It has well been documented by television, media and countless Tik Tok accounts (yes, this author is current, relevant, cool and definitely not 75 years old) that the road to success in the fashion industry is paved with struggle. The struggle so ubiquitous that the road becomes a minefield. For the most of us. At the same time, for our dear friends with long European last names that ‘coincidentally’ match the buildings in Columbia, the mine field turns into a comfortable highway. As luck would have it, this piece offers a story of a man strutting through the minefield with grace and dignity.
Elliot Carlyle’s journey started in the music industry. The thought of ever working in fashion has never even occurred to him. “I didn’t know anything about fashion week. I had never read a fashion magazine nor did I know any editors, stylists, photographers, or designers. Come to think of it, I believe the only models I knew of were Iman, Naomi Campbell, Tyson Beckford, and Shemar Moore; mostly from reading ESSENCE, Jet, and Ebony,” recalls Carlyle. After leaving behind a full music scholarship, Elliot began volunteering at New York Fashion Week – the experience that would inspire him to become a publicist down the line, “there was something about publicists that resonated with me.” Equipped with spotless work ethic and a list of trusted contacts, Carlyle began his tenure in the world of fashion PR prior to obtaining a BFA in Fashion Marketing and Retail Management.
We live in a world where everyone is a writer/producer/creative director/model etc. Do any of these self-appointed titles imply some sort of achievements? Or are they merely indications of aspirations and passions? This author wouldn’t know. “After obtaining my degree, I added creative direction to my services professionally. I felt that I had now put in the hours and earned the extension,” explains Elliot. Creative direction accompanied public speaking, teaching and consulting for Carlyle, quenching the desperate need of young creatives for being taught, imparted and empowered.
After moving to New York, Elliot had a chance to work for Fern Mallis, the founder of New York Fashion Week, “Working in fashion in New York will challenge you, stretch you, and grow you. I was challenged...I was stretched...but I grew. I am grateful for what this transition has brought me and taught me personally and professionally.”
Come 2020, the world has changed. Racial and health pandemic has challenged the industry in profound and unique ways, propelling many, including Elliot, to make a leap. “I decided […] to start freelance consulting in branding, culture, diversity & inclusion, public relations, and creative direction. I had no plan...I had no strategy...but what I did have was instinct and a connection to divine intelligence and I knew it was the right time for me to do the next thing. I’ve really gone through the A version of my career but like so many creatives — and especially as a Black man — I’ve had to trust my instinct to move forward in life and in business. You can’t always explain it...you just have to know that you know and go for it. It’s simple yet complex...but your trajectory doesn’t have to be complicated.”
VALUES /// PROBLEMS
What are three fundamental values that you would like to embrace throughout your career?
Culture. Community. Soul.
What are three relevant problems that you wish to solve or improve with the help of your work?
Hmm….relevant problems. That’s an interesting consideration. Because most of my work is with people or about people, I’ll substitute the word problem for challenge here. For me, I believe this shows up in the trajectory of my life & career. Just like anyone else on this planet, I had to find my way but I was blessed to have some tools that helped me navigate and build. So, I help people in that way. I’ve always been a voice. I find in life that I attract others who are voices as well. It’s been humbling to be used as a vessel to help others connect and nurture their voice. I spoke about it earlier. All of us have an intelligence system that goes beyond our mind. There’s this inner voice that we can hear. We feel this vibration. We travel on this frequency. It’s spiritual and I believe it. I believe in encouraging and empowering others to trust that voice...their essence...their authenticity...and use it! I am about living from the inside out.
Finding your voice. Using your voice. These are two things. Then, there is prospering from your voice. Now, your voice can be your gift, your talent, your ability...whatever channel you use to express your authenticity and identity to the world. Many people sit with the questions, “Am I too much or not enough?” or “Is my voice valuable? If it is valuable, how do I charge what I’m worth?” These questions often paralyze people from engaging their gift. I want to help people move beyond the questions that are blocking them from experiencing the power of their gift. I would say that this latest shift in my own life...in everyone’s life who is still living and breathing….we have been allowed a paradigm shift regarding what it means to be prosperous. Anyone reading this interview has survived the worst days of their life. Think about it... Regardless of what you’ve gone through, you’re still here! There’s purpose in that. Challenges? Yes. Changes? Yes. Upsets? Yes...but there’s purpose in it.
