‘Making it' with Moses Quiquine - Establishing your brand in your early career
an interview with Moses Quiquine
by CreateVoice x Pink Strawberry Gallery
On a lovely Monday morning, we meet with emerging fashion designer/stylist Moses Quiquine at his studio residency based in the V&A Museum. Moses is an artist in his craft working with materials and fabrics that redefine themes of identity, representation and mysticism related to race and culture. His debut exhibition, Voodoo Child was displayed at Africa Centre Gallery, London.
Angel Toni from Pink Strawberry Gallery, gets into a heart-to-heart conversation with Moses exploring the concept of all things ‘Making it’, to the lead up to the V&A’s Making it festival in Careers in Fashion and Costume, a CreateVoice curated event, on Saturday, 22 February 2020.
Angel Toni: Someone press record…
Moses Quiquine: *Laughs*
AT: * laughs* I guess the question you always get is like, how did you get started in fashion?
MQ: Since you wanted the real real, I'll try and give it to you in that way. So I got into fashion technically, a long time ago. My mother, she is a collector, she had a concept store in Camden in the 90s and I used to, like, run around Camden Lock as a really young child.
And yeah, growing up I've always had access to collector's items, fashion items.
I guess for me that was a norm, but I was actually really trying to study medicine.
MQ: Yeah, I was studying biology, chemistry, maths, you know and I did that for a long time. But all the while, I was still doing art almost like a hobby or release. Then I finally got to this place where it was like, okay, you're going to go to university now to study medicine.
And it just dawned on me how much I wasn't really enjoying what I was doing and that if I could really do something, if I didn't have to, like limit myself to expectations of me being like, oh, if you want to make money, then you need to get a proper profession and whatever. That whole idea of ‘the struggling artist’, whereas I thought if I didn't have to think like that, I would like to be an artist.
AT: Did you know of the concept around ‘the struggling artist’ growing up into your early career?
MQ: I'll say for a while I'd known probably since GCSE time, even a little bit before.
AT: They don’t really teach or talk about that in school, don’t they?
MQ: I felt the way I got taught around art was very much more in the technique and not in the lifestyle, because I think as an artist, yeah, there is technique to it, but I definitely think there is a whole artist lifestyle, you know, which is not taught at all.
How do you make art and also live, you know?
MQ: They would say, like you're gonna have to work in a restaurant or something while you do your thing, you know, and maybe you might get lucky, maybe you might sell some work, it's really a lot of maybes. So I remember being like, okay, I’m going to go into fashion, because it was kind of like this opportunity, which seemed a lot more accessible than art, than getting into art.
AT: In fashion it’s a lot more straightforward, isn’t it? All kinds of people already are interested in wearing clothes, what's cool? What's stylish?
MQ: It is a lot more straightforward. It was great for me because I sort of had this passive training in fashion from my mother and from that I got a lot of traction with some of the pieces that I was doing and styling work. Being a young person, you could get a job as an assistant to an assistant stylist or assistant photographer or whatever. I did end up losing my job as an assistant stylist, I wasn't getting paid a lot at all. But at the same time, I was getting amazing experiences; working in Paris Fashion Week, styling all these models and brands and I'll be like, this is crazy. The last couple of months, I wasn't even doing anything like this.
It showed how quickly it was to get into it. In terms of really making that money,
I wasn't really making money, but experience wise, I was really getting experiences!
AT: Were you approached by a stylist or was it applications?
MQ: So I was approached by a stylist. While I was working in the hairdressers as a junior. Basically the guy that sweeps the floor and washes the head, I was that guy *laughs*.
I literally started working for the stylist the next day, like I said before, been getting the experience but wasn't getting paid. I was making contacts with people, but I was just seen as an assistant stylist, it wasn't like, oh, do a shoot for me!
Felt kind of like, remember know your place, you know, which is quite difficult because as a young person, you kind of want people to encourage you and stuff rather than being like, know your place. Maybe 10 years from now you could be the actual stylist, you know?
AT: Yeah, they don’t really think about the future, where this person is gonna be. Thinking about the now is not always ideal.
