- Without knowing it Lydia was introduced to the idea of 'self-branding' through hacking her myspace page and designing it to represent her.
- Lydia's Mother was a photographer through Lydia's childhood and was always photographing her as a child. Her Mother would curate shows in their home so Lydia was always surrounded by creativity and that is what originally attracted her to photography. She never considered herself much of a maker and didn’t really take photographs. Her mother introduced her to the idea that understanding and explaining a photograph is also just as valuable as making the image herself.
- During the first year at her art program Lydia struggled to gain a sense of who she was. She had to take a moment to herself and stop mimicking the people around and focus on what she was good at and it paid off! A big takeaway from going through her program was follow what you are genuinely interested in, do the work and it will pay off in the end.
Favorite Dim Sum Spot
Her Fashion Style
- Lydia doesn't really follow any fashion trends and her sense of style is inspired more from photographers such as Man Ray rather than the fashion designers of today. However she does very much admire Rei Kawakubo the founder and designer behind Commes Des Garcon and Dover Street Market for her unique ideas and perspective on fashion.
Becoming a Creative Director
- Lydia is currently a creative director at the young age of 30 but that didn't happen over night. After university during the summer she would take as many internships as possible while friends and others would take the summer off to relax and hang with their friends.
- One of Lydia's first internships was with M&C Saatchi where she originally applied to an internship as an account manager because there were no roles open in the creative department. Luckily after the interview they contacted Lydia about an opening they created just for her.
- During her time at M&C Saatchi the advertising industry was shifting and Lydia took the opportunity to position herself as an expert in the digital space. She proposed that she would let the creative teams work on their respective duties while she would help expand the content for the client's use on other internet platforms and websites. This helped progress Lydia's career by showing she could offer nothing but value to the company without altering the existing process.
- After M&C Lydia worked together with a group of friends to conceive a campaign for Rape Crisis UK called #thisdoesntmeanyes. The campaign was done pro-bono and received press from major media outlets all over the world. Lydia took the opportunity to make the work that she wanted to for no other reason than to do something good for the world and to make.
- Currently Lydia is a creative director at Refinery29, a mission driven company for millennial women. One of the reasons she enjoys it so much is that the work always connects back to R29's mission, 'a catalyst for women to feel, see, and claim their power.' Otherwise they don't do it and that is something that Lydia strongly believes it.
Dealing with Imposter Syndrome
- Being around creative people that also have a wide skillset really helped Lydia get over her imposter syndrome and own the idea that she was 'good' at a number of things and not 'amazing' at one thing.
On starting your own business as a woman...
- Try to find the people that you identify with. There are support networks like HERS Global Network that Lydia has participated in that she has found to be really helpful.
Find a job that is artistically fulfilling and financially supporting
- Do the work that is your truth. Make work you're proud of that makes you feel that you're contributing to this planet and someone will pay you for it.
Getting Your Work Noticed
- Make fucking cool work. Make work that inspires you and continue to make work for yourself because it will travel and inspire others. Be on the platforms that they are 'chilling' on.
Lydia: This morning I got up super early and I went to Jing Fong it's a good spot. You have to wait get a ticket from a really old Chinese lady. She will scream your number over the microphone when it's your time but I waited like half an hour for my table.
Jon: Is that your favorite spot?
Lydia: It is my favorite spot because it reminds me the most of Hong Kong you have like the little old ladies that push the trolleys and then you can like pull dim sum off the different trolleys and its super loud it's enormous in there.
Jon: I think I saw it on Instagram it's a big room and lush tables. Is it just dumplings you order?
Lydia: You can get anything. They’ve also kind of clocked on that like you know the Millennials started to find out and so they had drinks trolley where they like mimosa with your dim sum.
Jon: That's pretty awesome.
Lydia: Yes. It's really good.
Jon: You kind of mentioned that it reminds you of Hong Kong and I'd love to dive into a little bit later on. But on your site lydiapang.com you introduce yourself in your about page as a Welsh born half Chinese Goth, a history geek and feminist and I'd like to kind of go in and dive deeper into that and start from sort of the beginning.
Jon: Who's Lydia as a kid?
Lydia: Good question. I suppose I think that really does wrap up like everything I'm about and the kind of person I suppose have crafted. I was born in Wales a really small sort of village. It's a good time South Wales very underwhelming place, very gray not a lot of creativity, but I was born into a very creative family which was super cool. Both of my parents really entrepreneurial both like artist spirits my mum always had like galleries in our house and she was a photographer and as an amazing artist and entrepreneurial. So, I was very much like pushed by both my parents to like embrace all the different cultures and I was born in Wales I'm half Chinese, my dad's from Hong Kong. I said it was a strange team, but a very confident one. I was very artistic. I loved school, loved people like always used to like kind of have creative projects going even when I was really young. I was super into Myspace, a big Myspace kid. I actually met my boyfriend who I've been with nearly 13 years on Myspace. I think Myspace was a really good metaphor for like what it was like living in Wales it's like depressing and boring.
Jon: Almost a place to escape.
Jon: Mypsace was a platform to do that.
Lydia: Exactly I wanted to be creative we'd like everything from like hacking it and making it feel like cool and reflect you it was like the first time I thought about self branding and like the power of like color and design and image images. It was the first time I really didn't know it, but I was self branding and like playing around with what design meant to me before I even decided to do history of art as a degree. So, I was a very creative confident teenager.
Jon: It made me think too back to when I had a Myspace, but design choices I made when I figured out I can customize were terrible. It’s a reflection of me today which is funny.
Lydia: Hello goodbye kicked in when you went to mine.
Jon: [Laughs] You mentioned that your mom was always bringing your own photography.
Jon: What kind of photographs or shows were they?
Lydia: My mom is a natural portrait photographer so she actually was really inspired by photographers like Sally Mann who is you know famously known for contentious images of her children as they grew up and like capturing like this cusp between childhood and teenagers. So, my mom was really into like exploring like the maternal gaze and used to take loads of pictures of us in the garden. So, I was always very aware of like the image and like authorship and those things from a very young age. Yes she used to just have shows in our house. She did a photography degree quite late in life when we were a little older. And in our living room she would curate photography, shows art shows and so despite being from a very not very creative sort of town I was always surrounded by creative people and stuff. My mum very much made me feel like anything was possible that you could have a show even in your home and if it was cool people would come. I remember my mom very much pushed me to find out what I was about. I wouldn't have known that that was even a job really if had I not like been around her curation of art direction that's definitely not something that my little Welsh comprehensive school offered as a potential career.
Jon: Yes. I think growing up I was kind of you know in the sinplest form coloring in books and stuff my mom was very creative when I was young, but it seems like the pushes in kind of school system and as you're growing up it's like do something with finances behind it like architecture. It didn’t really stick with me as much growing up.
Lydia: My dad always used to say to me and he's like super wise a great businessman but also very creative. He used to say to me find something you really like doing every single day and if it’s something your passionate about and eventually someone will pay you to do it and following that kind of like rule is like served me really well.
Jon: I love idea as well. You mentioned you know do something cool people will naturally be a attracted. I know some you know whether it be in business or in corporate America whatever always that's never the first idea. People never rely on that and I maybe I'm naive for thinking that because I very much kind of agree that almost do it for yourself because you think it's cool and someone's going to connect with it whether it would be one or two or five hundred or whatever.
Lydia: Completely it's the purity of that output. If it's like something that is truly like your original creation and you believe in it, then I feel like it's going to be way more powerful than when it gets watered down by a million opinions.
Jon: Your mom she introduced you to the likes of Roland Barthe's and John Burger which I actually didn't know of at first, but he did like a video series on photography. I didn’t know it was a film; it was like a weird like episode a series of episodes. What was it about photography that attracted you to it invited you to continue looking and exploring that?
