SOME EXCITING NEWS...
 

I could not be more excited to share the incredible news that the Little Black Book has been acquired for publication by 4th Estate. Hands down the best Christmas present I've EVER gotten, and a massive 'pinch myself' moment, given that 4th Estate really are the bee's knees when it comes to publishers - they've published some of the most iconic and genre-defining women of our time, including Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (no big deal) and Lena Dunham. I'm also thrilled to be working on this with the ultimate dream team in 4th Estate's Publicity and Publishing Director Michelle Kane and my agent at RCW Emma Paterson, who are both utterly brilliant at what they do.

And, above all - I am beyond excited about what this means for the Women Who community, and very grateful to all the amazing ladies who've supported so far. Special shout out to the woman who, having read the book, decided to pass it on to her friend in publishing - and in doing so got this whole ball rolling... A testament to the power of community, non?

The book will be on bookshelves next June, with fewer typos (the perks of working with a proper publisher!) and more helpful advice for your working life - so mark the date in your diaries now...

 

This is just the beginning.

 

 
A FEW QUESTIONS THAT I NEED TO KNOW...
 

The six months since I launched Women Who back in July have been, without a doubt, the most exciting period of my working life so far - I've had the privilege of hearing the career stories of some incredible creative women and businesses, met a tonne of interesting women, learned a buttload about work, and generally felt more professionally inspired (and challenged - so challenged!) than ever before. So far so good, but I'll be honest with you - I feel like Women Who is only just getting started, and there's so much more that I want to do. To do those things properly, and to grow this community into everything it can be, I need a little information about you darling reader, so I know exactly how Women Who can help you work better. All you've gotta do is fill out the super-quick survey below. Simples.

So - like what we're doing? Got a great idea you think we should hear? What do you want to see more of? What do you want to see less of? Let me know via the survey below - and don't worry, all responses are totally anonymous, and completely confidential.

Can't wait to hear from you,

 
 l
 
 
Create your own user feedback survey
 
KATHRYN FERGUSON, FILM DIRECTOR
 
Kathryn Ferguson

I first discovered filmmaker Kathryn Ferguson’s work when I came across Four Tell, a short film commissioned by Selfridges for International Women's Day in 2013, which explores the successes and achievements of four female role models. Beautifully shot and impeccably styled, Four Tell is undeniably gorgeous, but its depth – like all of Kathryn’s work – goes far beyond its aesthetic appeal. An intimate portrayal of a quartet of creative heavyweights (the ‘four’ the film takes its title from are none other than Bella Freud, Sharmeadean Reid, the late Zaha Hadid and Caryn Franklin), it’s full of genuine pearls of wisdom about work, creativity, and personal fulfilment. I watched it three times, before sending a flurry of exclamation-filled WhatsApps to the friend who’d originally sent it my way.

As Selfridges’ Resident Film Director, Kathryn directs and oversees all moving image content for the brand, making fashion films that often examine female identity, beauty, and power – themes frequently explored in her other work, which include award-winning films for fashion designers, international brands and musicians such as Chloé, Vogue, Nike, Sinead O’Connor, and Lady Gaga. Hers is a body of work that unshowily put forward a modern, inclusive version of womanhood, one that’s celebratory of the female form, and – importantly – the female mind.

Having balanced her film-making practise with curating exhibitions for the British Council and the Birds Eye Film Festival, as well as lecturing at Central Saint Martins, the Royal College of Art, and the London College of Fashion (where she is now a Fashion Film Research Fellow), Kathryn is a treasure trove of insights on how to make it work within the creative industries. Over a glass of wine we talked about what it takes to succeed as a female creative, operating outside of your comfort zone, and the messages she wants her films to convey. Over to Kathryn...

 

PUTTING IN THE WORK

I think social media and the Internet make it appear that success happens overnight, but of course it doesn’t. I’m amazed at how hard-working my peers are – I don’t know anybody who’s done well that hasn’t worked incredibly hard to get there. London can be particularly hard for creatives because it’s such a saturated market, so if you want to get ahead you’ve really got to put the time in.


