How did you find your passion for advertising and get started in the industry? Advertising is communication, and I’ve always liked being able to get a message across. The early nineties ads for Benetton were a big inspiration. The nun kissing the priest. The black woman holding the white child. Brilliant.
What first drew you to work with fashion brands? I love fashion because it’s at the crossroads of culture. It draws inspiration from everything. The streets, politics, art, food, music—you name it.
What personal experiences or circumstances have most influenced your work or style? Women. I love women. I respect them and admire them. Starting my career working for Donna Karan was formative. Here was a woman who put the customer first and empowered her. She made women realize they could be anything… even president. That was in the ’80s. I always remember that.
How did working in-house at Donna Karan prepare you for the agency work you’re doing today? Being in-house really gives you an understanding of the importance of cohesion and synergy. The message needs to be clear for you to be able to communicate it in various mediums.
What do you think of the fashion industry at the moment, and where do you see it headed? Fashion and culture are becoming an extension of each other. The fashion industry is slowly starting to reflect its own audience. Aspiration is being replaced by purpose. Some brands—like Fenty Beauty, Rihanna’s makeup brand, Gap and Patagonia—are putting forth more overt messages of inclusion and responsibility than others, but brands are realizing that they need to be much more than a product.
What’s one question you ask of every brand you work with? Why was this brand started? I’m working on a project right now that required looking back at the original intent of the brand. It had gotten so diluted that the consumer could not really understand the differentiation between this brand and others in the same category.
What hurdles have you overcome in advocating for more inclusive campaigns for the likes of Lane Bryant? The willingness is there, but brands get worried about alienating or offending a group of people if they represent too much diversity.
Today’s consumers aren’t afraid to call out advertising that misses the mark when it comes to inclusivity. What ripple effects have you seen? There is a more conscious decision-making process, but it’s not organic. It’s very much about ticking boxes without it being said. There is a need for brands to rebuild from the inside of their organizations, to assemble a group of individuals that represent the market so the brand can speak authentically and insightfully to its audience.
You’ve been named chief creative officer of Select World. What are some of the unique opportunities and challenges of joining an agency that’s known for its expertise in the areas of beauty and fashion? The opportunity is to redefine beauty for today. The notion of beauty can be individual versus universal. It encompasses far more than the surface. Adding some substance to that word is essential. The challenge is always about breaking down stereotypes and revising the classic, proven formula for communicating beauty, which includes the casting choices, the format of the ads and the content of copy. If you take the logo off, many beauty brands start looking the same. The work that needs to be done is to create a nonformulaic approach. Break the mold. Not just once.