Corinne Monique Long
Corinne Monique Long has been sketching and sewing since she was a little girl. In her graduating year of her degree in Clothing and Textiles from the University of Alberta, she was featured in Edmonton Fashion Week. This led her to the Paris American Academy, where during her stay in Paris, she worked as a backstage assistant for Elie Saab. Corinne has worked as a design assistant for many Canadian as well as American designers, including Greta Constantine. Corinne debuted the launch of her eponymous fashion label, Corinne Monique, at the 2013 New York Fashion Week. She was invited to showcase her entire line in a European debut at Salone della Moda in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. She designs for the strong, confident woman, choosing clean, feminine lines to enhance the female form.
In the fall of 2014, Corinne moved to her mother’s hometown of Saint John, New Brunswick. This led her to founding Canvas & Cocktails, now Create over Cocktails, Canada’s most sophisticated create and sip company. Besides freelancing, Corinne is devoted full-time to running Create over Cocktails, both as an artist and host - managing the company's rapid expansion throughout Atlantic Canada and beyond. Corinne loves assisting others find their inner artist and nurture a sometimes-neglected creative side. She herself has overcome a lifelong fear of public speaking through working for Create over Cocktails and has continued to learn far more than she ever imagined in managing the start-up business. Having an entrepreneurial spirit, she loves being her own boss and she considers herself lucky to have been able to create something out of necessity, which she’s turned into something sustainable enabling her to work towards her dreams alongside her partner. Corinne is currently working on a few art and design projects, including the expansion and re-launch of her clothing line, which are set to release soon!
To read more about Corinne’s background, check her out here.
My story is definitely one of impossibilities and un-likelihoods. I sometimes wonder how it happened the way it did or at all. I grew up out west on the prairies and was parented by a single mother. I didn't have any connections or funding, save what my mother and aunt could spare me or what I raised myself through some pretty unconventional means.
Yet, I've traveled all over the world, realized my dream of being a fashion designer and illustrator, been featured internationally on runways and magazines, met the true love of my life, and started a surprisingly insanely successful, scalable business in Saint John, New Brunswick, of all places! I am pretty much the definition of unconventional. My most important driving factor has been to follow my dreams and stay true to myself, no matter what. I don't say this lightly - there has been a multitude of sacrifices and 'mistakes' made and even more actual blood (an anecdote for another day), sweat, and tears shed along my path and it's nowhere near the end. I've lost myself more than a couple times along the way and had to do the difficult work of rediscovering, and sometimes accepting, myself again. Whenever I veered from my focus on my passion and my true self and instead turned to society's idea of (financial) success is when I veered away from happiness. After everything, however naive or crazy it may seem, I really do still believe that an unrelenting faith in yourself will draw success, in all its forms, to you. I hope you can take some inspiration and understanding from my journey and find humour and wisdom in life's constant twists and turns.
What are you most proud of professionally? And who or why?
I find it hard to take pride in myself, but a couple of experiences do allow me to pat myself on the back. The first is being invited to show my clothing line at New York Fashion Week...twice...as well as in Cairo, Rotterdam, Tobago, & Virginia. The second experience is creating a successful company, Create over Cocktails (formerly Canvas & Cocktails) with my business and life partner, Nasiyr McGill. We really made it out of nothing. Times were desperate and we needed a way to be able to stay together and survive. And that's what we did. I'm also proud of the experience itself - it hasn't been easy but I'm still here.
What's your vision for Atlantic Canada in 10 years? What’s our biggest opportunity now?
I think Atlantic Canada's biggest opportunity lies in its unsaturated markets. Unlike big urban centers, like Toronto, Montreal, & Vancouver, Atlantic Canada offers a lot of untapped potential. You can be a big fish in a little pond here without the worry of too many predators. It's a lot easier to stand out here than it was when I was living in Toronto and New York where you're constantly battling to even be seen.
What was your greatest stage of growth? What made it a shift for you?