"The most important thing I think female creatives need to have is resilience."


STEPPING OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE

I was 25 when I first started working in film, and one of the very first things that happened was being asked to show one of my early films at the Birds Eye View Film Festival. As part of the film screening they asked all the filmmakers to take part in a post-screening Q&A but I was so low in confidence that I wasn’t going to go to the screening, because I hadn’t ever had any experience of talking about my work – and I’d only ever made this one film. But then my mother, a strong Belfast woman, just said, “Are you joking me? You’re gonna go, and you’re gonna do it, and you’re gonna keep doing it until it doesn’t bother you anymore. Just get over yourself and get on with it”.

That was a huge landmark because I’d been about to talk myself out of a really great opportunity, and instead I just went for it. And then I did it again and I was a tiny bit better, and then I did it again, and slowly it got a bit less excruciating – I think I even got a bit of a kick out of it!

 A still from  He, She, Me , a film commissioned by Selfridges as part of their Agender campaign, and soundtracked by Dev Hynes and Neneh Cherry.

A still from He, She, Me, a film commissioned by Selfridges as part of their Agender campaign, and soundtracked by Dev Hynes and Neneh Cherry.

 

ON HOW SHE GOT STARTED IN FILM

I studied fashion communication and promotion at Central Saint Martins, which is where I made my first film. I really enjoyed the course, but I left with no real skills. I got a real taste for film during my final term there, and begged my tutors there to teach me what they could – there wasn’t a film component to that course at the time. After leaving, I went into two solid years of freefall: of not really being able to get proper work, or knowing where to position myself. I was doing fashion assisting at magazines, a bit of art direction on films, all assisting jobs or internships. I really wanted to make films though, so I started experimenting and created short test films in my free time, just to try things out.

 

BIG BREAKS

The most important thing that happened was that I submitted my graduation film into Birds Eye View. It was chosen for their UK shorts programme at the ICA, and ended up touring around various film festivals that summer. After that, the CEO of BEV asked me to curate a strand of fashion film for them, and we ended up launching the ‘Fashion Loves Film’ element of Birds Eye, a programme that ended up running for six years and celebrated female directors working within the emerging genre of fashion film.

Back in 2008 fashion film was so new that I really struggled find ten films, so for that first screening so I had to create a chronological programme of films that went right back to 1998. Over the course of the following six years, I was massively inspired by all the superbly talented women that began experimenting with fashion film – for us, it was our music video, and our way to break into film in what was traditionally a very male dominated industry. I took this first screening and subsequent new role from BEV as a positive sign that I should try to work in film, and decided to quit everything else that I was doing – which was scary as hell, but it was the best thing I ever did. It was an experimental and financially tough time, but I was 25 and thought ‘what have I got to lose?’.

That year I started to make a lot of films, mainly for UK fashion designers, and started getting more and more work as a result of putting my work out into the world. I also decided to apply for a two-year masters at the Royal College of Art, which gave me something to focus on. During that period I got an exciting commission from Dazed to work with Lady Gaga, via Susie Lau (Dazed’s then Digital Editor, more commonly known as style blogger Susie Bubble). That was a big break. That film came out during my first week at the RCA.

 

ON MENTORSHIP

I found my first year at the RCA hard, as I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go down the art route or down the commercial route – but that’s kind of what the RCA is for, you’re meant to explore. In my second year I sought out Julie Verhoeven [the legendary British designer and illustrator] who was one of the tutors on the fashion course there, and asked her to be my mentor. I’d shown her work at one of the Birds Eye Views screenings the year before, so she knew me already – but even still, she was wildly generous, meeting me for tutorials even though she didn’t have any obligation to! We’d meet maybe once every six weeks, and she’d hire out films for me to watch on her staff card. She was amazing – someone I could really communicate with.

 A still from  Incredible Machines , featuring (L-R) Sharmadean Reid, Michele Lamy, Naomi Shimada, Ruqsana Begum and Charlie Craggs.