Lydia: I think it was like I always felt so moved by images and I think for a long time I tried to resolve the fact that I was never much of a maker and I had a super bad impostor syndrome. I used to feel really bad about the fact that I didn't know how to use a camera, or didn't know how to like physically design. But my mom kind of made me realize by introducing me to those sorts of like theorists that actually the art of understanding photography and explaining it to people and kind of thinking about like the medium that the channels and the mediums of like how you express photography was an art in itself. So, like for example during my A level you know you a level r photography take a picture. My mom was like “Well you know if you don't want to take a picture why you write an essay about photography? That's also an output and I think she kind of like set me free from the torture of being like well I'm not actually that good at drawing, or that good at taking photographs, but I know an awful lot about like what a photograph should feel like. I know how to like communicate that. She kind of like introduced me to a lot of different frameworks that helps in order to do as a job, so I'm very thankful.
Jon: So it was very much that you were interested in it. It wasn't the conventional oh well I should pick up a camera.
Lydia: No I never picked up the camera ever that's crazy. I was just fascinated by like the power of the image to meet you feel a certain way and obviously that inevitably led me into branding and advertising because like you said you know you've got commercialize that art. You can't just go to a school so I was like okay well I'm going to do an art history degree I'm going to learn about how to speak about this work analyze it technically. I specialized like I focused my area of study around surrealist documentary photography. So, I just really was passionate about explaining images and thinking about all the things that go into them. That's inevitably what my first job was my first job was an art buyer at M&C Saatchi and it was an awesome job. I spent the whole day looking through photography books, photography portfolios and picking which photographer should shoot which campaign and making those decisions knowing a lot of a photography knowing about like the system and the industry and then matching that photographer and their eye with the right briefs is perfect for the job.
Jon: Before I ask about art buying having grown up with your mother, learning photography exploring and curating art throughout the home as you're going up now that you are kind of in the position where you're curating and you're working on pieces and commissioning artists do you guys ever talk about and critique it? Does she ever give you feedback in the way?
Jon: What are some of the things that you guys do?
Lydia: We definitely still do that now. I feel like my mom's opinion to me is like legendary like she critiques and she sees things through such an incredibly like emotional lens which is like so rare. I think that's what makes her so good at what she does that. She recently actually took the gallery that I was explaining to you that she's been running in our living room for like 20 odd years and actually took the leap to get a space and have a proper big gallery of her own literally last week. So, this has been like a really important month for her. It's interesting for somebody who I think is so naturally talented and able to like connect with images she's really under-confident. So, she's constantly asking for my validation and then equally despite the fact that I work for a big company now in New York and she thinks looks like really fancy and shiny, I constantly seek out her validation for the work I'm doing. I do hold my work up to the standards of will my mum feel like moved by this or like this is important and I think that's why I inevitably ended up at mission-driven company because I was always kind of ingrained in me to think about that.
Jon: It's kind of funny that the shoes on the other foot now where you're sharing this kind of conversation back this feedback loop with your mom and when you just mentioned that it was so cool that she was curating and having shows like in your house like. I think of that like that's so bad-ass it's awesome and now that she's actually kind of trying to do it in a more formal space she's like a little like hesitant and stuff like that. I think it's partially because of like then it's just so natural yeah it's like yeah we're doing cool stuff. But almost like this generation now like our generation has kind of figured out ways of almost like formalizing it and almost monetizing. That generation is sort of catching up on now.
Lydia: Completely I completely agree that is exactly. It's funny how she feels more pressure having taken the leap to save the world I deserve a premise versus the casual nature of having in your home which is almost like turn up I don't care I sleep here anyway. It's interesting because actually my mom is really good at like social media branding.
Lydia: She's really good at like taking to understanding a way to manipulate like a channel. She runs every a really good Instagram it's like really beautiful. I think she's so under confident with technology. So, she has her own which is Sonia Pang and then she has gallery at home which is like galleries Instagram.
Jon: A great name.
Lydia: Super cool. It is what it is. She posts a lot of like photography and like she really like raises up female voices in that area because there is not a lot of platforms where we're from for creativity that alone like female creatives and she takes that really seriously which is really cool. But it's interesting because even though it's not in the home it really does feel like our home still it has like all the same like feelings about it and she's stolen like a load of furniture from our house.
Jon: You mentioned that you went to art school or an art program and it wasn't so much the kind of your kind of path wasn't conventional of like picking up a camera or picking up-- it was more of writing and learning how to articulate those kind of feelings. But it kind of seems like you always knew that you wanted to follow that like kind of creative path.
Lydia: I did.
Jon: What would you say has been something you know what you've taken or what you've learned from actually going through a program art school you know isn't necessarily you making photographs, but maybe you know if you kind of explain more on that.
Lydia: Definitely like I said I was very confident about whom I was. I loved like expressing myself through like clothing and like I was very like interested in like reading and surrounding myself with art. I knew that I wanted to study art history and inform myself. I also had like terrible impostor syndrome. I went to a super fancy university the Courtauld Institute; super fancy. I’m pretty sure I was the only person that had been to like a comp which is like a public school. So, I got there and I was like I belong here and this is really awkward, but then it really built up my confidence to realize that actually it wasn't about the fact those guys or a lot of people on my course already knew how to speak Latin and they'd already studied classics and art history was something that they offered the fancy schools and that certainly was not the case at the school I went to despite having such a creative childhood. So, the first year I really struggled I definitely didn't do well and I was kind of like this isn't the place I’m supposed to be. So, I think at a very young age I actually had a moment of like okay wait a minute I need to stop trying to like mimic what is around me because I'm never going to be as good as those people and you should just do my own thing. Actually learning that so young so just like follow what you're about and see it pay off because I inevitably got a first and the highest first in the university the highest grade in a university was like such a massive sense of like validation of like it's really important to focus on what you're about.
I remember midway through my dissertation which is the final exam or essay I changed to subject matter because I was following something that I've thought I should be writing about. I wanted to be like my peers. I wanted to appear you know confident like everything's effortless to me and that's definitely a demon I struggle with. I like everything to appear effortless. So during that degree learning to like present in front of people, be a little more human, a little more vulnerable about what I was good at and what I wasn't and then inevitably choosing the subject that I did meant that I completed did dissertation half the time because I was following what I truly was interested in versus like trying to kind of mold myself into a funny shape. My whole career has been a bit like that. A big take away for my degree was just like follow what you're interested in and it will pay off. You'll get a good grade you will do well and that's what happened. Similarly with my career I've always been like, oh I'm not a designer, I'm not quite a copywriter, not quite strategists and I floated in between all these different pockets of like you know people like to box you into a discipline and it made me feel really vulnerable for years. Then I was just like actually I'm going to just let that be my superpower the fact that I'm a little bit good at everything and that’s fine.
Jon: I was kind of looking through your experience, your background I think that's something that's been hard for you know as you said like it's almost like a natural thing where I'm like are you a designer or photographer it's almost, so it's not like on purpose doing it, but subconsciously. Your background is very much a widespread of things, but I think like you said you've come to own that. You also kind of touched on you know after that first year that you had to kind of stop yourself and take a step back and think about what you were good at. Was this also kind of the time that you started to think about a little bit less serious but like your style and was that in that process as well?
Lydia: 100% I'm actually glad you said that because it came to mind after I finish speaking like I was always like you know that little emo girl very like specific style, but like standard Myspace. It's quite tragic to watch an Asian girl try and put blonde streaks in her hair that they were like bright ginger that was a mistake. Going to uni I definitely wore a lot of different sort of metaphorical clothing. I was trying on different types of people I wanted to be. That’s another point in the first year of uni.
Jon: Imitating the people that you admire so you can like at least understand why they do it.
Lydia: Exactly. I think it's interesting because like the threads of like Who I am as a person I've always been like very alternative, super into that kind of music and that kind of scene and I was always since before my degree really influenced aesthetically by like surrealism in any way shape or form and that's what I inevitably ended up focusing on in my degree which is why I did well they thought something I liked. But my style definitely crystallized during that time. My second and third year of uni I broke away from a certain set of friends that I felt like I should have been hanging with and just kind of went alone a little. It’s unusual because I think people often spend uni like and super drunk like solidifying those friendships for life and I kind of didn't do that. Roo and I have been together for a long time and we were together through uni and we've always been each other's kind of support system. I didn't do that in uni and it was close it was a good it was good for me to kind of break away from that culture and just focus on you know growing as a person and like figuring out what I wanted to do, but I definitely pushed it.
