Susan Langdon is the Executive Director of the Toronto Fashion Incubator (TFI), the world's first fashion incubator. What does that mean you ask? Formed in 1987, TFI is a non-profit organization that helps to nurture budding Canadian fashion design talent to launch their careers and businesses. Susan has been leading the daily operation and management of TFI, its programs, fundraising and development for more than 20 years. Needless to say many noted fashion designers and brands in the country, such as David Dixon and Smythe, got their start thanks to the help and support her and TFI. If there ever was an official Olympic torch bearer for the Canadian fashion industry she would be the one who would carry it from coast to coast without breaking a sweat or heel during the trek. Read on and find out Susan’s secrets to success, happiness and life.
Astrological sign: Capricorn
Your runway walk song would be: “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor
High heels or flats: heels
Mac and cheese or macaroons: I'm Canadian, so it has to be mac and cheese.
When did you realize that working in the fashion industry was a career you wanted to pursue?
I've loved fashion my entire life, probably because both of my parents were involved in the industry and I was exposed to many beautiful clothes. But it wasn't until my grade 10 home economics teacher, Vera Taylor, who taught me how to pattern make and create original designs that I knew I wanted to go into fashion.
You’ve helped mentor many Canadian designers over the years, who were the people that motivated you growing up?
The world was such a different place when I was an emerging designer. People in the industry were much more secretive and cut throat so mentoring was very rare. As mentioned above, Vera Taylor was a huge influence in my youth as she nurtured my talent and gave me the confidence to pursue a career in fashion. My parents motivated me in a different way; they told me that if I wanted to go to Ryerson University I had to get a summer job and earn my tuition. I paid for my entire post-secondary education on my own and it proved to me that if you want something bad enough you'll work hard for it.
When dealing with professional or personal obstacles, how do you overcome them?
Life is a heartache; always was, always will be. That's the story of my life, so you've asked the right person for advice. After the initial shock of Plan A not working out, I start working on Plan B. There's always a Plan B and even a Plan C, D, E, etc., if you want to survive.
How do you define success?
Defining success is so personal and subjective. To me it means being recognized, applauded and respected for your work. It means feeling proud when you see someone you've helped win awards or receive a standing ovation. It means being at a level financially where you can donate and give to causes you support. Success is also finding your niche, knowing what you're good at and loving what you do.
Finish this sentence: I want women around the world to ___________.
Be educated and empowered! You can be the catalyst for change and for a better world.
What are three things in your wardrobe that you cannot live without?
I cannot live without an interesting black jacket with character, a statement evening coat and a bold necklace; all Canadian of course.
If you could create a recipe for happiness, what would it contain and why?
- Sugar – because we all need sweetness in our lives
- Salt – to give some flavour
- Cayenne pepper – for some added spice
- Unlimited amounts of good health
- Unlimited amounts of love
- Lots of close friends
- 1 job that you love – because if you love what you do, it will never feel like work
- 2 or more kittens – just because
Name a famous person (celebrity or historical figure) you would like to do brunch with and why?
I would have loved to do brunch with former Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau. He was brilliant, a bit of a bad boy who had style, charm and led the kind of life I will never know. I would love to hear about his date with Babs (aka: Barbra Streisand). Where did they dine, what did they wear, and what did they chat about? I'd ask him a million questions about his early life and how he became who he was. I feel he would have been my perfect mentor.