Interview with Maryam Mazraei – Importance, Roles & Challenges of a Creative Director in a Fashion E-commerce Startup
No matter how compelling your product is, if you’re selling it on the Internet, you need compelling content.
Fashion e-commerce companies that are successful online are the ones that produce a lot of inspiring content in-house and keep content as the focal point of their business – content that has the ability to envelop customers in a specific mood and inspire them. Unfortunately, outsourcing content production seldom works out.
You have to have a specialist who heads the production of content that will be used in the marketing of your products on the Internet – The Creative Director.
It’s the responsibility of a creative director to ensure that there is a constant in-flow of creative content to give one laser targeted impression to customers about the brand.
Sadly – not all the Fashion E-commerce start-ups have someone dedicated & specialist to fulfill this role. Because of lack of a creative force, many of these start-ups have to settle for a low return on their effort & money spent on the promotion.
So, we invited Maryam Mazraei who is the Creative Director of Rella.co, to discuss the importance, roles & challenges of a Creative Director in a Fashion E-commerce Startup.
Pulkit: Tell us a little about your brand – Rella.co
Maryam: RELLA is a lifestyle brand designed for the modern man. We started from humble beginnings but we are not short on ambition. We strive for organic growth within our organization by investing in people and extending our product lines.
Our mission is to be completely organic in the foreseeable future. Until such times we are using grade A cotton (cotton with minor usage of chemicals), which is frankly already better than what most of our fellow peers in the industry are currently using. In line with our vision, all our packaging, swing tags and business cards are made from eco materials.
You can check the making of this Ad here
Pulkit: What’s your educational background?
Maryam: I am BA (Hons) Business Studies with a year in industry at University of Kent and A-levels in Business, Law, English language/ Literature and Media Studies.
Pulkit: What are your general professional and non-professional interests?
Maryam: My professional interests are in marketing, economics, operations management, Art and design and Innovation. Just to elaborate on these, these professional interests all have a particular link with one another and knowing each exceeds your skill when it comes to this position because you understand what is present and modern and what consumers are looking for etc. And on the creative side, how to further innovate your ideas from current competition.
My non-professional interests are Art & Photography and reading a lot of books that relate to this. I didn’t study these topics and these two, in particular, are my core passions in life. They have boosted my ability as a creative director as you start to see products and services and everything quite differently from a noncreative. And ideas always pop in your head so a good advice is to ALWAYS have a notepad with you 😀
Pulkit: Please tell us about your roles as a Creative Director at Rella?
Maryam: My role as a creative director at Rella ranges from branding to the design of the clothes. Below I have listed just some of the tasks I have to fulfill as a creative director:
- Branding such as graphic design for the logo, web design, promotional materials etc
- Photoshoot- product shoot, look book shoot and promotional shoots such as our #rellaloves series
- Photo editing
- Model casting
- Creation of marketing materials such as newsletters
- Marketing campaigns
- Video Production
- Social media content and visual materials
- Collections and artworks that go with the clothes such as swing tags, size labels etc
- Networking and going to events
My role is to make sure that the brand is visually strong and is consistent throughout all online and offline platforms. I take extreme care and place a lot of attention to detail when it comes to the visual outcome of my brand. Every material, photo, model and written content must represent the brand in order for your audience to recognize who you are immediate.
Pulkit: What are the unique challenges you face in your role as a Creative Director at Rella?
Maryam: One of the main challenges I face is the constant need to come up with new, creative and outside of the box ideas. With a clothing brand, particularity in the current competitive climate of the market, we have to consistently push the barriers and produce new work to attract customers. At times, my brain is completely drained and I cannot come up with new ideas so I like to take inspiration from taking walks around London with my film camera and photograph concepts that I can use for Rella. As Coco Chanel said – ‘Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.’
Another way to solve this challenge is to speak directly to my customers and ask them what they would like to see from Rella. This really helps to figure out what my audience likes to read about, what photo shoots they would like to see and how else I can fit the brand into their lives.
Pulkit: Tell us little about your approach while doing product photography.