A still from Incredible Machines, featuring (L-R) Sharmadean Reid, Michele Lamy, Naomi Shimada, Ruqsana Begum and Charlie Craggs.

 

ON FILM AS COMMUNICATION

I came out of that MA with a piece that still means a lot to me, called Máthair, which is Irish for ‘mother’. It was very much a visual exploration of my own mother’s story – I was trying to explore where her femininity sat within Ireland, and the structure of how it treats its women. It was a very experimental film, and the best thing about it for me was that it was the first time where I could take the visuals of a fashion film, but apply them to something much more personal, that communicated something much more real. It was a really important step as I realised I wanted to keep making work that is visually striking and draws people in, but also packs a punch with whatever you’re trying to say. If you can aesthetically draw people in, you’ve got more of a chance of them engaging with what you’re trying to say.


"I realised I wanted to keep making work that is visually striking and draws people in, but also packs a punch with whatever you’re trying to say."


  Kathryn with Michele Lamy on the set of     Incredible Machines.

Kathryn with Michele Lamy on the set of Incredible Machines.

LANDING HER SELFRIDGES GIG

After I left the RCA in 2011, I joined a production company where the reality of trying to work within the commercial film industry really hit home. I realised very quickly how saturated and competitive the market was, and had to work extra hard to try win pitches and communicate my ideas. I had to take on other types of work to financially support myself, so that I wasn’t solely relying on film for an income. 

For a couple of years after graduating I worked as a film curator and workshop mentor for the British Council and was lucky enough to travel around the world with them curating fashion film exhibitions and running film workshops. I also began teaching at the London College of Fashion. I would have been in dire straits if I didn’t have these other roles bubbling away at the same time as trying to working as a freelance director.

Around that time I was invited to give a talk at an International Women’s Day dinner for the W Project, and the creative director of Selfridges happened to be there with two of their creatives. They came up to me afterwards to tell me they’d enjoyed it, and I didn’t think much of it beyond that – and then six months later they got in touch about a project, which turned out to be Four Tell. So I’d just encourage people to go and do everything, and meet everybody – you never know who you’re going to meet.

 

TEACHING OTHERS

I enjoy the educational side of what I do, and teach occasionally – I did a lot of teaching for three years, which was tricky to balance with my filming schedules, so I moved into research [at the London College of Fashion], which allowed me much more flexibility. I’ve met some amazing students who’ve really affected how I see things, like Charlie Craggs [trans activist and creator of Nail Transphobia] who used to be one of my students. She was so talented, and we really bonded.

 

HER FUTURE PROJECTS

I’d like to make more political work. We're heading into an interesting – and worrying – time, and more than ever female voices need to be loud, and to be heard. I moved to Margate this summer, and I've just shot a film about an amazing tidal pool that was built there in 1937, and the diverse community of swimmers that use it. I started swimming there with an old friend from Belfast (who also happens to be a journalist) the week after Brexit, and we kept meeting all of these interesting characters there, and realised – against the backdrop of Brexit and a changing Margate – what a beautiful, diverse, free space it was… somewhere for all to enjoy. So together we decided to create this film about wild swimming, community and how people are feeling in a post-Brexit UK. We're hoping to release it in early 2017.

 

THE BEST BITS OF THE JOB

I love the variety and not really knowing what’s coming. It’s quite terrifying in some respects – but also very thrilling because I always have the sense that something amazing could be round the corner. I love that I can communicate to people, and that feels really great for someone who definitely struggled to express myself and communicate when I was younger, especially as a teenager. It feels powerful, and empowering for me.


"I want people to see themselves in my work, and to feel empowered, not reduced."


I hope a lot of the work I make is speaking to younger girls and making them think about things in a different way, because there wasn’t a lot out there when I was a teenager that gave me much guidance. I want people to see themselves in my work and to feel empowered, not reduced, as a lot of fashion and advertising imagery can do that. There’s still a long way to go but I’m going to keep chipping away at it. 

