Today I’m retiring… again…sort of! It sounds complicated but its not, I had 2 jobs! I started my own company Keisha Productions 25 years ago after I was hired to produce fashion events, including the one I end on today, Bridal Fantasy! I was also offered a full time career in marketing about 5 years after I started my company. I worked as a Director of Marketing for a couple of malls and retired from that full time work 5 years ago this June. Today, I am retiring from the first event I was hired for that started Keisha Productions and my whole self employed path in the local fashion scene.
Retired life is so amazing and I highly recommend it. I think it was a lot easier for me to give up working full time, with a couple of contracts for my company left to keep me busy a couple weeks of the year.
I really had little stress about what I was going to do! For the first few years, I just got caught up on my sleep! I rested a whole lot and didn’t commit to anything new. I did try to connect more with family and friends, who in hindsight were often prioritized behind work! As the last 5 years flew by in my retirement, I added a few more projects, but all just for fun and all just for me (and Tim)! No more official work other than these last few Keisha Production contracts…until today!
Today I end what was an amazing part of my past work life. It all started innocently enough with a conversation I had with the lady assigned as my dresser for a fashion show. That show I was modelling in, fell apart badly when the “coordinator” who was also modelling in the show, stood backstage to yell at all the models. She couldn’t understand how we called ourselves models and what a piece of shit this was because of our unprofessional behaviour! Um, not true, but okay! I told my dresser Georgina that this was completely insane and just crap to yell at us like that. I kind of flippantly mentioned to her that she’s crazy and I could do better than she had done. Georgina told me that if I would like to coordinate the fashion show she’d tell the Derks and I said..yeah…please do! The Derks called a few days later to ask if I was serious, I said I was, and they asked how much would I charge and I told them and they said, hmmm, that’s more than we’ve ever paid anyone and I said…you’ve never had a John Chwyl fashion show! 25 years ago, Gay and Darrell Derk offered me the Bridal Fantasy fashion show and it changed the path my career would take.
I’m not really sure where that confidence to answer them like that came from. I consider myself a bit shy and definitely not that ego driven. Days later, I was worried that I might, just might, be in over my head! Although I had modelled for a few years, I had never put together a show – from scratch and certainly not one with the profile Bridal Fantasy had. I was a bit nervous but also pretty pumped to create something entertaining and committed to make my fashion show different than had been done to this point. I knew one thing for sure. I had inherited the family gene that enabled me to work my butt off, commit and always end up with a GOOD job even if we’d never done it before. Thank you mom and dad! My parents who are first generation Canadians knew that no matter what you do, don’t be afraid of work. Plain and simple. If you worked hard, put all your energy and effort into what you did, you will do good and from that be successful.
With that as my foundation and together with an impressive team that included family and friends, we created some of the most amazing shows that had been featured locally. Bridal Fantasy grew, the themes were even more fantastical, the staging got massive and complicated.
There was a time, at its peak, when in one show we had 5 different entrance/exits on stage and off with side platforms to showcase gowns. 30 models (with dressers) and 12 dancers using the stage and floor to entertain and highlight 100’s of bridal fashions. A crew of 10 backstage staff as floor directors, backstage managers, callers. A professional crew for audio, video and lighting with Broadway show quality.
A whole lot of people to put together a fashion show that would-be seen by nearly four thousand people in one day!
We did good work and it would never have been possible without the commitment of each and every one of these people to do the best we could for our retailers and our audience we were charged with entertaining.
In so many ways, Bridal Fantasy was the first step to a very busy and successful Keisha Productions. The company I started at its peak was producing up to 60 fashion shows in a year.
I was hosting a fashion trend segment – I on Fashion on Global that latest 18 years. I was giving presentations on wardrobe planning, working as a stylist on photo shoots, and had a job in marketing planning campaigns, events and creative!
It was pretty darn busy and I would never had made it without the Keisha Girls (Mona and Pat) and the support and encouragement of an amazing life partner!
We worked hard and we were pretty darn good at what we did…if I do say so myself! To each and every one of these partners I say THANK YOU for your support and for sharing your professional talents and more importantly for the incredible friendships I’ve made as a result.
Today’s retirement is certainly bitter sweet for me!
I won’t have to worry about what I will do now…I figured that out the last time I retired. Today and every day I will celebrate all of the incredible shows and events we produced! I will remember with fondness and warmth all the people I have had the pleasure of working with.
It was tough, stressful, exhausting, maddening, frustrating…but more importantly …it was fulfilling, unbelievably exciting, wonderfully creative and a truly blessed opportunity so few people have a chance to experience. I feel so complete and so proud of this part of my life. With that, I close the book, my show binder, on this chapter of my life…Keisha Productions is now officially wrapped!
The wisdom of 59! (cuz I’m older, you learn things…)
As I approach 60 I take a little time to reflect on what I’ve learnt in the first 59. One thing I learned for sure is that you MUST be fair and good to everyone. Seems so basic, but I can’t tell you the number of times you run into people on your journey again and again. I was always amazed at the number of people who would totally ignore the Keisha Girls if I was there, thinking that if they were just nice to ME, they’d get more. What they unfortunately didn’t realize is that we talked to each other all the time and I knew who treated them like their workers rather than my partners!
6 thoughts on “And that’s a wrap…again!”
Congratulations John! Saw you farewell on the news tonight and pleased to read your recap. You have done amazing work and have earned this time to enjoy life all the time. Stay in touch, my friend!
Thank you Bernie…I was looking through pictures for the blog and ran across a whole lot of Sandra’s roast and there you were! It made me smile! We still owe us our coffee/wine chat…soon!
Yesterday’s shows were the perfect end to a fabulous 25 years!
To be in amongst the back stage energy was the favourite part of my January’s for most of your Bridal Fantasy years. Oh the memories!!
I was lucky enough to enjoy front stage too and take in the magic of the shows.
Another phase of the Keisha Girls has come to an end. It was my absolute pleasure to be a side kick and I thank you from the bottom of my heart, for making me a part of it all.
Much love always,
Mona aka Kid xoxo
Its been an amazing journey we got to share together…and I would not have had it any other way! Love and hugs!
Congratulations John, what a journey! Enjoy the next chapter.
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