Maryam: Having been a photographer for some time now, this skill enables me to explore and visit locations that others may not have visited and created in my vision concepts that I can later photograph. Therefore, when I need to do a product shoot, I first pick a concept i.e. how I want the shots to turn out, secondly find the location(s) that I think will assist the concept of the shoot and thirdly choose the appropriate model(s).
Gradually, I have become more relaxed in my approach to product photography because even when I have a plan, things just unravel on set and that spontaneity is what makes the best shots.
Pulkit: What hardware & software do you like to use to produce all the content?
Maryam: My MacBook Air is what I use every day to do all my work. I use Illustrator, Photoshop, iPhoto and I have recently started using Pixlemator for some of my photo editings.
For photography, I use a Canon T50 film camera to capture authentic and vintage looking photos and a Canon EOS 1100D for more commercial shots. I also use the Wacom Bamboo Tablet for enhancing the designs on the clothing. Alongside, the good old pen and paper for drawing or jotting down ideas and I always carry a notepad with me for those random eureka moments.
Pulkit: How much time do you spend every day on producing content for Rella?
Maryam: One way or another, I make sure to communicate on a daily basis to the Rella customers and fans via social media or by updating blog posts on the website. I don’t have a set amount of time that I spend on generating content every day. However, if we are running a campaign for let’s say a week, I would have to spend at least 8 hours a day making sure the text is correct and all the visuals are as best they can be.
Pulkit: What is your core strategy for production of content for Rella?
Maryam: My core strategy for producing content is to brainstorm and create variations of topics to write about alongside produce the visuals for. Then I test these out with my audience by tracking via the website analytics to see which form of content did best. I also email individual customers and ask them what they would like to read about. Alongside, communicate directly via twitter and Facebook which creates a great brand and end user conversation.
I think the key aspect to producing content is to first do a lot of market research and test out different content. I am still in the process of testing and producing a variety of content until I know what my customers really want to read about.
Pulkit: Do you work alone?
Maryam: No, I have a small team consisting of five people including myself. My other team members assist in areas such as production, finance/ accounting, legal/ HR and online marketing. I also work with freelance designers to create the collections. I like to rotate between fashion and print designers in order to get a feel for different styles and to give young designers an opportunity to work with a new fashion brand. This goes in line with our mission statement of creating a hub of young creatives and giving the experience to grow in the field.
Pulkit: Do you work from home or at the office?
Maryam: This does vary. Majority of the time I work at home because I have all my tools around me and a tidy environment to work in. Of course, when it comes to freelance jobs, I enter new locations all the time.
Pulkit: Who takes care of copywriting at Rella?
Maryam: Currently, I take care of copywriting at Rella until I find the perfect copywriter to understand the language of the brand then I will feel comfortable to pass on the role to him or her. Actually, I would like to ask if there are any potential readers who would like to gain experience with a start-up fashion brand as a copywriter, if so please email me with the subject line ‘Consider Me’ to maryam[at]rella[dot]co
Pulkit: Please share some of your work with us.
Maryam: You can see all my work via the Rella website and social media links below:
For my other personal client projects, you can see my portfolio websites at isis-art.tumblr.com and isis-photography.tumblr.com
Pulkit: What would you say your greatest accomplishment is?
Maryam: Alongside, creating a menswear brand and really taking on all the difficulties in creating the brand, I would say my greatest accomplishment is working with musicians in terms of producing album covers and logos. The particular ones that I do – constant art and design for are Azedia. UK based producers which make phenomenal music and funnily enough listening to their music helps me with every task they assign me with.
Pulkit: Where do you get your inspiration from?
Maryam: I gain my inspiration from the present. As an artist, I feel like it is essential for one to be present to showcase the events at present times through their work hence the famous statement ‘The Artist is Present’. Life and spirituality give me inspiration also.
Pulkit: Who are your favorite designers?
Maryam: Thomas Heatherwick, Yohji Yamamoto, John Maeda & Jim Williams
Pulkit: What are some of your favorite fashion websites, magazines, or books?
Fashion websites: Dazed Digital, Ahoodie, Individualism, Marimekko
Magazines or books: Dazed & Confused magazine. Yohji Yamamoto: My Dear Bomb, Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty
Pulkit: Alright Maryam. Well, thanks very much for your time. We really look forward to the new stuff from you & Rella, and good luck with it all.