 

kathrynferguson.co.uk

@Kath_Ferguson

 
STAYING CREATIVE DURING THE WINTER MONTHS
 
Pierre Cardin, Space Age

As I’ve mentioned in newsletters past (sign up here if you haven’t already!), I’m a huge believer in the ability of the seasons to affect everything from your mindset to your physical wellbeing – both of which in turn can affect your ability to do your best work. A lot of the optimism I was feeling a few months ago about the impending change in seasons was definitely down to a rose-tinted notion of cosy evenings spent in front of a fictitious roaring fire, as it's safe to say said fantasies have been cruelly slapped away by the grim reality of British winters and their trademark grey skies and constant drizzle. With the clocks going back a few weeks ago and December fast approaching, I’ve been giving some thought to how to stay creative and keep my brain ticking over during this, the season of little motivation and increased libation. When it comes to avoiding the winter blues, forewarned is forearmed – so here are a few ideas on how to get through the cold, dark months ahead, and ensure you’re as productive as possible.

 

GET OUTSIDE

Yes I know – the weather’s sh*t, which makes it extremely tempting to basically hibernate until March, but hear me out. Getting a daily dose of sunlight is crucial for keeping your mood and energy levels up, so particularly if you work from home, maintain (or introduce!) a habit of taking a walk during the day. It doesn't have to be long - 15 minutes will do. Not only is exposure to sunlight crucial for helping your body produce serotonin (a mood-boosting chemical), the cold is sure to get your blood pumping and wake you up. Win-win.

 

GET READING

Whilst I love a good think piece as much as the next person (and have discovered some of my favourite writers online), nothing beats getting stuck into an actual book for inspiration. Skimming through a mishmash of tweets, Instagram posts and clickbait headlines is the dietary equivalent of a packet of crisps – it fills you up, but it’s not exactly nourishing. The colder weather means you’ll probably be spending more time indoors anyway, so why not use that extra time at home to stimulate your mind with some literary brain food? If you’re stuck for inspiration, check out Girls At Library, an excellent online journal full of book recommendations from interesting women. Me? I’ll be getting stuck into Zadie Smith’s Swing Time, starting with a reading by her at the London Review Bookshop next week.

 

STAY SOCIAL

Don’t get me wrong, I love an evening in with nothing but a podcast for company – but humans are social animals, and we need regular social interaction to stay happy and sane. Making a concerted effort to stay social during the winter months is important for sparking fresh ideas, and stopping your brain from getting into a rut. Again, particularly if you work from home, be sure to schedule in regular socialising with friends, even if it’s just arranging to co-work together once a week.

 

LOOK AFTER YOUR BODY

As ever, looking after your physical wellbeing is crucial if you want to keep producing your best work. This winter I’m taking a two-pronged approach to keeping my health on track, paying special attention to both my diet and exercise. The run up to Christmas traditionally tends to be a time of increased indulgence, which is totally fine as long as you’re still getting your fair share of healthy foods too. Make sure you incorporate plenty of brain foods into your diet, such as oily fish (yes, smoked salmon canapés do count), eggs, and nuts. It might also be worth rounding out your diet with a few supplements too – try Vitamin D to make up for the lack of sunlight, and the B vitamins for energy.

As well as eating the right foods, staying active is more important than ever for helping boost your mood and energy levels, so try to resist the temptation to turn into a couch potato over the winter. If throwing yourself around a freezing park before or after work is your idea of hell, explore indoor classes such as HIIT (never tried it but heard it's good) or hot yoga (have tried it, and can 100% vouch for it). Whatever floats your boat, as long as it gets you moving - why not take a friend along for the ride and kill two birds with one stone? By getting some good habits in place now, you can build up slowly and avoid the usual 'feast-then-famine' mentality of bingeing on unhealthy foods in the run up to the end of the year because *Christmas*, followed by the shock of starting a punishing exercise regime in the New Year. Why wait?

 

What’s your secret to getting through the dog days of winter? Let me know in the comments box below!

