Welcome to a new series where we bring the BoF community even closer together by getting to know some of our key members.
BoF: What is your current role?
Vanessa Setton: I’m currently freelance, but I used to be brand strategist for The Great Bowery and before that a talent agent — so talent management, managing stylists, hairdressers, makeup artists — and that grew over the last couple of years into brand strategy for the whole organisation. I was applying the experience of working with individuals on their own personal brand to the wider brand of The Great Bowery, which represents over 100 different creative types through our agency.
It’s actually a really exciting time. I love skimming The Business of Fashion each morning to keep me abreast of all of the changes that are going on in the industry, not solely my segment or what I have come up the ranks with, but just a broader [overview]. We’re going through this technological revolution. For me, at my age, I feel that it’s exciting because I was actually getting bored doing the same thing, using the same playbook and the same format to market talent. Now we’re forced to use our brains in a different way and be more creative, more collaborative and really think about “How do you reach a consumer? How do you engage with your target?” I find exciting just trying to discover that as it evolves.
BoF: What do you wish more people understood about your line of work?
VS: That it’s a lot of mediation. I think that’s what’s exciting about my line of work: say a client has a creative they’re looking to work with, it’s just trying to get those two parties — who may not initially agree on certain things — together to get to the final product, and actually producing a creative brief. I think that’s really exciting and I don’t think people realise that as an agent you’re really working behind the scenes trying to get those two parties to come together to get that creative off the ground.
BoF: What is the number-one lesson you've learned during your career?
VS: To listen. And to constantly keep evolving and not allowing roadblocks. If a roadblock does appear then [finding out] how to go back and resolve and figure out a way. I don’t see obstacles, I’m just always trying to find solutions.
BoF: What is the number-one challenge you are facing in your area of expertise?
VS: The number-one challenge is to get people to understand that things aren’t going to go back to the old days. I think everyone thinks that digital is just a fad, but to me it’s just another form of communication. When I hear someone say “oh well, this is just a bubble and it’ll burst” I’m like, “no, that’s like saying we’re going to go back to using smoke signals and not use telephones!” It’s just going to keep evolving.
That’s the biggest challenge. We need people to accept these technological changes — as a society we fundamentally do not communicate in the same way anymore — and how best to address them.
BoF: What industry shifts are you most optimistic about?
VS: Multicultural voices are coming through and different voices are being heard. There was an established norm of how things were done, preconceptions of what luxury was or what fashion was, but now it’s completely open. Just on the fashion end, like fashion shows. In my experience with that, I’ve seen it change 100 percent. Where there used to be no access behind the scenes at fashion shows, now everyone has access and that’s a beautiful thing.
And then at the same time [there’s] the rise of changing our preconceived notions of identity. I think that’s also an incredible evolution that’s happening.
It is exciting [to see] new voices that coming out, but it's sad to see how the photographic industry is still lacking in acceptance of technology and how the usage and sales of imagery is just declining. Rather than supporting younger artists, the industry is still trying to hold on to traditional industry norms of managing talent and creating content in the same way, rather than having further discussions of how to include these next generations of image-makers.
BoF: What topics should the fashion industry be debating more vigorously?
Just acceptance — rather than resistance — of a new generation and accepting that these aren’t just trends and fads. It’s actually sad for me to see how behind fashion is. People are talking about the fact that print media is dying. It’s not a new topic; it’s been buzzing around for the last 10 years and not until maybe this year have people just found that “oh, people aren’t buying magazines.”
I wish people in positions of power would accept that these changes are here to stay and that’s due to technology, because now everyone has a voice. It used to be suppressed because the mediums were limited but now everyone wants to be heard — and they should be! I just don’t think a handful of people should define who we are. It has to be inclusive.
What we should be campaigning for is to have more inclusivity. I think that’s going into a whole other tangent but I still feel that maybe this change has taken so long that we have C-suite executives that are immune to reality; they’re in their own bubble.
BoF: How do you hope the industry will evolve in 2019?
It’s baffling to me how people look at the example of Rihanna’s Fenty makeup line and they’re just like “wow what a mega hit!” Like, yeah. She’s trending, she’s at least acknowledging that there is a segment of people out there that are multicultural — and it’s not even a black or white [issue]. I think it’s really easy to find a race thing [in this], but it’s not. That’s where fashion is slow to adjust: to the fact that the world is multicultural, we all have a voice and we all should, at least, be acknowledged. It’s interesting we’re seeing it more with luxury, they are kind of adjusting. But some of the mass brands still don’t get it. You can’t blame them because they don’t have the right people in these higher positions, so they just don’t understand.
BoF: What are you doing differently in your role this year?
Because I find this new time of individual voices [so exciting], I personally want to focus on communicating and working in the marketing sector to honour the multi-level, multicultural voices that are out there. I feel there is lack of acknowledgeable people that are really communicating in the right way so that’s what I’m trying to find: a position where I could help continue moving that needle forward.
Do you have a question for Vanessa?