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Biz Ladies: Staying Current

Gabriella Ainslie
Today’s Biz Ladies post comes to us from Gabriella Ainslie, the owner and founder of Tendenza Consulting. She’s worked in buying and product development for ABC Home and Terrain. She currently lives in Austin, TX where she works with clients nationwide as a freelance buyer and strategy consultant to designers. Today Gabriella shares some advice on how to keep on top of trends and remain current in your creative field.  Thanks, Gabriella, for offering your insight! –Stephanie

Read the full post after the jump…

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Staying current when you leave the big city

In 2008, with certain trepidation, I moved away from New York City. After a stop in Philadelphia, I eventually made my way to Austin. The first few months found me happy as a clam enjoying the slower pace and open spaces that Austin offers, but after this initial honeymoon period wore off, a sneaky cloud of doubt began to make its way into my thoughts. Was there a community of creatives and designers talking about new ideas and making things like the community I’d left behind in New York? Now that I’d left the city, I missed the easy visibility I’d had to that.

While I was content with the other spheres of my life, opportunities for professional development weren’t presenting themselves in my new city. As a retail buyer, my career was based on predicting trends and responding to them. I grew concerned that the longer I stayed in Austin, the less applicable my experience and my taste would become. Could I stay relevant within the world of taste and creativity at a distance from the New York City?

In the intervening years since my departure from NYC, I’ve committed to a series of strategies to make my dream of living in a smaller city while staying current and on-trend a reality. These routines have allowed me continue to work for trend-setting, forward-thinking clients even though I live in a small city without immediate access to all that a big cities like Los Angeles or New York can offer. I would encourage anyone who lives away from where your creative roots were set and is fearful of losing a connection to current tendencies and fresh ideas to implement these practices. You’ll find a sure route to feeling current and inspired.

Seek information through new avenues:

In cities like New York, you are constantly inundated with visual and conceptual stimulation: crazy fashion experiments on the L train, a seemingly endless number of museums and libraries, provocative conversations overheard in line for coffee… If you’re in a smaller city you may need to create these sorts of intersections and dialogues on our own. Thankfully, we live in the age of digital media, which makes this easy to do!

Regularly digging into blogs and magazines is the quickest way to know what your counterparts in other cities see as significant. Beyond blogs and magazines, there are all manner of podcasts, journals, alternative radio stations, online communities, etc. that serve as easy-to-access resources too. Rather than sticking to publications that are pertinent to your field, broaden the variety, subject matter and country of origin of the news sources you subscribe to so your perspective gains breadth and depth across disciplines and borderlines and becomes a global view.

I am a huge fan of clicking my way through scores of pretty pictures on blogs when I have some free time, but I recommend actually scheduling time daily or weekly to truly sink in, read content and see what your peers (and those creative and entrepreneurs you aspire to be like!) are doing, thinking, and making. I devote part of each Sunday and Monday to this task, and I find that it invigorates my work for the rest of the week.

Find others to collaborate with:

So much inspiration grows out of conversation and idea sharing. The most valuable step I took upon moving to Austin was to build up a community of other entrepreneurs, creatives and designers to spend time with in my new city. Seek out people with similar interests through co-working spaces, clubs, social hours, guilds and business organizations.

During my first year in Austin, I joined an informal book club. The relationships and conversations that sprung from that group of individuals with seemingly disparate careers, motivations and passions have proved to be some of the most professionally and artistically significant interactions I’ve had since leaving New York City. Formal and informal work collaborations have grown through seeds planted during our book club, and I often leave that group spurred on to research or pursue a new idea. Surrounding yourself with fresh perspectives will both enthuse and motivate you. A natural exchange of information and resources sharing will take place, and you’re sure to find someone who shares a similar interest to collaborate with, even if only through conversation.

Alliances that stretch beyond your industry are also extremely valuable. They function as learning experiences for all parties involved, and it can be very cool to see what results surface from applying your skills to a very different field.  Working with partners who work in different mediums, or whose trades seem very different from yours, can spark some of the most interesting collaborations. In this sort of partnership there is so much room for each of you to learn. All parties can apply their own skills to the project, and you’ll each cultivate new understandings in the process.