Jon: That's like sometimes the biggest miss with some of people and programs. Our university is like they don't actually spend that time finding themselves and that could be a number of things. It could be finding your style, your kind voice whatever that you're interested in and it doesn't happen till later on. It's almost like it's the perfect time to really separate yourself and take that time to yourself to really kind of develop and learn the things.
Lydia: 100% like what a luxury. I'm like well I look back now and what wonderful three days I had in London like just learning and like trying to like grow as a human. It’s such a luxury and a wonderful thing to do. London is a great place to do that like style-wise London just like pushes it. It’s so eclectic and everyone is really like pushing as hard as they can to like figure themselves out in public sure where I feel like in New York it's a little more like uniformed and people like go home and do their crying. If you're in london like a people go out there and they just like push it and test and I think I did that and now I'm definitely a version of that person. See it's still the same sort of things.
Jon: I write about like great art programs in Europe and stuff like that and kind of mentioned that like people are really pushing themselves. Was there anything that outside of school outside that you really kind of enjoyed and made you love the culture?
Lydia: Yes totally. I mean the food scene is amazing. Some friends of mine actually sign up this super cool like what I can only describe as like a sort of pop-up restaurant type thing in Peckham. Then one of our best friends who was doing a design degree with Roo at St. Martin's decided to open like an old-school Hong Kong like dai pai dong which is like a very chilled cafe and he handmade his own noodles and like it was called Boss-Lady and then he made them zine and he liked illustrated it. I think that's such a perfect example of like that pulse in London and it's just like no judgment it's not measured against any fucking KPI. Success doesn't look like anything. It doesn't look like no matter the followers it's just like doing a thing for you whereas I definitely noticed too being in New York like three years now it's taught a lot of like hustle and a lot of amazing things. But I do think sometimes there are things that people do here for the sake of other people whereas in London I think a lot of the scene is built based on what people want to do for themselves which feels a bit more authentic.
Jon: I wanted to also kind of ask about going back to your style you know were there any specific people or icons that you were looking at when you were younger and then who are you looking at today that you admire in terms of what they're doing in fashion and stuff like that?
Lydia: That’s a good question and one I always find really hard to answer. I think my best friend has really good style. She's kind of again like an example of that London scene of and scene of just sort of like she's used to color her eyebrows in pink and she always used to look crazy and ridiculous, but I love the fact that she just wasn't doing it for anyone else she just used to do what she wanted. She's been a massive inspiration to me. When I was younger I was really inspired by like my culture. So, like I'm half Chinese like I said and I was always really inspired by like any kind of like twist or Asian like design. I spent a lot of time in Hong Kong during the summers when I was a kid living there. I think I was always seeking out anything that made me feel different anything you couldn't get from where I was from. So, anything that I could get when I was like on vacation in Hong Kong or anything through my family like I was always heavily inspired by those designs and kinds of materials and aesthetic and I still are now very much so.
People that inspired me I suppose have always been pretty shit at answering this question because I feel like people wanted me to give like stylish answers of stylish people, but I don't have that. I have like photographers I find interesting like I've always been really inspired by the women in any photograph by Man Ray they like super angular haircuts and they're like very like graphic dark makeup. I've always loved that.
Jon: I think that's a great point that your style, your fashion, your clothes that you wear can very much be influenced by other things. For example I know a designer who would say that what inspires his work is architecture and maybe that's a little bit closer in terms. But like you pull elements from that that you are really attracted to and you try to analyze them and make sense of why you're into them.
Lydia: Completely that’s definitely so true. I feel like my style has been very like simple and like monochromatic and I've always liked utility fabrics and anything that feels a little surreal or like photographic and graphic which I notice is a bit strange. But like even I'm like a big fan of really dark makeup and I've always found it so like fun and therapeutic putting makeup on in the morning which is ironic because I'm such a like violent feminist. Yes it's like makeup has always been this mask for women to hide behind or want to feel bad about them. But I've always found it such a tool of empowerment I just like love putting on makeup. I love like dressing up and it's the feeling like theatrical and purposeful. I've always been a big fan of makeup and kind anything like severe or graphic. I was a big fan of like I said like any sort of like Asian oriental cultures. We recently went to Japan actually which was so amazing for me.
Jon: I want to go so badly.
Lydia: Yes it’s so good. That flight it's brutal, but it is really amazing.
Jon: Come out the gate on the other side.
Lydia: Yes it's so good. I've like loved Rei Kawakubo the founder and designer at Dover Street Market and Comme Des Garcon forever. I always used to go to Dover Street Market when I lived in London I had no money, but I would almost treat it as like a museum. I would go and like look at all the like shapes and I loved the way that the clothing felt like she very purposely makes women look and feel bigger versus like trying to make women feel and look small. I felt like I didn't really know it but it's such a sort of feminist choice to like take up space and to feel like big in your clothing and not trying like reduce yourself. So, that's always been something that really inspired me those shapes. So, going to Japan recently and going into the original Dover Street Market in Ginza and Tokyo was just like amazing. The set design in there and like the choices like there was this beautiful sculpture while I was there that I found really inspiring and is actually now the designer who's designing my wedding dresses and getting married next year.
Lydia: Yes. So, I'm excited about that. It's been really fun like co-designing it with her. It’s the best project ever.
Jon: That’s so cool. The designer in me is like I don't care I don't care about some of the other details the one thing that I'm like holding to myself is like I want a book at the end of this whole campaign. I want a nice design; I want to have images that I could flip through. That's the one thing that I want to like have more kind of input on versus. I don't know anybody cool enough to like design me stuff like that. I’m also not nearly as tuned in and into fashion and so I kind of want to ask you about it so I can like go back and flip through this.
Lydia: I'm actually really not into fashion at all. I think people think I am because like I really love clothes and I make no apologies but I'm very loud about my opinion about clothes. But I'm just born to like style more generally. I definitely don’t follow like fashions or trend little and unfashionable. I pretty much dress like this for the last 15 years.
Jon: I think there is in fashion like that's part of fashion you own it. It's just more about the attitude in a sentence versus like yes following I know people that I check out I got the new like shoes. After graduating school and moving did you have any plans once you came out of university like what was on the radar?
Lydia: Yes I'm definitely a girl with a plan. I knew a way to move to London I have my eyes set on that university. So, when I finished I could be honest I was kind of sad like I'd loved it so much that so much self grow from so much like deep immersion inside like amazing art I loved it. So, I was kind of sad when I left so much so that I decided to go and do more studying at Saint Martin’s. So, I did an art direction which is basically like a short course that I was suddenly aware that like art history was very theoretical a lot of my peers were going on to either set up galleries with their parent’s money or become lawyers convert to the law. I was like I don't want to do either of those things, so like what is my thing. I did a shitload of internships. I will give my younger self a lot of credit for that. A lot of people chilled and hung out during summer. My best friend and I we were very driven and I think our careers show that now because you know I'm 30 I'm a creative director I'm very young to be a creative director I'm aware of that. But I put in a lot of work up front. I did a lot of internships so when I was when I graduated I knew that I wanted to go into branding. It's interesting because I knew more about what I wanted my day to look like than what I wanted my title to be. So, I was like I know that I want to spend my day looking at images, meeting interesting people, I want to be on set, I want to work with creatives, I want to work to create images that make people feel differently or move people or communicate a message and I want to do that. So, I think I'd like now I'm like I'm so smart most people would be like okay well I know I want this title I want this salary. So, the nearest I could get to that was advertising. For all its sins advertising has been amazing it's just taught me a lot and I met a lot of incredible people. I applied at M&C Saatchi for an internship. They have no internships in the creative department as it was super competitive. So, I applied to be an Account Manager which I don't know if this is the same in the US, but like the person that deals with the client and the money which I would be terrible at. So, I applied for it almost in the hope that like I would evidence during the interview process that I clearly belonged on the creative department.
