The art direction of a project can make or break it. In fashion it requires the management and balance of both the artistic and design elements to create something that both the client and audience can engage with. It’s a competitive job that thrives on meeting people and creating opportunities, and also requires an unshakeable passion.
Art directors Alexandra Voicu, Daphne Westland and Talle Tian reached a plateau in their separate careers after establishing what motivates their work, but being unsure of how to interpret that drive into a distinctive style and find collaborators. Based in Paris, Amsterdam and Toronto respectively, the creatives each applied to Mastered’s ten-month accelerator programme in Art Direction to reach their potential, which allows design professionals to jump start their career in fashion. The course provides students with feedback, opportunities and exposure, with a team of collaborators to create work with.
Alexandra’s work is based on movement and composition, Daphne is concerned with colour and play, and Talle’s projects try to disrupt the ideals in fashion and beauty. While each art director has a different mission, they’ve all been on a journey to discover who they are as creatives and have set out to build their confidence and knowledge around their practice.
To get more of an insight, we spoke to Alexandra, Daphne and Talle about their work, their process and how they’ve been able to adapt what they’ve learnt on the programme into their day-to-day work.
Paris-based art director Alexandra Voicu describes her style as “poetic and surrealistic… with a disruptive element” in every picture. Inspiration comes from daily life, paintings and poetry, which can be seen in the interesting perspectives and movement she captures in her projects. Alexandra started out as a fashion designer and then discovered the joys of graphic design which helped in her work as an art director for commercials.
Despite enjoying these jobs, she wanted to challenge herself and explore her passions, so after an ad appeared online, she applied to the Mastered programme. The course has given Alexandra access to a range of artists from multiple countries and cultures. “It’s a very enriching experience. All the students are really involved and everybody is open to any kind of collaboration, we truly help develop each other,” she explains. “By working on multiple projects, we not only continuously improve our technical and artistic knowledge, but we also discover our own strengths and weaknesses.”
From the programme Alexandra has learnt to find and manage an enthusiastic team, keep the focus on the brief when working on a busy project, improve her time management and develop her self-confidence. These skills have gone towards recent projects like Alienation and Bored, both of which saw Alexandra work with photographers that have contrasting aesthetics.
Daphne Westland trained as a graphic designer and for the last 15 years has been working as a freelance editorial art director. “I like to tell a story and I’ve always liked to work for magazines, but story telling can be done in many ways,” says Amsterdam-based Daphne. “I was good at my job, but not fulfilling my creative potential anymore, I was stuck. I’d been involved in some retail projects which opened my eyes to see that my job can be executed in several ways but I needed some more skills to be a bit more secure about my voice.”
Daphne applied to the course for new opportunities and to equip herself with the skills to “stand up for myself”. Working with such a huge network of creatives has fed into this as it’s allowed her to see where she could fit within the industry. “It’s made me stronger and brought me a lot of inspiration and energy,” explains Daphne. With the skills she’s learnt, Daphne hopes to enjoy the creative process a lot more now in her professional work. Describing her style as bold and simple, she mixes “play, colour, humour and graphic sets” together, which can be applied to portraiture, fashion editorial and still life.
Recently Daphne has been working on “ideas that I’ve always wanted to make but never made it to a project” and this liberated approach is a direct reaction to her time on the course: “With the Mastered community I can easily find the right people to play with!”
Toronto-based Talle Tian has been working on a series which sees her shooting models without retouching. “I do not want that at all to be the purpose or focus of the work, I just find we have a lack of untouched images and women are being bombarded with hyper-edited images that creates unrealistic standards,” explains Talle. This plays into the creative’s work as a whole which finds beauty in the “awkward side of fashion and beauty” and hopes to empower women.
Talle applied to the Mastered programme for its “invaluable insight into the current fashion industry” and its ability to connect creatives from all over the world. As well as the personal feedback received from peers and mentors, Talle responded well to the structure and timeline it provided for projects, which can be a “huge thing that inhibits the success of many creative people.”
Initially Talle started out as a stylist, building up her confidence and experience through working with a range of creatives, photographers, models and hair and make-up artists. “I realised I wanted to be more in the creative direction side of things,” she says and feels the programme has provided the chance to “learn more about my brand, my aesthetic and point of view”.