Surrounded by a plethora of ill fitting prêt–à–porter, Louboutin’s that can’t be walked in and attitudes that defy gravity, I take a moment to reflect upon the champagne quaffing throng, gathered at this “invitation only” soirée dedicated to a very select group of creative types. That I include myself in this category, says more about my social life, than any burgeoning desire to participate in what appears to be, a seamless round of who knows who, who’s in, who’s out and who cares!
With only moments to go before the temptation to abandon this vapor filled, 20th floor back room via the nearest window and plummet to a satisfactory end, I am greeted by a perfectly manicured hand. As my eyes follow the direction of the hand, past the diamond set Ballon Bleu, the perfectly fitting Chanel jacket and the VC&A earrings bouncing just above the neckline, I am assaulted by a cacophony of verbal noise, that passes for an introduction. After eleven minutes and twenty seven seconds, I consider myself formally introduced to Chantal, VP of Human Resources for one of the larger fashion houses.
Chantal is on the lookout for a new Creative Director to start immediately and we begin to talk. She tells me about her weekend in the Hamptons, her last trip to Paris, her lover in Milan, the problems her sister is having defining her sexuality, the fact that she can’t get a sponsor at Soho House (and can’t for the life of her, understand why), how although she loved "Manchester By The Sea" she really thought "La La Land" was more representative of our times and offered a more profound message to today's cinema going public!! Finally, before stopping for breath she provides a lengthy diagnostic as to the demise of Burberry. Although at this point I’m sure that she is confused and is really talking about Blackberry.
Given that I am now beginning to enjoy the evening, I offer to refill our glasses and chortle privately when Chantal insists that Malbec originates from Argentina. As we sip our Napa Valley red, the discussion turns south for a moment and I am subjected to a, blisteringly ill informed diatribe on the pros and cons of French wines. As this litany of poorly informed noise pollutes the air, I am eventually distracted from the Californian Pinot Noir, currently burning its way through the bucket sized wine glass I am holding and dive in with a question. I interrupt with an effortless, "oh you are so right", and then divert with "so have you found the person that you are looking for?" She smiles, touches her top lip for effect and nods furiously. Anxious to know which of these, masters of the creative universe has been able to keep her quiet, long enough to attract her HR attentions, I wave my wine glass from left to right, as a means to propose the whole room. She then begins to provide me with the details of a resume that she recently received! "So I am interested in this guy, he is of Spanish origin, which I like! He's an artist first and foremost. He's done some work in print and stage design. He has recently finished working on some square, cube stuff and now he is doing a lot of African stuff which I am less crazy about. He's into classicism and surrealism which is so cool but he has no experience in digital which I am a little worried about!"
Hiding behind my wine glass, I bite down on my tongue as I realize that my experiment is taking flight. Adopting a machine gun approach to job application, I created a profile on Linkedin, identical to that of Pablo Picasso and applied for two hundred jobs. There were a number of reasons for doing this but the primary reason was to discover if brands and agencies are looking for true creativity, artistic exigence, a brave and unique style or the safety net of knowing, that they can offer any client from any walk of life, a steady, mundane flow of massively expensive, creative puss that passes itself off as being artistically important and culturally relevant.
With my back now pressed firmly against the wall, I find my evenings entertainment has now attracted the attentions of a pack of wild "creatives" searching for prey. As eye contact turns to arm rubbing and HR pheromones pollute the atmosphere, I search for an opening and attempt my escape from what is fast becoming auditions for the Chelsea version of Caligula.
With escape in sight, I turn and catch the eye of the HR doyenne, where upon she shouts above the cackle of kale munchers, "Enjoy Radio Shack'! She means Radiohead but that's fine. Only an hour ago she was convinced that "OK Computer" was a competitor of "Best Buy". Not that this should matter but it does and furthermore, goes to the very source of what I am convinced, is stifling companies the world over, and the real reason that Pablo Picasso would not find gainful employment in today's job market! Simply because he lacks "digital chops'! The problem is not Pablo, but the monumental lack of quality Human Resources talent capable of the kind of visionary thinking that can build a business from the ground up.
The buoyancy of the creative job market is largely due to HR departments making the same mistake time and time again. All of which leads to a never-ending rotation of creative players, who consistently fail to either deliver upon the real demands of the employer or, kill themselves in desperation after spending another hour long meeting with the Marketing Director, who wants it square but not too square and not too straight and maybe round a bit, but really just square. If not already dead, this creative employee is then suckered into a position of (FAKE) responsibility within an agency where he/she makes believe, that the agency is making a viable contribution to the creative zeitgeist and pushing the avant-garde envelope. When alas, in reality all they are doing is creating what they can sell. If square and vanilla is all that people are buying, that is all they will sell. And due to the derision of some (not all) HR decision making, some (not all) Marketing Directors (with Digital Experience) prefer square and safe, if it means they will keep their jobs, just a little bit longer.
There is no point, going “all round and purple”, if no one wants it. And who decides what we want anyway? The number of people on the planet right now capable of directing any significant cultural change, social development or adjustment in artistic acceptability, could fit in a Brooklyn Speakeasy. Everyone else is just a follower. It's just a fact that some people interpret "follow" with more success, than others.
I brush my way past a handful of youthful marketers pontificating about the latest Chanel campaign and head straight for the lift. Once in the lift, the only distraction is a black and white sticker that reads, "1-800 MISTY Your Fortune & Tarot". The doors open and I step out into the Meatpacking District. The streets are empty, except for a lone homeless man sat upon a makeshift chair, fashioned from two Karen Millen shipping crates and some old copies of Vogue. As I get closer, he looks very familiar when he barks, "Érase una vez que creé sueños. Hoy en día, sólo veo. Todos mis sueños se han ido," In reply, I attempt a few lines of Neruda and stumble homeward.
Whilst waiting for the kettle to come to boil, I reflect upon my evening and the homeless man. “Once upon a time I created dreams!” Seriously!! Who talks like that anymore..?
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HQ 220 W 30th Street, 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10001
154 Grand Street, New York, NY 10013