You Want to Go into Production
Starting off can you give an overview of how you got to where you are today?
Yeah, so when I was at Saint Martin's I was in the fashion communication and promotion course, but I didn’t enter it with an awareness of fashion. Which sounds strange, but I was advised the course when I was in foundation year. I actually wanted to do fine art and specialize in photography, but my professor told me, "You just won't do any work." I am not very good at self-motivation, I need targets, I need deadlines. So he was like, "You'll spend 3 years doing nothing. You need to do a course that's much more, almost vocational, really concentrating on one thing." I'd never considered fashion before, so that was quite a turning point. But I did start taking photos during the course, so when I left, I was a photographer. I took pictures, I got commissioned...
Yeah, I saw you got published by Dazed before you started working here.
Yes! So weird. It's all come full circle.
It took me a couple of years but I realized that I way preferred other people's photographs to my own, and that's not me being humble. That's just factual. I enjoyed taking pictures, and I liked the pictures that I took, but I didn't feel like they represented the aesthetic that I had in my head. So it just didn't match up for me, and it didn't satisfy me as much as a creative career should.
Then I met my now-husband who is a photographer and he just lives for it. You know what I mean? It's his entire world. He's got such an obsessive personality. He is completely addicted to it, and I was thinking, "I'm just not in that place." I’ll always love it, but I started to get those feelings like, if I did this every single day, and had to do it for money, would I love it as much? I don't know if I would.
So those were the thoughts that were going through my mind, and I was taking photographs, working in a designer boutique, which was amazing because there were so many creative people working there. One of my best friends there was a stylist, one was a set designer, Georgina Pragnell, who's doing incredibly well now. One was a pattern cutter who now works for so many amazing designers. So it was a real creative place, really interesting people to meet there. But I didn't imagine myself working there forever.
I was on Facebook during my lunch break and a friend of a friend, Chloe Kerman, who was a stylist at the time, had left Tank Magazine. I knew she had gone on to work for this new magazine that everyone was really intrigued by but no one quite knew what it was. She posted on Facebook "We are in desperate need of a producer." I thought, "Oh, maybe I could do that."
At the time, the boutique that I was working for was closing down the woman's bit so I emailed her.
I was interviewed by Garage’s managing editor at the time who's now one of my very good friends, Becky Poostchi, and she was having a dinner party at her house in France. So she was interviewing me on Skype while she was preparing for this dinner party. It gave me such a good feeling about it and I got the job. Garage completely changed my trajectory because it was something I'd never really considered. It was such an exciting project. It was a brand new magazine, and they'd never had an issue before. It was right at the beginning of their story, and it was so exciting to be a part of that.
One thing that stuck out to me is that you’ve continually participated in things that are educational and accessible for people who want to make their way in the fashion industry. So I wanted to know why you feel that’s important?
When I was at Saint Martin's, the industry felt so impenetrable, and it's not. It's like a bunch of really normal people up there who have this as their job, and this is their passion. They have a group of friends just like anyone else and boyfriends just like anyone else and problems just like anyone else. I feel really passionate about breaking that wall down, and I keep saying all we do is work really hard and want it to be great. It's as simple as that. I want to tell people who are interested or intrigued or passionate about going into this industry, that you have to work really hard and you have to know your shit. Then you'll get there.
And it's a really exciting industry to be a part of. I was speaking to a photographer this morning who just started working in fashion in the last couple of years. He said “It's so weird. One thing is so relevant, and then it's on to the next thing. That’s so exciting being able to generate those ideas so quickly and being able to satisfy all these little things that you're interested in." And he’s right; it's all relevant to fashion. You can bring all these different interests together for fashion.
Now you’re at AnOther, but I was in wondering in particular how you split your time between AnOther, AnOther Man, Digital AnOther, and Dazed Media Studio?
Laura Genninger, who was the art director for AnOther Man became creative director for AnOther at the same time I came on board. It was a lovely turning point for the magazine, I guess it was an excuse for them to think about who they were as a magazine and redefine all of those codes that make AnOther what it is.
At first, I was between digital, AnOther and AnOther Man, but how my time was split was quite interesting because the needs of each one were so different. For AnOther, we have a massive fashion team that has been here for so long. They are so creative and tight-knit and therefor have pretty precise ideas about who they want to shoot with. But the other sections of the magazine were really up for grabs. A massive portrait section in the beginning and we also have Document. All of those visual elements were something I was so passionate about and so lucky to be involved in. In short, I took care of front sections and anything that wasn't a direct fashion story.
Also building a relationship with Laura from the beginning of her story at AnOther was exciting because it was new for both of us and she really wanted to have a conversation about it.