 
ON THE ELECTION
 
Hillary Rodham Clinton

The hours and days since Donald Trump won the US presidential election have for me, and for so many others, been full of a thousand tiny little heartbreaks. Waking up at 4am on Wednesday morning to find that the victory I'd begun to take for granted was suddenly in jeopardy, broke my heart. Seeing headlines juxtaposing the words ‘President’ with ‘Trump’ a few hours later, broke my heart. A video of a 103 year old Clinton supporter watching the results roll in, broke my heart. Watching the Obamas, gracious to the bitter end, having to welcome into their home a man who despises them and everything they stand for – that too broke my heart. The thousands of think pieces dissecting what Hillary should have done differently, what she could have done better. The circulation of news footage from eighteen months ago, when we’d all chortled at the prospect of a Trump presidency. This photo of Hillary gamely posing with a supporter who bumped into her during a private moment, only a day after her defeat. All of these moments, and so many others, have broken my heart in a way that, being relatively young, I hadn't yet had the misfortune to experience.

 

And, aware as I am that - being the white, wealthy, wife of a former US President - Hillary Clinton is someone who is unlikely to feel the sharp end of Trump’s policies first hand, I feel so sad for her still – the disappointment and frustration at the injustice of the situation must be immense. How she found it in her to deliver such a graceful and optimistic concession speech, and to provide comfort to so many in a time of turmoil remains a mystery to me. And haven't we all been there? We are all Hillary, in a way. Every single working woman has had her own Donald Trump. The guys who patronises her. The guy who gaslights her. The guy who interrupts her, and talks over her in meetings. The guy whose unchallenged access to circles of power and influence has given him a heightened sense of entitlement, and an unshakeable (and undeserved) sense of his own rectitude. "If anyone still doubts that the inexperienced man gets promoted ahead of the qualified woman, you can wake up now", Barbara Kingsolver wrote in the days leading up to the election, but sadly the nightmare continues. As someone who is both female and black, the disaster we now face feels twofold, given that I know there isn’t a single part of my identity Donald Trump doesn’t hold in utter contempt. Racism, as well as misogyny, is the beating undercurrent of the groundswell that carried Donald Trump all the way into the White House.

I usually try to keep Women Who as a fairly politically neutral space, although it doesn't come easily to me – those who know me well know I'm a very political person. An attempt at neutrality is why I chose to post my supportive message of Hillary the day of the election on my personal Instagram account instead of on Women Who’s, and it's why the few political posts I have made to date have been fairly neutral, galvanising political action in general as opposed to trying to sway the tide of opinion one way or another.

 

No more.

 

Everything is political when you're a woman, and Donald Trump is an enemy of women the world over - not just those in the USA. The only positive by-product of his win (and one which I’d trade in an instant) is that it’s made me more determined than ever for Women Who to be a platform that champions women everywhere, a force for good in a world that tries so hard to diminish our value. It’s shown me how far we still have to go. How much work there is still left to do. I'm here and ready for that fight.

 

Are you?

 
EVENT RECAP: MAKE YOUR OWN JOB

We live in an age where more people than ever aspire to start their own businesses – and nowhere more so than within the creative industries, which have always been characterised by original thinkers and people who want the freedom to realise their own creative visions. Female entrepreneurs in particular are also becoming a more dominant force - 80% of the newly self-employed during the last UK recession were women, and it feels like female entrepreneurs are finally getting their turn in the limelight. Given that, it seemed fitting to hear the stories of the women behind some of London’s most exciting creative brands and businesses, which is exactly what we did at last week's Make Your Own Job event.

Speaking to a room full of women lounging very comfortably on the sofas at the gorgeous Soho Works, panellists Missy Flynn (co-owner of Rita's/Quilombero), Anna Murray (co-founder of Patternity) and Lana Elie (founder of Floom) covered the ins and outs of setting up and running a successful business during a 90 minute (!) discussion that could have gone on for much, much longer. Check out photos from the evening below.