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Shay Johnson

POSITION
Producer + Studio Coordinator
LOCATION
New York

After Shay finished her degree in psychology, she moved home with her mom for a year to save up money to come to New York. When she got here, she landed a styling and production internship at Opening Ceremony and worked her way up in the company from there.

This interview took place between Shay and Tate at her apartment in New York

TVPS: How did you get to where you are today?

SJ: I was born in Texas, raised in Atlanta. I went to a small college in South Georgia, and my major was psychology. I think I knew all along I was a creative person but I think that growing up in the south you don’t have a lot of creativity around you, so I just picked psychology. My senior year in college I was like, “Alright I’m going to follow my dream, do what I want to do” so I moved home with my mom. Saved money for a year and a half, moved to New York and then started interning at Opening Ceremony. I did a styling and production internship, and I just worked my way up. Now I’m a studio coordinator/producer there.

How would you describe the company culture?

I feel like OC’s culture is very family oriented. The culture there is more like you’re part of a family as opposed to, these are just your coworkers. To be completely honest some of my coworkers are some of the best friends that I have in life, not just at work. We hang out outside of work; we text all day on the weekends and on vacations, we’re still texting.
A lot of our employees are in their 20’s-mid 30’s which is a young company. So we party together, we work together, and yes, that’s pretty much OC’s company culture. We do a pretty good job of balancing, having fun, creating shit, working hard and putting blood, sweat, and tears into it.

“We do a pretty good job of balancing, having fun, creating shit, working hard and putting blood, sweat, and tears into it.”

So what’s your role there?

I produce our ecomm, content, and editorial shoots. We just launched our collab with Issey Miyake that was shot in Mexico. Which came out cute! I work really closely with our Photo Director, VP, Art, and Ecomm Director. Which is really cool because I have learned so much from them!!

Can you go into more detail on that?

At Opening Ceremony obviously we have our own brand, but then we also carry so many other cool/interesting brands that have to be shot for our e-comm site. We are shooting every day of the week. To flats, on-figure, and content.

That means that day to day I’m booking photographers, stylist, hair and makeup, models, and assistants. Making sure all samples that need to be shot that day are in the studio. I'll be in the back reviewing images with our photo director or photographer. Even though I’m a producer I like to think I am sometimes a photo editor, stylist, photographer not technically but our team is a team of 4. We all do a lot of things and help out where we can. Recently I have been shooting all of our casting photos. Ill sometimes model and hand model for us too! My fingers are really long, haha

“My current position did not exist before but as the needs of the company grew and things within our team changed, and the role was created for me. I saw what needed to be done on our team, so I made it happen, and that is how I am where I am today.”

So how did you land that job?

I did a styling and production internship at OC, and when it was finished they did not have any positions open on the production team, but they did have a position for office manager. So I took it knowing that my plan was to move back over to production. I helped the studio/production team out as much as I could to stay involved. I worked my way up from there. My current position did not exist before but as the needs of the company grew and things within our team changed, and the role was created for me. I saw what needed to be done on our team, so I made it happen, and that is how I am where I am today.

What have you learned from OC?

I will forever be grateful to OC for giving me a chance, and that’s just fucking real. I did not study fashion. I had no internships, no experience, no nothing and they took a chance on me.
I think that if you work your ass off for a company, especially a smaller company your potential for growth is there … I’m just going to put it like this, when you work at a bigger company if you are a merchandiser, you are just doing merchandising, but at Opening Ceremony, you have your position, but since we’re such a small team, you pick up other roles within your title and are constantly learning and growing. So a lot of it is, if you ask for it, they will give you a chance if there is an opportunity or need. Which is amazing because it makes you super well-rounded.

How do you make sure that the content that’s produced in OC is in line with the vision?

Our studio team works closely with Humberto, Art Director, and buyers. Before shooting, we sit down to brainstorm and talk about what we want to do and make sure Humberto has the sign off. I think it is amazing that he is super involved with everything that we produce and that we can reach out to him for answers. We do a lot of collaborations with brands that have their own aesthetic for example Coach. However, when you see the editorial images, there is an OC spin.

“I did not study fashion. I had no internships, no experience, no nothing, and they took a chance on me. I think that if you work your ass off for a company, especially a smaller company your potential for growth is there...”

How has OC influenced its time? That’s definitely putting you on the spot…

Hahaha, yes you are! I think as a company Opening Ceremony is not scared to push the limits and take risks. It is very all or nothing. I think you see that in our fashion shows each season. The play at the Metropolitan Opera was one of the coolest experiences I have ever had. The space is BEAUTIFUL! Also, by being one of the 1st to stock and support young emerging designers who have been LVMH Prize winners or finalist can speak for itself in how we are an influence within the industry lol.

Is it important for a retail company to have a blog?

Not necessarily. I think it’s a cool aspect to be able to go on and see. I feel when you go on company’s website, you see retail but when you have a blog you get a feel of the culture of the company, what they represent, what they’re interested in. For OC we shoot and interview musicians, studio visits with designers, etc.

I know we did a juicing series and a few cooking series, so I think it gives you a more detailed insight of what the company stands for. It makes it more relatable, but I don’t think you need to have to have a blog.

“I think as a company Opening Ceremony is not scared to push the limits and take risks. It is very all or nothing. I think you see that in our fashion shows each season.”