For design, I think a lot of personal growth launched my professional success. What I'm finding with Create over Cocktails is that the professional growth we experienced, at a relentless, break-neck speed, was/is being followed by a time of intense personal growth - a growth spurt accompanied by growing pains. I'm continuing to learn a lot about myself, limits, boundaries, trust, acceptance, values, self-worth. There have been more than a few tough times and hard lessons. But I don't think we can ever stop growing really, even if sometimes we want to. Especially not if we are aiming for greatness.
What's your deepest learning from this past year? How did/will you apply it?
I think the lesson that cut the deepest was learning to trust myself rather than others and to do what's right for me no matter what. Sometimes it's really hard to listen to your heart instead of everyone else's head. Everyone, from customers to advisors, will have opinions of what's best for you. But only you can know the answer. They don't have your dream so you can't expect them to fully understand your vision or the need and drive to achieve it.
Who's inspired you, directly or indirectly? How have they inspired you?
I have many of the usual lofty inspiring figures, designers and artists and great thinkers. I think a lot of my own courage comes from seeing the women in my small, tight-knit family do brave things. My mother, sister, and aunt have traveled all over the world most times by themselves, alone, as I have. They've taken chances on themselves and their dreams and encourage me to do the same. Even my nana's fiestiness inspires my own. Another inspiration is my late friend and true mentor, Jeanette (Cookie) Cooke-Dabney. She was a beautiful model and a beautiful soul. She believed in me and encouraged my dreams and happiness. Lastly, my partner, Nasiyr, continually inspires me with his love of life, grateful heart, and belief in himself, us, and the future. He is my biggest fan and encourages me every day to believe in myself.
What would you have done differently?
Haha SO many things! I used to say I wouldn't change a thing for the world but, for whatever reason, that has changed. It's true that I'm who I am today because of my past but if I could go back in time and give myself a cheat sheet I definitely would! I would have done a lot of things with Create over Cocktails differently that would have made some lessons easier. But hey, that's why they're lessons, right? Mostly I would have listened to that little voice inside me more and acted on it. Everyone from society to our parents tend to hush that little voice so it's important to make time and space to really hear it and move in inspired action when you hear your message.
What were your priorities and how did they help you overcome some of the struggles you've faced? What motivated you to make the choices you've made? What are the principles you live by?
My top priority with Create over Cocktails was always the customer. From the first event, they made me face and overcome my long-standing fear of public speaking and at every event since, if I'm totally honest - it gets better but the nerves never go away completely. I stay up all hours of the day and night creating new paintings and crafts, working on the website and social media pages, returning messages and emails and calls, booking weekdays and weekends alike, carefully selecting members to add to the creative and hosting teams, traveling to and contacting venues, traveling for events and private parties, brainstorming and testing new ideas, all for the sake of a better experience for our customer. They motivate me to continue when I feel like I can't. More recently, I've been refocusing on my personal priorities and goals. Create over Cocktails was always created with the purpose of financially fuelling our true passions, fashion design and, for Nasiyr, writing, acting and directing. It's funny that in such tough creative fields we're able to find success in something which, for everyone else, is so creative. The struggle I'm faced with now is the possible choice that has to be made between continuing to put everything I have into this company or returning to my roots and trying again to find a viable way to live my dream and be the most authentic me I can be. I feel like that is the greater gift to not only yourself but to society as well.
How have you recovered from fractured professional relationships? What uncomfortable truths have you learned about yourself in those experiences)?
I've dealt with a surprising amount of backstabbing and broken promises since starting Create over Cocktails, unfortunately, either fueled by jealousy or greed. We've had to deal with breached and broken contracts, vicious rumours, and lost friendships. I've had to do a lot of soul searching to determine and accept my accountability for a lot of things that happened. I wasn't always able to set the best boundaries and limits for myself, to protect myself and others. I haven't always said the right thing at the right time. But I've learned to forgive myself as well as others. Letting go and moving on, especially if a friendship or any type of admiration was involved, has been and still is really difficult. But so very necessary for both professional and personal growth.
Designer, artist, small business owner, entrepreneur, feminist, advocate, visionary, beach comber, foodie, cocktail mixer (& sampler), film buff, avid reader, musician, party planner, dancer, shoe-aholic