“The dream is free. The hustle is sold separately.”
Such was Dominique Levesque’s mindset when, despite already owning two highly successful bridal boutiques in Ottawa-Gatineau, she decided to go back to school and enroll in Toronto Film School’s Online Designing for Fashion Diploma.
“My dream is to design my own line of wedding gowns, but to do that, I knew I needed to update my skills,” said Levesque, who previously graduated from Richard Robinson Fashion Design Academy in Ottawa.
“Things in the industry have changed quite a bit since the ’90s when I went to design school. Back then, we didn’t use Photoshop, and we didn’t use any kind of online software or design programs at all.”
Now in her fifth term of the two-year program, Levesque said her online studies thus far – which have included courses ranging from Sketching and Patternmaking, to Digital Design and Trend Forecasting – have proven the confidence boost she needed after a nearly 20-year design hiatus.
“I haven’t actively practiced patternmaking and that kind of stuff for quite some time, so it was really great to just take that plunge. Taking these classes has really helped me gain the confidence to go ahead and dive back in,” she said, noting that she began to veer away from designing shortly after opening her first Dominique Levesque Bridal shop in Gatineau in April 2000.
“When I started retailing bridal gowns, I got really hooked on it. I really, really love the process of helping ladies who are looking for their wedding gowns and prom dresses, because it’s such a happy moment in their lives…but there wasn’t much of a market for custom gowns, so I started designing less and less.”
After finding her passion for design reignited after stumbling across an ad for Toronto Film School’s Designing for Fashion Diploma in 2018, Levesque said she was likewise enthralled to learn that she could take the program online.
“I love the fact that it’s online. I don’t think I would be able to do it otherwise, because my career is full time,” said Levesque, whose work has earned her several awards and accolades, including being named one of Ottawa’s Forty under 40, as well as an Ottawa Wedding Award for women’s bridal fashions, and the Tsirmpa Award recognizing her community involvement in a variety of charities.
Levesque said that while finding that initial balance between work and school took some discipline and planning, she’s now settled into her studies and “quite enjoying it.”
“We always say we don’t have enough time, but you can find time for the things you want. I want to go back to designing, so I’m finding the time,” she said, noting that her ultimate post-graduation goal is to wholesale her own line of wedding gowns.
“You always have to put in the work in the back end. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it.”