INTERNATIONAL ROADMAPS: WE SPEAK WITH SIX CREATIVE WOMEN WHO MADE IT WORK
Words by Mia Besorio
The future of work is defined by our current state of work: technologically mature, and emotionally inept. As a global population, our digital landscape is moving at a faster speed than we can handle, and perhaps at a faster speed than we can recognise. The knock-on effect of this, ironically, is the desire for human emotion. All of those clerical and labour jobs your parents told you were ‘safe’ are risking automation, and in the ultimate ‘fuck you’ moment, it seems us lowly creative types might be on the come up at last. Admittedly, I always knew the world would end like this.
Whether it is tactical or subconscious, the millennial attitude towards work has shifted - we don’t just enjoy it, we live it. The parameters of work and play have blended into one big personal brand. The security of salary is no longer the holy grail of employment, with an increase of young people partaking in freelance opportunities or a self-made-start-up model. Both pathways have flourished in our digital climate, where globalisation knows no limitations, and connectivity is always on. We have unlimited access, so we take risks. We’re resourceful, we’re mobile, we’re wantrepreneurs–and if we have the guts to keep at it–we’re entrepreneurs too. We’re a generation that embraces freedom of choice, and if we fail, then we’re adaptable enough to do things differently until it all works out.
If Richard Hell defined the Blank Generation, then we define the Validation Generation. We’ve got a lot to prove to ourselves. It’s not simply about recognition: it’s about self-actualisation. The Validation Generation seeks to reach peak potential, in whichever pathway brings us joy, and we felt this desire long before Marie Kondo came along. But don’t just take my word for it. To save you all from my boring spiel of Nielsen data and trend report findings, I turned to my self-made peers for real-time perspectives on the matter.
DJ, Model, Creative Consultant, Co-Founder NVSHU女术
Amber Akilla was raised in Perth, and bailed to Shanghai after completing her double degree in law and arts, majoring in Asian studies. Since relocating abroad, she ditched law and has DJed in Hong Kong for Heron Preston, written for Hypebae, taken a stack of photos for her @friend.crush feed, and co-founded NVSHU女术 - a femme and LGBTQI focused DJ Workshop and event series in China. She’s finessed the art of networking, by ensuring she gives everything 100% advising “often one opportunity or connection leads to the next. Making sure you do your best with each job is how you set yourself up for future offers”. She also manages to work a fulltime agency job, which operates on a Shanghai-New York-LA time schedule, with regular opportunities to travel.
Despite the Internet regulations in China, Amber has stayed active on Instagram and WeChat. She discovered “that things can move quite quickly in China. I can be contacted a week or two before something is going to happen and be paid within a week or two of the project wrapping. Using WeChat also means that connecting with people is very streamlined because everyone in China is on it”. Amber plans to spend more time exploring China this year before expanding her international scope further. Like a true Sagittarian, Amber wants the best of both worlds claiming “I want to be everywhere at once but also by myself in my bedroom”. And while a body double is not yet feasible, she’s focusing her energy on purpose. “Success for me is finding purpose outside of self-interest. Of course I want to get paid and progress in my own journey, but I want to do it in a sustainable way that is with the people that inspire and support me. If I create more value for myself, I can help and support others by always learning, growing and having a good time. We’re trying to grow up and glow up”.
Artist, Designer (Image: Nikki Lipstick)
Bei Badgirl was born in Sydney’s west, and currently resides in Melbourne, which she lovingly refers to as “Australia’s K-Beauty and Japanese cheesecake heaven”. While Australia is her base, she’s a well-seasoned traveller, having grown up on planes, she “always considered myself an international baby doll, so I've never felt like I'm very far away from anywhere. I love moving to new places and spending months overseas. I think that openness and energy is returned to me through incredible creative opportunities all over the world popping up in my inbox or DMs”. And while worldwide interest is a good problem to have, navigating client time zones between LA, London, and Tokyo requires Bei to embrace an always-online lifestyle. Despite this, she has her composure on lock, insisting “despite being a total workaholic I'm super friendly so it's not too intimidating to get in touch with me even with language barriers. I'm blessed that almost all of my business opportunities have been reactive”.
