Friday, 15 October 2010

Q&A with Levi's Ambassadors

Earlier this week, Levi's had a launch party for a new online community they've created targeted at young creative women, with an online BETA launch scheduled for this Monday 18 October.

The aim of the site is to provide a platform for collaboration and mentoring on a global scale, with 20 female ambassadors – all twenty-somethings and trailblazers in their chosen fields – to provide webcasts, posts and take part in online discussions to inspire and help the community.
At the launch six of the ambassadors were at the Levi’s store on Regent Street for a chilled out Q&A session where they shed some light on the sacrifices and secrets behind their current success.
  • Belfast-born Kathryn Ferguson, a self-taught filmmaker whose work has premiered at institutions including the ICA and the OnedotZero and Birds Eye View film festivals. Kathryn has also been featured in the likes of Vogue and SHOWstudio
  • London-based Kristin Knox, the American author and founder of fashion blog Kristin regularly lectures in art and fashion colleges around the UK.
  • Acclaimed DJ and songwriter Ikonika, a young Londoner who is crafting her own unique musical sound with unusual hooks influenced by dubstep.
  • Art director Anna Murray, founder of design agency Patternity which specialises in the application of pattern to furniture and fashion, and textiles designer Grace Winteringham.
  • Social change campaigner Justice Williams, the youngest black woman in the UK to be awarded an MBE.

Here are some of the questions and answers that really stood out for me:

Q. If you could give your younger-self one bit of advice, what would it be?

A. Justice Williams – Try not to do everything at the same time, somebody once said to me: ‘If you focus on one thing, you can give that project 100 per cent. If you focus on two things you can only give them 50 per cent each and the more you do, you split that percentage even more.”
So I decided to forget everything else and focus on one thing at a time, I did that for four months and my magazine was born. That was one of the key things for me, sometimes you can do more than one thing at a time, but if it’s a big project try and focus in on one thing first and as it progresses build on that one thing with something else. I waited three years for a breakthrough and I could’ve done it in three months if I’d focussed.

Kristin Knox – At 21, I wasn’t happy doing what I was doing, so I would say if you were like me and unsure of what it is you want to do, put yourself out there, say yes to all the opportunities that come your way because you never know what’s going to be beyond the next collaboration.

Anna and Grace – Don’t be afraid to ask for advice, everyone has something to offer.

Kathryn Ferguson – Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, I was always looking at what other people were doing and how much better they were doing than me and doing that completely froze me, it meant that I didn’t get to create anything of my own.

Q. What’s been your biggest challenge and how have you overcome it?

A. Anna and Grace – The biggest challenge is getting started, your idea is one thing but you’ve got to be disciplined enough to make it happen, you have to be realistic and patient.
It’s taken us a year and a half to grow the business and over that time, the concept of the business has changed and developed, we had to build the brand.

Ikonika – I was trying to picture things before the internet, I was lucky enough to get signed though the internet. I had to put in the work online, use forums and be active in getting my name and my music out there.

Kristin Knox – For me the hardest thing to do is to turn a blog into a business, if you really take it seriously, blogging is a full time operation. Brands and companies want to reach out to new audiences via the web and the blogosphere, but they don’t know what the monetary value of that is just yet, it’s part of our job as bloggers to educate the brands. It’s an uphill struggle but it’s starting to change, even if you’re Susie Bubble; we all struggle.

Q. It’s amazing that there are seven female entrepreneurs on the stage yet no one has mentioned feminism. How do you feel you’re gender has shaped what you do, is it important to you, is important to your business, your customers?

A. Justice – I celebrate woman hood and I want to give back to other women and inspire them but I don’t look at it from a feminist perspective because what I’ve created is a business which serves women, but men read my magazine as well. Something they [men] can get from that is they’ll become more in tune with women’s issues and interests. I think it’s important not to shy away from the fact that we are women but I don’t consider my gender as the main thing behind my business, we’re just entrepreneurs who are passionate about what we do and we’re proud to be women.

Kristin Knox – What I think has been really great about the blogosphere is that it’s given a voice to boys who love fashion. I have lots of male friends who have fashion blogs because previously, it was something they couldn’t really engage with. Fashion such as conceptual and Avante Garde fashion – which is primarily women’s wear – women can go out and buy that stuff and rock it out, most boys couldn’t. But now boys have a platform and a voice within fashion, where they didn’t really have one before and it’s straight and gay alike.

Q. What’s the biggest sacrifice you’ve made and has it been worth it yet?

A. Kathryn – I had to take a massive cut in my earnings to pursue film but I figured would I want to do it when I’m 45? I’d rather be skint in my mid-twenties. Up until last year, I was really poor, but now I’m earning a living.

Ikonika – You have to invest in something you really believe in, I weighed it up and I quit my job for what I believed in.

Kristen Knox – It’s called the champagne and canapé diet, which means you have to make a choice and if you’d rather live off fashion than off of food, then you make sacrifices and every penny goes into maintaining your site and being able to go to places where you can get content. I save up all year so that I can go to the fashion weeks because I can’t expense a single taxi. It’s a lifestyle working in fashion and being a blogger, there are events with food and drink every day of the week, so I don’t go out on the weekend and spend £40 at the bar because I can go out for my work and have glasses of champagne with other bloggers who are now my colleagues and my friends. I haven’t had a rest from frozen food, champagne and canapés for the last year and a half.

Justice – When I started I had to sell my car and use my savings because I had bad credit so I wasn’t getting a bank loan. My friend and I shared a house and we lived on Jam, Toast and Tea for six months, then when I started the magazine I slept on the floor in my sister's front room.
Doing what you’re passionate about means more than going without and if it doesn’t, you’ll struggle to get far. I’ve been abroad for business and exhibitions but I haven’t had a holiday in six years. I know those things will come in the future, but for now I have to create a platform.

All round it was a pretty damn inspiring talk, hope you got something out of the Q&As I picked out for more information on click here.

- Mr Devo

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