Digi-Dame Interview : Kate Iselin of Vanity Project

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This week’s Digi-Dame is Kate Iselin, honco (honchette?) behind new online journal Vanity Project, designer of PAVO brand clothes, agitator deluxe of the ‘You Are Welcome In Australia’ Pozible comicbook project and co-educator of the upcoming Leader of the Pack series of digi-writing classes (along with Ruby Slipper’s Iolanthe). Kate does ALL the things, and does them with fiery gusto. Here’s Kate on creativity, conversation, loving weird people and hating on bad avocados.
1. What does being a creative person mean to you? Did you always feel an urge to ‘make and do’, or did you discover your ability to create by serendipitous coincidence?
KI: I’ve always been someone who was drawn to the creative arts, although it took me a long time to find my own skillset! When I was younger I wanted to be a singer or an actress – I think it’s the attention-lover in me – and I’ve always enjoyed writing. I remember dressing up my Barbie dolls and putting Ken in Barbie’s leggings, or having Barbie wear one of Ken’s delicious eighties jackets, and I suppose someone inclined to psychology might say that’s a sign of a future creative soul. I think everyone is creative, but in different ways. Everyone looks at things differently and puts their own spin and perspective on it; creativity is just about how to communicate that ‘spin’ to the world.
2. You’re the editor of a new online journal, Vanity Project. What can we expect to see on Vanity Project, and what are you hoping to add to the conversation?
KI: Vanity Project is my way of combining fashion with feminism. A very wise woman once said that there are a lot of people talking about feminism, but we need more people to bring their feminism in to other spheres. People write a lot about what feminism means and whether we’re in the third or fourth wave of it, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of people who are bringing their beliefs in to other circles – given that I have a background in fashion, I wanted to bring my feminism to that area and try to inspire women who work, or want to work, in that industry. My aim with Vanity Project is to speak to women about their journeys in the creative industries, and put an empowering and smart spin on an industry that has been considered shallow for a very long time!
3. Kate, you’re heading up a new Pozible crowdfunding campaign to create a response to the government’s comic book for asylum seekers. What’s this? Why you? How can we help?
KI: The ‘You Are Welcome In Australia’ comic aims to spread the message that people of all backgrounds and nationalities are, or should be, welcome in Australia. The government released a comic that took a very hardline stance towards asylum seekers, and seemed to delight in their suffering in our detention centres – I wanted to create something to oppose that, something that said Australia values and appreciates everyone who has come here, regardless of the circumstances of their arrival, and that there are people out there who are working extremely hard to have asylum seekers recognised as human beings. If you want to help, you can donate at our Pozible page or you can just spread the link around on social media!
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4. PAVO is your clothing label (as if you don’t already do enough magnificent, sparkly things). What informs your design process? Who is the kind of person you have in mind when designing PAVO?
KI: I really don’t have a target customer in mind for PAVO, but if people enjoy colour, sparkles, spikes, and clothing that makes them look like they’re at an all-day disco, they will probably like my clothing! My design process is all about combining the weird and often unrelated things that inspire me and make my brain tick in a creative way. At the moment I’m planning a Summer 2015 collection around the idea of, “What if Dorothy visited Oz after taking a tab of acid at Woodstock?”.
5. What are two pieces of advice that you would give someone seeking to live outside the ‘corporate nine-to-five’?
KI: Oh gosh. My ultimate number one piece of advice to anyone would be to develop their confidence! I know way too many people who, despite being extremely talented, have zero belief in themselves and are condemned to living a life of, “I could never do that, I don’t know how to do it, I’ll try it next week”. The harsh truth about the world is that nobody will believe in you until you give them reason to, and shrinking violets don’t make headlines. Don’t wait for someone to give you permission to chase your dreams, because nobody will. Never hold yourself back for the sake of modesty – success doesn’t come from silence. Also – the second piece of advice – if you ever go to a party, look for the weirdest person in the room and make friends with them. Trust me.
6. What makes you happy? What makes you angry?
KI: I try to have more things that make me happy than angry; so some of the things that make me happy are running, drinking gin and tonics in the mild sun, fat bellies on baby animals, making new friends, and bright coloured clothing. One of the only things that makes me angry is cruelty towards living things. No animal deserves to be chased, hunted, tortured, or used to the point of discomfort; and few human beings deserve to be treated as harshly we treat them. Another thing that makes me angry? Bad avocados.
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