And then on to Man, which was a bit more mixed. I’ve actually stepped away from it recently, but at the time I did a lot of research. They have a massive amount of archive imagery in the issue, so I did a lot of that for them. Alister Mackie, the creative director, would have this image, and you’d think, "Where the hell did you find that?" And you'd have to source it, find out who took that picture, the story behind the image, etc. So it was a research project, in a way. He has such a specific way of doing the magazine. He creates this scrapbook every issue, which is almost a page-for-page reference for what the atmosphere of the magazine is going to be. It's a really incredible way to work; you have to unpick those references and decide who photographically could represent that.
When I first joined AnOther, the editor for the website was still the person who started it, Laura Bradley and we went to Central Saint Martins together. It was really amazing to reconnect with someone that I studied with, and we were so in line with our aesthetic and our sensibility for imagery.
I'm so interested in the digital side for AnOther because we’re a bi-annual magazine which means the appetite is so there for our reader. Also, the things and people that we have access to are so extraordinary, but we only have a certain amount of pages in the magazine. It's really exciting to be able to extend the stories online or to engage an emerging photographer and give them a project that excites them. What's amazing about AnOther as a company, is that we're so loyal to our contributors. It doesn't feel like we're saying, "Oh. This is all we're ever going to give you, online pieces." There are so many photographers that we've commissioned for online that have graduated into being a big part of the print magazine, which is really lovely.
That's such a nice space to give people a chance to grow and to foster new talent. That must be so exciting for you, too.
Yeah, and to be able to get them in front of the whole team. It's a real excuse to show what these people can do and what they're capable of. That is what I'm ultimately so passionate about, is meeting new photographers. New photographers to me though, they could have been working for years. Finding out what defines their process and what engages them. Trying to give them projects that satisfy that for them and really excite them and get them meeting amazing people to inspire them. That's what it's really about for me.
Then Laura Bradley, who was editor of the site, went on to become editorial director for Dazed Media Studio. She's there building their identity as a creative agency. So that was my in with the commercial side of the company. Her first project, which is an ongoing thing, is doing all of the social for Miu Miu.
Oh yeah because I saw that you worked on their eyewear campaign. It was so good.
It was gorgeous, wasn’t it? I love Victoria who did that film. She brought me onboard for that, which was such an incredible thing to be a part of.
When you’re looking at the shows and more specifically how the set and location were used to further the collection, how does that affect the way that AnOther reacts editorially?
It has the biggest impression on the magazine. We basically can't even think about the magazine until the editors have come back from the shows. There might be carryovers, ideas of photographers that they want, that everyone wants to talk about, and also in terms of themes, that all comes out of the shows as well.
I also find it really interesting because I don't go to the shows. So after they come back and they’ve digested everything, I'm so interested in the stories and ideas that they've seen and seen repeated. Those threads are stitched throughout the whole issue, but it does come from a fashion perspective.
Susannah Frankel who's the editor in chief now, she’s putting a...
She's done a great job.
She's the most unbelievable person to be around on a daily basis. She's so present and so approachable, and she's put this fashion lens on everything that the magazine does now. It's really pulled it all together.
Circling back to new talent, I heard you say in one of your interviews that you become interested in a photographer that has a strong point of view and that has a certain take on the world. So I was wondering when you're looking at a new photographer's portfolio, how does that come across?
It's about someone being so dedicated to something that you can see it instantly. It's such a specific interest and this need to understand and to explore something through images. It's so important for me to meet photographers because it's so easy to have an impression of someone through their work but what I’ve realized is that you can't assume any of that stuff. You have to meet them to understand what their intentions are. Otherwise, you can never commission well because you're making up the story for them.
And they're never going to be able to give you the work that you want because you have to hire the photographer that has what you want already so that you can take it to this new level.
So Dazed Media continually uses their voice to inspire conversations that surround current affairs and to give a voice to people who are facing adversity. I was wondering from your perspective if there are specific components that a fashion editorial needs in order to successfully and tactfully portray a strong opinion on sensitive matter?
It's a genuine interest in people, and that's what Dazed particularly as a magazine does so impressively, like blows you over every time.
They engage a community of people around them, and it's authentic. I think that actually sums up Dazed completely. It's the authenticity with how they do things. It's the real life conversations.
Can you give an overview of how you got to where you are today?
Absolutely, so it kind of happened by accident. I was in my senior year at the University of Southern California, and I had a mini-freakout because I realized that so many people around me were interning and had been doing so for years now, and it wasn’t something that I had been focusing on. I was more into my classes, and to be honest, I was just making sure I passed and was doing everything I needed to do.
There was this girl I knew that was working at a photo studio and at the time I didn't realize that that was an actual job that you could have. Nor did I know too much about the business of commercial photography. So I looked online for photo studios that were in Los Angeles, and Milk Studios popped up. It looked really interesting, so I called to see if they were hiring interns and they were so we scheduled an interview for the following week.
Do you remember what your interview was like?
