Creative Soul Sister: Allison Quinnell of Slate Collective
Several months ago, I met up with Allison Quinnell for a Sunday afternoon coffee to catch up for the first time in five years. As we caught each other up on all of the ups and downs of our lives, we reached the point in the conversation where we each decided to reveal our latest projects. We were floored to realize we had both been inspired to our core by the same concept: bringing art to life via fashion. Not only that, we were each planning on presenting our collections in a gallery format with our collaborative teams at Fashion Week MN (and Fashion Revolution Week now as well) in the Spring of 2018.
We tossed around the idea of combining forces and potentially showing together, but when we found out about the folks at Alice Riot (their IndieGogo campaign is live through April 19th. Please consider supporting them as well!), we realized that this was bigger than us. It was a movement. So we decided to let our creative visions be as strong as possible, and the support the heck out of each other.
Allison and I recently met up to interview each other and dive a little deeper into what makes each of our collections and processes exciting and unique. You can read her interview of me here.
AL: We first met 10 years ago in 2008, when you applied for Voltage [Fashion Amplified] 2009. Your work was solid and I was convinced that you would be starting your own line eventually, if not immediately. How has your world changed in the last 10 years, and how has that informed your approach to your business?
AQ: I'm so thankful for the career experiences I've had in the last 10 years, to get my collection to where it is today. I think there are so many components that go into that. I have also spent a significant amount of energy and time in personal relationships that have really taken a lot of the bandwidth up, so I wasn't able to creatively embark on this full journey. But Slate Collective really is my life's work. I mean, it really is everything that I have in me, and it's absolutely my full creative vision and I feel really lucky to be where I am today based on my experiences; some really bad, and some really great, to have gotten here.
AL: So, what in this moment right now, would you tell 2008 Allison?
AQ: It’s going to be a bumpy ride, but it's going to be okay.
There will be years of questions, and there will be years of answers.
AL: What technological development are you most thankful for in the last 10 years?
AQ: I actually think Pinterest would be my technological advancement. At first I was like: oh, Instagram. But I think there's a lot of consequences that come with Instagram, so I'm not completely thankful for it. But I'm truly thankful for Pinterest because of the availability of inspiration and the way to catalog it, its actually very helpful in the way that I think because I'm cataloging images and ideas in my head all the time, so it gives space to put them somewhere else, so that I can free up some space to be creative.
AL: So, is there anything that you are waiting to have invented, to further access that creative space?
AQ: I would say probably the link that I'm most looking forward to is just synergy between the Adobe Creative Suite. We’ve got Photoshop, Illustrator, we have InDesign…Just tie it all together. Time is money. I like efficiency.
AL: We’re both collaborators at heart, and I'm wondering: what do you look for in building a team and how is that different than hiring a staff? Because I know you have experience in both.
AQ: I do think there are some differences and similarities between a staff and a team. I think the Slate Collective photo shoot was a really good example, and something that was such a positive experience, of surrounding myself with a great team. I have to have a gut instinct that I trust you, and that I think that you have integrity.
I really, really connect with people who do what they say they're going to do, and that is paramount. So being able to trust someone- I also think being able to have fun with the people that I collaborate with. I mean, everyone at my shoot foundationally is also a friend of mine, and I know that I can get really tricky. But I also think that I try to respect and give praise. I love to tell the people around me how much I appreciate them, and so I think it just feels really good camaraderie and mutual respect and admiration. So, yeah, it was nine people, and I literally could not have done it without any single one of them.
AL: So, how do you know that you've brought together the right team of collaborators?
AQ: I think when you don't have anxiety about people showing up, or showing up on time, or giving it their all. Like when it's just flowing and it's positive, and I mean I'm such a feeler, so I feel it in my bones and I get tingly like excitement when it's just like everything is connecting. And that day specifically was literally one of my most fulfilling moments in my life because it was so dialed in, and it was amazing.
AL: What do you think is the biggest challenge in collaboration?
AQ: I think trust. I also think making sure that the voices are heard. You know, I think sometimes collaborations have end goals, but sometimes they're gray. There’s not a black and white thing, so collaboration has to be fulfilling for both people and they both have to “ get something out of it” and that's not necessarily like a monetary thing, or a creative thing, it just has to be good for their soul too. So it needs to be beneficial for both people.
AL: Something I've always loved about you is that you are unapologetically type A. It's very energizing to me as I have no doubt you'll succeed in what you do. I am wondering what you would like type B’s, or someone who might not get your drive, to know about the superpowers that you have?
AQ: Welcome to my daily struggle. To be honest, I think one of the biggest things is timely follow up. Everyone has a lot of touch points in an entire day, and I think everyone's time is valuable and important. I think timely feedback, timely responses, just insinuates being a priority. So if I have a call and a recap email comes in six days later, that is frustrating. It's a signal that this is not as important to you as it is to me. I mean, I've always wanted step in the shoes of a type B for a day and wonder what it it like, is it more freeing? Is it more relaxing? Are you able to enjoy things more? Because I wouldn't say that I don't enjoy things, but I'm also like neurotic about things that I'm enjoying, but I will probably just let them know that “It's not you, it's me. I'm neurotic. but a lot of good things come of it.”
AL: How often is each new session going to launch?
AQ: So right now, my whole collection is based on thoughtful, fewer, better pieces. So I'm not rushing into spitting out artist sessions. For me fundamentally, I need to have a connection with the artist, first and foremost. The first artist that I'm collaborating with is someone I met in 2014. It’s been this beautiful journey of us working together and actually seeing each other and now getting to work together. Ideally, what I would love to do is launch a spring summer and fall winter session so two capsules per year. But this first one I'm really giving it the time and the space and the energy to reach people and to get the story out there. I really want to reiterate that these pieces are not high-cyclical, fast, disposable fashion. I want these pieces to feel relevant and timeless and lovely in your closet 5, and 10 years from now.
AL: Do you have any new artists in mind?
AQ: I do, I do. There's two that I'm courting, but for me but I really want to do is give Kim the [current] artist the space to really appreciate her art and I don't want to jump to any conclusions.
One is a photographer, so I think it's interesting the variety mediums in which I'm responding to.
AL: Sky’s the limit, where would you like to have headquarters for Slate Collective?
AQ: Four cities. It would be a four-city HQ. One would be Tokyo, one would be Minneapolis, one would be Paris, and I think one would be a city I haven't even visited yet.
AL: That's awesome. Can I ask why those cities?
AQ: Minneapolis is my home. I am from here. I have left and come back and I have really appreciated my ties here, even more after going away. Family is close, and I just really love the quality of life here, I feel very safe here. Tokyo would be my deep, deep connection to Japan. I lived in Japan as a kid and so it's a very special place to me. the energy is amazing, I love the rituals that they have, and I love just the courteousness that they have to everyone around them, they are just amazing people. And then Paris has this really, really fond place in my heart. I'm a hopeless romantic and the first time I saw the Eiffel Tower I cried. And I just love to meander around that city. I mean, there's an energy, and the architecture, and it's just lovely. And then one thing about me is I'm a complete Wanderlust, so I'm always trying to figure out the next place I'm going to go, and I love the feeling of being in a city that I've never been in. So to have that openness and that possibility is really special to me.