Jon: I thought of that before. There are no designer roles.
Jon: Let me go for the HR role totally convinced then.
Lydia: That’s exactly what I did and it worked. I went and applied to this internship. I got through the first rounds a couple rounds of interview and I remember turning up for the interview my dad god bless his soul he drove me all the way up from Wales to London. Then it was really snowy that day and I'm just so nervous. I was wearing some ridiculous outfit like an oversized black suit that I thought looked really Commes Des Garcon and my crazy light lipstick. I walked in and everyone was like very straight-laced like perfect suits and I was just like oh no. I didn't have my resume printed, instead I built a suitcase, but when you opened it and there a washing line sort of like erected itself and hung from it on different pegs were objects that explain my experience. So, basically building this tiny installation that encompassed a set. It was like a tiny little thing. It was humiliating. I got it there and I was just like, oh my god I feel so embarrassed like I just don't belong here. I'm going to look so stupid.
Jon: Leading up to it you’re like, this is so good.
Lydia: This is incredible.
Jon: they’re going to write about this.
Lydia: Its going to be incredible.
Jon: They’re going to give me a job right away.
Lydia: I was thinking about this in every magazine.
Jon: This girl.
Lydia: Oh my god, even thinking about it now like thinking about it was just so awful. I was so ballsy and didn’t care. So, off I went and I had the interview and I didn't get it and then they emailed me and were like “Clearly you're not an account manager you’re crazy, but you belong in the creative department.” So, they gave me an internship in the creative department exactly what I wanted.
Jon: That's awesome.
Lydia: It definitely like shows you put yourself out there and just like show who you're supposed to be. Yes I was very strategic. I knew I would work with visual communication and your advertising would get me on the ladder, it would get me in the right rooms and applying for the best which is M&C Saatchi at a time was smart of me and strategic. I got in the room and I was the only kind of like young female like I mean it was like a couple of girls. So, what happened was I started getting projects and briefs based on the fact that I was like interested in fashion and a girl. So, actually being a minority in that space turned out to be incredibly powerful for me and is the reason I quickly rose because there was one senior executive creative director who was a woman and she really like plucked me and like nurtured me and mentored me. We still stay in touch now which is very nice.
Jon: You eventually worked up to like being the head of visual content there.
Lydia: I did it in only a few years.
Jon: It was five years in total. What did head of visual content entail?
Lydia: I definitely didn’t know at the time just made that title up. I started as an art buyer where I said I was commissioning photographers and I think what really happened was I was a hybrid. I was able to come up with ideas as an art director, but I couldn’t design. I got on with all the creative teams. I definitely pushed their ideas to be better, but I wasn't a creative director because I was a baby. But I was strategic because I had a theoretical degree. So, I had a good head on my shoulders, I was very good because of my degree at pitching and putting together like an argument as to why something was compelling. So, like I said my kind of superpower was being in like the minority in that space. That executive creative director name's Elspeth Lynn she saw something in me and she pulled me to the side and were just like “Art buying is obviously an incredible craft and one exists today commissioning, but inevitably the industry was shifting and clients weren’t paying for just like a TV ad or a billboard anymore. They were aware that there was this thing called content. They needed to be doing stuff online and with purpose. My kind of like pitch was you know let me be the person that works on that. I know you've got these incredible creative teams. I'm definitely not that like I don't fuck with that. I can help you bring relevancy to the work you're doing. So, I would work on all the pitches with her. I was kind of like her right hand and I think she recognized that I had something valuable. I mean I had youth on my side. I was a digital native; I understood how to use all those platforms everyone was so confused about.
Jon: Myspace came in handy.
Lydia: Right Myspace always coming in handy. So, yes I knew how to like speak that language and so one of the most significant accounts for me that I think defines what that role one of our clients was Peroni and so I worked with the creative team on that the creative directors and Elpsworth this amazing woman on what that pitch would be. I kind of help them shape what the visual branding would be kind of like a designer would I suppose. I really gave it like a very distinct look and feel an approach to what that might look like in terms of editorial content digital content. Is it an experience like kind of thinking a little bit outside the box? To be honest purely through naivety and a lack of experience, I was able to be up well why not this. So, then you know we started we started working on that and it was amazing. They pitched it, they didn't do a boring TV ad, and they did this awesome thing called The House of Peroni which I was kind of like the visual lead on which is crazy because I was 25.
Jon: I looked it up it looks like a really kind of awesome—
Lydia: It was so cool.
Jon: --very edgy kind of campaign for Peroni at the time.
Lydia: Exactly especially because I think um why not happened which was like you know many years ago no one wouldn't be doing like pop-ups or experiential activations and connecting it back to digital an editorial content. Now that's like that my bread and butter.
Lydia: Yes obviously pop-ups, obviously 29rooms and connecting it back to the dot com like that's just what we do now. But it was a while ago and so I think it was quite ahead of his time. It was great. I think that kind of like explains the type of role I had although yes had a visual content don’t know what all that means and it was an awareness of the fact that the industry was shifting and they needed somebody that could bring cultural relevancy. I remember putting influences in a deck, people who were like taste makers or people we should have as like ambassadors for this. Not really knowing what I was doing and that's like a thing now. Then I had a couple of girls in my department one that was kind of like commissioned all the illustrators and is an amazing illustration agent now Carly and we’re still friends I'm and another who went on to be a photo agent. So, they both you know would help me. They were just like super cool young girls and we were kind of like this little team that would bring a bit of cool to the work we were doing.
Jon: You mentioned the House Peroni is one of the projects, but I also want to note that you ended working on campaigns for Ballantines.
Lydia: Yes the whiskey brand.
Jon: Yes I never know how to pronounce it.
Lydia: Virgin as well. Is it fair to House Peroni might have been one of your favorites or were there other well that may be another one that that sticks out that was really good?
Lydia: I think House of Peroni it's probably like significant in that it the medium was so new for the time and it really show the type of work that I was doing across all the different crafts. I was working with the team on like the experience and the PR and then I was working with the editorial team that we had in-house on like the online thing. So, it kind of felt really had of its time which is why I was using it as an example. But the work I did on Virgin was like really special to me because Elspeth was again really let me like run with it. So, I was kind of like I shaped the look and feel. It was such an exciting project being able to like run with it and then I commissioned this amazing photographer his name's Thomas Sheldon who's funnily enough now one of my best friends. We just went to South Africa we shot like a load of images and it was awesome because usually you'd shoot for a campaign right and something would have drawn a skamp so like an illustration and the client would sign off on that drawing and be like yes exactly what I want. I want that cup exactly there. It was very like when you put it into the camera it was almost just like piecing together something they'd already approved. But Virgin was special in that the client trusted us, they were really like forward thinking and I was able to run it more how I knew it should be done. I knew that we needed to be shooting a lot and all those assets should be there already for like every channel. So, it's kind of shooting the way that we do now in the sense that we kind of like build up an archive for a brand. Here's a visual archive of everything and this is how it should be across Instagram. Tom and I did that we shot hundreds and hundreds of images in a few days and it was so fun. We just like ran around Cape Town and like we had a couple models and we were like “Okay get them in the seat! Okay get them out! Let’s get this inflatable lobster! Okay now!” It was just like kind of crazy and like not at all like any of the shoots I've been on so it was important to me as it made me realize how you know if you partner with the right photographer you can really change the way a brand looks and spend them spend the brand's money in a very smart way. We should be giving them now all the assets for all the channels whereas back then we would charge a lot of money for just like one for like one campaign**.**
Jon: Yes it's very much evolved into as you said being on so many different platforms that you kind of need to have that insight or foresight of knowing like you know this image isn't just going to be for print ad, but it could also be for Instagram.
Lydia: Exactly and that was that that moment is in the industry when that started to really shift and advertising was like, fuck we need to like catch up with what's happening here in the media. That's when I was hanging around that was advertising for me. So, I was really lucky in that my career almost mirrors the shift in the advertising industry and the way that it changed into digital. I capitalized on the fact that people didn't know what that was or meant. Youth was like I said the best currency I could have.