Yeah, I do actually. I was really nervous and didn’t know what to expect. I felt slightly out of place in such a luxurious space. The reception team had me wait in the lobby for a bit, and I watched a couple of guys from the art department bring a huge wall flat into a studio. I remember being confused because I didn’t understand what they were doing at the time.
I also had on this all black outfit. It looked like I was going to a funeral. I was wearing tights-
So kind of like right now.
So kind of like right now. All black outfit, same thing. At the time Monae was working at the front desk, and she pulled me into the cafe to sit down for an interview. She asked me what I knew about the photo industry, and at the time it wasn't that much, but I had still done enough research about MILK to hold a conversation with her. It was short and sweet, and she definitely let me know that while it's a glamorous place, what makes this machine run is a lot of hard work. I understood that coming in, and I think that's what really helped me.
Are there any stories that come to mind when you think about your time as an intern?
I was always running around as an intern. Giving models robes, hauling clothing racks in and out of studios, cleaning everything. I just remember everyone was so beautiful and I’d be running up to clients sweating in my chucks, like “Hey did you ask for this?”
When you first started college where did you think you'd be?
I was a really romantic person when I first started college. I don’t think I was thinking about a career necessarily. I really loved shooting film, developing black & white photos in the darkroom, and writing. Once I started taking more media classes, I had an idea I might work in the entertainment world.
Do you think your experience at University of Southern California prepared you for where you are today? If so, what would you say were your most valuable takeaways?
That's a good question. I majored in Communications at USC, so I really learned how to confidently express my opinion whether I had to write a paper or prepare a speech. Being able to express yourself with confidence is a big deal. If you’re confident, people receive that well. I think a lot of how you get by is just your attitude. Also, being in such a big school, you’re thrown into a completely new world with a bunch of people you’ve never met. You learn a lot about yourself and how to work with others. You’re constantly being challenged both academically and socially. It’s tough. I think it helped me be more open to critique.
So you work as a booking agent. What does your role consist of?
I work in bookings and typically when a client is looking to book a studio they touch base with my department first. The booking can come from a production company, a magazine, or even the photographer themselves. After the client chooses their studio preference, I connect them with our in-house equipment team and make sure all of their lighting and grip needs are taken care of. It is then my job to send out paperwork to the client confirming the space, so I need to secure payment, understand the legalities of our contracts, and how to approve certificates of insurance. I also help keep our internal calendar organized, take phone calls and emails from clients, and try to get a good understanding of each project to make sure that the client’s needs are met. So I’m always in conversation with our equipment, digital and retouching departments as we are often all working on the same shoots and want to be on the same page. It’s also my job to be aware of what is happening in the entertainment world from fashion to music to film. It’s a lot to keep up with!
Are you mainly speaking with producers? Who is your main point of contact?
Yes, I’d say producers are booking the studio most. These are typically large-scale photo shoots with a lot of moving parts so a client will hire a production team to take the job over. But you also have people reach out that have never booked a studio before, so it’s important to know how to help everyone whether it's a huge budget shoot or someone that's just trying to get in for their first in-studio shoot.
It sounds like a big part of your job is anticipating what’s going to happen next.
Exactly. This job is fast paced, you have to be proactive, and the answer is always yes, whenever a client is asking you for something, you need to deliver that service. So before a client comes in, I'm always thinking about all of the different things that could be happening. Who's the talent? When are they coming? How late are they going to stay here until? It’s all about making sure that they have the smoothest and the best experience here.
Since your department works directly with clients, do you have any advice for creating lasting relationships?
I think it takes time. I don't think after you speak to someone once it necessarily means that you're going to have this crazy lifelong thing. I think you just need to try to make everyone’s experience special. That can be something as small as remembering what their favorite drink is, what studio they prefer shooting in, or just remembering their name when you see them a second time. Inside jokes help too. It’s important to be personable when you can.
What excites you about your position now?
In the beginning, you understand everything in a more superficial sense. The studio itself is beautiful every day you’re seeing these well-known photographers, stylists, and talent; it can almost be overwhelming. Then once you start seeing how everything works, it becomes more interesting because you can start putting all of the pieces together. You start recognizing things like how certain creative teams work together and the different personalities and styles of each photographer. You also see people move on up in the industry. Someone might have started as someone's assistant, and now you're seeing them shoot their own stuff. I think that's really exciting.
What would you say is the most difficult aspect of your job?
Being on all of the time. I think that in production, there are long days and there's not too much room to slip; you know what I mean? Everything is on a specific schedule, and people need answers at a certain time so it can be pretty demanding.
Can you give an overview of what Milk is and the different departments that make it up?
MILK has many different divisions that include an agency, production services, an editorial platform, a makeup line… but I work specifically with their studio space in LA. MILK LA is a full-service photography and film studio with equipment rental for shoots that are both in studio and on location and digital services that include camera rental, digital capture, digital technicians and video production.
