Last week a resurfaced advert encouraging ballerina Fatima to retrain for a career in cyber and leave the arts behind her did the rounds on social media after the U.K Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak told ITV news:
'I can't pretend that everyone can do exactly the same job that they were doing at the beginning of this crisis. That's why we've put a lot of resources into trying to create new opportunities...Can things happen in exactly the way they did? No. But everyone is having to find ways to adapt and adjust to the new reality.'
Following the criticism which ensued even the culture secretary Oliver Dowden was quick to deem the advert 'crass'. Despite the government announcing a new £257 million allocation from the Culture Recovery Fund last Monday, it's clear how our government really feel about the U.K creative sector. The pay out will put a temporary band-aid on the institutions the Conservative government deems the most important, notably disregarding freelance creatives.
At SHOWstudio, we count ourselves incredibly lucky to still have our jobs, and to be able to continue to do what we love every day. Here's what we think of having to 'Rethink. Reskill. Reboot'.
Nick Knight, Director of SHOWstudio
My role at SHOWstudio is as the director. I have worked for the last 40 years within fashion and in all that time I have met some of the most artistic and imaginative and visionary people in the world.
More than any other of the arts, fashion is something that we all do. Fashion’s role is uniquely to predict our cultural future. It is also the most democratic and accessible art form. Everyone says something about their personality, their role in society or their beliefs through how they dress.
If you look back through the last 100 years of fashion photography you will see the most accurate, perceptive and insightful history of our culture. The arts in general are the evidence that is left of who we are, our dreams desires and aspirations, our beliefs, our anger and our love.
The arts represent the pinnacle of the human imagination. To use our brains not to follow logic but to create fantasy is the unique gift that separates us from every other living creature. A society with no arts is a society that has no dreams, no desires, no feelings and no love.
Adam Boon, Archivist for Nick Knight and SHOWstudio
My name's Adam and I am the Archivist for Nick Knight and SHOWstudio. For as long as I can remember I have had an innate love for art in all its myriad forms. Working as an archivist specialising in photography allows me to utilise my instinctive love and appreciation of imagery alongside the critical and detail oriented skills that I’ve developed, to design and manage an archive that will ultimately allow the extraordinary work that Nick Knight and SHOWstudio have created, to be preserved and accessible for future generations.
Having worked in a number of sub-sectors of the arts since graduating in 2008, there have certainly been moments when I have questioned my choice of career. For the majority of us, a job within the arts sector is rarely an easy or straight forward path to take. However, I strongly believe that if your instinct pulls you towards creativity, if it’s what makes you feel alive, it is vital that whoever you are, whatever your background, you are given the opportunity and encouragement to express yourself and develop that inherent part of your self into a career.
Nearly all industries are undoubtedly problematic in one way or another and the arts and fashion are certainly not exempt. However, the arts have saved so many lives and given us hope during the darkest times. As a part of our society it is a vital space for the most unique and fundamental expression and understanding of what it means to be human. Now more than ever, we need to support this sector and the brave and essential creatives who give us all a reason to keep going.
Michael Gossage, Technical Supervisor
I am the technical supervisor at SHOWstudio which means I deal with all of the computers and cameras. Computers and cameras are the tools we use literally non-stop to make everything we create from the fashion films to the website to Zoom meetings. If something stops working we lose time that we really don’t have as we are such a small team compared to the amount of projects we take on.
I had a smaller interest in fashion when I started, which has grown since then. I seem to have found myself with opinions on clothes that I didn’t think I had. The reason I am becoming attached to fashion is that it is an industry that pushes boundaries of creativity in a very free and expressive way. I’m not sure if it’s just our team, but our film shoots and sets feel more like performance art where everyone is focused and a part of it. Rather than a workplace made to hit cues on time and shoot a certain amount of takes in a day.
Everyone talks about this, but fashion is a choice you have to make everyday when you get dressed and it informs people’s first opinion of you faster than the first words you choose to say. It’s almost more meaningful as it can be unconscious. The content we make has its place and informs the future of culture in some way. I think people forget that without creativity things don’t change. Creativity is about new ideas and we need that to tackle the challenges we currently face.
Bex Cassie, Associate Director of Nick Knight's Archive
They say if you want to feel rich, then think of all the things you have in your life that money can't buy. That's become more relevant now during this pandemic than possibly ever before. For most people, this year has taken its toll in one way or another, some have lost family, some have lost jobs, everyone has lost some freedom and by now, most have lost hope. But the one thing that unites us despite our vastly differing experiences, has been our reliance on the creative world during this time.