Now, someone may be thinking, “What does this have to do with fashion?” Well, everything and more. My purpose has always been connected to people. Fashion is just the technology through which I execute my purpose.
#GAHSPzeitgeist /// FIRM
What is your role at the CFDA and at NYC Jewelry Week?
I’ve been working with NYC Jewelry Week since 2019 and I’m honored to serve as the Director of Cultural Diversity & Inclusion. Together, we built a program called HERE WE ARE; a strategic initiative designed to address widespread inequity and a lack of representation in the jewelry industry through action and impact. We are very proud of this program as it is and was the first of its kind in the jewelry industry. Our work continues to highlight creators, build industry awareness around issues of diversity, inclusion, equity, representation, and allyship.
I’m currently working with the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) as a consultant. I’m leading the CFDA Connects program, which exists to provide resources and access to professional development to regional markets through regional fashion weeks. I’m also working with the internal team on the CFDA IMPACT program, which exists to support and nurture Black and Brown creatives & professionals and is part of the CFDA’s diversity, equity and inclusion programming.
In what way can big organizations and platforms help the evolution of the Creative Industry / Creatives? How are they influencing the dynamics of trends vs. innovation?
Whew! This is a great panel discussion lol. Honestly, this is a nuanced answer. To give my sincerest while also doing justice in answering the question, I would say that one major way would be to authentically resolve the issues around diversity, equity and inclusion. I’m not saying this because this topic consumes most of my day-to-day work, but because it’s absolutely true. To do this effectively and authentically would be innovative. Embracing and celebrating differences innately produces innovation. Creative evolution will happen and is happening. Creatives will evolve and are evolving. Evolution is beyond human control. When “we” get involved in control is when what is natural order gets disrupted. Let’s not control differences and just allow them. I’m about to get political. So, I’ll stop here. However, if anyone wants to hear more, we can definitely have the conversation...but remember, I’m a speaker and a consultant and I’m paid to talk! LOL (but for real though)
What advice would you give to Creatives to help them find a place within the already existing structure of the industry? How can they make the most out of big platforms and organizations?
This may be annoying...but just start. Don’t focus on finding a place within. If you don’t see a place for you, make one. Do your research. I always say that what you are trying to build, you must now become. This means that whatever you want to do, you need to eat, sleep, and breathe it until you become it. What I know for sure is that being vs. doing is key. You don’t need anyone’s permission to be. There are no qualifications or verifications in that. There are criteria if you want to be “a part of”...but there aren’t any in order for you to “be.” So again, just start. Just be. I didn’t have a connection to the existing structure of the industry. I just decided to start. No one put me on; I positioned myself. This is the opportunity that I would say you have to maximize with the resources and access that platforms and organizations are now extending. Use them to position yourself.
I don’t believe there is any universal advice I can give for anyone to make the most out of platforms and organizations other than this: positioning. Ask yourself, “What is the real opportunity for me? What is the takeaway? Is there a sacrifice? Is there a gain? What can I give? What will I receive?” In everything count the cost so you don’t become a sellout — even if that’s to yourself. Sometimes you have to think of yourself as a product and think, “How am I positioned in the market?” I’ll let that sit right there.
/// ON SUCCESS
I believe you can truly define success when you know your purpose. Being in purpose. Working in purpose. Living in purpose. Prospering in purpose. Leaving a legacy in purpose...that’s success to me.
GAHSP Media Digital Cover
VOLUME III /// FLUID FIRM FAINT /// 2021
STATES OF SUCCESS
An exploration across disciplines and perspectives.
Cover star: @elliotcarlyle
Photography & Art Direction: @oliveashes
Fashion Editor & Graphic Design: @juliahorvath.concept
Jewellery Editor: @gennadyoreshkin
Assistant on set: @juleshints
Written by Julia Horvath and Gennady Oreshkin
Edited by Gennady Oreshkin
Image Courtesy of GAHSP Media