What is the company culture like?
Work hard, play hard. Everyone holds themselves to a very high standard, has a great work ethic, and on top of that knows how to be social. In LA we’re really like one big family.
What do you think makes a great intern or assistant?
Someone who has a positive attitude and is willing to work hard and ask questions, but at the right time. It’s important to be proactive and troubleshoot instead of just waiting for someone to tell you what to do next. Someone that's just willing to learn at the end of the day. I think if you have that attitude, then you're going to absorb as much information as you can whether you stay with the company or not. You become a more attractive employee in general.
And what qualities do you look for in potential hires?
Someone who is not easily discouraged and can operate in a high intensity environment. You want to feel like someone is growing within their position and can continue to take on more responsibility, so being trustworthy and reliable is also key. It has to be someone who's a hard worker, and they have to have a genuine interest, whether it's photo or in fashion or something else in the entertainment realm. Sometimes they're already doing something; they're already taking pictures on their own or styling their own little shoots. Other times, you can just tell someone wants to know a lot more about the industry and wants to completely immerse themselves into an experience. For me, passion is just as important as experience.
Do you remember any learning experiences or specific jobs that you had before this that unexpectedly prepared you for working here?
I was a receptionist at a hair salon, and it taught me how important it is to always show face. Your one-on-one interactions with clients are really important. When I was a receptionist, even if I was stressed and I was scheduling all of these different hair appointments, and someone walked in, I had to completely drop everything and just make sure I was happy to see them and greet them. It can definitely be exhausting, but in a lot of ways, my job now can be like that too.
What traits did you already have that were vital coming into this line of work?
I think that I'm a really hard worker. I also think I have a pretty good sense of humor, which can be nice when everyone can take themselves a little too seriously sometimes. It's important to have that kind of balance. Also, I'm never too good to do anything, whether it's cleaning something up or having to help reset a studio and move around furniture. I'll do it all if I know it's for the greater good of the company.
Do you think those traits developed and improved during your time working here?
Definitely. They’re more refined, and I’m more confident when speaking to people. It’s easier for me to approach people and I think I make it easier for people to approach me. When you're first learning the industry, and I'm still learning it, it's easy to be intimidated by certain situations. Like the first time, I had to deal with a commercial shoot that had three times the size of a still photo crew or when I finally had to meet the director of a magazine face to face that I had been emailing for months. Each time I’m put into an uncomfortable situation I get a little bit better at my job.
What's the best piece of advice you've ever received from one of your bosses?
Our bookings director always tells me that it’s better to confront an issue immediately even if you are nervous about the outcome. You are only causing a disservice to yourself if you try to take shortcuts to avoid handling a problem that can potentially blow up in your face later, or try to tip-toe around an uncomfortable but necessary conversation. This might mean picking up the phone instead or hiding behind an email or being completely transparent with a client even if the truth is not so flattering. You’re only as good as your word so either keep it or at least be honest about a mistake and then present a solution. “Don’t “matrix” a situation!!” This is what my boss says when someone tries to dodge responsibility. Think Neo from The Matrix dodging bullets in a backbend. This is kind of a dramatic metaphor, but our office lives for the drama.
How did you get to where you are today?
In college I worked closely with a talented photographer, Dikayl Rimmasch. He worked on lots of shoots, film and photo and we worked a bit together. One day he says, "Alex, you're organized. Can you produce this photoshoot for me?" I was excited but nervous, and in college, but took him up on the opportunity. Eventually he introduced me to film production, too.
After that, I worked for The Row, Intermix, and Escada, and from that, I realized that I wanted to be on the production side of the fashion industry. I went to college with someone who had been working at Eyesight and emailed her non-stop for an internship. The team there ended up really believing in me, and 3 years later I'm an employee and partner at the company.
Also trying out different areas of the field helped me understand what I liked and what I didn't like. By the time I got to Eyesight—my last internship—I had a strong idea of what I wanted to do.
How did you make yourself stand out at Eyesight?
I just worked hard. I don't know any other way of being besides working hard and seeing everything through to the very end, all while focusing on every detail. So from intern to assistant to where I am now, that's what I've done every day. That's really all it takes, is just hard work and smart work. Marie and Thierry also believe in sharing and meritocracy which is very rare.
Is there one experience in particular that made you grow?
Kind of. When I first started as an intern, it was a very small office. I had been interning there for 6 months when the team in New York said, "We need to hire Alex.” And Thierry believed in me, so I came on as a production coordinator. Then about one month before the SS15 shows, my 2 colleagues in New York left. One of them managed budgets and the other managed clients.
So… I had one month before Fashion Week to figure out how to manage and create the budgets while also managing and learning all of the clients, the venues, and the entire process on my own—obviously with a great daily support and help from Paris, but it was scary nonetheless. I put my head down, worked really, really, really hard, and that's where I think I really stood out. Things got easier from there, but I’m still learning every single day.
