I-Manifest is an NGO dedicated to empowering young people to discover where their passion lies, to then live their potential and ultimately forge a career pathway through the help of creative mentorships. When we met the founders Jo Pretyman and Kate Peck at the beginning of this year, we simply loved everything that had to say; so much so that we decided then and there to collaborate with I-Manifest on our Fashion Trade project.
Fashion Trade is a joint venture between Red Cross and Country Road. The premise, which is underpinned by a notion of sustainability, is to close the donation loop – Country Road accepts donations of pre-loved Country Road product, which are resold in Red Cross stores to fund their charitable initiatives.
For our collaboration with I-Manifest, we briefed the students to create an installation celebrating the Fashion Trade concept, which could then be used to garner attention from the media and local influencers.
Off set the students on a two day workshop under the guidance and creative direction of stylist Lara Hutton and influencer Lola Jagger (Arianne Witt), where they rethought and reimagined the idea of pre-loved fashion.
Together they decided to bring new life to the donated products by looping in artist Lauren Webster, who created custom art pieces on the products that were being shot for the campaign, of which was overseen by photographer Darren Luk and Myles Pritchard, fashion stylists Georgina Kar and Angela Liang. These art-covered pieces were later used in a beautiful installation created under the guidance of Lara and paper engineer, Benja Harney, that served as the basis for the media event the students ran.
THE FOUNDER: JO PRETYMAN
Could you talk us through the idea behind I-Manifest; how did the concept come about?
Jo: "I-Manifest is about fostering career pathways for young people in creative industries, providing them the opportunity to explore their passion and purpose and through working with industry mentors, giving them the confidence and a network to enable them to make their dreams a reality."
"It all happened very organically actually. My background was in PR working across beauty, music and a bit of fashion and when I returned to Australia from a stint in Europe, I knew I wanted to apply my skillset in a new way. I was fortunate to live and work in creative industries in London, Berlin and Ibiza. Through that time I experienced so many extremely talented, successful (and often very flamboyant) people, living life on their terms. I wanted young people to know that it is possible to live a life true to yourself and your creative expression and be successful at the same time. At school it’s so often all about fitting in."
How exactly does the program work?
Jo: "We run three day, pop-up project based learning experiences called Micro-Schools, because as well as students responding to a creative brief under the guidance of industry mentors, they are also being empowered with the World Economic Forum future ready skills, things like collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, curiosity and cultural awareness. All our Micro-Schools revolve around an authentic brief from a brand with a real world outcome, or happen on site at festivals like Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia, which really elevates the energy of the project, knowing that what they are creating is going to be out there in the world. It’s as authentic as learning can be."
What inspired the link between Country Road, Fashion Trade and I-Manifest?
Jo: "I met Susannah Stoney at a Country Road event and when I introduced her to I-Manifest we began talking about the possibilities. When Susannah came back to me, proposing a project around amplifying the existing relationships with Red Cross, it immediately resonated. As well as preparing the kids to be excellent creative professionals, it is also paramount to me that they are learning to be socially aware citizens with a deep knowledge around sustainability. More and more we are weaving these themes into our briefs."
What has been your most inspiring moment working on I-Manifest so far?
Jo: "Watching the evolution of the kids. Most of our students come back anywhere between 4 – 10 times over their final THREE years of school and watching them grow in confidence and talent is so rewarding – as well as watching friendships develop, between themselves and the mentors as well. It’s definitely become a very special little family (as the kids call it!)."
THE MENTORS: LOLA JAGGER + LARA HUTTON
What excites you most about the I-Manifest program?
Lola: "Being able to work so closely with the students and having them involved in the creative process was amazing as well as creating awareness for such an important initiative. During the program I wanted to help inspire the students to re-imagine, re-invent and re-create, while having fun and exploring each of their interpretations of the concept."