What intrigues you about this industry?

I think the most intriguing thing to me is, when I look at clothing, I look at it from an art perspective because you can wake up every day and just throw on a t-shirt and jeans and don’t give a shit. The way you dress reflects who you are. I love to see people who stay true to themselves, and they’re like, “This is what I like. I don’t give a fuck what you think. I’m going to rock it." It’s just that confidence that they exude and I’m like, “That’s amazing”.

I’m also drawn to designers. I’m not a designer myself but it is so interesting how people just come up with concepts, sketch them out, and then there is this beautiful piece of clothing made out fabrics. They’re pouring their heart and soul out into these designs. A person that’s so true to themselves. I think a lot of designers who are really, really talented don’t make it just because they cannot adapt to [the business commercially]. It’s sad to see because they are so talented.

Who do you look up to?

My mom! She was a teenage mother, is a breast cancer survivor, and has stood by my side since day one and encouraged me to follow my dreams. We are complete opposites, but she has this super warm spirit that I can only dream of having. She is def an angel!!

In the fashion industry, Camilla Johnson-Hill. She is a producer and casting director. I love the work that she does! She owns her own production company based out of London. Seems like a pretty cool chick! I would love to be my own boss someday.

“The way you dress reflects who you are. I love to see people who stay true to themselves, and they’re like, ‘This is what I like. I don’t give a fuck what you think. I’m going to rock it.’”

What effect is the digital world having on the fashion industry?

You see a lot of these Instagram models, trying to look like Kim Kardashian and you see a lot of-

Kill me. I deleted all of my social media.

If you have a million followers, you'll get a place on a magazine cover as opposed to a model whose well deserved, working their ass off, going to a million castings just waiting for that 1 person to say yes like, that shit is hard. I feel like there was a time when real supermodels held that place. That was their job. Now the real talent is being overshadowed by these Instagram models- It’s sad.

It’s sad for magazines because print is already going out of business, so it’s like do we put Gigi Hadid on the cover who we know is going to sell or do we put Molly Bair on the cover who might not.

Who’s fucking awesome by the way!

Incredible! She’s my favorite model. I love her look.

Me too.

A lot of things just seem so glamorous, and it’s not. I know that from working in fashion. It seemed so glamorous before you’re like, “Oh my God! I just want to do that. It looks so cool”.

You chill that day at work. You're around pretty clothes all day. This is probably what my parents think that I'm doing every day, but I'm like, no, there's hard work that goes into it, and it's not pretty. Trucking around garment bags, running around, making sure everything's good to go.

The model, when you call their agent, "Oh, the model's sick. She doesn't feel good." Oh shit, we need to move all of the other stuff. You need to get a van in two seconds and throw all this shit in here. It’s long hours that go into it. It’s interesting to talk to models, and they’re like I just ran to 20 different castings, I barely got to put on my shoes, I didn’t get to eat today. My agent's yelling at me because I’m late!

It’s interesting because you hear these model stories, but I wonder if celebrities turned models are experiencing the same thing? Probably not, they have a car waiting for them outside, and they can arrive when they want to, and it’s all chill.

“I think fashion industry can be black and white and very cold. I have seen it before. I hope that as I move along in my career, I will be that person to give people chances even with no experience. All it takes is that one person to take you under their wing.”

Do you think studying psychology had an impact on your career?

Yeah, definitely. I feel like I am who I am because I studied psychology. I think that I’m just naturally a people person. I just watch how people interact so I just get vibes how people are. I am able to approach them in a way that they will respond well to; I know how to talk to people and engage with them.

What are certain aspects of your job that you couldn’t live without? Any deal breakers?

Yeah, my deal breaker is the culture for sure. It’s just like that feeling you get when you walk in the office, and you’re like, “dude this is fucking amazing.” I like the people I work with, the environment I am in, projects we get to work on, and what the company stands for. I need that!! I need to be in a creative environment with creative, talented people.

How would you like to see this industry evolve, and how will you be part of that happening?

The industry can be super, at times, super closed off. I just think that I like to see it give more chances on people. I think a lot of times it’s just “no you’re not cool enough, no you’re not this, no you’re not that.” I think fashion industry can be black and white and very cold. I have seen it before. I hope that as I move along in my career, I will be that person to give people chances even with no experience. All it takes is that one person to take you under their wing.

“There are so many people who want to work in this industry, and it’s not going to be handed to you. If you know what you’re doing, go after it.”

Okay, so what advice can you give to a younger kid that reminds you of yourself?

Just stay true to yourself and if you want something go after it.

There are so many people who want to work in this industry, and it’s not going to be handed to you. If you know what you’re doing, go after it. Opportunities, take them. Learn as much as you can continuously because ultimately it makes you a more well rounded and better candidate.

Also don’t be scared of failure. I learned that when I move to New York. Before I was really scared and I was really scared of failure, and I was like I don’t know what if this happens, blah, blah, blah. Then I’m like you know what? Even if I do, it will be fine.

Yeah, I guess another thing I would say is I think keep in touch with the people that you meet here. I think that people who you actually click with, and vibe with you should definitely keep in touch with them. Make it a point to have a relationship with them because it’s so easy just to be like “oh it’s been six months, and I haven’t seen so and so.” Keeping up with your contacts and connections here is major. You never know when you will need them!