MQ: Yeah and so that wasn't really working for me, because I'm someone that’s passionate and I know that my creativity is valuable. Not giving and giving to get a £100 a week.
You know, I still got people telling me to go to university like even now, even after doing a solo show, even after selling my work, a V&A residency. Saying, it would do you so much good! And I’m like...haven’t you seen that I’ve built my whole life having not gone university?!
AT: You’ve basically done the end result of what Uni should be!
MQ: It’s crazy the amount of people still trying to convince me to go. My friends that have gone to university, they're really struggling right now because they still haven't found how to live an artist's life. You know, they know technique and they know those things. But the artist life, they still struggle with it. You know, there's almost like this idea of the artist as the Shaman?
AT: Oh, I don’t know the Shaman
MQ: Classically you'd think of them as being like spiritual guys, both men and women. They would be healers and connect with their community. They would almost be a sort of outcast, but are appreciated and valued because they are trying to find ways to help. And like for me, that's how I see what an artist should be in the 21st century. You know, a bit of a Shaman, transforming a lot of the issues and sufferings of the 21st century and putting them in art, finding ways to heal people through the art. To do that, you really need to put your life into it.
" When I created the work, I wasn’t trying to create it from an egotistical place. I really wanted to create work that a lot of people other than myself and people that don't even look like me can connect to "
AT: Amazing! So, how did the V&A approach you for the residency?
MQ: It was the day of my debut exhibition in collaboration with the Africa Centre, that one of the V&A specialists came to see what I was producing. They saw some of the pieces that you see here. I think someone from the African Heritage part of the V&A, came across my work, during the open calls for the residency and this was all happening at the same time as my first solo show. The curator of my show James Putnam, he found my work to be a really interesting concept of fashion not being fashion but being art and he did a lot of work with guys like the Chapman Brothers, you know, working for the young British artists, that sort of generation. Making the whole show, the journey of getting money from the Arts council, support from my mother as well, I just thought during all of it, that I would finally do something for the public than just private clientele. That maybe I should do an exhibition.
And so, some of the V&A team also came on the closing night of the exhibition. So that night there was also a dance performance as well in response to the art. In my opinion, I didn't really know how big the performance was going to go, I was witnessing the performance the same way as the audience.
AT: I love that! I love when that happens. When you create something in solitude, like in a studio, a piece of work that when you put it out there, it's a crazy thing to witness and think of how many people/ mediums can come together and respond to your work.
MQ: It shows you that this is bigger than you now, that's what it showed me. When I created the work, I wasn’t trying to create it from an egotistical place. I really wanted to create work that a lot of people other than myself and people that don't even look like me can connect to, but just everyone, you know.
AT: That’s the way to success, isn't it. It’s about how you stand out, art is continuous, people get involved in art all the time, it's about that collaborative aspect. Putting yourself out there. “I'm going to make a project” and you never know who's going to respond to it.
But you will eventually get a response, from just being open. Everyone’s voice and style is valid, you don't know that until you put it out. There's no school for that.
AT: Okay we’re going to throw in quick fire questions!
AT: Favorite color?
AT: Favourite Nightclub or party place?
MQ: There's this place called The Haggerston. They've got some cool music. When I do go out, I like to not be repetitive. So I don't have a favorite place.
AT: Favourite drink?
MQ: Monaco. It has a syrup to make your beer kind of pink and sweet.
AT: A song you suggest viewers should listen to?
MQ: Tina Turner chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. And Prince’s Deluxe album, I listened to while making these pieces.
AT: Fantastic. We’re going to have end on advice for pre- emerging/emerging artists and what’s next for you?
MQ: If want to live off your art, you have to be open. Full stop.
If you keep saying no to the things you don't want to do, that doesn't really make sense to you and your brand. And say yes to the things you do. Then that's also how success happens.
I have a show coming up in March and a collaboration with the Zaha Hadid Architects coming. Also will be participating in the Venice Biennale in 2021.
Come meet Moses at V&A’s Making it festival in Careers in Fashion and Costume, on Saturday, 22 February 2020!
Edit/Text: Angel Toni
Recording: Angel Toni & Nicole Jones
Photography: Michaela Harcegová