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Article: Meet Our Muse: Jessica Capalbo

Meet Our Muse: Jessica Capalbo

Meet JESSICA, rock climbing vet turned self-taught pattern drafter and grading instructor who trusted her intuition to carve her own path during a challenging time in her life. Jessica has a voracious desire for learning, a keen eye for detail and a passion for empowering others to do the same. It's no surprise she's a muse of Mary's and will likely be a muse of yours too.

MY: You were in the rock climbing industry before, which is pretty amazing because that is a very different industry than where you are now. How did you transition or did you also know you were interested in fashion and sustainable fashion?

JC: I always knew that I was interested in opening a business. I decided when I was seven years old that I was going to open a rock climbing gym. I stepped foot into a climbing gym and that’s when I decided that’s what I wanted to do. I pursued that all the way through college, I got a degree in sports management and a minor in entrepreneurial studies and I worked my way up through the climbing industry. And then I eventually got burnt out in the climbing industry as one might, and it was kind of all happening around the beginning of covid. I was laid off from my job, like many of us were, and very early on, probably two weeks in one of the employees I was managing at the time unfortunately passed away in a tragic rock climbing accident. So I needed something to take my mind off the stress of the world and what was going on with my employees who I no longer had real, in person contact with, so we couldn't be sad together and it was a very weird time of life. And so I learned how to sew, and it very quickly and naturally turned into a full time job. I ended up eventually transitioning back into the climbing industry, getting my job back there four months after we had been laid off, because that was the timeline we were on in Nevada at the time. And it was really hard because everyone was going through the worst time of their life and I was managing these people but I was also going through a hard time and I didn’t feel equipped to deal with people who were going through life crises while I was also going through that. And so eventually I let go of working in the climbing industry and I was making clothes for people full time and it was great and dandy for that time of life, it probably lasted for a year before I moved to Southern California. And when I moved, I was like, okay there is no possible way that with my own two hands I can make enough garments to sustain his new cost of living, which was probably about three times more than where I was previously living. I thought, how do I monetize making clothes for myself and that’s what I did. I started learning how to design patterns, I took a course, I learned pattern making and grading from a technical standpoint and then I transitioned those skills into creating sewing patterns and ya, that’s what it turned into. And now I actually teach pattern making and grading to students. 

MY: Oh so you've come from being the student to being the teacher within a very short amount of time. 

JC: Ya, I actually took the course about a year ago. And now I’m teaching it. 

MY: That’s amazing! I can definitely relate to the working while going through your own crisis and the existential crisis of all of us in the 2020/2021 timeframe of life while managing other people, there is so much weight that people don’t understand when you have to care for people but you are also trying to care for yourself. How were you able to identify that you couldn;t show up for other people and yourself at the same time? To find the confidence to step out? I think a lot of people have been at a fork in the road and don’t know how to make that decision. 

JC: For me I was very, very invested in the climbing industry not only as my job but also as my passion. I used to climb a ton and it got to the point where showing up to work was so emotionally exhausting that I couldn't stay there any longer than I needed to, which actually meant I was no longer rock climbing. And so my relationship with climbing was pretty much destroyed at that point in time, I wasn’t going to the gym and after having been isolated for such a long time from people in general, I didn’t know what was responsible and so that meant that  my partner and I were no longer climbing outside either. So it very quickly went from loving rock climbing and doing it very, very frequently to being so emotionally drained in my workplace that I couldn’t show up for myself in this thing that I love. It was pretty easy for me to be like this isn’t going well, I need to do something differently and fortunately sewing was the perfect time, because people on social media saw that I was sewing and that I could make things and pretty early on, they were like ‘oh my gosh that jacket is really cool, would you be able to make me one?’ And I just lost my job so I was like, yes, definitely pay me to make you something. It kind of naturally and quickly turned into making money from it and it got to a point where I was like I can actually make enough money from this to sustain my cost of living and I know that work isn’t feeling healthy anymore and it’s straining my own relationship with climbing so I’m going to move on from it. 

MY: I think it’s great to be able to recognize when you have love for something and that love is no longer there, there does need to be a change. And sometimes it can be a temporary change or sometimes it is a whole life shift and you move into a different industry but it’s being able to recognize that it’s not filling you up anymore. And it’s that whole conversation that if it’s not adding, it’s subtracting. So clearly sewing became the thing that was adding joy and creativity and excitement. Had you ever sewn before? How did this even come about? 

JC: I knew how to function a sewing machine but I really didn’t have any sewing skills. And I had watched some YouTube videos and kind of learned and ran with it. I like to dive head first into things, especially if I’m excited about them. So pretty early on I decided I was going to sew a pair of jeans so I bought a jeans pattern and did the thing. And it's funny because in hindsight if I had been surrounded by other sewing people or even online seeing people ew, I would have quickly recognized that sewing a pair of jeans is like “hard”. 

