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A passion for fashion

20th Rhagfyr 2019

by Richard Jinman

Senior Creative Editor

A fashion project is giving young unemployed women a chance to make it in the fashion industry thanks to National Lottery Players

“I love the freedom of working for myself and not necessarily having to follow trends.”

Nadine

Trying to make it in the fashion industry is a tall order at the best of times, but for Nadine Makeida Davis the hurdles seemed insurmountable. The young mother had been shaken by the loss of several relatives to cancer and was struggling to adjust after moving to a new flat in Hackney, London, with Cameron, her son. The idea of spending a portion of her limited income on a fledgling fashion business filled her with anxiety and a sense of dread.

“I knew I wanted to do something in fashion, but I was scared because of past experiences where I’d put a lot of money into things and they hadn’t worked out,” says the 27-year-old. “And having a young child I felt a bit guilty about spending money on my ambitions. I really felt overwhelmed by everything that was going on.”

Nadine, a naturally shy person, says it took all her strength to enrol in You Make It, a scheme that empowers young, unemployed women with the confidence, skills, experiences and contacts they need to realise their passions and pursue their goals. But two years down the track, she is delighted that she did. Having secured a data project management apprenticeship at Hackney Council she has stable employment and a springboard to a future career. And she is still satisfying her creative instincts by making bespoke outfits in the studio she has set up at home.

“The home studio means I don’t have to worry about renting out a space or paying for extra child care,” says Nadine whose clients range from young rappers to people looking for something special to wear to a wedding. “I love the freedom of working for myself and not necessarily having to follow trends.”

“Even though I was shy there were ways for me to push myself and force myself into environments where I wasn’t 100 per cent comfortable. But I also learned to be comfortable with who I am.”

Nadine

The six months Nadine spent with You Make It were transformative she says. She was assigned a mentor who fully understood the challenges she was facing because he had faced many of the same issues. “Chris is a black man who’s in marketing and has had amazing jobs in that field,” she says. “He helped me to stop putting limiting beliefs on myself. I managed to put them to one side and although they may still pop up now and then I realise that if I limit myself I’m not going to make anything happen.”

Nadine also gained a new perspective on her shyness. One of the guest speakers who spoke to her You Make It cohort – a group of about 25 young women - was the head of a charity who explained that you don’t need to be “loud and fierce” to be a leader. “She was so gentle – a quiet light,” says Nadine. “She explained you can be powerful in your own way.

“Even though I was shy there were ways for me to push myself and force myself into environments where I wasn’t 100 per cent comfortable. But I also learned to be comfortable with who I am.”

You Make It was set up in 2011 by Asma Shah. She was partly inspired by her late mother, an immigrant from Pakistan, who raised a family on her own by working hard to build a career in education.


Asma went to university and held management roles within the creative and cultural industries. But, as “a woman of colour who clearly didn’t possess the class confidence and entitlement of my peers”, she says she never felt entirely at home.

“These experiences combined with seeing the impact of gentrification in the East End made me want to make a change,” she says. “I designed You Make It to provide other young women from similar backgrounds the chance to access all the confidence, skills, networks, knowledge and experiences needed to realise their passions and pursue their goals. I want all women, regardless of background, to have access to the same opportunities to lead happy, independent and fulfilled lives.”

“It means we are able to change the lives of hundreds more women based in East London through our direct programmes.”

Asma Shah

You Make It was given a major boost in 2015 when it was awarded £309,807 by The National Lottery Community Fund to support its work in the London boroughs of Hackney and Tower Hamlets. Since The National Lottery’s first draw took place on 19 November 1994, more than £40 billion has been raised for good causes in the areas of arts, sport, heritage and community.

“Funding from The National Lottery is crucial,” says Asma. “It means we are able to change the lives of hundreds more women based in East London through our direct programmes.”

The women who enrol on one of You Make It’s six-month programmes are assigned a mentor and attend lectures and workshops run by prominent guest speakers. Work placements are assigned according to the women’s interests and once the six months is up they can keep developing by attending alumni masterclasses.

But the key to the scheme’s success is its focus on self-esteem, self-awareness and mental wellbeing, says Asma. “This approach is critical as we work with women who not only have to get ahead work wise, but who also have a range of personal issues to overcome, including a lack of confidence, self-worth and struggles relating to depression often linked to previously undisclosed abuse, trauma and neglect.”

Nadine says You Make It helped her realise that there are no shortcuts to success. “I came to see that it’s about coping and realising that life isn’t just being horrible to you – it’s happening to everyone in their own way. I learned to let go of that sense of entitlement; that idea that ‘I’m a good person, so why are things so difficult?”

She says she also found Asma an inspiration. “From the moment I met her she didn’t let me play small or use my shyness as an excuse to not do things,” she says. “And she gave us an understanding that anything we want we can make happen, but if we allow ourselves to use shyness or a lack of resources as an excuse we’re setting ourselves up to fail.”

Loved this story? You can read more inspirational stories around the National Lottery’s 25th Birthday by clicking here