Yolanda Finch is the Creative Producer behind the annual L’Oréal Melbourne Fashion Festival (LMFF). Each year the festival launches the Autumn/Winter collections of Australia’s top and emerging designers. The festival is considered one of the largest consumer events of its kind in the world and last year showed the collections of over fifty Australia’s leading design talents.

Finch has been working with LMFF for over ten years and, as Creative Producer, generates and oversees the fashion and creative content of all Festival productions. Finch discusses with arts interview stress in fashion and the arts, and finding the illusive balance between work and well-being.

Interview by Alex Bellemore

The world of fashion is typically portrayed as high speed, glamorous and stressful. Do you think that is a true representation and how do you personally handle stress in your job role?

Karl Lagerfeld said in Lagerfeld Confidential words to the effect that one should work hard, but not talk incessantly about working hard, for nothing could be more tedious. I love the Kaiser, and of course he is right, but in the interests of sharing…!

The high speed and stressful side of fashion industry is true almost all of the time and the glamour side is true some of the time. I think those of us who have made our careers in this environment have a kind of addiction to these aspects, because you actually cannot pay anyone enough to live through the harder parts; you have to live your job with true passion.

Now that I am a little older, I have realised that I cannot dedicate my entire existence to the job like I have in the past. This is because it often feels very social and you can easily confuse the lines that technically should be in place to achieve balance. I do now try to pull back on the hours when I can and try to leave work issues in the office so they are not part of my home life. Of course, when an event is running it just needs you to be there no matter what, and that remains the key to delivering it successfully. I have no ability to compromise on that and furthermore, I really enjoy it!

The very best release from the job is a holiday, so that I am physically and mentally separated from my desk and the industry by many miles.

In the arts sector, and especially for emerging arts practitioners, it seems everyone has their fingers in so many pies, often a lot of very under-funded and time consuming pies. Do you find the arts sector a stressful area to work in?

Under-funded projects are almost guaranteed to induce a significant amount more stress than comfortable resources would bring. Although, it does not have to be a given, and I think the way through those projects is creativity and using the right people with the experience to pull everyone through efficiently.

The arts sector has that unique characteristic not only of being universally under-funded but also of demanding very particular outcomes and standards for which there are no obvious substitutes. So we end up working harder and longer to try to get to that end point without the resources to make it easy.

It is hard not to over-commit because often saying ‘No’ to something can result in a lost opportunity for both networking and building relationships which are crucial in the arts sector. I think the key is to know when many projects become too much, and the rule is to never let anyone down, least of all your stakeholders or audiences. In the arts, expectations are high, critics are everywhere, and you are only as good as your last project, so being selective about what can be delivered well is the first rule of committing to a project.

In your opinion, is fashion one of the more stressful faces of the arts with such strict production deadlines for designers to adhere to? Does this pressure compromise the artistic integrity of designers?

I think fashion designers face similar kinds of stresses as many other arts practitioners, but in unique combinations and situations. Certainly, deadlines from production through to retail delivery are uncompromising and not meeting a deadline on a single season can send businesses under. It can happen to very talented designers and often for reasons outside of their control.

Artistic integrity is an interesting commodity in fashion. It is perceived as the highest jewel that must be protected at all costs in order for a designer’s vision to be realised. At the same time, an understanding of how to adhere to the demands of commercialism is vital to operating the business of a fashion house. There are many examples of how these mutual objectives can be cleverly realised.  Designers who understand the total picture will generally have a better chance of flourishing, both artistically and commercially.

Finally: you are super stressed and nothing else will do but to: open the liquor cabinet or host a personal pastry smack down or exercise?

I wish I was more original and I certainly wish I had more restraint, but it is probably the liquor cabinet!

Interested in more information on well-being in the arts?

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