Brief Encounters: creative director Monika Bielskyte

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 April, 2014, 8:43pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 April, 2014, 8:43pm

Freelance consultant and creative director Monika Bielskyte began her career as a photographer. Her subsequent roles as editor and art director led to work with designers such as Rick Owens and Riccardo Tisci, and brands like Lanvin, Dries Van Noten and Nike.

"I was born during the Soviet times in a small town in the north of Lithuania where there was not much luxury in any shape or form. I had the chance to witness the fall of the [Berlin] wall and the transition of the country from the Eastern bloc to a European Union member.

During my childhood, I didn't have access to culture or the creative industry in the same way that people in Paris or New York do. Books became a magic entry to the world unknown. Having literature allowed me to trigger and train my imagination from a very young age.

I went to art school at 10, where I learned drawing, oil painting and sculpture. They taught us technique, not creativity, and that upset me back then. But now I appreciate it immensely, as it gave me the tools of expression, and taught me the humility of the creative process.

I had my first photography exhibition at 12. By 13, I developed my own films and made prints in a mini lab constructed in my toilet. What you absorb at that age just goes inside you. It gets in deeper than things you learn as an adult.

Growing up on films by Ingmar Bergman, Andrei Tarkovsky and Stanley Kubrick, rather than comics, also has something to do with it - you see things you don't understand, but you learn to be open and also curious.

At 15, I left my hometown to study in [the capital] Vilnius and work in film. For the past 16 years storytelling has been my life. I think all my images can be described by this attentiveness to the moment and the subject within it - it's never fast.

I try to create visuals that people want to see over again. Today, there are very few things that you want to spend time with, and I want to create work that makes people want to discover the world.

From my first years in Paris, I was blessed to meet rather extraordinary people who appreciated and supported my work. Currently, I am trying to shift as much as I can from working on communication and marketing projects to actually going into branding strategy and product development.

I loved all my experiences as an editor and a photographer, but consulting is now the most exciting thing for me. I help brands develop their identity, products and marketing campaigns that align beauty with commercial impact.

My travels inspire me. I started travelling when I was 15. I was with my father in a coastal town, and I left him a note saying I would be back in a few days. I went to Alexandria in Egypt, as I was reading a book that made me want to see it.

Then came Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. It was less about the place, and more about the way that I imagined it.

Since then I have been more or less around the world, and loved almost every place. I've loved each for a different reason. If I have to pick one place that sticks in my mind, then maybe it's the Atacama Desert - it forms a triangle across Peru, Bolivia and Chile. The landscape is so surreal, you might be walking on the moon. It makes you realise what a magical place the earth is if we make an effort to see what's beyond our regular view of it.

Style is incredibly important for me and so is beauty. It's a universal language. I am less into fashion as seasonal fads and more interested in it as a lifestyle that can enhance our perception of ourselves and how we are perceived by others.

I am a little weary of what fashion has become in following its mad rhythm of churning out trends. I can only hope it's a temporary detour, at least in the luxury industry. Brands have to be more consistent and focus more on the product. I am not just talking about the basic quality but also in-depth development.

Tradition is a great thing and should not be forgotten. But it must be complemented by innovation: not just inventing new shapes, but reinventing function.

One of my favourite people to work with is Rick Owens - he is the one true visionary in fashion today. I don't think anyone (at least now) is approaching the business of fashion in the groundbreaking way that he is.

I think the creative scene in Asia is one of the most interesting at the moment. No matter how much I love Europe, I think we are stuck inside the weight of our own references.

What's happening in Asia is really exciting. I think the cultures are turning back on themselves and taking whatever is best of the Western world, and then combining that with their own traditions and adapting it for their own markets.

When I think of a future city, it is really hard to think of it without using some reference points involving Asia.

As told to Divia Harilela