#ThePowerOf18 : GAËLE VALBRUN
From Montreal Strangers to Italian Besties
Once upon a time, lived two girls in the wonderful city of Montreal, Quebec who were intrigued and curious to explore the luxury side of the fashion industry. Although both girls pursued their education in fields far off from traditional aspiring fashion managers -one being in engineering and the other in information technology, they somehow both believed that their rigorous education would eventually lead them to obtaining their own access pass to the luxury industry in an unconventional manner. While both these girls' lives never seem to coincide in Montreal, little did they know that they were destined to meet across the Atlantic Ocean...
April 1st, 2019 was a life changing date for both Gaële and I. It was the date that I moved to Florence and Gaële moved to Milan, two girls from Montreal, who choose to risk everything to follow their dreams for their invaluable Made In Italy certification. But at the time, Gaële and I had never heard of each other at all.
Prior to moving to Italy, I participated in a wonderful mentorship program in Montreal, called MENTORO, co-founded by one of my good friends Sandra Abi-Rashed. This unbelievable program connects professionals (mentors) with young generation (mentees) over a cup of coffee. The coincidence in all this was that both Gaële and I joined this mentorship program to gain insight from accredited professionals from the luxury sector on how to navigate and grow within the industry. We were two girls living in Montreal, participating in this program with a very similar agenda... which is the reason we believe we were destined to meet.
When I moved to Florence, Italy last year, I received a phone call from Sandra who encouraged me to connect with Gaële, a young woman from Montreal, who participated in MENTORO. In fact, she was currently living in Milan to pursue her master’s degree at Bocconi University in Luxury Business (while I pursued the same degree at Polimoda in Florence). What a crazy coincidence! Upon reaching out to my friend Sandra for advice on something I was going through, Gaële's name once again came up and she recommended I contact her to get advice in regards to this. Even though I didn’t know Gaële at all, I was opened to reaching out to her based on the fact that I had heard that we have so much in common. I remember when I called her and what I thought would be a 10-minute conversation turned into a conversation of over 2 hours. We instantly bonded! Reaching out to Gaële for advice was in fact a way to break the ice which was the beginning of a very honest, genuine, exciting and supportive friendship. Even though I was talking to someone I had never met, her kind advice, willingness to help and positive support truly marked me.
For months we stayed in touch over the phone because our rigorous schedules never permitted us to venture out to visit the other. I am so glad that it turned out this way because the first time we met in person, turned out to be by far the most memorable experience in Italy for the both of us! This was when I visited Gaële in Milan to attend Milan Fashion Week! What a crazy adventure it was! We were two girls who left the comfort of our own home, to venture out across the world to follow our dreams. Attending Milan Fashion Week for us was like a precious symbol and reward of all of our hard work and our desire to succeed in the most lusted-after industries in one of the most important fashion capitals in the world!
Gaële is the most positive, assiduous and intelligent individual I know. I feel so humble and honored to have been able to share this instrumental adventure in our lives. From the moment we met, we had a special bond that was deeper than being able to relate to one another based on where we came from and where we are destined to go. Our bond is unique in that we have become sisters who are honest and respect one another, lift each other in difficult times, challenge one another to always be the best versions of ourselves (and occasionally, well back each other laugh, but that’s besides the point :P ).
This past year, Gaële and I have been able to understand many of the challenges that we each endured while living abroad because of the language barrier, culture and atmosphere in Italy in comparison to what comes as second nature to us back in Montreal. However, these hurdles haven’t impeded us from finding and achieving our own success in Italy. In fact, it’s encouraged us to continue striving in achieving our dreams, even more! And now that we have each other, we both agree that anything is possible if you work hard at it and surround yourself with people who have a similar objective to you!
Timing is everything
People come into your life for a purpose, Gaële referred to Mel Robbins' quote, “People come into your life for a lifetime, a reason, a season.”
Being outside of your comfort zone sometimes allows you to connect with individuals from the same city or country you lived in, in a meaningful manner
The lifestyle between Montreal VS Milan & Florence is so different
Tips on how to connect with like-minded individuals in a foreign city or country
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Image above: Sofia, actor Dylan Sprouse, Gaële Valbrun and me at the Salvatore Ferragamo Spring 2020 Ready-To-Wear in Milan.