We've all turned to books, and films, music and art, to inspire hope and find new ways of connecting with our loved ones to find joy in difficult times. In this moment of global pause, we've been present enough to hear those confronting us with the ugly truth of systemic racism and the failings of our government to protect the most vulnerable, by prioritising economic greed over health and mental wellbeing. We all blacked out our Instagrams, a collective statement of solidarity demonstrated via graphic design. We viewed the harrowing images of police brutality captured by photographers on the streets. How else would this have been communicated to us, if it were not for a photographer, journalist, artist or lyricist? Would we have felt the same weight and pain in a graph of stats? When this year has proved more than ever how dehumanising it is to be reduced to a statistic. 635K cases of coronavirus in the UK, 43,018 deaths and counting. 1 in every 1,000 black men killed at the hands of police in America. These are people, with families and passions in life that need to be seen and heard.
The Cultural Sector contributed £32.3bn to the UK economy in 2018, yet is looked upon as a frilly industry that foolish Fatima is deluded in pursuing. A point the government so ignorantly communicated through the employment of the very creative industry they belittle. What this industry has proven now more than ever, is that in abundance to financial gain, it adds real value to our lives. Music, film, fashion and art have the power to connect and divide us, but in doing so, ultimately unite us.
Rei Nadal, film director
It has always been very clear that the Conservatives take on supporting the arts was extremely thin. A campaign blatantly suggesting that creatives should consider switching careers and abandoning arts may be enraging but comes as no surprise. Yet, if you look at the small print, it gets worse. I don’t believe it is a coincidence that the individual in the 'Fatima' poster is a brown girl, in the same way I don’t think it’s a coincidence she is a ballerina, from all disciplines. Representation of POC dancers in the most prestigious ballet companies in the world is minimal or non existent.
The arts are unlikely to disappear, but to be reserved to a privileged few. This is a Conservative’s wet dream: the rich stay rich and thrive, and the poor get poorer and more depressed. We have been fighting against an endemic systematic white male culture for so long, and so many women and people of colour have taken the risk of following a career path that brings joy but also huge economic insecurities.
I am a white, immigrant, female film director, part of a capricious and flimsy industry where I am 12% (in 2019, 4% in 2018). I do not need Rishi Sunak or any other stale politician to tell me I need a side gig when I have spent years of my life doing manual labour in order to sustain myself in London whilst fighting for making myself a name as a director.
I will not call this campaign tone-deaf. This message was carefully studied, targeted and delivered. Psychopaths. If Fatima decides to quit ballet I hope she takes your job, Rishi.
Nick Merdasi, Digital Designer
I think graphic design is hugely important because it facilitates communication. This can be taken very literally, it's the designers role to simplify and clarify information. But graphic design is also important in more abstract ways, in creating a mood or inspiring someone or creating visual harmony. When something (anything) is designed well, it makes our lives easier. For example, I'm dyslexic so when I have to fill out a badly designed questionnaire, it exhausts me. I think that's an obvious example, but also take something like a film poster: we've all been misled by a film poster and seen a film that wasn't at all the film we were made to believe it would be. That, in its own way, is also exhausting. Something like 'mood' might feel pretentious but it's so necessary in organising how we take things in. I genuinely believe that if there was better graphic design everywhere, we'd have boundless amounts of energy.
Even though SHOWstudio is specifically a fashion film website, I think of myself as working generally in the arts rather than specifically in fashion. There's such overlaps all the time anyway. To be honest I do it because it feels right, it feels like the best use of myself as a person. I find it hard to imagine doing something else. Although, I don't always enjoy it. But I definitely have moments of utter satisfaction when things line up and work out and it all comes together. I think there's this common joke amongst graphic designers that they know what's best but they don't always have the power to implement what's best because the power is in the hands of someone else, say a client. Sometimes it feels like a constant struggle but then you also learn to love that struggle and it becomes part of it all. I don't think I'd be a good doctor.
This whole idea of the arts being superfluous and indulgent- obviously spearheaded right now by Rishi Sunak- is not just offensive but also it shows a complete lack of understanding of human needs. Especially in a moment where we are being told to stay inside and to keep socialising to an absolute minimum, more than ever we are relying on the arts (films, music, tv, instagram, etc) as a necessity for keeping our minds going.
Raquel Couceiro, Head of Film
As Head of Film at SHOWstudio, I edit most of Nick Knight's films and also go through film submissions with him. What I really love about it is that I have the opportunity to go on set, to film, to come across all these beautiful visions, surreal landscapes. I create films that for me feel like escapades. We develop new languages and new boundaries of what fashion film can be.
Fantasy is important because it's important for people to look at something that remove themselves from reality. We create these surreal languages in film, I always think that every film that we do is like a dreamscape, for five minutes you're in another world. I love fashion and I do think that fashion in movement, which is what fashion film is, looks the best and is the closest to how a designer would like his garment to be represented.
Farrah Singh, Office Manager
Classical ballet technique is commonly taught through the use of authoritarian practices but the construction of the ballet dancer as a submissive subject in opposition to an all-knowing instructor might impede ballet's progression. The learning styles and life experiences encourage experimentation, growth and attributes that will stay with you for years to come.