It’s the scariest positions that make you grow. And they also give you a chance to stand out. I hadn't met many of the clients yet, and having to do huge budgets was daunting, but such a fun challenge and I'm so happy I got through it.
So what’s the company culture at Eyesight?
It’s a super close-knit team. The offices in New York, Paris, and Milan have direct contact several times throughout the day. We take careful consideration to listen to each designer we work with, what they say and what they do not say. We treat each designer as they are the only one because they are so important to us. Regardless of a brand’s budget or the amount of time we’ve been working with them, each brand is, almost like family–that’s what's special about the company. We focus on every detail, even if a client wouldn’t notice. At Eyesight we take pride in our dedication, and I think that’s unique.
We all get along so well, both the New York and Paris offices. It's a real team culture. Everyone in the New York office jokes around with one another, and this is why we can be serious too. It’s just about balance. I love the people I work with and I think that's really special.
How big is the team?
We have 13 people in Paris, 5 in New York, and 2 in Milan. Having such a close-knit team has been great because I’ve gotten to know everyone really well. I enjoy spending time with the Paris office when I’m there for the shows. During Fashion Week in New York, the Paris team comes here as well, so it's like a little bit of bonding time.
How do you deal with the time difference?
With the internet, it’s almost as if there isn't a time change or a long distance between us. We make little adjustments, so we're in the office early to communicate with Paris. It also seems that Thierry never sleeps!
Paris reviews everything at night, so we get their responses first thing in the morning. It’s like we’ve developed a schedule that eliminates the time change, so we operate efficiently during the day. We have two weekly minimum Skype meetings, and we're back and forth on the phone a lot, so it's kind of like a remote office. If we have to, we’ll come work late when it’s busy. We know that we can communicate with Paris past normal office hours, too. So basically we've just found a natural way to make it work.
How would you describe your role now?
I'm partner (!!) and project director of the New York office. I oversee a lot of the business development, budgets, clients, projects, and each show or event. I also oversee day-to-day communication with the designer and the press offices (who are also very important).
What have you learned from your role so far?
I don't know if I've learned from the position, but I've learned from being at the company and working closely with Marie and Thierry, who are so knowledgeable. Regardless of how long I've been there, I still feel like I have so much to learn. Marie and Thierry are incredible to work with, and I feel honored to be a part of their team.
Do you have a favorite show or project that you’ve worked on?
It's so hard to pick because there is this special energy around every single one. We build a relationship with every designer and their team and so much work and focus goes into every one that it's hard to pick. Every event is just as exciting as the last. Some are more complicated, so they take more time, but they’re all fun and unique.
Does Eyesight work on shows and projects or…
Eyesight as a company is mainly focused on fashion shows and events while Thierry has his own separate atelier. He works on other projects such as Silencio, Versailles, etc. Thierry is also designing light for the upcoming Met exhibit for Rei Kawakubo.
That's amazing. Are you working on that?
Yes, Thierry and Eyesight. Our team is overseeing some of the technical elements.
She's one of my absolute favorite designers.
Yes, she is incredible. I was at the Comme show on Sunday, and her way of being and her creativity is unparalleled. Every show is almost a historic moment, just being there and seeing it is incredible. It's like you're somehow seeing history happen live.
How do you immerse yourself in a designer's world before the collection is released and when decisions are still being made?
So shortly after a show, first we debrief on the notes of all that we could do better, then, we begin discussions with a designer and their team about venues for the next season, as venues in New York go very fast. During these meetings, we look at the preliminary mood boards, inspiration images and emotions the designer wants to evoke, which helps us speak with the designers about the direction of the venue and the aesthetic for the upcoming season.
Each designer, each brand has his own specific world, and our goal is to be the translator, bringing this world into 3-D. As soon as the venue is decided, Thierry works on designing the set/light and Marie is with the NY team and myself overseeing that the proposed set is clearly within budget, etc.
A few days before show day, Thierry, and I go to the showroom or to the designer's studio space to see the clothes, the fabrics, and the looks so that we—especially Thierry—can understand for lighting purposes. Throughout the process visual communication is a huge factor, we’ll be sending each other inspiration images along the way so that we’re both on the same page for the set and we can better understand their ideas.
It’s so fascinating creatively to see the clothing before anyone else. I love being able to understand the client and the designer's visions, inspirations and how they created these works of art.
Also, you’re more on the artistic side of the industry than the commercial side, which is pretty cool.
Exactly, and that’s where I learned what I wanted to be by working for different fashion companies as an intern. I realized that I didn't want to be on the marketing/more commercial side of things. I wanted to be more involved creatively, or in a more organizational element like production. Even if the commercial side and marketing sides are absolutely involved in each and all of what we do.
How much time do you spend at a desk versus doing hands-on work?
