This is THE ELEVENTH HOUR, a series dedicated to spotlighting graduating talent across the globe spanning art, design, architecture, engineering and of course, watchmaking. Familiar with the age-old adage? When you’re down to the eleventh hour, it’s all hands on deck and the very last moment before the end is in sight. In this week’s edition, we speak with the Central Saint Martins Graduate, Jeffrey Thomson, on navigating an industry that promotes polymaths and why time has become a luxury for a generation who have a world of knowledge immediately in their hands.
Jeffrey Thomson has got his fingers in many pies, and it’s neither hunger nor greed. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. For one, it’s talent, and two, it’s just the way things go. As members of society, we’re seasoned by the phrase “find something good and stick at it.” But ask any creative carving out their pathway into the voracious beast that is the internet and they’ll give you a blurry job description of roughly ten jobs in one. Some might call it the malaise of the multi-hyphenates, but to keep with the rhythm of the creative world, Gen Z’ers and Millennials alike have dexterously embraced umbrella jobs making the jack-of-all-trades approach the model for the future where your identity becomes less about a singular role and more about your capabilities.
For Thomson, life is about lane hopping and seeing where the journey will take you. After all, once you’ve mastered the foundations, the road ahead is open. Beginning his studies at London’s esteemed Central Saint Martins to study Fashion Communication, his portfolio quickly surged from model, photographer, writer to videographer for some of the world’s most influential fashion brands. The finale of Thomson’s degree culminated in the founding of Check-Out Magazine, a digital platform for fashion’s next generation championing new ideas, new technology and new talent.
His second language the WWW, as Thomson marks his latest appointment as Art Director for the trend setting quarterly publication Wonderland, we caught up with the untethered artist to discuss the meaning of time for a generation who are tasked to say more, do more and be more and make every moment matter.
The Next Hour: Jeffrey Thomson, creativity seems to pour through your veins. What was your earliest memory of the creative world and when you realised you wanted to contribute to it?
Jeffrey Thomson: I think it was through aeroplanes…I was born in Hong Kong and my dad travelled a lot for work. When we moved to Australia it was a while before we started travelling again and I remember watching this Cathay Pacific commemorative video my dad was given – I was always so obsessed with the airline and the glamour of flying. Even at such a young age it was like I was nostalgic for a time of travel that just seemed so chic and fashionable. I loved looking at the designs of the planes, the interiors, uniforms – so I suppose I knew I just wanted to be a part of something that cared about design and style. I got to take this full circle when I spent a week out at Heathrow Airport for a project at uni documenting planes and the people who watched them.
TNH: As a man of many talents, how would you describe your profession?
JT: A melting pot of everything and anything that’s needed.
TNH: What was one of the biggest takeaways you learned from studying Fashion Communication at CSM?
JT: That you need to be that melting pot of everything. Fashion changes constantly and you never know what you’re going to be working on next, so I found that it was good to be adaptable and open to change. You never know where the next opportunity will take you.
TNH: Can you talk me through the conception behind your final major project ‘Check Out’ and the motivation behind why you were targeting a community of undiscovered youth.
JT: Check-Out was born from wanting to see some change in the industry – not taking no for an answer and a determination to see young people treated equally in an industry all too obsessed with hierarchies and ’names’. I knew so many young photographers, stylists and talent who were incredible but found it so difficult to be picked up by a publication. Oftentimes it’s about who you know and so I wanted this to be something that was the opposite of that and challenged the concept of what a fashion magazine could be.
TNH: How would you define the relationship between time and the next generation today?
JT: I think the relationship is short and difficult. In a digitised world everything happens in the blink of an eye and it can be extremely overwhelming, particularly for the next generation who are still trying to figure out who they are and where they fit in the industry. There’s a pressure to be the ’next big thing’ and to continually create better work. I feel like it’s at a breaking point though, and I’m curious to see what happens when the relationship finally snaps.
TNH: The Eleventh Hour notionally refers to the very last moment when everything comes together and last-minute changes are made. How did the process of creating your own project come together? Was it structured or spontaneous?
TNH: Who would you say is one of the most influential icons of our time that has impacted your work and why?
JT: My friends – Ella Bardsley, Morgann Eve Russell, George Hutton, Simone Beyene. They push me to do better and are always there to offer advice, criticism and encouragement. It’s an incredible thing to have. I’m also obsessed with Bella Hadid, obviously. Anything she touches turns to gold and I aspire to be like her.
TNH: Since you began at CSM, how has your vision evolved over time?
JT: When I first stepped foot into the hallowed concrete walls of CSM I was petrified – it was definitely imposter syndrome but then at the same time, my work was very mediocre. I think I was trying to prove myself as a real fashion person, whatever that means. It was only in my second year where I started to have more confidence in my skills and create work that was reflective of my own personal style and aesthetic. I gave up trying to be someone else and just did things I thought looked cool.
JT: Working on the designer, Christian Cowan’s and Lil Nas X’s SS21 New York Fashion Week film was definitely one of those ‘proud’ moments. It was a mad rush and I think I had about 3 days to compile, edit, grade and export the film before it’s fashion week debut – I didn’t sleep much that week… Looking back there’s definitely things I would have done differently, a bit of colour here, a few minor edits there, but all in all it was such a brilliant project to be a part of.