Stephen Philms shares thoughts on New York Fashion Week, serving as a creative director for Ennyluap, and his latest art exhibit.
How did you connect with Ennyluap and become the creative director?
Back in 2013 I wrote, produced and directed a film titled Love On The Rocks. During this time, I was looking to build relationships with fashion designers as I’ve always had a genuine interest in working in fashion. I sent about 100 emails out to designers inquiring about working with them from the film standpoint. Of those 100, 10 responded to me. I invited those 10 to my film screening and Amanda Williamson was the only one that showed up. We briefly spoke after the screening and set up a meeting. A few months later we went to New York Fashion Week and I was able to screen a fashion film on the runway before the show. We’ve been working together ever since. In the past five years, my role with Ennyluap has evolved from filmmaker to creative director. It’s been an organic process as we began to spend more time working together on complete campaigns. I took the opportunity seriously, I immersed myself in all things Ennyluap while keeping a pulse on where the industry was going. I’d have ideas about the direction of visuals and branding. Our earlier shoots together got featured in Vogue and were also the look book work that went to the buyers at Belk when the brand was introduced in their stores. I knew we were up to something when I shook hands with a top buyer at Belk headquarters and he pulled me aside to compliment my artwork. Now, we’re constantly discussing her new design concepts and working through the production process. It’s been an intense creative process but I love it. I remember having the initial conversation about my role expanding and it was a rather easy talk. By this time we’d been working together a few years and it was exactly what I wanted. I can’t thank Amanda enough, we have a similar desire for success and creativity, I’m truly excited about the future.
What was the best part about being at NYFW?
The best part about this past New York Fashion Week was seeing the evolution of the brand on such a large scale. This showing with IMG put Ennyluap in the conversation with top fashion lines around the world! The reception to the collection has been amazing. It was a massive process that we all grew from, I’m proud of our entire team. We were in rare company, Amanda is one of the youngest black female designers to ever show on that stage. As creative director, seeing the full vision come to life was beautiful. The model casting process, runway lighting choices, the jewelry selection, the order of the clothing hitting the stage. The music for the show was curated by a lifelong friend of mine music supervisor Dom Cole, he has placements all over the world. The vibe was perfect.
What key takeaways have you learned about the business since joining the company?
It doesn’t stop! This business is fast paced and keeps your creative wheels turning. Campaign shoots, product shoots, editorials, fashion shows, samples, manufacturing, castings, fittings, and repeat —it doesn’t stop. I enjoy the challenge of being consistent, but fresh at the same time. That came into play with our campaign for our Vanity Fair ad work. Also, it’s extremely competitive and cutthroat. I don’t mind it. You’ll know exactly how people feel about you for sure. One thing I admire about Amanda is she can actually sew her own samples. It allows our creativity to be fluid. That’s a huge advantage when the designer can sew an idea in a day. That allows me to write campaigns, cast, and design look books immediately.
How did you get your work into the KAI LIN ART gallery?
I’ve been attending KAI LIN ART as an art enthusiast for years. I believe it’s the best the city of Atlanta has to offer in an art gallery space. I knew when I decided to get back into creating in that medium I wanted to show there one day. In 2017, I had a few pieces I was working on and KAI LIN ART was accepting submissions for their New South Exhibition. I submitted and got accepted and I’ve been building a great relationship over there since. Kai is a wonderful owner and his staff does an amazing job. In my recent collection in the FRESH 2 exhibition, my work was sold to an international buyer and I’m truly excited and motivated by that. I have few new concepts I’m working on and I can’t wait to share them.
How has the feedback been thus far?
The feedback has been positive. On opening nights, being able to talk with art buyer and collectors is wonderful. I enjoy sharing the ideas behind the work. The other cool aspect is the direct messages and random emails from people who appreciate the art.
What pieces are featured and what inspired your art?
In the past year and a half, I’ve been apart of quite a few shows but the ones at KAI LIN ART stand out. These feature my pieces “Shoulders of Hope” and the “Free Motion Series.” At heart, I’m a storyteller, my art is a reflection of that. I look to find art in aspects of life that might be overlooked or underappreciated. It feels like magic when a photograph I’ve taken then becomes the foundation to story and evolves in a fully developed piece of artwork. I’m truly inspired by human nuances and global social interaction. My collection of work takes place in four different countries, Bahrain, Turkey, Italy and USA. Cultural immersion is vastly important to me.
What advice do you give to up-and-coming artists?
My advice would be to honor your inner voice. That voice that speaks clearly to you, it’s a gift you’ve been given and it’s no else’s job to understand it. It’s for you to accomplish. With that said, it won’t be easy, it takes a savvy and vigorous worth ethic to match. Be a doer. I constantly stand by a quote from Andy Warhol, “Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”