It’s 2019 and Bei Badgirl is hyper-aware of social media and self-publishing. She was big on Tumblr before she was big on Instagram, and her community of fans have actively followed her journey across multiple platforms. They don’t just observe - they purchase. Her prints, collabs, and stickers constantly selling out almost instantly. She nurtures her community, keeping up genuine engagement through with her comment section. Bei doesn’t take any of it for granted, she still gets a rush out of seeing her art across the world, and loves getting the chance to meet people who love her art IRL, claiming “they are so fucking adorable, cool, and sweet”. Anything is possible when you keep an open mind, and put the work into your craft and community. For Bei, the journey ends “when my real life is my dream life”. She’s not too far away from it, recalling a milestone moment in London a few months back. “I was picked up in a hot pink limo, clinking pink drink with my BFF Nikki Lipstick and driven to paint an angel at Eaton House - a luxurious, fairy-tale pink house and creative studio that I had as my phone background for years”.
Director and founder of Pitch Studios
Christie Morgan began her career in traditional design and art direction in varying industries. Eager to do more, she began experimenting with a practice that was more multidisciplinary, which birthed her future-forward creative studio, Pitch Studios. As director, she leads a team who specialise in creating new forms of digital experiences, inclusive of 3D animation, projection mapping, interactive media and mixed reality (AR/VR).
Christie grew up in Brisbane, relocated to Sydney, and is currently based in Melbourne. This isn’t the final destination however, with a move to the UK planned for this year. The departure to the UK is a reaction to numerous inbound enquiries from international teams, coupled with meaningful conversations held between the studio and prospective clients. Christie elaborates “although I love Australia, I generally find conversations over in Europe way more engaging on a creative level. We’ve found that Europe has a way more institutionalized approach to art, which then trickles down into the design of everything. They also tend to be a bit more experimental”. On the emerging creative tech front, the landscape abroad is more developed than it is locally, although trends vary based on location. “The US is also open to new ideas, but is still similar to Australia where the output generally always needs to feel more on the commercial side of creativity. Naturally, we’d love to explore Asia a bit deeper. We’re continually looking to Asia for design and tech inspiration”.
Being global isn’t just about expanding your network; it’s about expanding your mind. Cultural sensitivities and customs are to be consider when travelling but also when producing global output. Christie reiterates, “I think culture is something to consider for ALL projects, specifically if you are working with an youth-based audience in 2019. The world is changing a lot, and we’re already seeing regions of the world shifting dramatically. The output is always going to be considered when communicating to an audience who fits within a different culture than our own”. Regardless of where in the world she is based, the road to success remains as a simple measurement for Christie, who stands by her goals posts of “doing what you love and getting paid to do it, knowing when to say no, and feeling confident in every facet of your life”.
Stylist, Photographer, Casting Consultant
Imogen Wilson—or Immy as her friends know her best—is a stylist, photographer and casting consultant. Her career began in New Zealand, when she left school at 17 to work her way up in the creative industries. Immy moved to Sydney in December last year for a change and to spend some time with her family who had also relocated. It has given her time to figure out her next play, but looking back she admits that “New Zealand was a great situation for me, the whole big fish small pond idea treated me well and I had little competition locally. I started styling then unexpectedly started taking photos, then opened The Others Agency, which blew up and had me mad busy. The New Zealand market allowed me to work across so many different roles, which meant so many different jobs without question”.
Moving to a new city is jarring regardless of how far away you are from home. On survival in a new environment, Immy muses, “Relationships are really important. Going somewhere new or trying to set up a project in a new city and dealing with people you haven’t worked with before, you have to be prepared to be patient and more prepared to present your ideas and yourself”. Thankfully she has a portfolio of published work in international publications, which has helped to keep her profile up. Often Instagram is where her work is seen first, and consequently Immy holds a love hate relationship with the platform, “It kind of sucks to be honest. My biggest clients have found my work on Instagram, as well as myself finding people I want to work with. For casting and running The Others it has been huge. I cast a lot on Instagram. It’s made shit a lot easier for everyone, a lot harder for just as many, and made everyone pretty numb to imagery in general, not to mention warped everyone's sense of real life”.
