Meet VAGUE: The Black girl-led collective bringing young creatives together during lockdown

For many people in the creative industry, the Covid-19 pandemic has halted plans to showcase their work publicly.

But for Ayo Abolaji, Gloria Ukoh, Karina Sodipo and Mo Sodipo – members of online collective and creative agency VAGUE – they are keen to continue propelling the work of creatives worldwide regardless of the global restrictions placed upon them.

BEGINNINGS

Creativity is something that flows throughout the quartet and can be seen through their individual journeys.

For Karina, VAGUE’s artistic director, it was at university where she truly tapped into her creative side – something that wasn’t encouraged while studying in Nigeria. 

“I joined the drama club as soon as I got to secondary school and I was so excited” she says.

“When I got to uni, I then started hanging out with members of the photography society and it was freedom. I just felt like I found what it was that I wanted to do”. 

For Mo, VAGUE’s engagement editor, passion is what lead to her creative pursuits. “I worked in engineering for five years. I understood it, I got why it was important but I wasn’t passionate about it,” she says. 

The concept of VAGUE started in 2015 with a conversation between the two, along with their younger brother Suji, as they wanted to make their own mark in the creative industry. 

“We were frustrated at the creative industry, it was every man for themselves and sometimes you’d be a footnote in a magazine but that was it,” says Karina.

“I got to a point where I was like we’re doing all these shoots but what for?”

LAUNCH

Inspired to create their own platform, VAGUE was officially launched in 2018, and started as a small community of photographers, writers, models and designers hoping to change the creative industry into something more inclusive. 

Since its launch, VAGUE has birthed several platforms focusing on different aspects of the industry that members can be involved in. 

From the virtual film and book club VAGUE Culture Club; modelling agency VAGUE FACES; publishing platform VAGUE TOMES; digital fashion space VAGUE THREADS and podcast VAGUE SOUNDS – the women of VAGUE are taking up space and creating their own lane.

GROWTH

Ayo joined the team in 2019 as the culture editor for VAGUE’s publishing platform TOMES, alongside Gloria who has taken on the role of VAGUE’s crew lead in communications and design.

“I used to write stories when I was younger and then I started to focus on getting good GCSE and A-Level grades. It was at uni where I focused more on poetry” says Ayo. 

Similarly to Ayo, Gloria also found a love for creating content at university. 

“It was there where I dipped my toe into the creative industry. I was creating posters using Canva and Word and I thought to myself ‘this is kinda cool’. Now VAGUE is my second home. I love these guys!” she said. 

Three years later, and VAGUE is continuing to flourish with innovation at the forefront of everything they do.

The VAGUE digital community now has over 100 members who can come together to brainstorm and create new ideas using its website called the Portal. 

Members have access to events, resources and digital experiences that are useful for those struggling with creating content alone due to government restrictions.

CHANGE

Before the pandemic, VAGUE was beginning to make its mark in Manchester’s thriving creative scene.

Their most notable event was a screening of Queen & Slim at HOME Theatre which was commissioned by Entertainment One and they had plans to create an art exhibition at Whitworth Gallery prior to Covid-19. 

The pandemic subsquently put a hold to some of their plans, but also created a challenging barrier for their creativity and most worryingly, their mental health.

“I remember having a breakdown in May and they were all there for me,” recalls Ayo. 

Ayo battled with putting too much pressure on herself during lockdown and found comfort in the VAGUE community. 

“It’s [VAGUE] a place where you can fall as many times as you need to and there’ll always be someone to pick you up”.

Last month, VAGUE launched the Portal’s new design which aims to create COVID-friendly digital content and initiatives for its members. 

The idea of the Portal is for creatives to not feel limited by their circumstances as the VAGUE team aim to make content creating accessible.

“I might sound biased but I think we’ve done really well even with everyone away from each other” says Gloria.   

Speaking on plans for the future ahead, Mo says the team wants VAGUE to “remain at its core but on a bigger platform”. 

“I want us to continue to teach, bring people in, elevate them, amplify their voices and be there for them”. 

Find out more about VAGUE on the website (https://www.vague.digital/) and Instagram: @vaguedigital 

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