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Elizabeth Wellington: Our aspirations haven't changed, but COVID-19 has made us redefine how we get there

By Elizabeth Wellington, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Fashion Daily News

PHILADELPHIA — There was a time when Ontario Armstrong's dreams were as clear as the windowpane print on the pocket squares that defined his Philly-based haberdashery brand, Armstrong & Wilson.

"I had aspirations of major success," said Armstrong who cofounded Armstrong & Wilson 10 years ago. "My dream to the finish line included a multimillion-dollar men's accessories brand and a flagship store."

Then the pandemic hit. Travel stopped. Fabric stores closed. Factories halted production. People stopped shopping. And the department and specialty stores that carried Armstrong & Wilson — including Nordstrom — closed dozens of doors.

"Prior to COVID, I only had one journey," said Armstrong, whose ultimate goal is still retail success. "Now my vision for myself isn't as one-dimensional as it used to be. I had to change my dream, rethink who I was. I now have a different vision for myself."

COVID-19 didn't just take the lives of our loved ones. It's changed how we think about our future. We still want to live our best lives, but now many of us have to rethink our paths to getting there. Our aspirations or ultimate goals still include joy, happiness, contentment, being the best at what we do and living a full life. But the careers, the jobs, the education, the paths we take to get there are forever changed.

For many, that's crippling. The coronavirus has crushed our spirits as we are left wondering: Who are we now? Why should we go on? Is there anything even left to aspire to with so much uncertainty in the world?


The one thing that we can be certain of, however, is that there will be a future on the other side. And if we live to see it, we have to be prepared for it. So while our long-term goals of finding happiness will likely remain the same, it's important that we really start working on how we get there.

The most tenacious of us have already started. Syreeta Scott, owner of the salon Duafe, still wants to be at the top of the natural hair-care game. But now her post-COVID-19 dream includes investing and developing real estate. She bought the North Philly building where her salon is housed and is committed to providing fair housing for her tenants. "My dreams for myself now include activism," said the 45-year-old entrepreneur.

Erin Wallace, 42, still has designs on being a prodigious restaurateur. But her company, which owns Devil's Den in South Philadelphia, is turning away from being so event-focused. Instead, her dreams include mentoring other women business owners.

And Wick Vipond, a vice president at the Philly-based advertising agency The Perception, still wants to take over the branding world. However, this 40-year-old dad's path to happiness now includes spending more time with his kids.


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