I’m Jennifer Ziliotto Durand and I’m 48. I grew up in Toronto but knew that the world was big and I was eager to move along. While in New York, I met my husband, Bruno, who is French and we lived in Paris for a few years. Then Bruno wanted to live in New York and we tried but it didn’t work so we moved to Toronto. Our time in Toronto was really fun. I am a fashion designer and we opened up a store together. We worked together for many years and after we figured out how to not micromanage each other, it was great. At the same time, we started our family. Our kids always saw us working as a family and that was positive in a lot of ways.
Through the store, I built up this amazing loyal clientele base of women and it became a sisterhood. We talked about how we were dealing with all these stages of life. I think that’s what women are really good at. And it was a beautiful take away from my career. I think it’s important for women to have a place to do that.
What would you say has been the biggest shift in your life since turning 40?
There have been a lot of shifts.
When we were around 43 years old, Bruno wanted to go back into the restaurant business and focus on his own dreams. It was really healthy and good for both of us. I found I was able to stand on my own two feet and that felt great. My career did actually quite well and his took off as well.
Another shift happened when my mom died and that’s been really hard and challenging. It’s a transition of life that I share with those that have also gone through it and that’s a beautiful thing.
Bruno was curious about the hotel business and working in the Caribbean. He was dreaming about leaving Toronto and changing careers. That coincided with our kids getting older, we were able to start thinking about ourselves and our dreams a little more. Then Bruno got an opportunity to move to Montreal to work in the hotel business. I closed my store, we sold the house, bought a new one in Montreal and moved. Everything shifted. I thought so who am I now? It’s been a real time of growth.
Before I closed the store, I knew and I had to figure out an exit plan and I asked all these amazing women who I met — and that’s another thing about midlife there are all these amazing women in our corner — they advised me “don’t give up your clientele”. I had to get quiet to know what my voice was and how I could serve them. So I started doing these curated looks online and for sale. Fashion is something that a lot of women don’t want to have to think about. They want guidance from someone they trust. Most of my clients are midlife and beyond and I wasn’t sure that an online solution would work for them but it is. I’m really focused on helping women of all ages feel sexy and comfortable because then they feel good and beauty comes from the inside out.
Moving to Montreal has also been great for our family. We’ve been really happy here. My kids grew up in a francophone environment in the summers when we went back to France, so they are comfortable with the language. And, we eat so well here with all the delicious bread and cheese!
I will say, it was hard to close the store and sell the house and buy a new one in Montreal. It took its toll on me physically because I don’t have the stamina that I had when I was 20.
When do you feel you are most powerful?
I feel most powerful when I am exercising. I was boxing in Toronto though I haven’t done it yet in Montreal. When I’m pushing myself a little bit and I’m in the zone. I think it’s really important to exercise.
What are the top 3 most important things to you right now?
- My family
- Expressing myself creatively, whether through cooking or setting a nice table. Having a little bit of me time and that’s a change because when they are babies you don’t get that.
- Spirituality — I have become more spiritual, dealing with death has made me look at my own mortality and aging differently. I want to own my wrinkles.
How do you make sure your actions are aligned with what’s most important to you?
I think that’s a lifelong struggle for everyone always. You have to have integrity. You have to think, what I put out comes back.
What seeds are you planting today for the future?
I was just thinking about literally planting seeds and about how I need to redo my garden and plant vegetables!
Figurative seeds include starting a new chapter in my career, building a new life in Montreal which includes friendships, career, family (I have teenagers here and I didn’t in Toronto). And my husband has a new career path in the hotel. It’s been fun.
What advice would you give someone who is interested in redesigning midlife?
You have to really go with your feeling and say yes this is the right time and trust the process and not be afraid. Don’t fall into the “would have, could have, should have” tendency and just stay in the present. I think age helps us settle into being present and enjoying life more. I often hear older women saying “I don’t care what anyone thinks”. When you’re redesigning midlife that’s where you’re heading [getting to a point where you’ve designed a life you love rather than one people expect of you].