MY: Ya, it’s usually not the starter project. 

JC: But I didn’t know any better so I just decided to try because I wanted to and I think that’s part of the reason that I gained the skills quickly. I just started doing the things that I wanted to do regardless of if other people thought they were hard or not. And here I am today, I went full force into and I absolutely loved it and I ran with it. 

MY: It is a big testament to if you're passionate about it, it doesn't matter how much time you’re going to have to invest, how “hard” it is. I think a lot of times we overthink things even if our passion is there, we overthink and we can talk ourselves out of doing something. And like you said, if you were surrounded by people from the industry you would’ve heard over and over, “oh no no, jeans and denim itself is hard, this isn’t where you should start. You should start with a pillowcase.” It always starts with a pillowcase when you learn to sew. I think there is so much power in doing the hard things first and just going for it because not only are you going to prove to yourself that you can do what you want to do, what you set yourself up to do but you can also prove to yourself that you can do hard things. And especially going through a tough season of life, reminding yourself that you have the ability to do hard things also empowers you to maybe build a whole business and not just sew things for yourself and friends but actually build an entire program. So you’re not teaching, what does this look like now being a teacher of pattern drafting? 

JC: It’s so amazing because I’ve learned so much since beginning my pattern making journey and turning it into a business and starting to make money from my patterns. Now I’m in a place that I’m successful in that, so I can share that with other people and help them get their businesses off the ground and also, find their passion and their love for making clothes for themselves and also for people of all different bodies. It’s really beautiful and rewarding. For me the mentorship aspect of helping people whether that's learning how to pattern make or grade or starting their business, helping them in their life which is really, really cool and super rewarding. 

MY: Ya, you’re empowering other people to create a life that they're happy with like you’ve been able to do for yourself. I think a lot of people overlook that as an entrepreneur that not only are you creating a business for yourself that can support your lifestyle, to give you that income and also enjoyment, a career that you enjoy, but as entrepreneurs we also have the ability to cause a bigger ripple effect and empower other people to see that in themselves and it doesn’t mean that every entrepreneur has to be the next glossier or next eight figure business. A lot of times being an entrepreneur is carving your own path even if it’s one degree away from what a traditional career would look like. So for you to be able to recognize that and pour back into other people I think says a lot about who you are which I think is really beautiful. 

JC: Ya, it’s a beautiful and fulfilling journey that I’m lucky to be on. 

MY: Also following your gut too. I’m sure you’ve probably had to learn how to tune into your intuition a bit more and trust yourself and not be distracted by the noise of what other people say, especially as an entrepreneur there is always someone to tell you what you should do and how you should do it. It’s about how you can refocus back on yourself. Do you have any practices you do that helps you stay aligned with what your core values or mission is? 

JC: Not anything that would be traditional I don’t think. I think it’s funny because a lot of people will say ‘I could never be an entrepreneur, it’s not in me’ and for me I feel like it’s always been in me. I have no problem taking risks and I think that’s because I feel, I guess, I’m an adult who is capable and I know that if my business stopped doing well tomorrow I could go get a job at whatever or anywhere that’s going to pay me enough money to continue existing and living. Whether that’s pivoting my business or moving onto something else that I want to do. I give myself credit for being able to do hard things and get through hard times of life. Not everyone likes to live in a lifestyle that’s not super stable, but for me, choosing to live in a life that might not be as stable as other peoples lives with traditional jobs it also gives me this flexibility to grow exponentially for myself and for also to be able to pour into other people. 

MY: I really love the fact you’re able to give yourself credit because I know that’s something, even as an entrepreneur myself, and as someone who's been through hard times I definitely struggle with being able to give myself credit for getting to where I am. I think that’s when the ego comes into play, like my ego will be like ‘no no it either happened that way, it wasn’t even you’ or it’s ‘I’m so talented, I did all of these things’ and it’s about being able to recognize those things. You chose the harder path, you chose to learn something that you had never been introduced to through a traditional education stream, you chose that education, you showed up everyday to learn yourself and you do deserve credit for that. As women, more so than anyone else, we find it hard to recognize those things in ourselves or even speak about that. To have the voice to say I did a good job, or I did that hard thing and I showed up and I was my best self or I committed to something and I made it through and I think that's such a beautiful thing that you’re able to recognize and speak to and give yourself credit because it’s the only going to keep propelling you forward too. 

JC: Thank you. I appreciate the kind words. 

