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Ways We Work

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Reanna Evoy

Creative Director at Kit and Ace

Last week I had the chance to hop on a video call with Reanna Evoy who is currently the Creative Director for the clothing brand Kit and Ace. Reanna's previous role was as the Creative Director at ALDO, but the opportunity to work on shaping a new brand and the pull of home drew her back to Vancouver. Reanna talks about using Tumblr to pull creative inspiration - she thinks Pinterest has become a bit too "basic". She shares how she first discovered that design and art was the work she wanted to pursue, the moment came the first time she sat in a Starbucks. At the time, she was studying botany in University when she had the epiphany that wasn't what she wanted to do.

Tell me a little bit more about your role at Kit and Ace and what that involves?

I’m the Creative Director for Kit and Ace, which is definitely a multi-faceted role. I used to be in editorial and I built a lot of content throughout those years, but now I get to oversee a much larger scope of a brand. I’m helping to both shape the brand and acting as the brand police [laughs]. I work in everything from photography to content to design and typography.

Mostly, I’m responsible for making sure that we show up consistent across all of our channels and touchpoints. From social media: Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, to our online magazine The Brief. It can include billboards, magazine ads, or any digital marketing. It all has to tell a story. All of the concepting and development comes out of my department. I work with J.J. Wilson and we spearhead what the brand will actually show from a visual point of view. All of the visual assets are created in our department and then I oversee it all to make sure we’re coming across consistent and awesome.

We have to tell a story. We need to talk about our product and who we are as a brand, what makes us unique, why people love us.

How big is the team that you work with?

We have a pretty robust team of amazing copywriters, really cool graphic designers, photographers, and videographers. It’s amazing because I think traditionally a lot of people go to agencies and when you work in-house you really have more control over your brand. You know the day-to-day realities of what you need to do for in-store and online and you can tailor those experiences.

I’ve had it both ways, I’ve worked agency side and in-house. It’s great that we have such a solid team. Sometimes you don’t always have the right amount of people to help you make a brand awesome, and it turns out we do, so that’s great.

How did you end up in your current role, what led you to it?

I was born and raised in Vancouver, and I left my beautiful city to get more experience and headed East. My goal in life was to be an art director for an actual magazine, and there wasn't that much opportunity here.

So I went East and got all this cool content experience. I learned how to build stories and work with editors and produce magazines that people actually read, which was super cool.

I had all of this great editorial experience and had experience working in fashion and with fashion photographers. That made me pretty attractive to retailers who wanted to tell their brand stories through photography and fashion. That’s what led me into retail. I spent about six years working at Aldo as their Art Director and then their Creative Director. That was a really exciting role.

Then, Kit and Ace was born. When Kit and Ace came along, it looked really interesting to me. They had such an amazing legacy coming from the Wilson family and it was a completely new brand. I was really curious as to how they could use their experience in building a loved brand. It was extremely attractive to me because I had been working in more of a fast fashion realm, this was more of a slower pace, building experiences and getting people engaged and to fall in love with your brand. I was also really looking forward to coming home.

It was sort of a combination of coming back to my roots and helping push a brand from the West Coast. I had been with these legacy brands before. Aldo had been around for 40 plus years, so the opportunity to help shape something completely new was really attractive to me.

“Being new means you might not have all the data and insights that you might have from being a retailer or a brand that's been around for a long time. It’s harder to get qualitative and quantitative research. You're trying to figure out who your customer is.”

What would you say are some of the most challenging aspects of the work you're doing?

I think it's always a challenge when you're new. Being new means you might not have all the data and insights that you might have from being a retailer or a brand that's been around for a long time. It’s harder to get qualitative and quantitative research. You're trying to figure out who your customer is. It's a lot of trial and error at times, seeing what people respond to and what creates a conversation.

It takes relying on a little bit of intuition as well, you need to be confident in what you think would resonate with someone in terms of emotional and functional needs. That’s great for me because I’m a creative and I have that little gut that tells me, "Yes, no! This is cool. This is on trend. This is what I think would make people think or make people react and make people actually engage with the brand."

The uncertainty can be the hardest part. I used to have giant consumer insight departments telling me, "Our customer is this, and they like to drink this, and they watch this show." You could understand and build that character based on the research. So the most challenging part of the role is also the most interesting, and what attracted me in the first place. It’s cool. It’s super cool.

In a typical week, are there any routines or processes that you rely on to help you be the most efficient throughout your week?

I think what I learned early on is that there always needs to be a balance in your life. Work and life has always been seamless for me. Work doesn't really end. You’re always researching, seeing beautiful things and gathering insight. There’s no off switch.

So sometimes you have to make that off switch. Making time for mindfulness is one way I do that. I take a couple of minutes every day to just do some meditation, I think that’s really helpful for me. I do it in the morning and in the evening just to regroup. I try my very best not to take too much work home too. We’ve got laptops and smartphones, we’re connected constantly and in this habit of checking our email about 1000 times. So I actually have two phones. I have one for personal and one for work, that way I can have moments where I can just focus on family and friends and be really present in my relationships. I think that sometimes you have to consciously make the effort to unplug a little bit, get off the grid, put your smartphone down, and have a nice conversation with your mom. That's usually what works for me, and getting a lot of sleep.

“There are moments where you just sort of have to do large gestures like that because I think as a creative, you need large amounts to recuperate. You come back stronger. If I hadn't done that, I probably wouldn't be where I am.”

In terms of a work day, do you divide up certain tasks to do together or is there any kind of structure to all the different things that you need to get done?

