Some of the creative industry’s biggest and best trailblazers discussed artistry, identity and “no bullsh*t” at the Converse One Star Hotel No Filter event.
There’s no disputing it – the future of the creative industry is female. Women-led platforms such as Gal-Dem, Women Who, LAPP The Brand, The Pool, Sheerluxe and Stylist are everywhere. These bold, female voices are both changing and redefining attitudes, and inspiring others to do the same. Despite this, a report published by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) showed that white males are still dominating the industries, with women filling less than 40 per cent of jobs, and women of colour even less.
After a tumultuous past year, 2018 seems to be the time for addressing inequalities and concerns in all industries, particularly bringing difficult subjects to the forefront, and getting people to listen. Big brands are finally starting to use their status to start conversations, such as Penguin Live’s Like A Woman event, featuring authors, bloggers and social activists Chidera Eggerue AKA The Slumflower and Bethany Rutter, and Mostly Lit podcaster Raifa Rafiq. With recent events like Tate’s Tate Lates night with Gal-Dem, Women Who and numerous female-focused brands, and Gal-Dem deputy editor, Dazed columnist and Guardian writer, Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff speaking as a panellist at The London Press Club’s Do Women Have Equal Opportunities in the Media? debate, women are finally starting to get recognition they deserve.
Converse are the most recent to jump on the bandwagon, coinciding their One Star Hotel opening with London Fashion Week, with the promise of bringing together “sneaker, skate, fashion and music” through a range of experiences and events. Opening their doors on Friday 16th February for a No Filter event featuring some of fashion and music’s biggest bright new things, the panel explored originality, authenticity and DIY culture, and most of all, how to survive the industry.
Leading the panel was the unstoppable Grace Ladoja, most famous for her position as Skepta’s manager and founder of Metallic Inc. Ladoja is also known for her photography, filmmaking and brand consultancy work with high-profile brands such as Nike, Supreme and Barbie, the highs and lows of freelance working in the industry are brought to light. NY rapper Princess Nokia and upcoming Manchester artist, IAMDDB were unable to attend the talk, but help was at hand as Radio 1’s Clara Amfo stepped in as a substitute guest.
Kicking off the talk, the guests deliberated the difficulties of working and self-managing in the creative industries. Long-held problems such as coping with loneliness and feelings of self-doubt, to the recent impact of DIY culture in music and fashion, and the difficulties of maintaining identity and authenticity to one’s brand, were brought to the discussion. Fashion designer and stylist, Anna Trevelyan, was one of the first to break the stereotypes of the ‘glam’ look of working in the creative industry, particularly for freelancers.
“I feel mad lonely,” Anna disclosed. “You’re working 17/18-hour days and going back to a hotel room alone.” The fashion stylist suggested socialising with “successful women going through the same thing” as a way of combating these feelings. Fellow panellist, Warner Music A&R consultant and artist manager Radha Medar AKA Radi Dadi, echoed this, maintaining the importance of having a network and ‘people to talk to’ as a coping mechanism against the inevitable problems that arise when working in the creative industry.
“Find people going through the same things as you,” Grace reiterated her fellow panellists. “You need people you can talk to on a level.”
Social media was next on the agenda when it comes to debunking myths about working in fashion and music. Clara opened the discussion, criticising the “glamour of overworking.”
“There is a fallacy when it comes to the glamour of overworking,” Clara said. “You need to be careful of how much you’re doing. You need to take care of yourself. It’s a buzzword but self-care is important.”
The issue of maintaining authenticity whilst working for big brands was also brought to light. Clara Amfo is perhaps best known for her work as broadcaster and presenter on Radio 1’s coveted Monday to Friday 10am – 1pm slot. Following periods at Kiss FM and Radio 1 Xtra, Clara now works for the BBC, and addressed the obstacles she experiences as a women of colour in the industry. “I have to check myself constantly,” Clara said candidly. “As a black woman, I have to consider everything I do, more than my white or male counterparts.”
When quizzed about this, Amfo expanded – there’s the predicament of having to remain politically neutral when working for a company reliant on tax-payer money and the problematics of being seen as a role model. In addition to this, the inevitable backlash that comes with the territory of having a platform and the conflict of staying authentic whilst working for an established corporation are all factors that have affected how the DJ behaves in and outside of the workplace.
Grace reprised this subject when expressing her concern at having accepted an MBE, yet simultaneously battling with her own opinions. The empirical notions of the award have previously led former nominees such as Howard Gayle to refuse. In the end, she accepted the award, on the basis that she wanted young black girls to ‘see people like them getting an MBE’.
These women come from humble beginnings; Yorkshire-born menswear designer, Paria Farzaneh talked of the constant rejections she experienced. ‘Some days, I was tying client’s shoelaces,’ she says, speaking of her former job at Louis Vuitton. Now, the 23-year-old menswear designer has had her designs worn by stars such as Frank Ocean, and is featured as ‘One to Watch’ in numerous magazines such as Dazed and Hypebeast. Similarly, Birmingham-born Radha explained how everything changed after she handed in her notice at her job after getting ‘parred off’ after asking for a pay rise.
Indie label Awful Records’ ‘Darkwave Duchess’ AKA Abra, the talented singer, song-writer and producer from the US, talked about how her life too changed when she quit her job to focus on her music.
“It’s important to fully focus on your craft. When you have nothing to lose, you go in with your all,” she said. Having propelled herself into her music-making, Abra explained her process, “It’s about taking your experiences, which nobody else has, and taking what you like, and blending the two.’ Seeking inspiration from folk music, soul, trap and choir / gospel music, and ‘connecting with likewise people” stemmed creativity for the musician. Similarly, Skepta’s famous Shoreditch Shutdown is revealed to be the product of ‘connecting’, orchestrated in a WhatsApp group chat with Grace Ladoja and Radha, amongst others, showing that through collaboration, creatives thrive.
So what has catapulted these women to the top of their game? The conclusive advice was “get your voice out there.” All panellists discussed the importance of not being fearful and taking risks. There were strong opinions on the necessity of making sure not to be left behind, and how much ‘If you don’t ask, you don’t get’ rings true in the fast-paced creative industry. But whilst they addressed the significance of developing yourself as an individual, they were quick to change the concept of being selfish as a creative. Notions of “sharing strategy” and “having clear collective goals” resonated throughout, showing sisterhood is becoming the new framework for thriving in the creative industry. With these women at the helm of fashion and music, things are looking up.
Written by Mireille Harper