woman looking at outfit behind the door
Fashion is a personal love of mine and I am blessed to have turned it into an actual career – I have been running a humble blogshop site for the past two years. But I will be giving it all up… and for good reason: I have manipulated and deceived customers, and even my loved ones, for the sake of vanity and pride!

Since my junior college days, I’ve been obsessed with fashion and one of my dreams was to open up my own shop selling clothes. A few years ago, I saved enough to call quits on my two-decades-long banking career and dove into opening a web shop.

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Running my own business was tough, but what I felt was truly confidence-crushing was the fact that I had begun late, in both the blogshop fashion industry, and in life – I was four years past the big “Four-O” back then. Would my taste in clothes resonate with the typical younger set of online shoppers?

Luckily, I had the support of my loved ones. I started my family early – I married my college sweetheart Sam* right after university and had my only daughter Shi-Ann* when I was 25. Both of them knew of my love for fashion, and spent their precious time helping me, be it unpacking new merchandise, keeping inventory, or just giving me lots of love, hugs and back rubs.

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For the first four months, sales was terrible. But I dug my heels in – I was determined to make it work no matter the cost. Then in the sixth month, sales suddenly shot up. The salvation to my flagging business was Shi-Ann! I had posted a photo of her wearing my blogshop’s floral dress on my store’s Instagram and the dress got sold out within two days. It was the first time I had posted someone wearing a product and it worked. All I needed was a model!

Unfortunately, I was in the red and had little money to hire a professional model. What made matters more complicated: Judging from the comments on Instagram, people had assumed Shi-Ann was not just a model, but also the owner of the blogshop.

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But what was worse: Shi-Ann was not into fashion. My daughter may be pretty and popular, but she was bookish and disliked social media. I had not told her about using her photo… and knowing her personality, I would have had an easier time parting the sea than convincing her to be my store’s model and a possible influencer.

For the sake of keeping my business afloat, I did the next best thing: I pretended to be Shi-Ann. While I did not outright identify as Shi-Ann on my Instagram, I did post more personable comments online and engaged followers actively in a friendly tone. In my mind, I was merely assuming a virtual persona.
To get Shi-Ann to model for more of my clothes, I would guilt-trip her into agreeing by declaring that they were “business investments” funding her university education. I would fuss about taking well-put-together shots of her, claiming that they were for the online family album. I would then upload these pictures on the store’s Instagram account without either informing her or tagging anyone. This became my weekly routine, and my secret business formula for nearly a year.

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Earlier this year, on the night of Shi-Ann’s 21st birthday, Sam spoke to me just before we slept. He revealed our only daughter’s wish: That after she has graduated from her business course, she wanted to officially get involved with my “fledgling fashion enterprise and turn it into a credible fashion empire”. Shi-Ann had wanted to repay her “mumpreneur role model” for sacrificing a successful career to find balance for her two loves: Fashion and her daughter.

I slept little that night, guilt-stricken with the idea that Shi-Ann must have known about what was going on – how could she have not? She may be averse to social media but she was not uninformed. Shi-Ann must have just not said anything because she wanted to ease my difficulties. And I had used
my daughter without thought and with little respect.

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In these past few months, I have been working on winding down my online shop. I told Shi-Ann to chase her own dream as her own girl boss even as I closed the door on mine. I am yet unsure what I will be doing next in the future, but I know that whatever ambition I or Shi-Ann chooses to pursue, we will always have each other’s back.

*Names changed to protect privacy.

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