Imogen isn’t staying put in Sydney, she’s already got plans to go to Japan this year, with her eyes set on LA. On the relentless pursuit for achievement, Imogen’s biggest goals are everlasting, as she puts it,“on a personal level, being happy with yourself and where you are at, no matter where you may be. On a career level; if you are changing the way people think, work and act for the better. Creating opportunities beyond yourself. To me you aren’t successful until you are consistently affecting other people’s life or career in a positive way”.
Jeweller, Product Designer
Ri worked in Sydney as a booking agent, but always aspired for an American lifestyle. After several failed attempts at obtaining a green card, she upskilled and made a move from music to tech. This pivot led her to freelance in product design for a number of major corporations, which inevitably landed her a sponsorship that shipped her out to her dream home of New York city.
Ri started her jewellery business on the side of full-time employment in 2017. She creates custom jewelry and collections - from gold teeth to rings, chains, and pendants for clients based in New York and Los Angeles, with a side orders coming in from Atlanta, Miami, Salt Lake City, and London. This has triggered orders to come in from Australia, which inevitably has her thinking more about the market back home, “living in NYC has taught me so much about the fashion, art and jewelry industries, and there's endless opportunity and creative people to link with. I couldn't have jump started this business in Australia, but it's now, 2 years in, that I want to go back and tackle that market”.
Instagram had pre-determined her fate, and without even mentioning the business, she soon had a waitlist of 75 clients all coming at her via Instagram DM. Ri insists that it wasn’t all organic, “I pushed my way into the LA market. I posted online that I was going to be there and took back-to-back appointments for a few trips until I had a good client base. Making yourself available in a new place definitely works. I’ve got to do more of that in new territories in the next few years”. Ri still works full-time in senior position at a highly regarded global fashion house, and spends her nights working on orders and managing a small team of staff. Success currently does not involve sleep for Ri, whose end goal is “freedom to live and travel wherever and financial freedom, based off work and art that I'm psyched about”.
Photographer, Founder and Director of Culture Machine Agency (Image: Isabella Mamas)
Yasmin Suteja completed her studies in Sydney, before quickly moving back to Bali where she grew up, to support her mum’s new family venture @cratecafe. It was here that she received her first hands-on experience with social media marketing, which introduced her to freelance work without the same financial risks she would have faced in Australia. With longstanding relationships with Huffer and Puma in New Zealand, and an enviable portfolio of fashion-skewed clients in Australia, Yasmin could be content - but she’s not. “I have always been proactive in seeking out work opportunities. And I’ve always seen travel as a way of expanding my network, and also exposing myself to new inspiration and new creative communities. Whenever I travel it’s always with the purpose of working. I can’t really sit still and relax. My ideal holiday is a working holiday”.
She spent a lot of time travelling last year to proactively seek out and execute work. Her favourites were Tokyo and New York, but when asked about expansion, she unveiled “I’d really love to explore more of Australia actually. After all of my travelling last year I’ve come to really appreciate Australia and am grateful to call it my home. I’m very passionate about building, nourishing and supporting a strong, globally acclaimed creative industry here in Australia. We lose a lot of our top creative to overseas”. Keeping a global outlook can become overwhelming, with the realisation of how saturated content can be. Yasmin discusses “I think that I’ve come to a point where I’ve seen so much that I’m almost confused and at risk of losing my own personal identity and creative aesthetic by being bombarded with and actively seeking out inspiration from lots of different fields and on a large global scale. Sometimes the best approach is to think locally”.
Her solution is a shift in her approach to her work, by delving deeper into personal projects of substances, stating a desire to “imbue all of the work I do with some message or at least encourage a discussion. I’ve also been working on a lot of personal projects, particularly portraiture, which provides me with an opportunity to immerse myself into new communities, ask questions and hopefully empower through representation”. And success? Well for Yasmin, that means a “happy balance of being constantly intellectually challenged and inspired by the people around you as well as content and confident in your own ability”.