learn from them, don’t repeat them, and just move on. Life is short.”

Byron and Dexter Peart with Edward Menicheschi

Today’s forum was packed with terrific speakers from companies as diverse as Ssense to The Shopping Channel. It was an excellent opportunity to network and share ideas with industry experts. I’m looking forward to the next one. Bravo to the team at CAFA! For more information, follow them @cafawards on social media.