Ugyen Wangmo: A case study in success after Trent

Meet Ugyen: a member of the Trent alumni who first moved to Peterborough in 2004 from Bhutan. Ugyen has a Bachelor of
Science in Chemistry and Biology, but this hardly defines her. Ugyen’s passion is fashion: “that’s what completes me,” she says. She has over six years of media experience, has written over 80 pieces for Arthur and has experienced an array of different workplaces. These include being a news editor for a national newspaper in Bhutan, a stringer, an English teacher in Thailand and a radio host covering programmes on youth, education and
environment. Yet Ugyen tells me, “none of these things inspire me as much as fashion; nothing makes me as happy as that.”

Photography by Samantha Moss

Now venturing into as many creative outlets in fashion as possible, Ugyen considers herself a writer, reporter, editor, model and stylist. Her ambition is as palpable as it is inspiring. She also enjoys dancing, designing and photography. Currently Ugyen writes for Peterborough’s Wire Magazine, works with the Strutt modelling agency and is actively involved in Trent Fashion Society. Femme Feminism magazine is just one publication of many that she has been published in. She is ready to embark upon a new writing and fashion journey in Toronto. Ugyen has a need to “experience the full expanse of fashion in order to really be able to appreciate it as a whole.”

When we meet, Ugyen greets me with a radiant smile and a warm, welcoming hug. As I begin to talk to Ugyen, I quickly learn that this is someone who is driven by passion, whose outlook is optimistic but real, whose words I will learn from, and whose attitude is a model for all of us undergrads, wondering what will come next. We talk about goals, experience, happiness, writing and how Arthur has added to her life. We also laugh about this being Ugyen’s first time being the interviewee rather than the interviewer.

img_0365On life after Trent:

“After graduating, I worked as a science teacher for 3 years, that’s all I got from the science aspect of my degree. I started a Master’s in Conservation Biology and for a year I thought, you know what, I don’t think I’ll be working in Biology at all. Why am I wasting my time doing something I know I’m not going to use? Ever since, I’ve been here trying to get my feet in the fashion industry. My mum is in the
fashion industry in Bhutan, making traditional, handmade patterns and dresses. Because of this, fashion put food on the table. I respect it; it’s what completes me. When we think of fashion we think of runways or glossy editorial spreads; what we see and hear is not fashion, but just the surface. Beyond that there’s much more. It is an art, a wearable art, and it is every person’s right.”

Advice on doing what you love:

“If you have passion, you don’t need education. All it takes is hard work, persistence and drive. Writing became a part of me. I wrote one piece and it got published, so I thought, ‘I think I should do it’. I like doing it and I can do it. Then one article led to another and that’s how I got sucked into writing. Once you start, you can’t stop. I’m ready to give up everything because at the end of the day it’s all about trying to do what you really love. When you go to sleep, I want to feel happy and contented; I don’t want to have all the money and not be happy. So it’s about time I start doing what I really want to do: combining fashion and journalism. I’m not getting any younger.”
On Future Goals:

“With my passion for fashion and my love for journalism, my next plan is to bring a magazine out. A very good friend of mine, Rebecca Harrison, who is also my business partner, is teaming up with me to release Forward, a magazine of Toronto-based fashion and art. We want it to be as diverse and inclusive is possible. People want to see change. The fashion industry needs evolve for the better. We’re hoping to start in couple of months and then have the official print out once she’s finished school. I met her at Arthur while we were working on the same story; she’s hardworking, passionate, has a great worth ethic, is great with numbers and with people. What more can you ask for in a business partner? I’m really lucky and thankful to Arthur for that, for creating the situation in which I met her.”

On Arthur and influences:

“Everyone touches your life; you don’t realise it, but if you go back and try and connect the dots you’ll see that they do. You probably would never have thought that a certain person would touch you, or be really important to you, but they are. For me, I would never have thought that writing for Arthur, or working as a reporter, would bring such opportunities. If I go looking beyond that, I’ll see how significant Arthur has been. Every moment in your life has a significance that you just tend to overlook.”

img_7135On Peterborough:

“I’ve done everything I can in my capacity to pursue fashion here. It’s nice; you have your nightlife, your peaceful and relaxed days. But if you want to grow, there are limited opportunities. From modelling agencies, to fashion week, to Trent Fashion Society, to writing for the Wire Magazine, I’ve done pretty much everything I can. I got introduced to the owner of Strutt modelling agency through writing for Arthur. She got me more connected with a lot of people. I got involved in all the fashion I could. But gradually I pretty much
captured everything I could in Peterborough fashion. Then I thought; if I want to grow, I need to move. Even though I don’t want to, I have to. I just said to myself, just like that, with no plan, I have to go to Toronto, I have to do it. You know what, I’m just
going to do it.”

On Family:

“I went to a fashion show in Toronto and saw the scene there, saw how much I could write, and how many materials I could get, so I decided in that instant I was going. I knew I couldn’t speculate about
Toronto fashion from Peterborough; I knew I needed to experience it first-hand. I knew I needed to slow down and focus on this passion, take some time off and explore my creativity. So I talked to my
sister and she supported my decision. She told me “if you can do it, you should do it.” She is my best friend, my guide and she also has a passion for fashion, designing jewellery and traditional textile patterns with a modern, contemporary touch. I just needed her approval. Just the support of my mother and my sister was all I needed.”

On Success:

“For me, just to be alive is a success. At the end of the day success is not defined by anything, it’s how you look at life that makes you successful. If I want to say ‘I’m successful’, then I think I am. But then again, if you go by a definition, I’m far from it. I’m just at the bottom, just getting my feet in, just at the door getting my feet in. That’s it. But that’s not how I look at success. It’s just having the passion to do it, knowing I can do and want to do it; that’s success. I’m ridiculously optimistic. It’s really important to be positive, to have drive, passion and worth ethic. Then put it all together and success is yours. At the end of the day, when you go to sleep, if you’re not happy, you’re not successful.

When you look back on your day, you should have enjoyed it.”
Keep updated with Ugyen’s inspiring adventures where she explores fashion, photography and art at: