With the Instagram moniker @portraitsJeff Vespa is quite the accomplished celebrity photographer. One quick scroll through his profile, and with the sheer number of A-listers, you may feel like you’ve wound up on Getty Images. That is no coincidence—Vespa was the co-founder of WireImage, one of the largest entertainment photo agencies in the world, and in 2007, he played a pivotal role in its acquisition by Getty Images.

To synthesize Vespa’s achievements since WireImage’s acquisition is no easy feat. In 2009, Vespa became the Editor-at-Large at LIFE.com, a role stemming from a childhood love for the magazine’s signature photography style. Then, in 2010, he partnered with Kathy Grayson to pick up where Deitch Projects left off by opening the art gallery The Hole, which recently expanded to LA. During that span, Vespa was also West Coast Special Projects Editor at Los Angeles Confidential Magazine for 7 years.

In the last decade, Vespa founded Verge.is. With a knack for identifying young talent at film festivals, the digital magazine featured actors Timothée Chalamet, John Boyega, and Olivia Cooke—all photographed by Vespa before their “big breaks.” Outside of photography, he also runs a film development and production company. He’s directed Abbie Cornish in Paris Song (Amre), David Arquette in Nosebleed, and the 2020 documentary Voices of Parkland. Recent production credits include the 2021 Netflix documentary, Chadwick Boseman: Portrait of an Artist. The multipotentialite has also produced for other photographers and fine artists including Awol Erizku and Alex Prager. Most recently, Vespa served as creative director for the 2022 Cannes Lions Award–winning short Save Ralph. He is also partner at Forward Artists and Verge Studios.

You can check out more of Vespa’s work here on Creatively and @hellocreatively on Instagram.

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Meet director and photographer, Jeff Vespa

What is the first creative project you remember?

When I was 15 (or 16) years old, I was in the punk scene in Baltimore. In my junior year of high school, I was going to leave Baltimore for boarding school in Pennsylvania. At that moment, I knew that the scene we had was something special. It was like a family we built from kids all over the city from different socio-economic backgrounds. Once I left for boarding school, I knew this magical period in my life would disappear. I knew I had to document it so I could capture the moment. So, I took my mom’s Canon AE-1 camera and took photos of all of my friends, the punk club, and the bands we were watching. Those pictures were my first true art series of photos, and I used them as my portfolio to get into college at the School of the Visual Arts in New York. I still look at those pictures today— I am so happy I took them. A few years ago, I showed my friends from Baltimore, and they freaked out because most of them had never seen the photos. They really capture the spirit and energy of our punk youth.

Describe your aesthetic in three words.

Truth, honesty, emotion. When you go to my website, the first thing you see is “Storytelling. Capturing emotion. Keeping it real.” So basically, the same idea.

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Jake Gyllenhaal

What was the most fulfilling collaboration you’ve worked on?

I produce, as well as direct. I find that my most fulfilling collaborations are when I am helping someone else realize their vision. I currently produce for the photographer and fine artist Awol Erizku. I recently produced a series of photographs shown at Gagosian in New York.

The most fulfilling project we did together was the TIME cover of Amanda Gorman. It was a crazy project. On the day of the inauguration, I watched her read her poem (like we all did). I immediately felt that we should make a movie about her reading the poem as a way to capture and memorialize the moment. But I didn’t know Amanda, and it would probably be impossible to get her to do a film with us.

Cut to a week later: I get a call from Awol, telling me that TIME wants him to shoot a cover of her! Blown away, I told him my idea about the film. He pitched it to Amanda, and she went for it. We did the shoot, and the film we made of her was super powerful. The issue came out, and Hilary Clinton retweeted the cover. It was one of those special moments we all work for in this business. It was definitely a career highlight.

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Amanda Gorman, TIME Magazine
Photographer, Awol Erizku; Producer, Jeff Vespa

What’s one creative project that taught you something fundamental about yourself?

My first feature film Paris Song taught me so much. I have been working on directing a feature for many years and I was fortunate to finally do that with this film. One of the main things it taught me was to persevere. I was hoping to make a feature right out of film school, probably like everyone else that goes to film school. But it took over 20 years to finally direct a feature film. I think the biggest lesson is you have to always follow your dream no matter how long it takes.

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Paris Song (2018) Directed by Jeff Vespa

Do you think creativity is something you’re born with or something you’re taught?

Well, that is a tough question. I believe you are born with creativity, but it is also environmental. The way you are raised has a huge part in nurturing your talent. You may be taught in infancy before you even realize it.

In my case, I have always felt I was born this way, but I also did some personal excavating about my childhood and pieced together a theory about my visual and aesthetic sensibility. There was a photographer that my family was friends with when we were little kids. My parents got her to do photoshoots of me and my brother when I was around one and he was around three. The photographer put together a little bound book of the images. There were also prints of those photos around the house.

A few years later, she photographed us again, and I remember her coming a few other times. I used to look at that book all the time growing up and her other photos. She was a really great photographer and made me and my brother look like we were in LIFE. I believe strongly that her photographs taught me what a photograph should look like. Later, I fell in love with LIFE and its photography style. I believe her photographs trained me to see the way she saw. Of course, my brother didn’t become an artist, so I still feel you are born this way, but your environment and the encouragement you receive make a massive difference in having that natural talent expressed.

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Emily Blunt

What was the last dream you had?

I really don’t recall my last dream. But I will say that I often come up with film ideas when I dream. Sometimes, when I’m dreaming, I feel like I am watching a film, with known actors performing. I love those dreams; I wake up and immediately write down what I saw. There is still a crazy dystopian sci-fi movie I want to make from one of my dreams.

One hundred years from now, what do you hope people write about your work?

When I was a child, I used to visit the Met and look at the Caravaggio paintings. I always felt that I could hear the artist speaking to me through the paintings. The ideas he was trying to get across, the emotions he was expressing, his worldview—I could feel it all. That feeling has always driven me as an artist. The idea that 100 years from now, a child will see my work and feel moved by it.

Follow @JeffVespa on Creatively.

Creatively is more than a platform—we’re a creative collective.

Questions or feedback? Email us at feedback@creatively.life.

Hispanic Heritage Month reminds our community of how ingrained Hispanic influence is in contemporary creative industries and our culture. One leader in creative entrepreneurship is Shannon Maldonado, the founder and creative director of YOWIE, the acclaimed Philadephia-based home and lifestyle shop, and soon-to-be hotel.

Maldonado, who is half-Puerto Rican, is no stranger to creative pursuits. Learning how to sew at age 10 led her to study at the Fashion Institute of Technology. After graduating with a degree in fashion design, Maldonado worked with brands like Ralph Lauren and Urban Outfitters for over twelve years. But, in 2016, Maldonado brought a new creative vision to life to satisfy her entrepreneurial spirit: YOWIE, a brick-and-mortar hub for eclectic tastes. At the intersection of Maldonado’s love for design and community building, the YOWIE brand has collaborated with Nordstrom, Fred Segal, Lisa Says Gah, CB2, and more for curated shopping experiences.

Despite her small business’s immense success, Maldonado continues to explore new ventures. This fall, her brand will expand with YOWIE Hotel: a boutique getaway featuring retail space, a studio, a cafe, and eleven curated hotel rooms. Outside of YOWIE, Maldonado engages deeply with her community of fellow small business owners as co-creator and host of Small Enough, a series that aims to celebrate the humanity behind entrepreneurship. Maldonado is also the creative director at two boutique hotels, The Deacon, in Philadelphia, and Dye House, in Olneyville, Providence, RI.

You can check out more of Maldonado’s work here on Creatively and @hellocreatively on Instagram.

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Meet Creative Director, Shannon Maldonado

What is the first creative project you remember?

The first creative project I remember is making small felt pouches that I gifted and sold to kids in my class. My mom taught me how to sew when I was around 10, and I started making these color-blocked little bags to test my skills.

Describe your aesthetic in three words.

Minimal, nostalgic, colorful.

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YOWIE, Philadelphia

What was the most fulfilling collaboration you’ve worked on?

My first interior design project was The Deacon in Philadelphia. I was challenged with reimagining the interiors of a historic Baptist church that was transitioning to a boutique hotel. My late grandmother was very connected to her church, and I wanted to honor the space’s origins. I wanted to highlight its many beautiful features—the original stained glass, vaulted ceilings, and gold trim—but also add modern pieces that would complement it. The Deacon has been my hardest project so far, with so many learning curves. But, three years later, it’s the one I’m most proud of. Some original members of the former congregation have even visited and shared how the space’s mission for gathering and celebrating has been captured through our design. I know, somewhere, it’s making my grandmother smile.

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The Deacon, Philadelphia

What’s one creative project that taught you something fundamental about yourself?

A recent client project completed during quarantine reminded me of how much I crave collaboration and feedback in my work. In my former life working in fashion, I worked with cross-functional partners to see our projects to the finish line. With my consulting studio, it’s mostly myself working directly with the client. Since this project happened during quarantine, there were fewer face-to-face meetings and more urgency to complete, leaving less time to brainstorm. Towards the end, I realized that creative collaboration with clients is fundamental to my process and something I will push for in every project moving forward, even if we’re in a time crunch.

Do you think creativity is something you’re born with or something you’re taught?

I think both are true. I’ve been making things since I was a child. Being creative is something my mom both passed down and encouraged in me. I also have friends who have found creativity later in life after trying their hand at other ventures.

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What’s the last dream you had?

I recently dreamed about a podcast host I listen to accidentally giving me his notebook full of jokes and story ideas. HA!

One hundred years from now, what do you hope people write about your work?

I hope that people find my work inspiring and thoughtful. From day one, I’ve sought to highlight and champion the work of others, and it’s something I’m very proud of! There is so much research, self-reflection, adoration for design, and discovery that goes into everything I do. I hope that continues to be prevalent and resonate with people as my practice grows and evolves.

Follow @ShannonMaldonado on Creatively.

Creatively is more than a platform—we’re a creative collective.

Questions or feedback? Email us at feedback@creatively.life.

Hispanic Heritage Month reminds our community of how ingrained Hispanic influence is in contemporary creative industries and our culture. One leader in editorial photography is Raul Tovar, a fashion photographer and director based in New York City.

The Mexican-born photographer is widely recognized for his polished approach to the female form. Deriving inspiration from women’s movements, Tovar embeds his mission to evoke feminine strength by always making his subjects look their absolute best. Tovar moved to New York City, in 2011, where he started assisting legendary photographers David LaChapelle and Ruven Afanador, before booking his own shoots.

Fast forward, over a decade later, Tovar’s photography can be seen in publications such as Vogue México & Latin AmericaVogue BrasilL’Officiel, and Harper’s Bazaar. His subjects range from supermodels; Christy Turlington, Irina Shayk, and Kendall Jenner; to global musicians, including Rosalía and Maluma. Stand-out commercial clientele includes Neiman Marcus, Chanel, Longchamp, Christian Louboutin, and more.

You can check out more of Tovar’s work here on Creatively and @hellocreatively on Instagram.

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Meet photographer, Raul Tovar

What is the first creative project you remember?

Perhaps, it is the quintessential solar system project they ask you for in elementary school. I remember staying up all night and going all out using neon paint, lights, and glitter to make my project stand out.

Describe your aesthetic in three words.

I always struggle with that word… but, someone once described my images as if all the models were “hot” in them. I like to describe it as “polished and refined.” I’m so inspired by the female form; I aim to always make my subjects look their best.

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Cindy Bruna, Issue Magazine Chile

What was the most fulfilling collaboration you’ve worked on?

There are so many projects that are close to my heart, mostly because of the people who helped create them. Most recently, I had the opportunity to work on a project (soon to be released) with Angolan model, Amilna Estêvão, who I had seen everywhere before. Her energy on set and her desire to make beautiful images struck me, and I will remember that for a long time.

What’s one creative project that taught you something fundamental about yourself?

As cheesy as it sounds, the more projects I do the more I learn from my mistakes; that’s why going through my past images is always terrifying, but also necessary. Earlier this year, I directed a video for the Met Gala with Spanish singer Rosalía. Given the nature of the project, it was a crazy day in which I had to wear so many hats and please so many people, while also doing my job. I learned that if I stay focused and on a positive mindset I can achieve almost anything; I also learned that I have more patience than I thought!

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Rosalía, MET Gala, Vogue

Do you think creativity is something you’re born with or something you’re taught?

I believe that every human being is creative in their own way, but I also think that creativity and the brain are a muscle that you have to exercise every day by writing down your ideas, creating new projects, and working constantly.

What’s the last dream you had?

I read somewhere that as humans we dream every night. However, I can never remember my dreams. Often, I’ve dreamed that I found myself naked in the street or that I lose my teeth.

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Valery Kaufman, Vogue Mexico

One hundred years from now, what do you hope people write about your work?

We have access to so many images today that I can only hope people write about my work while I’m alive; they can say whatever they want, I just hope they say I was easy and fun to work with.

Follow @RaulTovar on Creatively.

Creatively is more than a platform—we’re a creative collective.

Questions or feedback? Email us at feedback@creatively.life.

Hispanic Heritage Month reminds our community of how ingrained Hispanic influence is in contemporary creative industries and our culture. One leader in film production is Cynthia Ángel, a filmmaker and owner of D L A Films, based in New York City.

Raised by her Colombian immigrant parents, the Queens-borough native grew up with a love for storytelling that centered on immigrant, Latinx, and Indigenous communities. That early passion for stories translated into a career in filmmaking, once she left college. Ángel broke into the film industry as a production assistant for a VFX company before being swiftly promoted to production manager. Soon after, Ángel pivoted to commercial production. The Latinx filmmaker has won multiple Clios and Cannes Lions for her campaign work for Spotify, Google, Nike, VEVO, and Amazon.

Yet, in 2020, Ángel’s desire to expand into longer-form storytelling led her to found her own creative studio—D L A Films. The BIPOC-and woman-owned production company champions diversity in front of and behind the camera, partnering with forward-thinking brands, genre-defining artists, and the brightest creatives, such as Puerto Rican reggaeton sensation Bad Bunny. Ángel is currently in post-production on SUN, D L A’s first feature-length film project.

You can check out more of Ángel’s work here on Creatively and @hellocreatively on Instagram.

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Meet filmmaker, Cynthia Ángel

What is the first creative project you remember?

My third-grade science project. I was fascinated with the planets, the universe, and the vastness of space. We had a week to complete our solar system. My parents are Colombian immigrants who worked two jobs to make ends meet, meaning they’d arrive home late every day, usually past our bedtime. Every night that week, I patiently waited for my dad to come home to help me with the project. I’d show him my progress and translate my notes. He knew about the solar system from school, so he’d give me suggestions on how to improve it. We created the planets from different materials like styrofoam; the earth was made from a handball, and the sun was a glow-in-the-dark rubber ball I stole from my sister. I painted the planets meticulously. It’s a memory that I am sure many of us can relate to but what makes it so special, in retrospect, is that my father, as tired as he was, worked with me to make the most beautiful solar system with enthusiasm and delight. I’ll never forget how much he encouraged my interest in science. The dedication to school projects my father inspired later turned into dedication to my productions.

Describe your aesthetic in three words.

Timeless. Queens. Chic.

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J Balvin, Colores

What was the most fulfilling collaboration you’ve worked on?

I didn’t go to film school. Coming from a working-class background and public school, becoming a producer was not in the realm of possibilities. I loved movies and fantasized about being Clarice in Silence of the Lambs. So, I went to John Jay College and studied Forensic Psychology. The reality of that career was morbid, and I discovered my real passion for filmmaking while taking an elective drama class. Once I graduated, I got an entry-level position at a VFX company where I worked double shifts to learn as much as I could about production. I worked my way up the ranks, and after a few years, I was able to go freelance and work for production companies. After a year, I received a call from the American Museum of Natural History with an offer to be the associate producer for the Hayden Planetarium space show. This was very exciting for me, an organic continuation of my childhood fascination with the universe. The icing on the cake was that I was also offered the opportunity to produce the pre-show, which would play before the main attraction, all by myself—my first real producer credit! I visited the museum before accepting the job because I wanted to make sure that I would be able to bring my perspective to the table and make something unique. The previous pre-show was a rote photograph and text slide show, which did not engage visitors. I knew I had to change that. Extremely excited about the prospect of creating something new, inspiring, and cinematic for the pre-show, I accepted the job. This was my first production from concept to execution. I assembled the creative team and crew and managed every aspect, including post-production. Taking inspiration from Close Encounters and ET, we created a 10-minute short film that introduced the concepts explored in the main show through a young girl’s nocturnal interaction with magical objects in her bedroom. We worked closely with Neil de Grasse Tyson and Carter Emmart on scientific accuracy. We secured Neil Davidge from Massive Attack to provide the score. Our crew was stellar. The budget was tiny, but so many friends, vendors, and partners supported us. Our team created something impactful and cinematic that inspired all the visitors who visited the planetarium. The President of the Museum asked if I had hired Steven Spielberg after she first previewed it. Watching the pre-show for the first time in front of my family and an audience was priceless. The film played alongside Dark Universe 13 times a day for seven years, making it the most viewed piece of content I’ve ever produced.

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AMNH, Discovering the Universe

What’s one creative project that taught you something fundamental about yourself?

Every project has a lesson. Once production freelancing was no longer a challenge I went in-house at a tech company where I became the in-house producer. I was now the client. I had the opportunity to bring many projects to life with A-list musicians and artists, often on extremely tight budgets and timelines. I pulled off many miracles to bring these projects to life. Mine was a desirable position but my heart was longing to be making my own projects, so at the end of 2019, I left the cushion of my corporate job to produce my first indie narrative feature film—SUN. SUN is a horror film that takes place over the course of one night in NYC. We had a micro-budget and a grueling schedule full of overnights. It was challenging! But I leaned into my resilience and strength as a thoughtful creative leader. Together we achieved so many feats. Many people on our team were shocked that I was able to source locations, manage to cast, and lead wardrobe styling on top of producing the film. We assembled a mighty crew and managed to shoot on 35mm film. This film has been my biggest accomplishment.  I learned that my perseverance and passion for what I do is magical. I also learned that sometimes things don’t go as planned and that is okay. In film, we are trying to control an uncontrollable universe and sometimes you have to trust that the universe will take care of you! You can’t let fear dictate your decisions. I took a risk but I stuck to my vision and my dream. Of course, the pandemic caused a delay for us in post-production, but we are now getting ready to release the film!

Do you think creativity is something you’re born with or something you’re taught?

I think it’s a combination. I believe all humans are born with imagination and have the ability to dream, but it’s like a garden that needs to be nurtured in order to flourish. When my dad sat with me after a long day of work to help me with my creative projects, it showed me the importance of commitment and teamwork. When my aunt brought her film camera to document our family gatherings, it showed me the importance of storytelling and documenting life. When I didn’t have access to media or creative classes in high school, my growth in my creativity paused. There were moments that sparked my curiosity, but I didn’t have enough access to the tools to explore them fully. I had an interest in film and photography, but this didn’t flourish until I attended college and took an elective class. It is for this reason that I decided to start my own company and be the inspiration that I needed growing up. I am building the kind of company I wish I knew about as a kid and wanted to hire when I was on the client side. I’m creating a place where diverse leadership matters and my rich culture permeates every aspect of a project. I sometimes pinch myself because I get to work with so many talented creatives from all walks of life, and, most importantly, I have the opportunity to give opportunities. It’s something I want everyone to have access to.

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Nike, Flex Your Vision

What’s the last dream you had?

It was strange. I was on a futuristic rooftop that had a pool and a woman was hanging out as the sun set while having a drink. The woman felt an alien creature float into her body. The creature was trying to find a way to get out. The woman could feel the sensation of something swimming inside her. This caused her to get up and move in a strange hypnotic dance. As she moved she wondered to herself what the creature was. Suddenly the creature came flying out of her ear and she caught it in her hand. And then the setting changed and I was directing Billie Eilish on a set with a motion control camera. Strobes began firing and I directed Billie to dance in the same hypnotic way as the woman did. As she danced her outfit changed many times with each change becoming more futuristic and avant-garde seemingly illustrating the passage of time. Billie mastered the choreography perfectly and I called out “cut.” Then I woke up.

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Kali Uchis, Si Una Vez (Amazon Music)

One hundred years from now, what do you hope people write about your work?

I hope people will write about my legacy and the impact that I’ve been able to achieve through my work and my company D L A Films. My mission is to spread joy through filmmaking, uplift others, and create beautiful and meaningful stories. I want to inspire the next generation. I want to open the door for those who don’t have financial means or access to creative pursuits. I want to show people that it’s not impossible to chase a dream as long as you’re persistent and true to your vision. Storytelling is the oldest form of education and I want to nurture and create an environment where that is celebrated and passed on for generations to come.

Follow @cynthiaangel on Creatively.

Creatively is more than a platform—we’re a creative collective.

Questions or feedback? Email us at feedback@creatively.life.

Hispanic Heritage Month reminds our community of how ingrained Hispanic influence is in contemporary creative industries and our culture. One leader in photography is Greg Swales, a fashion, lifestyle, and advertising photographer based in New York City.

Originally from Vancouver, the Canadian-British, Cuban fashion photographer comes from an early education in drawing, painting, and directing short films with his brother and friends. After graduating with a BFA in Photography, he moved to Havana, Cuba, to take art workshops and work on several photo essays, exhibited in Cuba and North America.

Swales is no stranger to celebrity photography, as one of the most recognizable photographers in the industry. Known as the official photographer of the Kardashian/Jenner family, his expansive portfolio including shots of Kim Kardashian, Nicki Minaj, Rosalía, Pharrell Williams, Ricky Martin, and more. He has also worked with acclaimed brands and publications such as Versace, Jean Paul Gaultier, Harper’s Bazaar, and GQ. Outside of photography, Swales doesn’t stray too far from his fine arts roots—he is also an accomplished painter. 

You can check out more of their work here on Creatively and @hellocreatively on Instagram.

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Meet photographer, Greg Swales

What is the first creative project you remember?

The first creative projects I did as a kid was writing scripts and making little movies with my friends using my dad’s camcorder.

Describe your aesthetic in three words.

Vibrant, powerful, sexy.

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Rosalía, Rolling Stone

What was the most fulfilling collaboration you’ve worked on?

The most fulfilling collaboration I’ve done was with model Jazzelle in Joshua Tree for Harper’s Bazaar Arabia.  She is one of my favorite muses, and every element I love was there: unusual and innovative high fashion, exotic location, the perfect natural light, sensuality, strangeness, and boldness.  No one had to make any sacrifices or compromises because every team member was on the same page.

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Jazzelle, Harper’s Bazaar Arabia

What’s one creative project that taught you something fundamental about yourself?

When I was in university, I assigned a photo project to photograph the street that I lived on. I hated that assignment because I thought my street was, aesthetically, very boring. I did a series that I ended up loving and had framed on my wall after for over a decade. I learned that if you look for it, you can find beauty almost anywhere.

Do you think creativity is something you’re born with or something you’re taught?

I personally believe that a visual artist is born creative and with the instinct to create.

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What’s the last dream you had?

Last night I had one of my recurring dreams, that I actually have not had in a long time, but always feels like it comes at a time of significance, and that I am meant to be aware of something. The dream is that I lose all of my clothes in public. Usually, I feel vulnerable and judged, but to be honest, thinking about it now, this time I don’t. I think that’s a big step forward for me.

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One hundred years from now, what do you hope people write about your work?

One hundred years from now, I hope that people will remember me as a photographer who always made people look and feel their absolute best. As a painter that told multiple stories in a single image.

Follow @gregswales on Creatively.

Creatively is more than a platform—we’re a creative collective.

Questions or feedback? Email us at feedback@creatively.life.

Hispanic Heritage Month reminds our community of how ingrained Hispanic influence is in contemporary creative industries and our culture. One such leader in the fashion industry is Nicole Chavez, a celebrity and wardrobe stylist based in Los Angeles, California. 

Chavez (who is of Mexican descent) is a style expert who found her love for tailored fashion in early childhood. Her “over-the-top” style was inspired by her grandmother’s luxe attire and accessories, in stark contrast to the rest of her family’s understated tastes. And where does an envelope-pushing outfit perform better than at the red carpet? Chavez’s all-star client roster includes award-winning actresses such as Kristen Bell, Jessica Simpson, Reese Witherspoon and Ellie Bamber.

Chavez pinpoints her style direction as a celebration of self-expression, optimism, and body positivity that extends to her emphasis on championing up-and-coming talent. Outside of fashion styling, Chavez also designs, curates, and consults for various fashion and talent-led brands (and a proud mom of three).

You can check out more of Chavez’s work here on Creatively and @hellocreatively on Instagram.

Meet Fashion Stylist, Nicole Chavez

What is the first creative project you remember?

In junior high, I became totally obsessed with “The Making of the Sports Illustrated 25th Anniversary Swimsuit Issue” video, which documented how everything came together behind the scenes. Jule Campbell was the fashion editor at the time, and I was fascinated by her. I was so inspired by the creative process that I had to recreate it myself that summer! I convinced my friends to model, styled the suits, scouted the locations (different parts of the backyard), and had the best time directing and photographing my own “swim issue.”

Describe your aesthetic in three words.

Eclectic, luxe, and effortless.

