Written by Kay Flockhart
The North Face recently launched its first dedicated campaign championing women who “Move Mountains”. Through April and May, NSL are hosting a series of four events in the Regent Street store, each evening with a variety of speakers, artists and athletes who embody the ‘Move Mountains’ campaign. Despite being shy when speaking to one person, let alone a whole room of people, I decided to take a leap of faith and accept the invitation to be a speaker.
When I got to the North Face store it was already brimming with activity and, without sounding like a total nerd, was basically an explosion of rad! Dudes with bandanas and ironic t-shirts, people sipping on beers, plus the addition of skateboards just heightens the vibes of any scene infinitely. What I learnt though, is that all these things are an inspiration, not an intimidation. To be surrounded by people who aren't afraid to express themselves and take risks in the activities they do, is a gift: it encourages you to keep exploring your own potential.
That, for me, was what this event was all about. This campaign is about women being seen and heard and if we are too afraid to tell our stories then there will be no progress.
If we are too afraid to tell our stories then there will be no progress.
Despite my initial nerves I managed to find a rhythm when I took the floor, telling my story of how I came to work for Faction 7 years ago:
I am a self-taught artist. I applied to 3 universities and got rejected by all my main choices. I remember the lectures saying to me that I had talent but my ideas were all over the place. And this was not an isolated incident. When I applied for placements in working studios, or gallery representation, I got the same response: they said I needed to have one style, so I could be identifiable as an abstract painter, or a realist artist, an illustrator etc. The problem was, I liked everything!
At the time, I was gutted, but I kept on painting. I set myself a task of creating 5 pictures a day, in 5 different techniques. This made me study art and different artists even more so. Fast forward about 10 years and I had moved to Switzerland. I was skiing, still painting at home, and generally having an epic time travelling to Japan and NZ to ski with my pals. But I busted my knee badly (twice) and that was me, totally out of commission. At the end of the winter I went with a group of my friends to Bali. One of my friends, Beanie De Le Rue, was working for Faction at the time and knew they were looking for an artist to design the new women’s line. She’d seen me pottering away in my sketch books and asked if she could show them to Faction. So, over a very dodgy Skype connection, I had an interview with and I got the job.
The ironic thing is I got the job because I could work a variety of styles. I often have to create up to 6 different pieces at a time. Different subjects, different mediums, different techniques. So what had initially caused me rejection, in the end got me my dream job.
I get a lot of freedom when I’m creating the designs. It’s a different process than a graphic designer who would be working to a brief. I usually research what current trends are, and I keep a continuous log on Pinterest of things that catch my eye. That way when it comes to putting a collection of ideas together I can reference popular cultural movements alongside artistic influences. I initially put together about 15 ideas, and then talk with the team at Faction about how they fit into their line up and brand image. From there we will narrow it down to 4 - 6 pieces that will become the final pieces.
When Faction started the Artist Series those 7 years ago, it was a fairly new concept. Part of Faction’s manifesto makes it clear is that ‘The Collective’ is made up of creative and conscientious people: skiers, artists, musicians, craftsmen. Because of that I have been allowed to learn a great deal, not only about how to produce art for a ski but also about my own work and myself as a person. Not many jobs allow you that freedom.
"Being in the company of these other girls I could feel their passion and drive. And it's infectious"
When I had finished telling my story, we gathered together at the end for a short Q&A with the audience, and then it was time to run for my train - back to suburbia, with a renewed inspiration to keep contributing to the cause.
This event held a true rawness. I worry that our generation sometimes scroll through the lives of others and miss the stories that are being told. Being in the company of these other girls I could feel their passion and drive. And it’s infectious. Witnessing the nerves, camaraderie, and sense of achievement is uplifting and real and reminded me how important it is to stay connected to others in order to thrive.
Kay Flockhart @kayflockhart www.kayflockhart.com
Hannah Bailey @neonstash
Emma Shoesmith @emmashoesmith
Emily Ackner @fitforthat_
Photos: Jack Atkinson @knowjack