The fashion industry is a notoriously difficult field to crack; can you offer a brief overview of your career background and how you came to become an art director:
I started packing suitcases in a cupboard for the Boden shoot production team when I was 24 years old. I quickly discovered I wanted to Art Direct the shoots, rather than be behind the scenes so I moved to the Still Life team and started directing Still Life images. After that I moved onto Model Shoots for the internet, lots of “BHO” (bottom half only!!) shoots and gradually made my move into Art Directing Model Photography for the Boden Catalogue, working mainly in womenswear but also covering some Mens, Teen and Children’s shoots. It took a lot of hard work and determination but I am so thankful I stuck at it – enabling me to do a job I love.
For those unfamiliar with the job title, can you explain the function of an art director within the fashion industry?
An Art Director is responsible for the look and feel of the imagery that you see associated with brands. As an in-house art director for seven and half years, my job involved working closely with the Creative Director to come up with “stories” for the different seasonal catalogues, we would then create visual briefs, commission the appropriate photographer, models, hair and make-up teams and set designers before scouting locations to create our vision with the help of an in-house Producer.
On shoot it is my responsibility to make sure what we are seeing is exactly what I and/or the client imagined and also on-brand and to the brief. I direct each shot and edit the images working with my handpicked team to achieve the best results. This would involve lighting briefs, hair and make-up briefs, the mood and energy of the model, the types of crops and angles we use, the briefing of the prop and set design and the location.
Working in fashion, you must be surrounded by high-achieving women. What is the most important life lesson you have learned from another woman?
I have been so lucky to have met so many inspiring and high achieving women in the industry and I am sure I will continue to meet many more. I suppose the lesson I have learnt from other women in this industry is that it is possible to do it all, be successful and have a family – something I am looking forward to doing in the future – and have the time to enjoy it. I think because I enjoy my job so much it does not ever really feel like work!
In 2014 you left Boden after nearly 8 years with the company to go freelance. What advice would you offer to others considering leaving long-term positions to go it alone?
It was exciting but also nerve-wracking leaving the safety of a large brand but I think it was the best thing I ever did in terms of career progression. If I could offer any advice it is to meet as many people as you can in your industry, be bold and put yourself out there, send at least 3 emails a day to potential new clients and don’t worry if they do not get back to you immediately. I emailed a potential client last year and never heard a word, but have now just completed a three week job with them after they got in touch almost a year later – just be persistent and proactive. An agent is always an option in my industry but I was very lucky finding new clients within days of leaving my in-house job. A great website to showcase your work is also really important: present yourself as a business, get a logo, have business cards printed, contact people overseas… I could go on!
You have a hectic diary that involves frequent trips aboard. With such a busy schedule, how do you relax outside of work?
I love yoga and pilates and fresh air, so try to fly back to Jersey in the Channel Islands for swims in the sea whenever I can. When I don’t have the luxury of that option, I love watching films, especially at the Gate at Notting Hill. Eating out and cooking for friends is something I also love.
Describe your 9-5 style – what do you wear to work?
Having gone freelance my style slightly changed as I do not have to dress for the office everyday. I think my wardrobe has become much more simple and capsule – this could certainly be the influence of working as the Contributing Editor of Wardrobe Icons, where we promote the idea of forever pieces and a capsule working wardrobe. I always seem to rely on white shirts and my white Adidas Shell toes for traipsing around London for meetings. I have seen more of London in the last year than I did working at Boden for 7 years in North Acton – it’s been a real eyeopener! A roomy tote bag from Celine has been a must have for carrying around my laptop and notebooks. When I am on shoot I tend to stick to a simple colour palate of grey, navy, black, denim and green khaki – pieces I can mix and match for all sorts of weather conditions. I have to say the best thing I have purchased and got so much use out of is a Uniqlo black Ultra light down jacket – its been the ultimate saviour and weighs nothing so its perfect for trips and keeping the chill off on our usual crack of dawn call times – a bit like comfort blanket and a sleeping bag rolled into one!
Working in fashion you must have picked up lots of sartorial tips. What do you think is the secret to good style?
I think not being afraid to mix high street with designer, and being confident in what you wear – if you feel comfortable in what you are wearing you are always going to look effortless. My ethos is that even if you are going to the pub for a drink and then onto the Wolseley, wear something that can do both and not feel over or underdressed, I think I would name it “high end casual”!
And finally what are your favourite pieces in the Fold’s current collection?
I fell in love on The Fold shoot with the Belleville Tailored trouser and matching top – it looks so smart and polished but is so incredibly comfortable I could sleep in it!
I am also a huge fan of the Hampstead Duster Coat in Blush, its such a beautiful and well-cut coat and whenever I wear it people stop me in the street to ask where its from. It also fits into my ethos of high end casual as I have worn it to weddings but also over ripped jeans with trainers, and the colour also takes you across all seasons so it’s a great investment piece.
Have a look at Polly’s work here
Pictures by David Nyanzi
Hair by Easton Regal Hairdressing