Your stories—Jacqueline Gueye

Meet Jacqueline Gueye—teacher, designer, business owner, UniSuper member and now working mum.

I’ve been teaching for 10 years now, mostly in academic university teaching, or in an academic setting for students where English is their second language and they need to build up their skills to go to English-speaking universities.

I taught in four different countries—Russia, South Korea, Vietnam and Turkey. Then after about seven years I came back home and started doing the same job here.

There are often things you don’t really think about—or realise you need to be cautious or wary of—until you’re teaching in another country. In Vietnam, for example, I found that when I was teaching at university level, we had to push ideas like critical thinking into our university preparation courses because the students would otherwise be going on to study university degrees without that basic core of critical thinking.

It’s not really part of their education system as much as it is in ours, whereas Russia and Turkey have that kind of critical thinking background already.

With each country I taught in, I became more confident in myself and my teaching ability. Vietnam stands out to me because I love clothes and I was in a country and financial position where I could get a lot of my own clothes made.

When I was back in Australia and teaching at a university, I decided to start my own clothing business. I already knew how to design patterns and sew, but didn’t have the patience or the technical skills to make things at a level I was happy with—or certainly not at a level that I wanted to sell to other people. Vietnam gave me the chance to experiment with style. And really, the tailors there can make anything you ask, so obviously you can ask for really insane stuff!

My business focusses on independent slow fashion. It emphasises fit and quality, but also tries to cater to a wide sizing range—8 to 20. We have an online shop, so a typical day for me involves processing orders on the website and packing up those orders to post, plus photography and product descriptions. I also check in with my business partner about how everything’s going in Vietnam. So it’s quite a lot of administration!

One of the main things our customers say is that they really like the fit and the quality of our clothing. But also just the quirkiness of it comes up a lot.

I’m very grateful that technology exists because without it, my business would be insanely hard. I love it because I have freedom to work when I want to and I can continue teaching at the same time. And I love it because I love designing and selling clothes. When a customer gives me good feedback, it’s a good feeling.

Having just become a working mum, I’ve realised you have to have incredible time management. Unfortunately with babies, time management doesn’t always work!

My ideal retirement would probably be quite similar to my parents’ retirement now—spending a lot of time doing hobbies, looking after grandkids and going on lots of overseas trips.

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