My younger life studying dance made me the most disciplined ever. These practises prepared me for the real world. When I had an accident and couldn't dance anymore ,I thought what next? Would I have to learn a new skill in order to become employed? As I was told by so many that it wasn’t a skilled profession, this is where I can tell you- the answer is no I did not need to re-train, I was more prepared than anyone for what hard work was and from my dedication worked my way up in a different sector with skills I acquired from dancing.
I am the office manager of SHOWstudio. Compared to my colleagues I could maybe be considered the least creative due to my role, but the training I endured in my 9 years of studying Ballet at an academy in Sweden, taught me attributes I continue to use and are imperative to my role today:
Patience, dedication, perseverance, confidence, spatial awareness, creativity, passion and humility.
You may say, why would I mention the last one? This attribute should remind everyone that we should always remember that they were once in a position, where they were the student, doing something that maybe didn’t benefit the world at the time but it benefited who you were becoming.
Violet Conroy, Migration Assistant
I work in the editorial department of SHOWstudio and am currently in the process of building the website’s incredible archive of fashion shows. The Collections page is a valuable online resource, especially for students and those who work in the industry. SHOWstudio’s coverage of collections, ranging from show reports to panel discussions, are also highly insightful sources of information.
The fashion editorials and campaigns I looked at in magazines as a teenager were what hooked me into the industry and fashion imagery is the sole reason I’m still interested. My favourite fashion photographers are Tim Walker, Harley Weir, Nick Knight, Miles Aldridge, Julie Greve, Venetia Scott, Jamie Hawkesworth, Ryan Mcginley, Tyrone Lebon, Alasdair McLellan, Juergen Teller, Dougal MacArthur. The list could go on forever. I come from an art history background, so I feed off talking and writing about images like a vampire.
I am not so interested in the clothes themselves (unless it’s an interesting piece, like a Sinéad O'Dwyer body sculpture), but I am interested in fashion as an aid to storytelling, whether that’s in a photograph, a painting or a film, and also the way that clothes can make you feel differently about yourself. Fashion pushes against the mundanity of everyday life. Without creativity, life would be dull. It’s also cool when fashion puts celebrities into unexpected contexts, like Wolfgang Tillmans walking down the runway for Hood By Air in boxers and a coat, Young Thug shot by Harley Weir in a Molly Goddard dress or Pamela Anderson shot in gritty East London for Buffalo Zine.
Hetty Mahlich, Editorial Assistant
Art has always provided a vital reflection and record of culture. Fashion is no exception, it's part of society, part of our psyche. On SHOWstudio, we have projects about the political nature of fashion, Brexit, national identity, gender. Fashion is about so much more than 'clothes'. In it's own way, just like the rest of the arts, it is a creative route for each and every one of us to express how we feel about the world we live in.
I used to spend my school holidays with my mum at her work, and I'd spend days watching set and costume design students working tirelessly in a studio off Drury Lane. Every creative person I've met since then, from my art foundation to internships with fashion designers and now working at SHOWstudio, are the most devoted and hard working I've ever come across. A job in the arts sector is never a straight forward nine to five, neither is there a clear cut line of how to get to said job. The arts are a myriad of people with a myriad of experiences, who are there because they really want to be. Creating takes discipline, imagination and often a lot of blood, sweat and tears. But there's real devotion there, whether it's in a film editing room, the photography studio or on the runway, the act of creating brings with it an incomparable drive.
Many people find it hard to understand what I do, when I tell them I work in fashion I often get the sense they think I'm doing something that is kind of 'cool', but probably just quite fun and easy. It's infuriating that a lot of the time the arts sector still isn't taken as seriously as others are. Whether its theatre, film, fashion, music or art, creativity provides both fantasy and escape, a way to understand ourselves and our relationship to everything and everyone around us. No part of our industry is disposable, and neither are we.
Edward Brown, Design Assistant
I'm a design assistant here at SHOWstudio. Ever since I was young I've been making things, whether that be painting, drawing, photographs etc. I can't imagine being in a job where I'm not able to create things, I feel like I'd go crazy if I wasn't able to channel my creative impulses and come up with creative solutions for problems. Good design makes peoples lives easier/better, I like the idea that I'm helping that happen.
I've always been into fashion since I can remember, although I wasn't aware about what jobs were available in the fashion industry and where I would fit in. When I began art school I thought I wanted to become an artist, I loved the idea of having complete creative freedom and being able to output my thoughts into my practice. It slowly became apparent however that the art world is very exclusive in comparison to the fashion industry. I love the fact that fashion can be experienced and enjoyed by everyone, you don't need any qualifications to like clothes, you just need an opinion.
I also freelance for a London-based clothing brand called AFFIX WORKS that was set up in 2017, this is another avenue where I'm able to output my creativity but in a different way to the work I do at SHOWstudio. Here I come up with graphics for garments as well as general branding and also contributing to the art direction of seasonal campaigns, such as an ASICS shoe campaign earlier this year. I love being able to work for two different creative companies, as the different work I do at each compliments each other.