D&AD Meets is a regular series where we elevate the work of need-to-know creatives. Each season of features is curated by a creative who can reach beyond our established networks to help us find new talent deserving of a spotlight, the ones to watch, and the ones to work with. Here, curator and interviewer Simone Arrington meets creative director and producer Alexis Salkey to chat about her career journey, her passion for sneakers and the creatives she admires.
Simone Arrington is a digital marketer and media enthusiast from Upstate NY. She founded and hosts ‘Bonnets & Durags: A Pillow Talk Podcast', which is a safe space for millennials of colour to have open and intimate conversations.
Tell us a little bit about yourself – where you're from, what's important to you, and what your creative passion is.
My name is Alexis Salkey, I’m 25, born and raised in the Bronx, NY but I’m originally from Jamaica. I’m a Production Management Coordinator at BET and Creative Director of my start-up company, Tallawah. I’ve always defined myself as a multifaceted person and perpetual student because I’m interested in a multitude of subjects and am always learning. For this reason, I’d say creativity, individuality and community are most important to me and my creative passion is bridging the gap between creativity and business strategy through various mediums.
Can you tell us more about your production company, Tallawah, and why you started it?
I initially started Tallawah in 2020 as a creative agency with a small team of friends to fulfill the needs of creative professionals. While working on different projects, I met many creatives who expressed pain points while developing their craft. With this in mind, I was able to assess proverbial “holes” in their creative processes and design business plans, direct campaigns and execute strategies for them. However, my interests also include television and film, so I expanded the company into two sectors: a creative strategy arm and production arm, which supports a slate of original content coming in 2022. Tallawah is a term in Jamaican Patois meaning ‘fearless’. I named the company that because that’s my focus when developing any creative project, ideas that are bold, original and fearless.
You’re passionate about sneaker culture and women in that space, and that shows within the work you’ve done recently. Where does that inspiration stem from?
My mom got me my first pair of Air Force 1s in a V.I.M in Mount Vernon when I was in 3rd grade. I remember how fun the experience was and being shaped by the black, female tastemakers who made streetwear cool. I felt confident any time I got a new pair so in many ways the inspiration stems from my younger self. I think every woman interested in streetwear should have the opportunity to express themselves authentically and have a shot at buying their favorite pairs without technology, mobile apps and hypebeast culture intimidating them.
What has been your favorite project to bring to life with your production company?
The Girls Like Us campaign. Between raffles and the limited selection available for women, I wanted to direct a piece that showed the true personas of today's female consumer. In fashion, designers explain their designs in sketches called tech packs which are essentially blueprints communicating the details of the garment. I thought, what if Nike executives knew the details of their consumer instead? How do we speak their language to make better shoes for girls like us?
To highlight these stories in a dynamic way I paid homage to the old school Nike Air advertisements while incorporating elements of tech packs. To further our reach, I pitched the idea to the highly acclaimed sneaker blog CNKDaily and they were an amazing team to work with. It was a huge undertaking that led us to create a valuable conversation around womens streetwear during Women’s History Month and a partnership with CNK to direct for the SNRKS app a month later.
What was the most challenging aspect of starting your own creative venture?
Staying consistent, and protecting your ideas. I started the venture when I was in graduate school and then was hired by BET directly after graduating which left me little time to market the brand the way I anticipated. Thankfully, I’ve carved out time, and I’m excited for the execution in the New Year. In addition, it was so important to me to ensure my ideas are original and protected legally as individuality means everything to me and our team.
How has your creative work helped you to get your foot in the door in the industry?
My current manager saw the Girls Like Us campaign on Instagram and contacted me about a news special BET was working on with Vice President Kamala Harris. I had just graduated from NYU and was interested so I performed to the best of my ability. One project turned into three and one promotion later, here I am.
Where do you pull inspiration from?
Inspiration comes from everywhere for me: music, film, people I admire, but most of all just my day-to-day experiences. One of my favorite quotes is from Martin Scorsese who said, “The most personal is the most creative.” The best work comes from your own authentic mind. No one can tell your story or interpret an idea like you can and there’s immense power in that.
Tell us three creatives who are getting it right and why.
Kerby Jean-Raymond, founder of Pyer Moss. He brings his full self to every collection, I love his commitment to his Caribbean culture and community. I attended a panel where Kerby spoke and when it ended, all of the other panelists left the stage but Kerby stayed. He said “Hey if ya’ll want
to talk, connect, anything, I’ll be in the corner right there come talk to us.” He walks the talk and that’s a testament to why people support him, simply because he supports people.
Joe Robinson, creator of Joe Freshgoods. He’s so intentional about highlighting ‘regular’ people with his brand from his price points (retail not resale) to his campaigns. Each facet is relatable and reflects his personal narrative as a designer and Chicago native. After Joe Freshgoods became successful he never left Chicago but chose to build there and circumscribe the brand’s voice around his neighborhood, allowing us as consumers to experience his reality through clothing and kicks. It’s refreshing to see a shift from the mainstream influencer blueprint to utilizing original ideas modeled by people who look like my older sister or that guy I went to school with.
Raven Verona, a fellow Bronx native and photographer who started in my community and ended up completely turning the photography world on its head. Her authenticity,talent and work ethic are unmatched and she’s constantly reminding us through her imagery that the most powerful stories can be told with no words, vulnerability can be beautiful and it’s possible to thrive as a creative just by being yourself.
What advice would you give to someone trying to break into the world of production and creativity?
- Showcase the work you want to be hired for.
- If you don’t know something, ask.
- Do everything, try everything.
- Ask for what you want.
- Be professional. Be kind.
Get in touch with Alexis Salkey:
Meet more rising creative talent including photographers, motion designers, illustrators and visual artists. D&AD is committed to showcasing a diverse range of creatives in our D&AD Meets content. We acknowledge the obstacles to getting into the creative industries for some underrepresented groups and so behind the scenes we offer mentorship pairings with a creative from the professional D&AD community to help to develop the careers of some of the emerging creatives featured. If you want to lend your time to portfolio reviews or a networking meeting please contact us at email@example.com