ELLESSE’S SS23 VISIONARIES: IN CONVERSATION WITH TJ SAWYERR
There’s nothing quite like the power of community and Ellesse gets that. Celebrating individuals with a winning mindset through teamwork and collaboration, Ellesse has launched its brand new Community Club to embrace and celebrate visionaries.
Finding its inspiration on the padel court, the sportswear brand’s SS23 campaign centres around padel as a way to bring the visionaries together in a competitive yet playful manner. The campaign, which shows off new products including a white and green-striped t-shirt and a green crew neck hoodie, has a hint of nostalgia, as the story-driven film follows the visionaries playing a retro video game and innocently competing against one-another in a way that reminds us all of our childhoods.
Today, we met up with the creative director, model and photographer who transcends boundaries in art TJ Sawyerr to talk about what it takes to be a visionary, his approach to creativity and what it was like shooting for Ellesse’s new campaign.
Hi TJ, what’s up? Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
So I’m TJ Sawyerr, a multi-disciplinary visual artist and image maker, telling the stories of myself and my people by means of creative direction, photography and fashion/culture journalism.
We know you’ve been making waves as a creative for the past few years, doing direction for a whole variety of brands, but what made you want to get into creative direction in the first place?
Coming into the industry from a modelling angle, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work with some of the most impressive photographers and directors in the game in my teen years, and that really gave me a 1 of a kind opportunity to not only pick up skills and techniques, but also the confidence and desire to start telling my own stories. I have always had plenty to say, but the ability to pick up the more technical and executional know-how is what really allowed me to express in a visual sense.
Obviously, creative direction means having a really imaginative outlook. Where do you tend to find your inspiration when doing creative direction for different projects?
For any true creative, I think inspiration is truly derived from anything and everything that we experience. I am surrounded by contemporaries who inform and fuel my craft everyday, and that is the key to developing one’s creative scope and remaining ahead of the curve.
Being a model, talent, and creative director are all pretty different careers. Which would you say is your personal favourite?
I wouldn’t actually say they’re all so different, as everything within this fashion-centric, creative world falls under one broad umbrella in my opinion. My work as a photographer supplements my work as a creative director, my work as a model supplements my work as a stylist and so on. My favourite sub field would have to be direction, as having the full freedom and autonomy to conceptualise and lead a production is a feeling like no other.
Taking on so many different roles you must be pretty busy in your day-to-day life. Can you run us through what a typical day looks like for you?
There really is no ‘typical day’ for me. No working day is ever the same, and in order to stay on top of things, I have to be ready to attack each day differently. Set days aside,, I may spend one day on the move all day, making styling collections, or bouncing between meetings, while the next could be spent in my room/studio all day doing admin on my laptop, putting together moodboards or taking calls. That’s the life of a freelancer, you have to be ready to go whenever.
For Ellesse’s campaign video you were jetted off to Portugal for an impromptu padel game. What was shooting the campaign like? Was it fun?
It’s always fun working with friends, so to be flown out with a whole crew of previous collaborators and counterparts was certainly a blessing to start the year.
We see you dominate the court in Ellesse’s campaign video but be honest, how good at padel are you really? Is it a sport you’d play again?
Across the campaign the whole crew really got into the padel ball and it got pretty competitive. I’d like to say I was in contention for best player, but I know Ben, the digi operator and Jack, the BTS lead may have something to say about that haha! We’ve already discussed a big padel ball reload in London, so I have no doubt we’ll be back on the court soon.
The campaign itself is centred around the theme of teamwork, something we love to see. So, if you had to pick another Visionary to be on your side in a doubles game of padel, who would you pick and why?
Considering how much pressure she had me under when we played 1v1 in the campaign video, I think I’d have to choose Jasmine to be my doubles partner.
Being an Ellesse “visionary” isn’t just a fancy title. What do you think it takes to be a “visionary”?
A visionary is truly somebody who understands people and their tendencies, forecasting trends before they are popular and tastefully combining previously executed ideas to curate fresh ones with tangible impacts. It’s definitely easier said than done.
You wore so many fits in Ellesse’s campaign shoot that we’ve almost lost track. Which look was your personal favourite?
Probably the blue track jacket and shorts set that I wore to play padel.
With creative direction, modelling, and more on the horizon, what can we expect to see from you next?
Expect nothing, so you are pleasantly surprised when I exceed expectations.
Finally, being a Visionary, what changes do you hope to make in the future through your work?
My work has always centred around commentary surrounding the Black experience and focalising Black talent has been a main priority for me. I’m keen to create an avenue for young Black creatives to enter the industry and rise through the ranks, as I have, through their teenage years, presenting myself as an example for someone who managed to break the age barrier. There ought not be constraints placed upon your value/capability based on your age or background, so hopefully I can help to change the tides in that regard.
Check out the full collection at ellesse.com