MEET THE MAKER SERIES: SAM
“At first I just had to keep going, I was on survival mode. Then I made a conscious decision to be happy. I’m so lucky that I got out and survived.”
This week I spoke with our Senior Cutter, Sam. We laughed and we cried. Get the tissues ready; this one’s a tear-jerker.
How did you end up working in the fashion industry?
Horticulture is my trade, but people don’t garden up here like they do in Sydney and Melbourne. So when I moved to the Gold Coast it wasn’t so simple to find work. My friend’s company needed someone to print and cut fabric on his press so he offered me a traineeship. Back then, we were screen printing on a large table using enormous, heat-treated paper and heat-sensitive inks. We used a different screen for every colour. Now everyone just uses digital printers.
What did you love about it?
When I started working for this company, the owner had a small factory in Burleigh. He was an excellent boss because he gave me tasks that I thought I could never complete, which meant I was constantly learning and growing. I loved that he used to say, “Don’t come to me with a problem, come to me with a solution.” It forced me to learn.
What’s been your most fascinating role?
I worked for a printed leggings company. The culture was amazing and the founder was an enigmatic character. He involved every person in every part of the process from start to finish. It was the best way to learn on the job and it felt so inclusive, like we were all part of something bigger than ourselves. He had an enormous passion for Australian-made fashion, so we felt nurtured and needed. It turned out to be the largest leggings company in Australia.
What is the oddest job you’ve ever had?
I made stubby coolers and bar runners. I did everything from graphic design, printing, cutting, sewing and dispatching. It was an all-encompassing role, so I was able to learn a lot, but there was very little support and a lacklustre company culture. My boss resembled Mr Burns from The Simpsons, inside and out!
What do you love about working at The Love of…
One of the best things about working here is that I know that I’m valued and appreciated. That’s a high priority for me. I feel like everyone’s got my back, and our managers really care about how we feel on any given day. That’s such a rare gem. When they ask how are you, they really want to know how you are. I am so grateful for that.
Can you tell us about your childhood?
I was raised by my mother who was left by her husband with three young daughters. My father was abusive, violent and aggressive towards her. After he left, she had several marriages that were all violent. She was a stunning woman who attracted the wrong men. From the age of 11, I was the daughter who rang the police all the time. I never thought I’d end up in the same boat myself.
What was your first relationship like?
He was my soulmate and still is, hands down. But after I fell pregnant with our daughter, he became addicted to heroin. I had to leave him for the sake of my daughter’s future. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, leaving the person I loved while I was still pregnant. He was a good man who made the wrong choices.
What happened after that?
One of my male friends lost his best friend in a road accident, so I became very empathetic and spent some time consoling him. I had deliberately avoided him for years because he had been violent with previous girlfriends. He sent me roses but I continued to avoid him. Eventually, he started to get through to me and we dated.
Was he ever violent with you?
Yes. The first time he was violent was when my daughter was five weeks old. I didn’t want to dance with him at his sister’s wedding because I wasn’t drinking and I wanted to go home to my baby. He became aggressive and when we got home he was physically abusive. Before that, he had spent months destroying my confidence, and breaking me down bit by bit. Otherwise I would have called the police. But he had ruined me first from the inside.
Were there other times?
Many. On one particular night I had blood all down the front of my dressing gown. I lived in fear. I never knew which version of him was coming home from work. Don’t cook spaghetti for dinner – that will get you beaten up.
People could hear the abuse but no one ever came to help. If you ever hear domestic violence near your home, I beg you, call the police. Even if she says she’s ok, just call.
On another occasion, he kicked me in the ribs and broke two of them. He still thinks he did nothing wrong. The last time he beat me, before I left him, was because I’d accepted an extra day of work at my job without asking for his permission. He dragged me all the way down the concrete stairs. It went on for hours.
In eight years he was physically abusive over 200 times.
How did you escape this nightmare?
I kept a knife on the kitchen bench after that. I made sure someone else was always home – he wouldn’t touch me if someone else was there. I didn’t speak for four months. I started collecting my clothes and the kids’ clothes in baskets so he didn’t know that I was packing to leave.
I’m lost for words. How did you survive this?
At first I just had to keep going, I was on survival mode. Then I made a conscious decision to be happy. I’m so lucky that I got out and survived. If I hadn’t been through all of this, then I wouldn’t be me. The cracks in us are what we need to let the light shine through. Life can suck but life can be so good too. I notice the small things; even the sun on a cloudy day makes me stop and be grateful.
What are your plans for the future?
I don’t know what my fairy tale would look like – I’ll have to see when it comes. Because of all the restrictions I’ve had in my life, I like to go with the flow and walk through doors as they open. I try to say yes to every opportunity because I follow the path the universe puts before me. Maybe I’m just spiritual being who is having a human experience. So I’m going to make the most of every blessed, miraculous, amazing moment that I am here.
ABOUT THE “MEET THE MAKERS” SERIES
“Who Made My Clothes?” is a question we have all been asking since the devastating Rana Plaza incident in 2013. We now know the dangers of industrial chemicals on the environment, and the severely unsafe working conditions behind the mainstream fashion system. It’s an arduous process to shift a billion people into realising the impact that the industrial revolution is having on the planet and our people, but we’ve shifted our thinking before and we can do it again.
Click here to meet our other makers, who pattern-make, cut and sew each garment right here in Burleigh, Queensland. Their stories are hilarious, ridiculous, beautiful, heart-felt, honest. We are asking them ALL the questions.
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To learn more about the heart-breaking reality of mass production, watch this video.