Lara: "For me it is the opportunity to be able to contribute. To inspire others; to help them on their journey; to be a part of that process because we all began somewhere. "
Could you explain the creative concept behind the installation and how it evolved within the group?
Lola: “I wanted to bring new life into the pieces we were using for our shoot so we had Lauren Webster create custom art for each garment, producing a new story for each of the pieces. We wanted to show the students that it's not about what you're wearing but how you wear it and the importance of experimenting with styling and adding your touch. For the campaign shoot we wanted the overall feel to be quite simple and raw. To let the clothing and art do most of the talking so we used a lot of natural light, played with wood textures and white backgrounds as well as created movement and shapes.”
Lara: "The installation was a combination of creating something visually special within the space and working within the parameters of the brand aesthetic so that the vision was aligned. It needed to have a certain look and feel and a structured concept and base, but it also had to have the ability to have lots of creative input within each pod of the students."
What was the most interesting thing working with the group on this project?
Lola: “It was so lovely to be able to collaborate with a collective of like-minded creatives – we all worked really cohesively together and bounced ideas off each other bringing together the final result. I've previously worked with Darren before which is always nice and makes it a lot easier. He is very relaxed and has such a good eye so I know he'll always capture the vision I have in my head perfectly! I also loved seeing the roles each of us played and the creative process in putting together the I-Manifest program with production, the interior and visual installations, creative direction, custom art, photography and styling.”
Lara : “The group was a wonderful creative mix; a blend of different talents, visions and aesthetics. It was brilliant to see them collaborating and working within their groups.”
Were there any light bulb moments?
Lara: “There were lots of light bulb moments! These were the moments when I recognised something I’d said had inspired a thought or action – that is the beauty of teaching, to see that spark in another. They ranged from when we addressed the kids about the importance of creativity – the importance of following their creative paths no matter what – to the moments when I would give instruction on the design process. It was very special for me to facilitate and witness this.”
Lola: “I was so inspired by how passionate the students were at such a young age as well as how excited they were to be able to project their own ideas, showcase their own creativity and voice their own opinions. It was really refreshing to get their perspective on things and give them the opportunity to run wild with their thought process on how they can give back, make a change and continue to inspire others and encourage their generation to recycle and reuse.”
What valuable insights did you both learn from the program?
Lara: “It was a reminder of many things: the importance of such projects of purpose; it was a reminder to continue to give back and contribute – and just how much I love that; and it was a reminder that we all need to work together more as a creative community because anything can be possible.”
Lola: “I've always been an avid vintage and second-hand shopper but being involved in this program has opened my eyes even more on the importance of the sustainable Fashion Trade partnership between Country Road and Red Cross. I'll be walking away from this much more conscious of the way I play my part in the ever changing fashion cycle and how my decisions impact the environment. I want to continue to encourage others to donate and embrace good quality, pre-loved items into their wardrobe and close the donation loop.”
The creative world can be very daunting and programs like this certainly make it easier for young people to gain some insight into the world, do you have any further advice for anyone wanting to get a start in the industry?
Lola: “I think the best way to get started is to experience everything. I started interning when I was 16 years old within both the fashion and magazine industry, started a blog at 19, moved to Sydney at 20 with a Scholarship for a Fashion College and landed my dream job at 21, of which allowed me to combine my passions of social media management, styling, creative direction, content creating and photography all together. Four years later and I'm now able to work for myself and continue doing what I love – constantly evolving and experimenting with new projects to push myself and learning new tricks of the trade every day. Programs like I-Manifest allow young people to experiment and experience different roles and develop fresh skills to help them find their niche or what they are most passionate about. Whilst mentoring the students we wanted them to know how broad the industry was and that there are so many opportunities to combine different creative elements and that they didn't have to be boxed into one role.”
Lara: “My advice and key message to the kids was: never stop being creative, never stop creating and never stop exploring your creativity. Find and reach out to mentors to help guide your path, and above all believe in yourself. I tell my kids every day, that in life we can do anything we put our minds to.”