I’m pretty organic… in a very structured way… [laughs]. I come across as very structured; in my head, I feel like I’m all over the place.

I definitely block out times for certain work so I understand what things need to be done by what time. I make sure to block out projects and think about things in a more holistic way. I have to see it in a bigger picture, I can’t be focused on the super minute details all the time, so I constantly have to pull back.

I usually block off my day with the larger projects that I need to accomplish, and I try not to get stuck in some email vortex. I have to focus. It's hard when you're in corporate-land because it's definitely a meeting culture in most corporate companies. Trying to have more 1-on-1s rather than emailing is also really helpful. If I have a question, I try to make a point of getting up and asking that person because you'll probably find the answer quicker and you'll understand faster.

What would you say are the main tools that make up your workflow?

Adobe InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop - Those are the tools of my trade, and knowing those inside out are very helpful. Know your shortcuts, kids.

Research - I'm really an advocate of research. I spend a lot of time going outside of my usual tunnel vision of working on layouts and stuff. I dedicate time to looking at different blogs, photographers and pulling imagery. I kind of synthesize trends while I’m doing this. I’m very image based so I have the most insane database of images. That’s my biggest tool I guess. I’m just always looking and listening and synthesizing that visual information.

“Being a creative and managing creatives is actually quite interesting. Learning how to motivate and inspire people and make them feel like they're contributing to the process. I feel like that's actually something that is a really huge component of what I do, and that's hard.”

Do you ever have periods where you become disconnected from your work, and how do you deal with that?

It happens. I found it happens more often as my title has changed. I remember when I was a production artist, it never really happened. I wasn’t ever engulfed in my work. Now, it becomes more challenging to keep that balance. You really just have to, like I said, you have to stop. Usually, it means taking a break.

I watched that amazing TED talk with Stefan Sagmeister. He did this whole seven-year sabbatical thing where every seven years he takes a year off. I watched that one day and I was working in magazines, and magazines have very intense production schedules. I thought, “this Sagmeister guy is the bomb, and he knows what's up, and I completely admire him as a creative." After watching that, I remember having a conversation with my editor, and I said, "Hey, I'm going to Australia. I've got to do this." I went to Australia for a month. There are moments where you just sort of have to do large gestures like that because I think as a creative, you need large amounts to recuperate. You come back stronger. If I hadn't done that, I probably wouldn't be where I am. You have to really sometimes do crazy things and take big risks like that to continue being awesome, I guess.

What's something that's a major aspect of your role that you're doing frequently that maybe people outside don't realize until they are in a similar role or something?

I think sometimes people don’t realize how much mentorship and people management you have to do. It's one thing to be an idea generator and come up with ideas every five seconds. You have to come up with cool ideas. That's also really difficult, but I think people actually know that's part of my job.

Being a creative and managing creatives is quite interesting. Learning how to motivate and inspire people and make them feel like they're contributing to the process. I feel like that's actually something that is a really huge component of what I do, and that's hard. People have different management styles, and some people are iron fist rulers and really hardcore. I'm more of a big mom [laughs]. I want to help everybody and make sure that they feel like they're contributing. I love motivating people and teaching them and showing them how to do things.

I didn't think that that was a huge part of it, but it is. How to give criticism and critique people without deflating them. How to rally support. That's another part. If you're brand suddenly changes direction like we might experience, how do we get people on board and how do we enroll people? That's another part of it too.

“I guess in some ways, creating these experiences is really exciting to me and really fulfilling, and I love that it can be sensory and it's visual and you can play the right music and put the right smell in. It's a whole experience, and that's super fascinating to me.”

Why do you do what you do and why do you enjoy it and what makes it meaningful to you?

I don’t feel like what I do is work. This is going to sound crazy hippie, but it’s almost like an energy that I have that I just feel super energized and vital while I’m working in this industry. It fuels me, it makes me excited, it makes me happy, it makes me feel fulfilled. I’m so blessed to actually work in an industry where I can be creative.

Weirdly enough, I used to study biology. I was in University doing botany, looking at plants and cellular biology. I was like, "Why am I doing this?" It's really fascinating and interesting, but honestly, it was - this is going to date me because I'm actually pretty old - but there was this moment where Starbucks became cool. This was when people started to go to Starbucks, and you'd go in and there was jazz playing and everybody's drinking this coffee and everything looked so cool.

I remember thinking, "Who made this?" I want to know how you make a brand and spread it across the whole frickin' world and come up consistent. I was so excited by it. I didn't even know what it meant. I was nineteen at the time. I didn't even know what the heck that meant or how to even get there. It just didn't even occur to me that you could do that as a job, and one day I started to figure it out and got out of biology and out of botany and I went into fine arts and I started studying graphic design, and I was like, "Oh my gosh, this is exactly what I wanted to do."

I guess in some ways, creating these experiences is really exciting to me and really fulfilling, and I love that it can be sensory and it's visual and you can play the right music and put the right smell in. It's a whole experience, and that's super fascinating to me. It's cool to use your creativity for so much more than the printed material as well. It extends to so many different mediums and formats, and it's really exciting.

You're never tired. You’re always learning. Especially if you work for a brand where the client or customer is younger, like a millennial. It keeps you young because you've got to know what's cool, so that's really fun too. It's just a very exhilarating job to research and understand and create.

Who would you want to see on Ways We Work?

Oh! I would like you to interview Rebecca Bay. She's a designer. She used to work for the H&M brand, and then she went to the Gap. Now she's at Everlane, and Everlane is another brand that is really interesting. I’d be super interested in hearing more about her and her work.