Jon: I also kind of want to talk about-- I won't dig in too much more into M&C Saatchi because you had such a vast career ahead of that or after that. Was it at this time while you're at M&C Saatchi you also launched “This doesn't mean yes”?
Lydia: It was actually after I left M&C. I left M&C and I decided that again I just kind of follow I wanted to do and it made it work after. I was like I want to move to New York. I want to move to New York I decided. I feel like that's the next step for me. London was awesome. I felt like I've done well in my job I really good name for myself in the industry, but I didn't feel challenged and I wanted to do something different. I'm lucky like I said being with my boyfriend long time and so it's a lot easier to be bold in those types of big life decisions when you have like a partner in crime.
Jon: Someone to support you in case you fall.
Lydia: Exactly give you that confidence. So, it was actually upon leaving M&C that I felt like I needed to pursue. I felt like I've learned what I need to learn. I had an amazing experience, but I didn't necessarily make work that was important to me as a person like anything mission driven. So I left and what and set that up with a group of friends and it was an amazing experience which was kind of scary because I've been part of this big corporate structure where you're very protected and then suddenly we were going to go do this project on our own. I remember calling up the charity Rape Crisis UK and kind of thing, “We've got this pitch here we want to come and pitch to you.” I mean I've always had like this big team M&C Saatchi do those things. So, it was suddenly kind of going out and doing it alone, but it was amazing it's so thrilling.
Jon: So the partnership was very much almost like a cold call at the beginning.
Jon: You kind of just went from there.
Lydia: My girlfriends and I, there was four of us we all have very different expertise like I one girl like I said is an illustrator and an agent, another a book editor and other copywriter so we were all kind of like me with my randomness and skills. We just got together and I wanted to do something and it was in response to culture because an ad came out and caused a bit of a stir in UK. I believe the police put out an ad basically kind of insinuating like you had to look after your friends or they might get in trouble. They thought they might get raped and it was like I think it kind of like caused a big stir on the internet everyone was like wait a minute this is like implying like she has to make sure she doesn't get raped. Can we like deal with the root of this cause? People just not rape. Why are we educating this girl on getting home safe. I think it was in response to that we were like wait a minute we are all really well equipped with skills and a network here so let's do something really cool. This is something that we're passionate about. So, we put together a kind of pitch deck of like what we wanted to do. We went and we got their attention, we managed to meet with one of the founders of the charity. I don't know how. No idea how. I remember meeting them nervously in Kings Cross. I was wearing brand new black leather clogs, they rub my feet terribly and I limped in—
Jon: Tip toeing in.
Lydia: Exactly always overdelivering on the outfit. We pitched it and they loved it. They had no opportunity not to. We were saying we want to give you all of our time all of our expertise. We don't any money from you we just want you to say you want this and it was a most successful campaign that they've had. It was amazing. Also I think having spent quite a few years commissioning male photographers because obviously there are a lot more male photographers in advertising, I also felt a sense of responsibility to make a comment about that commissioning. So, during that time of me relatively good friends with Peru who's a well-known male fashion photographer in London and he's very known for like big fashion campaigns often very like sexualized women, but that's kind of the industry. So, it was amazing to partner with this big fashion photographer and get him to kind of change what his lens was doing and think a little more about like clothing and consent and portraiture. Almost like by using a photographer who would historically objectify women through his imagery go through the fashion industry and get him to shoot these women for a campaign that was around the fact that clothing can't give consent was really interesting to me. I think it was something that I needed to do having had worked in advertising for a few years, I felt like I needed to turn on its head a little because advertising can be a little like it can like suck your soul a little. I want to like give something. I want to do something that's generous and obviously we used to do pro bono and charity campaigns at M&C but I was never really high up enough to impact them. So, it was amazing to get the opportunity to really do that. Even though it was so long ago and it was such a scrappy campaign it cost us hardly any money. I remember standing out in Shoreditch East London and like trying to pull girls into a photo booth being like “Please have your photo taken for our campaign and we're going to try and pull.” It was just like an amazing thrill like even like now when I think back that was like a highlight of my career because it was just like so pure in its intention.
Jon: How important was it to take that leap faith and just like you said you didn't ask for any money, you didn't ask for any kind of anything in return, but it sounded like there was a big payoff in the sense because it was something that you really believed and it allowed you to kind of not hone, but showcase your skills in the way that lends itself so the better good.
Lydia: Completely and I think that's when I got the like bug for that I was like, oh my god this feels so good. When you do something with such a pure intention and use your skills and you're not kind of like boxing yourself into one craft like I said you just kind of like do what you need to do. Is it like you need to get this photographer, okay produce the shoot, okay we need to edit these things, okay is it going to be on the website. Sure I'll do this a PR interview I'll try and hustle and get it into the newspaper. Suddenly using any skill I had it kind of like I said like I kind of said earlier it just sort of like it sets you free from feeling defined by you know the title which is ironic. I know I have like the most typical creative title, but I just mean it wasn't about that it was like about the output and it was so special because it was like a group of friends who kind of came together and realized they could do it together like they together they were really powerful which I think is really nice. That was a really good example of if you do a project that matters to you people will like it versus is like trying to like impress people from the outset it's like the output is not very.
Jon: It goes back to that idea of like doing something cool for yourself.
Lydia: Yes it's so true and then seeing like people like Zooey Deschanel like posted on her Facebook and was like this is important.
Jon: That's awesome.
Lydia: I was like, oh my god I’m done.
Jon: I’m done quitting and tired thats it.
Jon: So, you made the decision to move to New York. Was there any real driving sense that you wanted to go to New York? Was it just like you want to change a pace or you want to change the scenery you had from London culture?
Lydia: That was it literally like I had always kind of followed what was scary to me like going to London and like pushing myself to run department even though I was really young and then like leaving my job and doing these sorts of little personal projects. So, I think New York for me he felt scary and far away and bigger than me. Not that I had by any means conquered London, but I just meant I'm done. I felt like London was safe and we had like a lovely house and then a great group of friend it's nice. I sound like a sadist, but like it was almost like everything was too good and like we could have had a house, had a kid and I would have worked my way up in an ad agency now and that would've been great. But I felt like I wanted to challenge myself more as a person and keep growing as a person versus just as a professional within a framework. So, New York felt scary and cool. My mom took me to New York when I was a kid and I was just like wow I felt like in awe of how big it was and how small it made me feel. Clearly that’s something I followed.
Jon: Correct me if I'm wrong. You landed a brand aesthetics which is Anomaly. Brand aesthetics what is that?
Lydia: No idea.
Jon: I’m sure I have somewhat an idea but I’d love for you to dig in.
Lydia: I mean in a similar way that visual content is like the most confusing hybrid between like an art director and a designer and they're kind of strategist it was again just you see you the way that my career like maps that like it's an austere of like agencies willing to try and find a way to define me and not knowing which department to put me in. So, Anomaly actually being very much an anti advertising agency I don't know how much you know about Anomaly this incredible art agency you can see like they wouldn't even call themselves that they are like very creatively driven and innovative from like IP deals to like rethinking the way that you partner with a brand just super cool. They had amazing clients and amazing people working there like the leadership there it's like very inspiring. A lot of the original guys from Nike and I called Kevin Lyons who is my mentor now.
Jon: Oh really?
Jon: I love his work, but actually on the way to work actually one day I thought I saw the back like the profile of his face I was like “Oh my god its Kevin Lyon!” I didn’t have a chance because the doors had just closed. I tweeted him. I was Kevin were you on the F train” He was like “Yes that was probably me.”
Lydia: That’s so funny.
Jon: Never have we ever met and never have we faced to face. That was definitely Kevin Lyons.
Lydia: He’s iconic that crazy white beard, always wearing shorts he was really cold. But he’s amazing. Anomaly was like obvious like obviously, they have an amazing much smaller kind of like arm in London and somebody from M&C who I'd worked closely with I believe she was a M&C she went over to run Anomaly London and so I was honest with her like we went for gin tonic and I was like “Listen I want to move to New York can you help me? I know Anomaly is in New York and you run the London office like can you connect me like what's the deal?” She was incredible. Camilla Harrison is a very inspiring woman, super smart and she was like “Come work for Anomaly London for like six months and while we like figure it out.” She set me up with an interview I had a telephone interview with Anomaly New York and they agreed to while I was sort getting my visa they agreed to let me work at Anomaly London on American account. So, I started working with in New York team.