What was the most fulfilling collaboration you’ve worked on?

Early in my career, I was invited to join a group of artists and creatives on a trip to Uganda to bring awareness to an organization called Invisible Children. The goal was to help children affected by the LRA while empowering and protecting local communities from further violence. While there, we were able to attend the opening of a school for young girls. It was such a powerful and life-changing experience, and getting to share that with my clients and colleagues made it that much more fulfilling.

What’s one creative project that taught you something fundamental about yourself?

After years spent hyper-focused on clients and kids (we’ve got 3!), this past year, I committed to creating and building my own brand identity. From the logo and color palette to collaborating with Squarespace on launching a site, the process called for some serious self-reflection at every step. It’s an ongoing project that has reconnected me with my passion – I love being able to share my creative vision and inspire others to experiment, create and play with style. My mission is to help everyone build their style confidence in an easy, accessible way.

Kristen Bell, styled by Nicole Chavez

Do you think creativity is something you’re born with, or something you’re taught?

I believe it’s both! It’s innate, but it is also something that can be learned and harnessed through experience.

What’s the last dream you had?

It was actually a lovely one—this dream was like visiting the past, but taking place in the present. Rachel Bilson and I were back on the set of The OC (my first “big break” into the industry) with everyone, filming a reunion show. Seeing everyone and knowing we were still working together 20 years later felt full circle and rewarding.

Rachel Bilson, styled by Nicole Chavez

One hundred years from now, what do you hope people write about your work?

I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for the fellow creatives that opened those pivotal doors for me and supported my work. I hope that I can continue to mentor and give back to others in the same way as part of my legacy. It’s the connections and relationships that I treasure the most about this industry.

Follow @nicolechavez on Creatively.

Creatively is more than a platform—we’re a creative collective.

Questions or feedback? Email us at feedback@creatively.life.

After leading successful design teams at Polo Ralph Lauren, Tory Burch, and more, Melissa Battifarano was appointed by Rihanna, in 2015, as Design Director at her newly formed company, Fenty Corp. Battifarano defined Fenty X PUMA, a brand-new sport fashion brand, from the ground up, pushing the boundaries of traditional activewear, as seen on the runways of New York and Paris Fashion Weeks.

After the success of Fenty X PUMA, Battifarano took the lingerie market by storm with Savage X Fenty, a ground-breaking new brand that truly embraced beauty in all shapes, sizes, and forms. Battifarano not only led design at Fenty, but was also intimately involved in driving brand development, including casting, make up/hair design, music/sound direction, and styling show looks for 6 NYFW and PFW shows; most notably, she contributed to the stand-out success of the inaugural Savage X Fenty Amazon Show in September 2019.

Battifarano is currently working on the creation and development of her own brand, TONY 1923, a love letter to her late father. Simultaneously, Battifarano has taken on Creative Director roles at both Diesel and Wolford, creating the vision and design direction for their new athleisure ranges. With savvy technical design skills and an innate understanding of culture, Battifarano is undoubtably a creative force to be reckoned with in the fashion industry.

You can check out more of their work here on Creatively and @hellocreatively on Instagram.

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Meet Fashion Designer, Melissa Battifarano

What is the first creative project you remember?

The first creative project I remember was a pastel drawing that I did in the first grade. It was a colorful bouquet of flowers in my mom’s crystal vase on black Canson paper. The school put it in the local library, and I remember being really excited to see it up! My father enrolled me in art classes after school, which was the foundation for me going into a career in fashion and design.

Describe your aesthetic in three words.

Functional. Detailed. Sexy.

What was the most fulfilling collaboration you’ve worked on?

By far my tenure with Rihanna has been the most fulfilling work I have done in my career thus far. So many unforeseen challenges, problem-solving, and pivoting on a dime. Paving a way to a whole new category that had never been done before. Very fulfilling and rewarding work.

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Savage X Fenty

What’s one creative project that taught you something fundamental about yourself?

Several projects taught me a lot about myself, but the first one I can recall is working with Tory Burch to launch Tory Sport. I had worked most of my career in menswear, with just a few short stints doing women’s. In this industry, a designer can become very easily pigeonholed. It is wild that other people’s opinions of what they think you can do can affect your confidence. I was unsure that I would thrive or even survive in my new role! Tory believed in me, and I did my due diligence to overcome my fears, push myself, and learn/absorb from everyone what I didn’t know. You just have to believe you can do something, study, learn, and ask questions. And a little bit of “faking it until you make it” doesn’t hurt either!

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Tory Sport SS16

Do you think creativity is something you’re born with or something you’re taught?

I think it is a bit of both. I do think we are hard-wired in one persuasion or another, but creativity can express itself in many ways. I believe that I was fortunate to have my creativity fostered during my childhood, and I was never stifled at all. Confidence and reassurance are vital to young people; this is why I am so passionate about mentoring young talent. We need leaders, especially females. This was a bit lacking for me when I was a young designer looking for guidance.

What’s the last dream you had?

