Moving from Georgia to New York was the best thing I could do because I was so clueless. I didn't know what was going on, and you're just really thrown right in here. People who come to New York must have a specific type of personality. You just don't care, you’re independent, and you go for it.
Free the nipple. It was one of the craziest misinterpretations because I got all this hate because I was accused of imposing my ideology upon Frida Kahlo, who was not herself a feminist. It just became so layered. I was like, “Look at the context,” I’m not imposing my ideology. I wasn’t spearheading her as the leader of the movement. Grace Coddington is not a Clog or a Cod Fish for that matter either.
Did you learn anything from that experience though?
First of all, don't get into arguments online. Then second of all, don't get offended, not everyone is always going to like what you do. You can't make everyone laugh and online things can be de-contextualized. People come for the joke and then obviously the joke sometimes has to be moderated because we live in a very PC day and age in which things can be grossly misinterpreted.
What’s your most important learning experience?
With every shoot, you learn something, especially at the beginning because it’s so new. Also in exchanging ideas and experiences with other photographer friends, and things like that, you learn. I didn't really have one big thing that happened to me it was more of just a constant evolution.
Is there one experience in particular that made you grow?
Kind of. When I first started as an intern, it was a very small office. I had been interning there for 6 months when the team in New York said, "We need to hire Alex.” And Thierry believed in me, so I came on as a production coordinator. Then about one month before the SS15 shows, my 2 colleagues in New York left. One of them managed budgets and the other managed clients.
So… I had one month before Fashion Week to figure out how to manage and create the budgets while also managing and learning all of the clients, the venues, and the entire process on my own—obviously with a great daily support and help from Paris, but it was scary nonetheless. I put my head down, worked really, really, really hard, and that's where I think I really stood out. Things got easier from there, but I’m still learning every single day.
It’s the scariest positions that make you grow. And they also give you a chance to stand out. I hadn't met many of the clients yet, and having to do huge budgets was daunting, but such a fun challenge and I'm so happy I got through it.
My biggest life lesson was my first year here in Paris, which was extremely difficult. It was a sad time, but it made me grow up more in 1 year than I would have in 10. When I came to Paris, I told my parents that I had friends and it was fine, but I actually didn't know anybody. I didn't know where I was going to stay. I didn't know the language. I had to change apartments 7 times that year.
It was a really difficult time money-wise, as well. I didn't make money from the jobs that I was getting yet. I was surviving on a month to month basis. It was really tough, but at the same time, it made me really strong. And also I was only 19 years old, so everyone was telling me that I was too young for Paris, that maybe I should go to London, New York, or LA again, because they’re all more open to young people. But I was very good at saying no to that. Then I got my first big job with Dior.
When I was in LA, there was a contest where you could win a trip to Milano, meet an agent and start working there. I didn't speak English well, and so I didn't win. But when I was in Paris, they followed my work and my progress, and then they said that I am the winner of the year, It was amazing experience, and I believed that everything can be possible! When I was in Milano, I received a call from Dior in Paris, asking if I could do the makeup for a video with Emily Weiss. It was amazing.
Then my friend recommended me to Max Mara and I did makeup for Maria Giulia Maramotti for her portrait, and she really liked me, so I was booked for shooting with her for 6 different Vogue’s. After a year, my mailbox started to get very busy. I built a strong portfolio, I got an agent, and then every month I started to take bigger and bigger steps. I'm happy I didn't give up and always followed my dreams!
Ha, you sound like it’s over! I’m still constantly learning as I go and have a lot more to learn. But the more companies and organizations you work with the more you see that everyone works differently and that behind the scenes, things are often more shambolic than they appear. Smoke and mirrors!
Getting pitched into Milan Fashion Week as a 1st assistant with Georgina with 6 weeks experience!
I was responsible for running the team and making sure everyone was supported in creating the makeup for the show that Georgina had designed.