Jon: That’s cool.
Lydia: Yes it was amazing and actually during my interview process they were like “Who are you moving to New York with?” I was like “Oh my like boyfriend like he's like a create technologist he can code, he's a product designer.” They were like great “We'll hire him too.” They hired him as well and it was amazing. So, they moved us both here. I think the original question was what is that title about and I think it was a few months of me working like with the designers, I'm working with the creative directors and I'm just kind of doing presentations on like things of cultural relevancy or trends or visual trends to consider or like working with the design directors and helping them shape the look and feel for a brand. I was very much hopping around all these different departments trying to like find my value because I knew I had one, but I didn't know moving into a new sort of space a new ad agency that the kind of like championed people who were a little bit of everything was great for me. I mean again though I got there and I was like very nervous, I knew I wasn't an art director and I couldn't get briefed the same as everyone else, but it was a lot easier because Roux my boyfriend was also like that can make 3d things, you could connect the Internet to physical things and he was like all about Arduino and shit. We were just this weird little couple. So, actually what ended up happening is they partnered us which was like amazing for work, but like kind of weird because like we moved to New York with no friends sure and you know one and then we were like creative partners at work. Yes in an ad agency everyone's a team. Yes we were made into a team and we just used to take all that like weird briefs anything fashion, innovation, tech anything like a bit weird.
Jon: So come up with something.
Lydia: Right figure it out. We were like that team and so through the oddballs we were all like that thing. That title was an attempt it couldn't be brand director because it's like well that makes you sound like a suit. That just sounds like a business person which I am not and I didn't want to be like design director because like I don't know how to do that.
Lydia: Then strategy it means that you're like oh so you can like analyze data and understand coms, no not that either. So, it was just one I remember having like a whole page of them in a Google Doc and the ECD looks like let's go with that one. I know it's crazy because like even when I was interviewing that refinery here and the founder of refinery were like “What's the title about though?” I was “I don't really know.”
Jon: As much as you kind of mentioned a couple of times that like you know you aren't necessarily a designer because you don't know like I don't know what there's even like a physical movement or physical kind of quality about a designers. It's really just a craft, but like what I kind of respect about your work is that design can be is more thinking in my mind which doesn't necessarily disqualify you from being a designer. So, I think like it's very much a quality of being able to articulate and communicate those kind of feelings whenever that may be or the brief the KPIs. It’s that very creative thinking that I think is more valuable than actually moving or kerning type.
Lydia: I realize though after years of having these weird titles that I was like oh wait there are thousands of designers and there's just one of me and that's I need to feel really good about that because for years I had such bad impostor syndrome of like you're not excellent at anything you're just good at everything you're just said a little bit good at designing, a little bit good at copyrighting kind of in the stand strategy. That was always challenging for me, but I have learned to embrace that.
Jon: Has there been anything that kind of helped you get over that in a sense like things that may not be obvious to people?
Lydia: Definitely I think realizing that a structure in which you work in like the place that employs you isn't the world. Working for a shop like Anomaly, Kevin is incredibly inspiring. Kevin Lyons like he's obviously an amazing illustrator and he's like a creative hybrid through and through well he can copywriter and he's great a strategist. He's an amazing designer, he is great with type, but like he doesn't box himself in. He lets his work speak for him. He lets his work define his contribution. I think being around people like that made me realize that my work could speak for me and that would be my contribution. I didn't have to introduce myself with like whatever my title was or whatever my craft was so that helped a lot. Moving to New York helped a lot. Like to be honest in New York London is a little more like straight-laced like they like to like know what you are you not like the British way whereas I think New York is kind of like you be who you want to be. You want to be on someone on Monday change on Friday if you like it doesn't really matter. I'm really glad that I moved to New York for a lot of reasons, but that's definitely one of them. I've done a lot of like self growth here where I realized my value and that you don't need to define it in those like traditional terms.
Jon: You're a Refinery29 and said you made that title creative director it's kind of almost full circle.
Lydia: It is.
Jon: What are the things that you're focusing on now as a creative director at Refinery 29? Are there any big initiatives or projects that are kind of the backbone of anything that you guys do there?
Lydia: So Refinery is just the most wonderful place to work. It celebrates people who are passionate about the mission which is to enable women to feel see and clean their power that's like why we get up every day that's where we go. It's so amazing working for a mission-driven brand especially because a lot of my personal work has been centered around gender equality and like feminist issues. So, coming to a space where I’m able to work with brands and get brands to partner with us as a company has been like dream come true. It's basically my whole career has been culminating in this moment. So, a big part of my role working as creative director of Refinery 29 is I help oversee any of the brand partnerships that we do. So Refinery is obviously an editorial company. We’re a dot com, a digital media company, we do events, 29rooms, and we have a lot of mission based initiatives like last year we did a big thing around body diversity called 67%. So, as a company we are like constantly expanding our ecosystem our digital ecosystem. So, we have teams that specialize in like facebook live from Instagram to Snapchat its massive. We like to see like Disneyland for millenial women it's a huge, but because of that I'm kind of lucky in that my role means I'm trying to connect brands with our audience and be the translator for those brands. So, it's like working at an ad agency only like everyone already wants to look at my stuff everyone already like is hanging out with my work and I've never been more accountable for creating good stuff because I have an audience now. I have a baked-in audience who expects anything that I make with the brand to say you know H&M collaborating with with Refinery 29 he has a load of videos, here's an event activation and here is a partnership. That basically now is being measured success wise by this audience which is super cool. I've always like pitched got into brand pitches and been like we're going to work with you. This is the campaign, but now I do that and I'm like oh we're from Refinery 29 and we already have like millions of millennial women who like trust us and come to us for this amazing content. So, like if you want to partner with us that's smart for you. You pitch with so much more authority, but then your ideas are held way more accountable. I feel like in that agency I used to like launch stuff into the world and be like that's a horse in my book and I don’t give a fuck what happens after that whereas now you really are tied to like something having an ROI and it being successful for a brand that it either driving to a sale or encouraging a consumers like to think differently about something like brand awareness around perception. But first and foremost I'm servicing an audience and these women come to Refinery because it's a trusted source. They see themselves in the images. They know that we're not going to serve them any bullshit. I'm never going to sell them anything I'm just going to be like it's we say service not sell which means it's a good example of like if I'm going to bring you a brand and I'm going to talk to you about a trend for example it's always going to be through the lens of this might be a smart idea, but if you don’t want to do it don't do it.
Jon: It's very much like you're kind of the filter from because you have that audience and they are very I don't want to say reliant, but like they expect and have an expectation that you're bringing them something that they want and it's not just like to bullshit to be honest. That's very much kind of what sounds like a double-edge sword. You have this audience and they're there, but brands can’t come to you for anything.
Lydia: Completely and it's like that conscious marketing like brands know they need to be contributing to the world in a meaningful way and speaking to consumers about what matters to them like you know things are happening in culture things that are like important to them like aligning with causes that are important to them. I think because refinery has already been doing that for like over a decade we partnered with the women's march and with Planned Parenthood between our rooms. We've already just been doing that like I said over a decade. It doesn't feel insincere when a brand partner partners with us then because it's like well we're already speaking to her in this way. We already have this belief system. So, as a brand if you want to like start to speak to her like that you can come and do it in a safe space. I think sometimes brands get scared like silence is like scary now for a brand. If a brand doesn't speak it's like what are you hiding.
Jon: So, people like it almost want more personality from these like brands that have one time or faceless.
Lydia: 100%. That I think is really tough especially when you look at brave nimble brands like you know everyone's going to be like the Glossier is like that's like a great example and Fair Play they know exactly what every day they like with a consumer. Outdoor Voice is another great example.