I spend about 50% of my time working at the desk and then 25% going to visit venues because I help manage all venue scouting and venue proposals for our clients and our events. So I’m constantly following and visiting venues. Yesterday I visited 4 venues back-to-back. Now that it's not as busy with the shows, I spend a lot of time looking at new spaces, too. The other 25% involves meeting with clients and networking. So it’s a good mix of work because I’m not always at the office. I spend the rest of my time out and about in the city, seeing spaces and interacting with people. So it's really fun.
How do you go about finding the venues?
There are common New York venues that everyone knows, but then there are also a lot of different companies now that represent a wide range of venues. So I keep up with all of that, and then sometimes venues close, go under reconstruction or are already booked far in advance, so I have to keep up on that as well.
Do you have a favorite?
I have several…BUT I love working with Skylight Studios. I think of them because I saw them yesterday. Skylight runs the Skylight Clarkson, where they do IMG NYFW, and Skylight Modern, among other spaces. Their team is incredible—I was actually having drinks with one of the directors, Grace, yesterday. It’s all about having good relationships with people. We love working with Skylight because they're so good at what they do.
What goes into creating a show from start to finish?
Once we agree to work with someone or once we build a new relationship, it's about listening and understanding them. The aesthetic of the brand, their specificities and their vision. It also involves understanding the trajectory too, because it’s much more than just a fashion show. It has to coincide with the campaign, the store front, the brand name and so once we discuss these things and understand everything, we have to find the venue, create a budget, design the scenic lighting, and organize the backstage and all of the details. Once you find the venue, it all just happens very fast.
How do you think the lighting and the venue help editors and show attendees see the collection?
Well, they wouldn't see much of the collections if it was in the dark! We use the lighting to emphasize the clothes, to create an emotional moment for the audience, to help create a memorable experience and love for the collection. For seasons now, Thierry has also worked on changing his light design to integrate the social media needs which have become 1/3 of the target. With social media, we also have to consider how a show will be captured on an iPhone.
Do you go to any lengths in order to make sure that the collection is captured well on an iPhone?
Not any great lengths but we do take it into consideration while we’re designing the set, the lighting and the movement of the models.
How do you ensure that what you’re producing in the venue doesn't overshadow the collection?
We never decide a scenography without understanding a brand. We do not copy and paste ideas from other designers as inspiration. Each set is unique and related to the brand.
How do you all schedule the shows you work on?
The ideal way of working would be to do one show a day. But for the most part, we aim to make sure that there's a 4-hour window between each show for the backstage call because it’s important for the whole team to be on-site at each show. Imagine that Thierry focuses each lamp himself, I oversee every backstage, show space and room with Marie. No one can delegate her or his own eyes! That would be pure business and we do not see ourselves as a pure business.
Thierry still goes to every show?
Yes, for sure, he oversees each lamp, model, set and I do as well. We have to make it to the show in order to call the models, organize the backstage, run the lighting and make sure that everything is perfect for the designers. It’s a matter of being able to dedicate our full focus and attention to each client.
That’s a smart way of doing it.
Yes, and I think it's really hectic with 3 or 4 shows in one day unless the producer has a huge team where everyone is a very strong element of their force. Even though, again, your own sensibility and your own eye cannot be delegated. It's hard to dedicate your best staff to 4 different shows at the same time. Someone needs to be there to run the lighting, etc. So yes, allotting enough time is crucial and vital to us because designers work so hard for those 10 minutes and we want them to be incredible.
What does it mean to be a strong assistant?
Hard work, problem-solving, learning and listening, listening, listening, and asking questions. However, if you can easily google it, don’t ask it. So proactivity and figuring things out on your own is important and surprisingly lacking today. I think people are more dependent now. Working hard means getting your hands dirty and figuring things out on your own. I think that's becoming less and less evident in younger generations.
Which is evident for whenever I have to look for interns, it often becomes a very long, tedious process because it's hard to find good help and passionate help too, you know. It’s not enough to say, "Oh I want to work in fashion.” I like someone whose energy, dedication and an overall excitement for what we’re doing can be felt.
How has the influx of digital media affected fashion show production?
Yes, so we have to take social media into the consideration now when we’re working on lighting and sets. Some brands want a more Instagram-able set, and others want backstage elements for Instagram. The shows used to be for private, exclusive groups who got to see the collections before everyone else, but now they can be seen around the world within seconds.
That's what led to kind of the see-now, buy-now model. Everyone’s seeing the clothing right away, within seconds of a show, so it almost makes sense to start selling the clothes amidst the excitement of all the new collections.
What do you like about working in the fashion industry today?
The world is such a diverse and unique place today, from people’s cultures to their interests to their backgrounds, and I feel like fashion is finally starting to apply to every walk of life. From streetwear to, to chic womenswear, to men's suiting, and good day-to day-outfits for every moment from day to evening. Fashion today is so universal, and that’s exciting. It’s exciting to see how it’s progressing. There’s so much of it, too.