I don’t think I dream very much. Not sure what that means, but I’ll take that up with my therapist (LOL). I used to get very terrifying recurring dreams that I was in the passenger’s seat of a car and the driver, whose face I never saw, would be unable to drive the vehicle anymore. I would have to take over and not quite able to reach the pedals or the steering wheel (as there is a body in the driver’s seat and I’m reaching across). The car was always going out of control in one way or the other. I would wake up in sweats! Thankfully, it’s been some years since I’ve had these recurring dreams. They were truly terrifying! Yikes!

Diesel Sport FW22

One hundred years from now, what do you hope people write about your work?

Wow, I’ll be thrilled if anyone is talking about me in 100 years! I hope they will write that I was part of a movement that made people feel confident, strong, sexy, and free to wear exactly what they want. And I helped to create the clothing that made them feel their best.

Follow @melissabattifarano on Creatively.

Creatively is more than a platform—we’re a creative collective.

Questions or feedback? Email us at feedback@creatively.life.

Few people in the global beauty and fashion world are as renowned behind-the-scenes as Dionne Cochrane. NYC-based Cochrane is a casting director and producer specializing in global beauty and fashion. With extensive scouting experience, Cochrane’s eponymous casting agency has done exceptionally well in the world of beauty.

Boasting a team that has worked with some of the industry’s top brands and creative agencies, Cochrane Casting’s goal is to provide its clients with the best talent for fashion shows, print, motion, street casting, and commercial projects. Simultaneously, Cochrane works as a freelance producer for beauty and runway productions with brands like Theophilio and Pat McGrath Labs. Within this work, Cochrane lends her skills to campaigns that authentically promote intersectionality and inclusion, and has done so over her almost decade-long career.

Cochrane’s client list includes Google, Mastercard, Converse, Tumi, Shea Moisture, Beats by Dre, Kiehl’s, The Row, and more. Most recently, her casting work for House of Aama’s Salt Water film received a Best Ensemble Cast nomination from the La Jolla International Fashion Film Festival.

You can check out more of Cochrane’s work here on Creatively and @hellocreatively on Instagram.

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Meet Casting Director and Producer, Dionne Cochrane

What is the first creative project you remember?

In high school, we had a literary magazine, and I was on the staff. I just remember how exciting it was to not only contribute my poetry but to help put together the magazine for our school. Collaborating with other creative students was really fun and probably why I still enjoy collaborations today. Shout out to the best English teacher, Sr. Connie.

Describe your aesthetic in three words.

Authentic, Nostalgic, Bold

What was the most fulfilling collaboration you’ve worked on?

I’ve had the opportunity to work on some amazing projects. Recently, I did the casting for Google Pixel’s latest campaign that highlighted their Real Tone software that can capture our diverse skin tones more accurately. Not only did the campaign have representation in front of the camera, but it was also behind the camera! I can’t describe how good that makes me feel.

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Google Pixel, Real Tone™

What’s one creative project that taught you something fundamental about yourself?

I was the Casting Director for Black Fashion Fair’s debut issue Volume 0: SEEN. It taught me about the power of community and collaboration. So many talented Black creatives were able to be seen and share their stories authentically. That’s so important and it reminded me that my ideas and contributions matter.

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Black Fashion Fair, Joan Smalls Cover

Do you think creativity is something you’re born with or something you’re taught?

It can be both, but I know it’s in my DNA. My mom is so creative so I’m sure it made it easier for my brother and me to tap into our creativity early on. There are things we are taught that can enhance the creativity we already have.

What’s a dream collaboration or project you’ve always wanted to do?

I was born in Jamaica but left the island at a very young age. I’ve been able to cast and produce a few editorials there but my dream is to have a campaign shot in my neighborhood—on my father’s land or the roads I used to walk with my grandparents to church. I love how Grace Wales Bonner captures the beauty of our heritage in her work and I’d love to collaborate with her and other Jamaican designers like Martine Rose, Bianca Saunders, Theophilio, and more.

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Shot in St. Thomas, Jamaica by Miranda Barnes for T: The NYTimes Style Magazine

What’s the last dream you had?

I was preparing a bath for someone using rosemary, thyme, and lavender.

One hundred years from now, what do you hope people write about your work?

Hopefully, it doesn’t take 100 years for people to write about my work or my impact on this industry. Maybe they’ll write about the award-winning films I did the casting for, or a successful publication I founded that’s still running.

Follow @MissDionneNYC on Creatively.

Creatively is more than a platform—we’re a creative collective.

Questions or feedback? Email us at feedback@creatively.life.

On September 10th, 2001, Louisiana-born designer Billy Reid held a highly-anticipated New York Fashion Week show for William Reid, his first clothing line. And while the show was a tremendous success, what played out on the world stage the day after – and the years that followed –ultimately prevented the brand to thrive.

Determined to bring his creative vision to life, Reid came up with his next line a few years later, opening up a store in downtown New York in 2008. Yet, the day that the first Billy Reid store opened was the first day of what would be many in recession.

Despite what could be seen as signs from the universe to give up, Reid didn’t. And that persistence has been honored and celebrated with exponential success since. Today, Billy Reid offers menswear, womenswear, footwear, and accessories with an emphasis on domestic manufacturing, proprietary textiles development, and high-quality construction. The brand reflects Southern roots paired with New York sensibility, reflecting Reid’s personal authenticity and expertly crafting wardrobe staples that are built to last. Reid’s collections have a vintage feel, incorporating antique brass buttons and buckles with silk ties and cufflinks, made completely from repurposed materials.

