From Fashion To Nursing
2020.03.20Aileen Lee

From Fashion To Nursing

Alvina Leung attended one of our “Share Your Story” pop-ups, an ongoing event-series we host to connect the creatives in our community and to collect stories of the everyday woman. 

The first thing I noticed about Alvina was her smile. She walked in with a courteous demeanour, her manners reserved and polite. Yet, her smile was open, unguarded and full of warmth. She promptly introduced herself. After going through usual greetings, she revealed —

“I believe we chatted over email, roughly two years ago,” she smiled.
I flipped through my memories. Luckily, as the sole person running the brand and tending to emails, it wasn’t difficult. Alvina had asked about a jumpsuit that was sold out of her size, roughly two summers ago. Although she was unable to make the purchase, I am grateful she kept my designs in her mind all this time.

Alvina wears the Praxis Jumpsuit in caramel.

She slipped into our new Praxis Jumpsuit, a silky piece made from a luxurious sustainable modal. Instead of wrapping the fabric belt around her waist, our stylist Shirley used it as a hair tie. The lavish caramel tone gave Alvina’s black hair a pop of colour.

Alvina wears the Vim Pants in Cream.

Alvina is a registered nurse at Vancouver Coastal Health. Her current role consist of providing care for the surgical unit. Post university graduation, she has tried different fields, ranging from fashion retail to working at restaurants. The former consisted of helping her company prepare for seasonal warehouse sales, a process that unveiled how wasteful the fashion industry really was.

“I now gravitate towards second hand clothing, and shopping from brands that produce in small batches. I no longer work in fashion, but I hope that by looking for timeless pieces, I can find my own way to contribute.” Alvina said, as she examined the Hyle Blouse she just put on.

The Hyle Blouse is a piece I am quite proud of myself. It is front-back reversible, transformable into two very distinct looks. Versatility and timelessness are elements I value in a design.

Alvina wears the Hyle Blouse in cream.

Before entering nursing, Alvina also worked in research for five years.

“I specialized in bowel disease research and microbiology — nothing glamorous at all,” she chuckled as she waved her hands towards my racks of designs.

(At the time of our chat, little did we know that glamour will be the last thing we need right now. I am currently practicing social distancing at home as I write this piece. It is a small effort on my part to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic. I can’t imagine what Alvina would be doing at the moment, likely at the front lines or on standby in hospitals.)

“Why the transition from research work to nursing?” I asked, curious.

Alvina explained that she wanted to be more present, to learn by being hands on and to save lives.

What she values the most about her work is the patient interaction — and there certainly is a lot of that on the job. As a nurse, she understands that she is the initial point of contact. She must be vigilant, spend sufficient time with each patient, be there to notice slight symptoms, and become their first intervention.

I nodded and tried to fathom the hard work nurses put in.

“Coincidentally, my mother is a retired nurse,” I said to Alvina, “and she tells me a lot of stories from her work days — some ugly, but most are rewarding. What about yourself? What is the most challenging aspect of your job?” 

Alvina paused to think, and with a wistful smile she said, “I would have to say unappreciative attitudes give us the hardest time. Some individuals are prone to giving negative attitude despite nurses doing all they can to tend to their needs. I hope that others can understand that our roles are at times highly stressful, and that we too would like to be treated with respect.”

She continued, “at the end of the day, when all of us are burnt out, just two simple words  “thank you” — can mean so much.”


As the whole world move in solidarity to fight COVID-19, I hope that we keep the hardworking healthcare personnels in our thoughts and prayer. And if you get treated by one of these kind souls, don’t forget to turn around and say —

“Thank you”.


// Extra note // We reached out and asked Alvina if she has any comments regarding the COVID-19 situation. Her heeding is clear: “I can only say to follow the public health agency guidelines for now and ensure strict hand hygiene!”

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