How would you like to see this industry evolve?
I think it's best when things evolve organically and naturally, so it'll be really interesting to see how this happens in the next few years and to see what this means for fashion shows, presentations, and brands. Luxury is time and successful fashion is always ahead of people’s desires and expectations.
Can you give an overview of how you got to where you are today?
Overview. Well, it's actually a story that I like to tell. I came to New York, went to Parsons, and I had this idea in my head of how things were going to happen. I was dipping my toes with different photographers; no one, necessarily, that was big or on any sort of level. Then one day, a friend of mine said, "You know, my mom has a studio in Paris and if you want to intern there as a studio assistant whilst you're visiting me, you can get some experience."
So I interned there for about two weeks as a studio assistant and I realized that things were happening every single day; from an e-commerce shoot to a fashion story, to a campaign. People were working, and the industry kept producing something new.
I ran back to New York, sophomore year, and thought, "You've seen how quick it is in Paris. You've got to start working in New York.”
Parsons has their career experience people that are supposed to help you get internships. So I sat down with this woman, and I was keen to get something but she didn't really help me. There was nothing that she could offer that was good, or even something that made me excited.
I kept looking for things, and one day one of my professors sent out an email saying Red Hook Labs was looking for interns. So I looked up Red Hook Labs on Google Maps, and was just seeing this industrial-looking spot that had the appearance of some sort of garage. I'm thinking, "What could possibly be here?" But turns out they work with some of the most sought out photographers in the industry.
I interviewed with Helena Martel Seward, who is now one of my close friends, and is an amazing producer. And it just took off from there, I was at Red Hook for about nine months. Then she left to do her own thing; she started her own company Lolly Would, and I worked there for a bit as well.
From there I went to Steven Klein as an intern. He ended up offering me a job as an in-house producer and in-house casting director. I was still in school at the time, so I said, "Let me come back to you after I graduate. Let’s see where I'm at."
I also interned for Charlotte Wales. It was the day of my graduation that Vogue offered me a job - Helena had put me in contact with some producers there two years prior. I guess that's how it all came together, when people kept recommending me based on the hard work that I was doing as an intern.
Would you recommend other young photographers invest in art school?
I benefited from the photo department at Parsons because I learned about community and what it takes to make a picture. It also allowed my craft to get better and to develop. So, I think yes, for photography and film, go to school for the resources, for the equipment. I had access to this SONY FS5 video camera which shoots 4K and that let me work for the right people. We also had these amazing flextight scanners which allowed me to really be with my film, play around with the curves, the exposure, and figure out the color.
In that respect, yeah, go to school, go to a good school that has those resources. But don't expect them to teach you everything. You have to be keen to learn. You have to go out there and teach yourself, assist, find tutorials, and advocate for yourself.
But if you're aiming to be a producer, honestly, no, I don't think you need to go to school. You need to find a production company, tell them you're keen to learn, and then go from there.
What would you say is your biggest learning experience?
Working for Steven Klein taught me that you have to really, really want it. You have to go through things that seem tough, but you have to show that you're valuable and willing to work hard. Even if that means lifting frames that weigh more than you, or are double your size. Working for Steven Klein was one of the hardest experiences because you're working for a legend and they expect people to be committed. You've gotta love what you do.
Enough to propel your career.
Yeah. And it's hard. There were days where I would be really upset, but I realized that everyone went through that. Gradually, I showed that I was valuable enough for him to want to hire me and to offer me that job.
They had to do those things as well, so they want to see that you can do it too. I always say it is survival of the fittest. They want people on their team that don't take no for an answer and that are talented. I think working for Steven made me a tougher person.
Working for Helena at Red Hook Labs, now at Lolly Would, she taught me that you can't expect for people to give you anything. You have to go in with the attitude that you have to advocate for yourself. And I think that's really important.
You have to find your way and you have to push for something if you think it's right because no one else is going to do it for you. You are your number one fan and you have to keep going. You have to see past it even though you’re thinking, “Fuck, oh shit, yeah this is really bad.” but it's all going to be worth it if you show your worth.
No matter how tedious or unnecessary tasks may seem, they were actually all really beneficial. They taught me what it is to be a photo assistant, what it means to be part of a team, what it means to be a producer, and what it means to be a director.
Now you’re an associate producer at Vogue. What's your day-to-day? I know there’s no such thing as a typical day but…
As an associate producer, or should I just say producer in general... what do I do? I am a part of the Vogue video team.
The main thing is coming up with ideas to pitch. We'll be in a meeting and think, "It's now June or July. What can we create that is relevant, and put out into the world?" So we'll come up with concepts for example, "24 Hours with," or "A Day in the Life with," or "Getting Ready with.”