MY: I’m personally very inspired by that. I’m like, I can give myself a little bit of credit too. When you see it in other people you are able to see it in yourself. When you see other people recognize their skills and not downplay what they’re skilled at, it’s a beautiful thing. You shouldn’t have to downplay what you’re good at. 

JC: By embracing it you’re able to help other people find that confidence in themselves too and it's a very amazing and cool thing to do.

MY: I don’t remember when this was, but it was the humble brag post people were talking about years ago that’s like, ‘oh I got nominated for blah blah’, when it’s not a humble brag it’s about recognizing your hard work has arrived somewhere. You have recognition for your hard work and as humans we all desire recognition. Fun fact, we like an employer that tells us you’re doing a good job and when you’re an entrepreneur no one really tells you that you're doing a good job. 

JC: Your bank account certainly isn’t either. 

MY: Your bank account is not the place you go to look at to confirm you’re on the right path. Obviously you’ll get messages from people or you’ll see your sales have an uptick for a certain pattern, so you’re like okay so this was a good one, but you don’t have someone who is constantly reassuring you that you’re on the right path so you really do have to be that voice for yourself so I’m sure like anyone there are days that it’s easy and days that it’s not so easy. It can be fun navigating those ups and downs… fun is a kind word. 

Speaking of the ego, because our self love club intention for this month is overcoming the ego. I can imagine for you going into a space and an industry that you chose to do at a later stage in life, just because you didn’t go to post secondary for it, how did you overcome any maybe doubts or thoughts that probably came from your ego that said “I can’t do this, this isn’t what I’m skilled at”. Did you have any of those thoughts? Or you were just on it… your ego was like “girl, you got this”. 

JC: I felt pretty confident from the beginning that everything is learnable and if I want to learn it and I work really hard at it then I’m capable. 

MY: I think a lot of people, even in this conversation around ego, some people deal with it more than others and it might be in only one area of your life. It may not be clear.

JC: Actually I definitely deal with that in rock climbing, especially these days because like I said, there was a significant portion of my life, probably fifteen years, where I was really, really dedicated to rock climbing, climbing consistently, and I was quite good at it. I have competed around the nation for rock climbing and then I went through that really long period of my relationship with climbing being difficult and even to this day I have a really hard time showing up in the gym and being not as skilled as I used to be and being okay with that. I think that every session is a little bit different but sometimes it’s really, really hard, sometimes I will not be able to do a rock climb that I feel like I should be capable of because I used to be capable of it and I’ll leave the gym in tears. I think it’s part of this roller coaster that I have to go through with my relationship with climbing but recognizing that that absolutely is an ego thing, it's me looking at my former self and being like, ‘wow you used to be good and now you’re not’. And I don’t think that’s the case, I’m just in a different place of life now and I have different priorities, I’m prioritizing my business over rock climbing and that’s okay and maybe in the future it’ll be flip flopped and I’ll be able to prioritize rock climbing again like I used to. And maybe it won’t and that’ll be okay too. I actually deal with that very consistently and it’s funny that in that aspect of life and not in other aspects of life. 

MY: It is important to be able to recognize that it’s not going to be every aspect of your life. The thought of even comparing yourself to your previous self, is something I’ve struggled with, even running a business I’ll be like, ‘well two years ago we were selling at this wholesale account or we did this collaboration and what do I have to show this year’ and it’s like, well that was two years. That’s not now and that’s okay and understanding that like you said there are different seasons and your priorities are elsewhere and you’re growing other things. Just being okay with it. 

JC: And your previous accomplishments do not take away your accomplishments from today and other people's accomplishments don;t take away from your accomplishments. I have to constantly remind myself of that, especially with climbing, the fact that I’m continuing to show up to the climbing gym and try hard, that is an accomplishment and I should give myself credit for that, I deserve that. 

MY: And that goes back to what you said before, give credit where credit is due. You are still showing up even when it’s hard, even if it's not going to be perfect or it’s not going to be what it used to be, you’re still showing up for something that you’ve had a healthy relationship with and you’re making it healthy in a new way now. Ok, if you had to give someone who's starting a whole new career path advice what would it be?

JC: You have to trust your intuition. Trust that you have the skills and if you don’t currently have the skills you are capable of learning the skills. I think a lot of people get stuck really early on because they’re turning their wheels about something that maybe they aren’t equipped to do yet but everything is learnable. You can go onto YouTube, you can also network and meet people and tell people ‘hey I look up to, can you give me advice on this thing I’m having a hard time with.’ Continuing to pursue the thing that you want to do without getting in your own way is the only way, I think that you’ll move forward and be really successful.

Jessica wears the Eden Bra in Scarlet and Beckett Bra in Slate. She styles the Nalini Bodysuit with her Black Skirt here.

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