Interview with creative director Ashley Helvey
1. Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do. How did you come into your work as a creative director?
I work primarily in fashion and advertising as creative director and strategist helping brands form visual identities through typography, imagery, and storytelling. After studying textile design in Germany and developing a love for clothes and photography I started working for a bunch of different private and public companies before going freelance.
2. What made you decide to make a shift and live abroad?
Ha, Covid. I was doing a three month residency through Kiosk NY in Marseille at Corbusier's Cite Radieuse and then Covid hit. I couldn't really travel back to NYC and figured living in Unite d'Habitation was a quarantine in itself. Since I’ve been here, I’ve found a very harmonious work-life balance I was missing in New York. I feel particularly drawn to Marseille because I grew up in a beach town of Los Angeles and the city is a bit of LA weather mixed with NYC grit and beauty of Northern California and The Pacific Northwest (where I lived for a combined 20 years!) It’s also close enough to Paris to hop on a train and take a meeting if needed.
3. What do you like most about living abroad? If anything — what has been difficult about the transition?
I love everything about living abroad. The world is so incredibly beautiful and people are so exceptional. There is so much to see and experience, life is almost too short! Not seeing family or friends for two years has been hard, but we find ways to keep in touch.
4. Marseille in 5 words.
Natural, raw, hard, bright, beautiful.
5. How does Paris inspire you in your work as a creative director?
Paris was the birthplace of the luxury market, so it's exciting to see the rebirth of a city taking in its reins. Since people couldn’t really travel it's been reassuring to see brands and retailers actually start thinking and working locally — from talent to locations, all these Europeans clients are finally rediscovering their own country and realizing they don't need to fly in hair and makeup from New York or a team to South Africa to shoot a few beach images they could do on their own coastline. It’s also an exciting time in Paris because since Covid and Brexit there are so many young creative talents from all over coming to live and work here, which was not the case say 5 years ago. I may be a bit of an ‘Ashley in Paris’ American cliche, but everything from the typography of the hair salons to the benches in the laundry mats are inspiring to me!
6. What are some favorite things there that you can’t find here?
Too many! The French have a product for every solution. There is a shop that sells chic hair accessories, one that sells only pepper, another just salmon in every way. It literally takes going to 7 different shops just to get your bread, wine, cheese, meat, spices, desserts, toilet paper, and vitamins as opposed to going to a supermarket like Whole Foods in New York. Sometimes I love it, sometimes I drag my feet haha.
7. You post amazing food, how did the pandemic affect your relationship to cooking? What have been some favorite things to eat at home or in the city?
The pandemic made me really indulge in all European cuisine, I've learned so many simple tricks and flavor combinations: melon with cracked black pepper, sliced carrots with salt and lemon juice, mussels smoked in pine needles, steamed courgette flowers, how to make the perfect oeufs brouillés...I've enjoyed quite a lot, but like to balance it with fasting, mono diets, and raw food cleansing. I love a good challenge to use my cooking skills to make raw food look and taste incredible.
8. Can you tell us a bit about Monogram?
Monogram Paris is a creative studio I do together with Jurgen Maelfeyt from Art Paper Editions that focuses on branding and visual identity, photography, design, art direction etc. Monogram Books is a yet to be published (Covid postponed) monthly magazine featuring one photographer per issue on a specific topic we find interesting. We are excited to get going since everything has picked back up.
9. What are some rituals or activities keeping you grounded and interested lately?
Riding my bicycle to the sea, practicing the MIR method when washing my body or applying lotion, and keeping a grateful journal that specifically states what you're grateful for and why. It’s something I learned long ago from a friend's mother in Lichtenstein and it’s one of the most powerful tools to keep me grounded and remember the simplest things to be thankful for.
10. Current soundtrack?
This 80s Soviet rock band called Kino I’ve had on repeat since I discovered it from a friend. Also some secret tracks my friend Cameron Mesirow (Glasser) sent me from her new album that sound like heaven.
11. What are you looking forward to most this summer?
Traveling! Trying to make the plan of no plans, but really fascinated by the idea of traveling to Georgia since watching The Color of Pomegranates.
See more of Ashley here.