Can you walk us through the initial stage of when you’re pitching ideas, all the way through post-production?
Sure. At the beginning of the month we’ll all sit down, the whole video team, and we’ll talk about the ideas that we have or targets that we would like to achieve. We create video content that we think can attract our viewers to reach our targets.
But it's also content that has to be visually beautiful, visually interesting, and there has to be a story behind it. We’ll look at what's current, who’s being talked about, if somebody's coming out with a new film or a new album. From there, we would see if they'd be interested in working with us.
For instance, June is pride month, so we just did a video with Kylie Minogue, who was headlining at Pride. We filmed her getting ready at the Crosby Street Hotel, heading out, and a few shots of her singing as well. So it's things that connect, that are current, and then we’ll bring those ideas to the table. Once we decide, we go back within our teams and start producing it.
What does that entail?
First, we'll think about who could direct it. For example, Kylie Minogue, we knew that she was someone exciting and colorful, and we needed a director who was energetic and ready to have some fun. We booked Charlie Engman; he has a great vibe about him.
We then find a videographer. We’ll find someone that is young, ready on the move, aware that we're doing something quick, and can work fast.
Then we find stylists, usually it's a fashion editor that already works at Vogue, so Alexandra Gurvitch was the fashion editor for that. We also had a tailor to make sure that the clothes fit Kylie.
It's all a collaboration. It's taking those ideas that we come up with in the boardrooms and then going back to our desks and finding the teams that can create those concepts and make these videos.
After we shoot, we’ll bring it back into our offices and we get our editors to compile it into a video. Sometimes we get directors who really want to be involved in the post-production process, so they'll come into the offices and edit with the editors. Then it goes up within four or five days.
I feel like post-production can be so underrated, when it’s actually a huge part of the creative process.
For sure. Editing is so powerful because you're piecing everything together. You're building clips that go one after the other and it all has to tie in and make sense. So finding a good editor is really difficult but Vogue has some amazing ones.
It sounds like for your job you have to really be in tune with popular culture.
Definitely. You have to be up to date with everything that's going on. You need to know who's popular at the moment and who people find interesting. You have to also be aware, for instance, this person is performing in a month so let's start thinking about them.
Is staying current and up to date on popular culture something that you were interested in before you started this job?
Yes, to a certain extent. I was always interested in knowing what was out there and who was relevant. It was definitely more of a hobby, but now it’s my job to be interested.
What do you think are the key traits that make a good producer?
So being a producer means being organized, and understanding that sometimes things go wrong. You have to think on the spot and fix it, without showing the client, or the talent, or anyone, that you're panicking. There have been situations where we've been delayed by two hours, we missed two shots, or a PA has crashed a car. You have to keep a good face, a good spirit, and you have to carry on and lead the way. I always say that producer's are playmakers. Without a good producer, you don't have a good shoot.
Also, as a producer, you have your hands in everything. I think a lot of people think that producers lack a creative role, but you guys definitely do have creative aspects to your role.
We really do, because we bring everybody together; we hand pick the team based on who we think would work well. We're also coming up with ideas, creating mood boards and concepts, and then pitching them to the client. But still, production in the fashion industry is based in logistics and organization.
Going off of that, I do think that knowing how to produce will make me better at anything that I do. My main focus is being a director and a photographer. Production makes me a better artist, because if I have a certain budget, I know I can't cross that, but I’ve learned how to share things and make it work. Then, as a director you also need to know how to talk to people about your ideas. So production really teaches you skills that I think are vital in every aspect.
Whenever I’m interviewing someone, and they’ve been on the other side of what they’re doing, I know that they’re good at their job. They’re not coming from a place with a single perspective.
It also makes you more realistic. You have this crazy concept, which, usually I do. So it’s knowing, "Well actually, renting a car for 15 people is going to cost you $200 for the day, maybe spare a $100 for gas, then as the photographer you've got to feed people so that’s another $200.” Things start adding up in your head, and you're like, "Well Talia, maybe you don't have enough money to do this now. Wait 'til two months, gather enough money, and then go for it."
As a photographer, how do you balance your time between Vogue and shooting your own projects?
That is a hard one… I think it comes down to learning how to schedule.
Put all of your efforts into your job, then set aside a couple days to focus on your own projects, but stick with it (even if something important at work comes up). It is self-discipline and I haven’t conquered it just yet, but I’m definitely working on it.
How would you like to see this industry evolve?
I'd like to see all sorts of models being represented. I'd like to see creativity being more open and allowing for different styles to come into play. I'd like to think that ideas are going to be more conceptual and more creative. I want to feel like we're making things that are almost supernatural, unrealistic, and surreal. I miss details. I miss seeing something so meticulous, structured, and so well, perfect. I'd like to see more effort being put into creating better stories, better concepts, and allowing creators to have time with what they're doing.