The clothing brand remains authentic to Billy Reid’s tastes, including his love for music, evident by his partnership with Nashville guitar maker Gibson. Together, they’ve launched an exclusive collection of limited edition styles featuring Reid’s take on the iconic Hummingbird guitar artwork.

Fast forward to a few years: Reid was named GQ’s Best New Menswear Designer and won the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award. He was named Menswear Designer of the Year at the 2012 CFDA Fashion Awards (one of his four CFDA awards). His story and success show that craftsmanship and commitment to your creative calling never go out of style.

You can check out more of Reid’s work here on Creatively and @hellocreatively on Instagram.

Meet fashion designer Billy Reid

What is the first creative project you remember?

When I was in first grade, we were asked to do a painting with our handprints. I took that in a different direction, and the result looked like fire. My parents kept that hanging in our house on the wall for as long as I could remember growing up. It always made me feel like I made something special.

Describe your aesthetic in three words.

Effortless. Ageless. Warm.

What was the most fulfilling collaboration you’ve worked on?

With Gibson we were able to take their iconic hummingbird artwork and put our own subtle take on it. It was intimidating as we didn’t want to screw it up and didn’t know if they’d be into it. Fortunately, they loved the work. The process of putting the concept together was so energizing and the customer reaction to the product made a wonderful moment for both our brands.

What’s one creative project that taught you something fundamental about yourself?

I realized that keeping things real and personal is the best approach for us. You don’t have to make things up if it comes from that perspective. Our Gibson project taught me that you never stop learning. You can have a voice, even when collaborating with something as established as the Hummingbird Guitar.

Do you think creativity is something you’re born with, or something you’re taught?

I believe that creativity is likely in everyone but shows itself differently in each of us. There’s also a confidence factor that gives people the freedom to continue to be curious and explore ideas.

What’s the last dream you had?

I dreamed I was at a Thanksgiving gathering with a large family that I didn’t know, but somehow I ended up there. On their patio outside, they had a fleet of new Cadillacs and had a car race/scavenger hunt. Somehow I got lost on the road and abruptly woke up… What the hell is going on in my dreams?!

One hundred years from now, what do you hope people write about your work?

I hope that in 100 years, people say we made one of their favorite pieces. 100 years is a long time, so maybe their family kept the collection alive.

Follow @BillyReid on Creatively.

Creatively is more than a platform—we’re a creative collective.

Questions or feedback? Email us at feedback@creatively.life.

You’ve probably seen photographer Michael Muller’s movie posters, but perhaps you haven’t heard about the adventure that brought him into photography in the first place.

Muller was born in Northern California, where he lived with his family before moving to Saudi Arabia. He lived overseas until he was fifteen, visiting more than fifty countries. Compelled by his travels, Muller picked up a camera. Back in the United States, teenager Muller began capturing professional snowboarding.

By the time he turned 22, Muller’s passion grew into becoming a leading entertainment and fashion photographer. He has celebrity portraits of Joaquin Phoenix, Brad Pitt, and Scarlett Johansson under his belt among so many others, as well as pages and covers for Vanity Fair, Elle, and Rolling Stone. He is also the cameraman behind the iconic movie posters for The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, and the Iron Man trilogy. Most recently, Muller has focused on underwater shark photography. He has worked on a studio lighting system which he takes underwater to light ocean life.

You can check out more of Muller’s work here on Creatively and @hellocreatively on Instagram.

Meet photographer Michael Muller

What is the first creative project you remember?

I was 15-16 years old traveling all over Europe shooting for Vertical Addiction, the first-ever snowboarding calendar ever made.

Describe your aesthetic in three words.

Organic Hyper Realism.

Aquaman, 2018

What was the most fulfilling collaboration you’ve worked on?

The most fulfilling collaboration so far would be the shark project which took about 17 years to complete. I’m doing something to help the ocean, and animals, not helping a company with their image. I’m just doing it for the love of it. That’s the most fulfilling type of work. It’s like we always say, people protect what they love.

Into The Now (An Immersive VR Series)

What’s one creative project that taught you something fundamental about yourself?

Every project teaches me something about myself. Only over time and experience, you can go from hope to faith to complete trust, which is where I’m at and have been out for about a decade now. Any shoot I show up to, I know I’ll get it done, no matter what the situation is.

Do you think creativity is something you’re born with or something you’re taught?

I think creativity is something you’re born with but it definitely takes nurturing. You need to work at it just like an athlete needs to work on their muscles. You have to be shooting every day to work that creative muscle. One of the challenges I see today with digital, people just shoot continuously and hope for that one photo they were lucky on. I learned on film (where every photo cost me two dollars), so I made every shot count.

Kobe Bryant, Time

What’s the last dream you had?

The last dream I had would be the app I created. A dream that started small and has grown into a massive novel of dreams. It requires a lot of footwork and asking for help from people who know a lot more than me.

One hundred years from now, what do you hope people write about your work?

That I cared deeply.

Follow @michaelmuller on Creatively.

Creatively is more than a platform—we’re a creative collective.

Questions or feedback? Email us at feedback@creatively.life.