Support your new community:

There’s a reason you picked your particular city to live in: get involved in it! You’ll never anticipate whom you might come across, or what might already be going on in your city that you can take part in. As a native Austinite, I was sure that I knew every corner of the city when I moved back home. The truth was that the Austin of my youth had grown up just as much as I had. There were new museums and cultural organizations that I was not aware of before. Resources that I never imagined finding in Austin already existed right under my nose!

I’ve gotten involved with several community organizations, which have informed me about so much change that’s taken place here. Educating myself about the city has contributed to a valuable shift in my work life and my perspective on my new/old home. It’s made acts as simple as walking through my neighborhood, or spending the day in a different part of town, infinitely more dynamic. When you can look with fresh eyes, you never know what you may see and be inspired by! Every city is a vibrant, unique creature. The distinct energy of your city could be just as stirring as that of LA, London, Paris or NYC. Get acquainted with it, and find ways to volunteer, explore new neighborhoods and inhabit your city or region fully.

Unexpected possibilities are yet to come:

Incorporate your local resources with those ideas that speak most to you from sources worldwide! In doing so, you will create a very specialized, inspired and relevant creative landscape for yourself. Staying current also means getting to know your own creative inclination more intimately, and these tools will tease this out.

What’s been most interesting as I’ve integrated into my new home is that my creative vision has changed. As I’ve found new collaborators and new platforms for discussing design, aesthetics and business endeavors, my own voice within those conversations has shifted. The work that I’m generating now is more authentic and personal, and I take huge pride in this new creative yield. The space and time I have in my new life allows me to daydream, and those bold and unexpected ideas have led to a unique perspective. It’s a perspective that I may not have found had I stayed in the big city.

 

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12 Comments

juni

such a good read! thanks for the tips. I live in nyc but am honestly dying to move to somewhere smaller and quieter. This gave me some encouragement that I don’t have to worry about a creative career totally dying out if I move.

MB@FabricUiPhoneApp

It’s hard to keep on top of trends if you don’t live in New York City or Europe. Now the Internet makes it easier…but if you really want to track the pulse of what’s coming up next for street style (which really influences home decor and everything else). You just have to go to New York City several times a year. You just do…if you nothing else but camp out in Bryant Park with your Starbucks and iPhone. Sure there are blogs out, there’s something about being there. Besides, you want to stir the creative juices while you’re watching the fashion parade. You can’t do that reading Feedly, looking at pretty pics on Pinterest, etc. Bryant Park and the outlying boroughs are where it’s at. Even the Sartorialist knows that and he heads to Europe on a regular basis with his camera.

Rose Duggan

Gabriella, thank you so much for your thoughtful post. I can’t tell you how often (actually I can – everyday) that I wonder whether I should move to New York or LA. I love where I live but worry so much about “missing out”. The suggestion to get more involved is such a valuable one.

One thing I’d like to add is that if at first you can’t find a group or community where you feel you fit in, don’t give up. Keep going to art openings, talks and volunteer days until you find something that clicks.

FripperyVintage

Very interesting and relevant for me as well. I moved to a small town and sometimes find it difficult to get the creative inspiration I need. Thanks for this!

Katie

Great information in delving into a smaller city. I too live in Austin and need to dig deeper into this city. Thanks for your tips!

Jen

This is all great advice…but Austin is hardly a small podunk town! It’s one of the hippest, “youngest” cities in the country right now. Where I live there’s barely a book club to join and fashion is still lingering around 2002.

Julia Kostreva

Love this! You know, even if you do live in a big city, it’s easy to get “stuck” doing the same things. This is so inspiring to keep stretching out!

Soledad

I totally agree with this. The best part is when you take all that information that you found online and mix it to your own environment and idiosyncrasy. That’s when fun things happen.

Holly

Sure wish we could have a coffee and brainstorm some more :-)
Loved reading about your journey of mixing up the big city resources with your new smaller town environment…thank goodness Austin is hip and chocked full of art and music to stimulate your senses.
Thanks for sharing your story.

Tara

Thanks for sharing Gabriella’s perspective. I understand where she’s coming from since I am also an Austinite. I am a firm believer in the abundance mentality of “the more you give, the more you get”.

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