20/20 Change Lunch and Learn Series
‘Fashionably Entrepreneurial’ with Sean Azeez-Bright
Close to 600,000 people in the UK, engage with as self-employed or are employed, in fashion-related industries. This number continues to grow as visibility of different aspects of style and trends increase with emerging technologies and social media makes it easier to interact with the art of fashion.
In a market that continues to be ever saturated, the question arises as to how to stay unusual in embracing fashion as an art and at the same time stay on the sharp end of the curve as an entrepreneur, paying attention to the business side of the craft. Duro Oye sat with Sean Azeez-Bright in the final Lunch and Learn of the summer to tease out some answers to this question.
Sean has successfully forged a path as an internationally published fashion stylist, Europe Fashion Editor of BLEU Magazine (NYC), as well as having a stake in the booming e-commerce sector as the founder of Focus Man.
Born in America, raised in London with Nigerian and Sierra Leonian heritage, he lets his work do the talking and doesn’t care much for followers. Sean’s dapper ‘stylistic fingerprint’ accenting classic contemporary forms can be found in shoots for campaigns, with TV presenters, actors and musicians – Alfred Enoch, Tinie Tempah, Nihal Arthanayake, Marcel Somerville, and more.
Fashion is creative but seeing it as a business is important for longevity…
While he describes himself as always being a creative person, keen from early on to go into Styling, he notes how his diploma in Fashion Retail from the Fashion Retail Academy and degree in Fashion Promotion and Imaging from the University for the Creative Arts feature as highlights in his journey.
Studying elements like supply chain management have been key to his progress and necessary for understanding Fashion as business – what he says is important for longevity.
What really made him stand out at the time is the extensive experience he obtained alongside studying: assisting on Fashion Week projects, interning and contributing to magazines including BLEU who he began working with in 2014; which in turn opened doors for other collaborations and work with Universal Music and EMI.
Opportunities to work with some celebrities came purely because I intentionally put myself out there – never be shy to contact publicists, music managers…
On styling Marcel Somerville from Love Island, Sean recounts:
I contacted his agent to express that I would like to work with him and ask if he was doing anything to boost his image. Actively reaching out often is important – you can have a presence on social media but agents and managers do not always have the time to look you up. Having a press pack on hand to send whenever the opportunity arises is an efficient and cohesive way to articulate your work, pitch to potential clients and relate with PR agencies.
What is the balance between what you can learn from an institution and what you can learn on the job?
Personally, going to uni has helped me to build a network which is so important in the industry. Building a friendship group throughout my time at college and uni allowed me to stay in contact with peers who work at major publications, jewellery designers and marketing professionals. We can’t forget too that there will be universities where lecturers are also established people within the industry with published work and campaigns. So they would have their own unique set of experience and knowledge that you would be able to draw from.
At the same time though, interning and getting on the job experience reveals whether you are hungry or not, sifting out who really wants it. A lot of the new generation of stylists haven’t interned with anyone. Doing a few months of interning helps to gain an understanding of how to treat a client, helps build confidence, as well as mature you to get past ‘fanning out’ when working with celebrities. You learn to be composed at well-known events like Fashion Week – I make it less about being seen to be at these events now and more about taking in the knowledge of the styles and trends that are ahead.
Building your network makes you a good stylist – this is what makes you valuable…
How do you manage the relationships within your network?
Having work uploaded regularly, using social events to network and actively keeping in touch from time to time really helps. Agents also play a big role more widely when it comes to building relationships in the industry as they will be the ones connecting with PR professionals – a lot of creatives across the fashion industry and beauty industry too have agents…There’s the friendship element when working with Jefferson, as my agent he understands the direction I want to go in as a stylist and can locate the best jobs for me. Even if they are more commercial they lead to more opportunities. This makes paying the commission that some stylists avoid when getting agents worth it. I would say anyone who wants to breakthrough in the industry should consider the relationships they build with PR and marketing agencies; this set me apart – they provide the pieces and make the invitations to shows.
Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to your younger self?
I would say experience is key to everything you do in life; knowing what I have learnt over years has really helped. Use every opportunity to grow, learn and master your craft…Stop comparing yourself to other people.
How was your work affected by Covid and the lockdown?
There were a lot of shoots and fashion-based work that still went on given we were safe to do so during this time. A lot of artists had (covid-safe) press shoots in preparation for new releases for when lockdown came to an end. It also gave me an opportunity to spend time on Focus Man and make decisions as to the direction I wanted it to go in.
The Lunch and Learn Series will continue on the 27th of September and every last Monday of the month thereafter – look out for updates!
Styling Enquires & Brand Partnership: Jefferson Ocran – firstname.lastname@example.org
Writer’s Credit: Hannah Siaw
Meet our host and Home Grown Ambassador – Duro Oye
Duro Oye is the CEO of 2020 Change, an award-winning social enterprise that helps young Londoners from low socioeconomic backgrounds fulfil their true potential. 2020 Change aims to create long-standing change by delivering programmes on personal development, training, and the social capital needed to thrive in the workplace.
Through the flagship ‘I AM CHANGE’ programme the organisation helps to develop the self-confidence that empowers each candidate to become the best versions of themselves.
The programme helps to create a smooth transition from education to the workforce by offering work experience in a number of different sectors.
Duro’s national recognition came in 2013 after he raised £50k to fund his first independent film project ‘247365 Change’. Since then he has gone on to produce several documentary film projects with The BBC.
Duro has won several awards and accolades and is a fellow at the Acumen Academy.
A one-stop-shop for entrepreneurs and investors. What really sets Home Grown apart is their members’ events which provide access to valuable insights and support scaling founders on their growth journey.Richard Farleigh, Entrepreneur and Former BBC Dragon's Den
It’s always a delight to meet, network and entertain amidst the generally relaxed vibes that radiates throughout Home GrownGladstone Small
Home Grown is immersed with an overflowing energy, unrivalled facilities yet the club has a certain uniqueness.Luke Reed
What a special delight and home from home! I stay here whenever I come to London and their Scale-up events are on the money.John Courtney
We are all crying out for opportunities to bump into other people, to spark ideas off them that make us happier, more fulfilled and more imaginative: Home Grown is a forum for just this creative serendipity.Tas Tasgal
Home Grown is more to me than just my office in London. It’s a community. It’s a place to network with other business people. But most of all it’s got that super friendly and positive vibe that you just can’t wait to get there each time.Neil Thompson