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Role Call | Becky Smith, Creative Director

Becky Smith, a creative director at Spring Studios and founder of Twin magazine, says pick your colleagues and collaborators carefully as they often shape your career path.  
Becky Smith | Source: Courtesy
By
  • Lisa Wang

There are few sectors of the economy that offer as wide and interesting a range of career opportunities as fashion. In a new series that coincides with the launch of BoF Careers, the global marketplace for fashion talent, we highlight some of the industry’s most interesting jobs and the talented people who do them.

LONDON, United Kingdom — Becky Smith founded the first of her independent magazines, Lula, in 2004, followed by Twin, a hard-backed bi-annual, in 2009. Born in 1977, in Stoke-on-Trent, she graduated with a degree in graphic design and worked alongside Robin Derrick at British Vogue, as well as at i-DHarper's BazaarElle10 and Wallpaper. In 2010, she joined digital agency AKQA. She is currently a creative director at Spring Creative, the agency arm of Spring Studios.

BoF: Please describe your current role.

BS: I am the editor and creative director of Twin magazine and a creative director at Spring Studios, a digital advertising agency based out of London.

On a daily basis I’m based at Spring, which is a great hub for meeting clients and photographers in general. I work on several different clients at the same time, creating anything from campaigns and interactive lookbooks to websites, e-commerce photography and apps.

At Twin, projects normally happen organically. And my role is all-encompassing. I still commission the photography, design pages and collate everything for the magazine. I'm also guiding the commercial aspects in the most subtle ways possible. And I'm the only person with an overview of the entire book, responsible for deciding what does or doesn't make the cut.

I work closely with a small team of young women who have been with me since the beginning (which helps). There are also the bits I find annoying – as I’m sure most creatives do – arranging sales, distribution, paying bills and attempting to do the accounts.

BoF: What attracted you to your current role?

BS: I took the job at Spring Studios because of its high-end, fashion-focused client base [and the fact that it's a] 360 agency that can do everything under one roof, in addition to working with someone [Robin Derrick, executive creative director at Spring Studios] who I have worked with, on and off, for a long time and trust.

BoF: What is the most exciting project or initiative you have worked on recently?

BS: I love my job in advertising, but nothing beats working on my own magazine, because of the creative freedom and challenges that brings, as well as the people I get to work with. In the very first issue of Twin magazine, Boo George shot for us. He was just starting out then, but since then he's gone on to do such amazing things. I have also worked with Danielle Levitt several times for Twin. For issue seven, we discussed a modern day Paris Is Burning idea. We worked together closely to find the most interesting characters. This time it wasn't the culture of NYC's ballrooms, but we followed the kids on the streets in and around East Harlem. The story just got under the skin of the people regardless of race, gender or sexuality. It was totally free!

BoF: How is your role changing? What are the forces driving this change?

BS: When I worked at Vogue pre-Internet, I was literally memorising each issue's content. Then, when we needed to re-use something I would go down, fill in some paper forms and dig out the negatives or prints [from the archive]. It was so laborious! It's so easy now… stick it in Google! It's genius — it really can help make everyone a genius on everything. I think people are now having to become multi-talented; great at numerous things rather than just one thing. I don't think your thinking needs to change from print to digital — it's still always about great ideas.

BoF: Tell us a story about a failure and how you learned from it.

BS: I won’t name names, but I worked for a small company where the business head was very vocal about how he thought things should be. I disagreed and I was forced into doing something how he wanted it, which I knew was wrong. Not surprisingly, it was a terrible flop! Lesson learnt: don’t let other people tell you what to do if you know it’s wrong.

BoF: What advice do you have to offer for people who are interested being a creative director?

BS: No job is too big or too small. Be bold, think big, collaborate and share. I’ve never been formally trained. I taught myself the Adobe creative suite on my degree course and I think it’s more about what you do with those tools and how you build and put things together, which is where the talent lies. Working in fashion requires a certain aesthetic and that you can understand and adapt the correct subtleties that are specific to that brand. Each brand’s DNA is different and requires a different response. I love to find people who understand those nuances.

To a young person who wants to get into the industry, I would recommend doing work experience in lots of different places first to check which area of fashion you want to get into. Work and jobs can be a lot about the people you meet on the journey, so pick those people carefully.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

To explore exciting fashion industry roles like this and others, visit BoF Careers, the global marketplace for fashion talent.

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