Above: The Mill’s Fashion Reel
Walk us through what brought you to The Mill?
Two words, Dee Allen. My oldest friend in the industry, we go way back. I was working for Technicolor Shanghai on beauty brands such as L’Oréal. He mentioned The Mill Beauty department was looking to expand their team, fast forward 7 months and I relocated back to New York. I had always admired The Mill’s work, the female flame artist that trained me had been part of The Mill team that worked on the movie Gladiator. The Mill’s Barnsley was the god (and still is) of flame when I was starting my career and commercials like Levi’s ‘Twist’ and PlayStation ‘Mental Wealth’ put The Mill to the top of my ‘must work for one day’ lists.
How did you get started in Fashion and Beauty?
I’ve always loved how fashion and music diverged, I grew up in England watching Top of the Pops and MTV. The incredible moment of first seeing Boy George singing in a dress stuck with me for life. Working on music videos in the early part of my career pushed me closer to that part of the industry, but also living and working in Shanghai really focused my career. I got the opportunity to meet artists, fashion designers & photographers that passed through the city. Also working on brands such as L’Oréal with Chinese film stars and learning about eastern fashion & beauty and how it differs from the west was very interesting.
How has working on music videos in the past helped shape your career?
I started my career as a Runner at Blue post production in London. The company initially focused on documentaries and pop videos. I spent many hours digitising rushes for pop videos. I got to see close up amazing editors working with directors such as Chris Cunningham & Jonathan Glazer to create some iconic videos from the late 90s. This is when I really decided I wanted to be a part of this industry. One of the first videos I assisted on as a flame artist was Adele’s Cold Shoulder, which was my first high profile beauty job. Since working at The Mill NY I have been lucky enough to work on some fabulous music videos. I got to meet and work with the legendary photographer Mick Rock restoring David Bowie’s iconic ‘Life on Mars’ music video and collaborated with the director Rob Roth on a great music video starring two icons of music and fashion – Blondie & Joan Jett.
If you could work on a campaign for any artist (living or dead), who would you choose?
Alexander Mcqueen. He embodied fashion in London in the 90s when I was studying at university. The exhibition of his work at the MET is still to this day, the best collection of work that has been at the costume institute. His 90s bumster jeans to the iconic moment of robots spray painting a design onto a dress on to a model rotating on the runway at a fashion show (below). He will go down as one of the most creative artists in fashion history.
With society growing more accepting of human ‘imperfections’, how does the fashion industry adapt to the evolving definition of beauty aesthetics?
My job is to make the clients’ stories a little more beautiful. It’s always been that way for me, flaws are what make a person unique. I know that my beauty work has changed dramatically since relocating from Shanghai where the focus is on skin whitening products, this is a big part of their culture – that comes from wealth and status in the community, If you have money you can stay out of the sun. My work at The Mill New York has given me the opportunity to work with more diverse talent which has definitely changed the look of my work. Consumers have so many choices these days. Fashion brands know how important of embracing men, women. LGBTQ+ people of all races as ambassadors. If you’re going to spend your hard earned money on a bag or pair of shoes you want to see yourself when you look at brand ambassadors, and hence will relate to that brand and become a loyal customer.
Do you think the fashion industry needs to move away from print media and into digital and experience marketing to keep up with the times?
I think it already has. Years ago The New York Times style section had already started creating small films to partner alongside of Bill Cunninghams column “on the street”. Magazines such as Vogue put the interviews of their cover stars as content on their Instagram pages. British Vogue put out a request for August 2020 for photographers to create their own interpretation of this month’s “Reset” cover for online use. This helps pull their followers and subscribers, and hence advertisers into the online world .
How does the fashion industry help amplify the voices of artists and creators from marginalized communities?
It’s got a long way to go but with Edward Enniful at the helm of British Vogue and Virgil Abloh as the Creative Director of Louis Vuitton, I have seen small changes of the faces that are representing brands. Vanity Fair this month used a black photographer for the first time for their cover of Viola Davis, and Vogue used their first black photographer for a cover of Beyoncé back in 2018. You need people from minority backgrounds at the top of the industry to open the doors to give these incredible artists a safe platform to showcase their art.
What are the key learnings you hope the Fashion Industry takes away from COVID-19?
I know when lockdown started, Anna Wintour at Vogue brought together many figures from the industry to discuss the future of fashion. Sustainability was one of the topics discussed with Stella Mccartney, for example. It’s so important that fast fashion is looked at seriously. Fast Fashion clothes are cheap because their workers are paid very poorly and work in dangerous conditions. These brands outsource not only the production but also the risk. I’ve looked at my shopping habits over the past few months – I’ve purchased just 3 items, none from fast fashion brands.
Of course, there’s the constant roller coaster of the fashion show. I hope the industry will embrace technology, such as unreal engine, to produce some of the shows digitally. This will help the planet, give more young people access to these shows and see the designers work without having to fly around the world and fight for a seat on the front row of a show. The use of virtual fabrics is starting to look so great and I think there will be some very cool full 3D fashions shows coming soon.
Also – how cool is Dr. Fauci on the cover of InStyle magazine – I mean, the most important infectious disease scientist in the world is now a style icon! Believe in Science, the best fashion investment in 2020 is a cool fashion mask.