Lydia: Yes knowing that their brand was speaking to like a style consumer and then seeing that maybe the quality of the product wasn't as good as it could be compared to like hardcore competitors you know. Then it is realizing that actually if they spoke to the consumer and got them to inform the design that was also smart. It's like agile and nimble. I think it's hard when you're a massive brand that's been around for a long time to make those moves and I think Refinery gives you a safe space to do that. I'm really proud of that fact. I love the fact that I work with brands and I help them connect with women in a way that's meaningful for women.
Jon: You mentioned some of my favorites Outdoor Voices and then you mentioned Glossier. In terms of design I feel like that, but I also want to mention Billie which I think has been super amazing in terms of the design not only about like having that message having that voice of making a stand for what they believe in and you can either agree with it or just don't buy our product because we don't care.
Lydia: Totally that's like I said that that's so brave to be like us or don't. I think a lot of massive companies that have been around for a real long time—
Jon: Super afraid.
Lydia: Like what do we do now?
Lydia: Yes and I think there are some brands I think that have been very successful in realizing the industry is shifted like Gucci. When you think about good she's a heritage brand and you think about the way that they're now behaving like a start-up like they are activating like an Internet community to create their advertising. That's like no product integration it's just like pure like contributing to culture in an interesting way and playing that long game and then watching that like you know Gen Z quite frankly buy their product which is extraordinary to me. I mean I know that they are still an expensive product, but I think they've really like found a way to speak to a young audience and talk about quality and even like their donation to gun control. It’s just smart moves that feel sincere they don't feel tokenistic or like they've just cast someone for the sake of being diverse. I often say like brands it's easy to do the right thing you just have to every day. You can’t do it once.
Jon: You can’t.
Lydia: No and you have to continue the conversation and otherwise it’s insincere.
Jon: It's very true. I think that like rings true even to like when I was a kid you know my dad would say like “Don't just half-ass it.” If you're going to do it, do it right. I had asked on social media on my Instagram @wellfed.US if they had any questions for you and a bunch of them popped up and some really good ones and I think segues really nicely from Refinery 29 being very service driven and supportive of young female creatives, talent and business entrepreneurs. One of the questions was, “Do you have any advice for women out there starting their own business?”
Lydia: Oh that’s so good. A piece of advice would be I mean I wish I could say first hand I would love to have my own business one day. I think I would definitely say find your people like find your like group of people that can be your support system and be really open to like asking people for help. I recently got a bit better at this. I used to be very proud and want to like figure it all out on my own because I was quite an independent thinker especially during my Chinese role like this is what I'm going to do. I definitely think that there's strength in seeking out people you admire and seeking out people who are in a similar position as you and almost like banding together kind of like stronger together. I'm part of a really cool network called “Her” and like women in the industry.
Jon: Who decided that?
Lydia: It was created by a few women. It started in Sweden I believe and a girl called Baba. My friend Sophia is also co- running it and Marika there's a few girls. There are all incredibly inspiring amazing business women. Baba has her own agency now called By Baba, but they started off this. Actually at first I was nervous like I'm I don’t know about this go in and like talking to each other about like how successful we are or could be like I just feel nervous about idea. I'm definitely like an introvert who likes to wear an extrovert. Actually I went along and it was an incredibly open like space that you go around a table and like you ask questions of things that you need help with at work. It's all obviously confidential things you might want to do next. I found so much. I've just been so inspired by how like supportive of each women are of each other. Typically women especially in the industries I've been in like advertising super male-dominated there is one really room for like one or two women at the top those women have been ruthless and kind of masquerade as men together. So, women are always very competitive with each other which is such a shame because actually if we just help each other out it'll be a lot easier.
Jon: It's like you're fighting for the same thing.
Lydia: Exactly and I think that's only dropping like the last couple years there's a lot more help and support and funding out there for women specifically. It's almost like having been like that all the time is now going to like give us an opportunity, but I would say seek out those people that you can call on. Mentors don't have to be people that are like twenty years or senior and like already running a multi-billion dollar company. They can be peers who are also starting their own thing. I find from the herd it's been great. I sat next to an amazing girl called Poly who started this sex toy brand called “Unbound Babes”. She's amazing. This girl started her company, like worked on a product for years, started hiring people, got funding like pitched and I was so intimidated by her success. Then upon speaking to her I realized that she was just like “I don't know what the fuck I was doing.” I was figuring it out because I got figured out and then I went into this, that and I fucked up, try it again.” I think humanizing your experience and realizing that it's not your struggle it's a shared struggle can only help. So, I would say seek out mentors that are your peers. I know that the network of women who are doing that want to all help each other I think.
Jon: I had another question that I thought definitely is evidence from the conversation that we've had pertaining to this question. It was how do you find a job that’s as artistically fulfilling and financially rewarding? I think like a lot of what you have talked about today has been in that same kind of thought. Maybe obviously I want you to answer this, but it's almost like you never really were looking for both of those it was so much more on the one side.
Lydia: I would definitely say that and I feel like that's a really annoying answer like if I was asking that question I'd be irritated by this answer. So, like apologies in advance, but I feel like it's something like people we're all seeking out originality and original thought and authenticity. It’s like all anyone wants like across all industries. So, whether you're an illustrator or you're a set designer or whether you will be an art director like you need to be trying to find your individual truth your style. It's super hard because we're so saturated by images and I am like very much in making of all the things that inspire me and I think that's okay. It's easy to get lost inside the ambition to try and you know make money and living life without getting lost and making work that isn't really truly you. In truth that's all started to happen at the end of them M&C I was like “We're doing well.” I don't really like this work like I'm not about this work. I'm enjoying the in these awesome artists which is why I then as a kind of reaction from that did #thisdoesntmeanyes and some work at Anomaly with an amazing creative director Alex Holder, we partnered with Elle magazine we did this great video called “More Women” which is actually about women being less competitive. So, work like that really was like important to me.
So, I was kind of like to give you a brutally truthful answer, I was working in a job that was like allowing me to be creative every day, but I wasn't fulfilling my like truth and I was making money like enough money. Once I started seeking out work that I actually was passionate about and creatively fulfilled me was actually then when my career took off and I did well. So, that is such an annoying answer. Do the work that is your truth. Make work you're proud of that makes you feel that you’re contributing to this planet and someone will pay you for it is just such a horrible answer.
Jon: I think like I'm sorry—
Lydia: I was just going to say and like the exciting thing is I think like when I first started like ten years ago it was like, cool so I want to work with photographers and I need to make money to stay in London or I got to move back to Wales. So, like advertising and it’s not that anymore. There are so many incredible like startups, creative agencies and creative studios. I think now maybe because I'm in New York and I'm older, but I think there are so many more opportunities to have like entry-level positions or positions that are like in creative environments that let you like do your thing.
Jon: I think like you know being able to ask questions through Instagram and having them submitted is like a prime example of using a platform to kind of as you were saying like creating the work that you want to do.
Jon: You're constantly looking at artists and other photographers so you know on the flip side of that question of artistically fulfilling and financially rewarding you know since you're commissioning a lot of artists how are they or how are people-- how would you say is the best way to get the attention of say someone like you a creative director or someone that is in that position that's commissioning and looking to kind of use someone else's ideas or execution?
Lydia: Yes it was a great question. I mean unfortunately I'm a little more removed from the commissioning process than I even used to be just because of my role is managing a lot of people. The girls that oversee design and photo the photo editors and the photo directors I mean they keep me very up to date on stuff and they are always seeking out cool people. My own experiences with commissioning I think if you make fucking cool work it will get seen and get out there. There is an amazing editor in the UK her name's Gem Fletcher if you're a photographer you should follow her on Instagram because her Instagram is amazing. It has like so many up-and-coming photographers she's a real like fountain of like cool content. So, I've commissioned through Instagram before which I think speaks to the power of that platform like why would you not want to be in front of a commissioner’s eyes every day that's where I'm going to be inspired and that's where I'm going to like chill and like and like absorb creativity and be there.
Jon: It’s like all times at all times of the day.
Lydia: Exactly, but I’m a big believer that if you make cool work and you don't compromise you know obviously too much--I speak through photography specifically because that's my background, but like I used to say to photographers I know you need to make money and you need to take those commercial jobs, but like that shit doesn’t need to go in your book or Instagram right. Keep that away and just keep making personal work. I actually managed a photographer her name is Maisie Cousins for a couple years to kind of like side-project just I want to see if I could do it. Maisie is incredibly talented Maisie Cousins you should check her out. I found her on Instagram, I just DM’ed her. I was like this a bit weird. I'm an art buyer. I commission photographers, but I would love to help you and represent you and get you jobs and like help you shape your portfolio and like brand you basically and help you out. I did that for a few years and she's now wearing like a big fancy agency. So, I feel really happy that she's like flown the nest and done so well. I think being on the other side I learned a lot about like Maisie when she was doing her best work it was kind of like not commercial work nothing like pushed her really, stuff that she was just like had to make because she couldn't not make it. That was the work that got people's attention. Then it was like I didn't even have to like ask. I was like, “Hey Maise do you mind running this work?” They were like already done can I have the files. The work will travel if it's good and commissioners will be inspired by that because the thing is when you cold email or you send like newsletters or like anything in the post or in the mail that stuff I think that probably used to work. But it just doesn't now. I feel like it just falls and I always feel like this hideous sense of guilt that somebody's paid like print this stuff and send it in to you. I don't believe that they cut through. I don't think that they disrupt my office space and make people actually like think about their work. If anything it tells me that that person is like busy doing that and not busy making fucking cool work. I'm going to read about in all my favorite blogs. See I would definitely focus on the work and focus less on like kind of advertising yourself which I definitely think was a thing like back in the day when I was in art buyer people used to sound like crazy stuff. I remember once getting like a helium balloon in a box and then the next day getting a print of the helium balloon and it was funny and cheeky, but like now I think it would just feel like cheesy. It's like why are you feeling like you have to advertise yourself focus on the shooting amazing work. So, I kind of remember the original question.
Jon: Again it still goes to like our very first few questions or things that we talked about make stuff that is cool to you and at some point you know it will attract eyes. It doesn't have to be you know whether-- I mean I still I love to live by this idea it's just like, do it for yourself or and whether it's five people or those people have no money or whether they work in a big agency just be persistent and continue to kind of stay true to what you believe in that message.
Lydia: I completely agree and I think artists-illustrators-photographers whoever that bounce between different styles in an attempt to get commissioned by whomever they're emailing that week it's so obvious. I think that lack of clarity in their body of work it like screams because it feels like they're just they're anybody's. They've seen something cool and then they've tried to kind of copy that they've seen that Gucci's doing this hyper realistic paint thing. They kind of doing that a bit now, but it's like why you should be telling me what the next thing is, show me what the next thing is going to be because I'm only ever going to go to the original for that. There was a real wave of photographers back in London who were kind of doing the like heavy set design Tim Walker thing and it's like guys it’s never going to that's never going to be you for that. The world isn't going to be original.
Jon: I want to close out with one thing and I think this was as I was doing research, doing my homework and looking at the background your experience. The one thing I found to admire so much is that you've really kind of not consciously but you've crafted this like strong personal brand what you do, how you do and everything. I want to know if you'd be so kind how important do you think that's played a role in kind of you know where you've arrived today.
Lydia: I think I would love to say that it hasn't played a role and it's just like it hasn't been important because I feel like the whole idea of like self brand and the personal brand is just like makes me cringe a little bit these days. But like it’s been massive, it's been significant because I think I've shown that I can brand myself so I must be good at branding. I think people that want to be in the creative industry like your first canvas of yourself. It’s like you should think about the things you surround yourself like your clothing, spaces, the people you surround yourself with, how you communicate in who you are and what you belief systems in the world. I think although the idea of the self brand just instantly makes you think about a girl with like a coconut and a boathouse on Instagram it's like it's not that for a creative. If you're a maker and you actually want to like contribute something to the creative industry, I actually think is super important and it has been massive for me it has. I've been really conscious about it and I'm okay with that. I feel like I don't I don't want to try and pretend like you know I just do my website together it's not a big deal. I'm like my Instagram is just like a personal blog for me. It’s not a big deal to me. I feel like the way that I have presented myself both in how I look like I've always been like the weirdo in the room it's like, she seems to be into fashion give her that brief that's worked out well for me. Making sure that my website reflected my things that inspire me, my belief systems and very like clear about putting what my personal mission is on there. I say on there I want to work in helping brands and using communication as a vehicle for positive messages because I believe that is something valuable. I think sort of stating that that's important to me and being confident enough to put it out there is like tough, but also something people gravitate towards. I think people gravitate towards people with conviction.
Jon: Ambition as well.
Lydia: I think as well like I always think that metaphor about somebody that is like you know a house on fire and somebody's like “I know exactly where we are going.” You follow that guy. You follow the person that seems to know what to do it and like even though I definitely been figuring it out along the way I've been very like assertive about the things I do know always. I've always put my hands up and said that I'm like a hybrid creative that is kind of a bit of everything. I own that. I make sure that anything that I touch you know be at my website my Instagram even my resume or the way I applied for Anomaly I wrote this page about why you'd hire me. It was like a little bit assertive and a little bit attitude. It was like we’re going to make beautiful babies. You've got all this shit going on. I got this stuff like together we could make beautiful work. So, like your call. I think having that confidence in the way that I've presented myself has helped me definitely. I think that people especially creative people and makers are often like quite shy and retiring. I think like a lot of the designers who are incredibly talented who I've met along the way are often people that find it hard to then present their work. They can make something beautiful, but then selling it in or like making sure that their exact creative director gets it is like another scale.
I think I like I said a long time ago realized I wasn't that maker and I was never going to be able to sit there and craft a piece of typography. I wish I was that good, but I'm not. So, I've had to really lean into what I was really good at. Showing that I could brand myself has helped me then say well I can brand your brand or I can work for you and do that for you with the same precision and the same like pointed attitude.
Jon: We're going into 2019 and will be closing out soon. Are you looking to do anything before the New Year? Then is there anything going into the New Year that you're excited about or planning on working on or it could be anything like trying a new ramen or something?
Lydia: Yes. Actually I'm really excited about a personal project that I have going on right now kind of speaking to like the whole theme of this conversation which is making for you. I love my job, I have an incredible job, but it's high pressure and it's working with a lot of massive brands, big budgets, timelines and a lot of people to manage. Like I said I'm a young manager and I have really found a lot of solace and confidence going back to doing something super simple. So, actually a couple of months ago I decided to do this project called “Dead Flowers” which I just branded myself like it was like really fun. I made an Instagram like made some images with friends and basically I've just been upcycling dead flowers like trashed flowers from like the flower market from events and creating like sets out of them. I’m not set designer, but it's been really fun to do something with my hands and to make. In fact I had a photo shoot yesterday at my house and I loved that the whole purpose of it is nothing, it's just for me. So, I'm really enjoying like discovering different sides of my creativity. It has been fun producing shoots again. I haven’t done that in a long time. It's been really fun partnering with friends who are really creative and I'm hoping to do a window something I really want to do before the end of the year. I realized we only have a month left. I really want to do like a window set, pretty cool. So, then a couple of shoots now where I've made these installations of like big dead flowers, but I really want to do a window do so that's something I'm setting myself. It's funny because I work like I said in such a like amazing company and I know I'm you know lucky to have such and such a creative job and work with so many inspiring women, but actually I crave just a little sort of humble output of my own that I'm like that's for no reason other than fun.
Jon: I want to do it.
Jon: That's awesome. Where can people find more of you and dead flowers?
Lydia: At my Instagram at lydia_pang_ and then under you'll see my dead flowers Instagram account where I'm just like documenting myself trying to like brand it, drying flowers and like the shoots that I do and those images should be coming up soon. So yes I’m always using Instagram as a place to put all of that.
Jon: Lydia thank you so much for chatting with me today.
Lydia: Thank you it was so fun.