Claire Staines is the co-founder and creative director of CANVAS, an elite agency with a new high level approach to fashion and brand consultancy. Former womenswear designer at AllSaints and Reiss, and a freelance fashion design consultant before founding Canvas, Claire is your go-to-gal for all things style. Not only is she insanely talented, but insanely beautiful – you might recognise Claire as the latest face of our campaign. Join us as we find out how Claire has been keeping her sh*t together during lockdown.
CC: Hello Claire! Firstly, we’d love to know where you are, and how you’re doing!
CS: Hey! I am at home in Clapton and I’m well thank you. I’m at the kitchen table in the sun, door open, listening to our new Canvas Studio Sounds playlist, eating a homemade cookie that one of my lovely friends dropped round for me this week.
CC: How have you been coping over the last couple of months? What’s been getting you out of bed in the morning?
CS: I’ve been trying to just take each day as it comes. Some are super productive, others are slower. I am keeping active, eating (probably too) well and talking to family and friends a lot which keeps me sane. I felt huge pressure to be productive everyday at first, but it just isn’t possible. I saw a quote 'taking care of yourself is productive’, and it rang true. Dark Arts coffee gets me out of bed in the morning.
CC: You launched your agency CANVAS just before lockdown, what impact has that had for you personally and as a business?
CS: Yes we founded Canvas at the start of the year. I was out a lot, meeting new faces and planning an exciting year ahead. Personally, the initial grinding to halt hit me pretty hard. I've never been very good at staying in one place or sitting still for too long. But we adapt and I started to try and take the positives from the situation. As a new business it gave us an unexpected moment to sit back and think about what we really want from Canvas both short and long term, and I think that perspective has been invaluable. We have changed some of our focus, it’s cemented our core values and I think it has humanised us an agency, as a team, and with clients. We launched Canvas Creatives on our socials to connect with our global network of talent and that has been really rewarding.
CC: You have worked as a designer for small independents, giant retailers, gone solo, and now launched your own agency. What did it take for you to make that leap and have the courage to start up on your own?
CS: The biggest leap was from a decade of ’secure’ jobs to becoming a freelance consultant (I use ’secure’ cautiously given the current situation). I had been thinking about going freelance for a while. I needed a change from the daily routine of working full-time and creatively, for one brand’s handwriting. It ended up being very impulsive and one day, after dinner with my family the night before, I handed in my notice. I surprised myself! I had no plans in place, but it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I immediately started contacting people, things worked out, and I went straight in to a hand full of consultancy projects. It taught me to trust yourself and take risks, and from then Canvas happened very naturally. As a team we were already working together on consultancy projects and saw the potential to build a full service agency.
CC: Being self-employed has its perks, but there are many downfalls that aren’t always discussed. Is this something you found? What’s been the biggest challenge for you in this respect?
CS: An obvious challenge when you first become self-employed is learning to live with a level of uncertainty, in your workload and your income. This becomes more manageable over time as you learn what to say yes or no to, and get in to a new flow. The biggest challenge for me when I started consulting was no longer being part of a permanent team and having those friends you make in a room with you everyday. This was a big plus to founding Canvas for me, working with a core team again and supporting each other both professionally and personally.
CC: With self-isolation, lockdown and social distancing, creatives and brands are being forced to find new ways to collaborate and work together during this time. Do you think this will be a good thing in the long run? Have you seen a positive shift?
CS: I think naturally creatives thrive bouncing off of each other, sharing ideas and being part of a community. On a practical level, a lot of our work simply doesn't work in isolation, and as a result a lot of our network have seen their roles come to a complete stand still which is unsettling. For those of us who can find ways to adapt, it has been challenging, but there are always positives in change. The fashion industry has been hit hard and no-one, however successful previously, is an exception. This has fast forwarded conversations about how sustainable the current calendar and way of working is across the industry and I hope we see long lasting change here. I think the brands that have stood out the most during this time are those that are unapologetically slowing down and creating with purpose and I hope they continue to succeed.
CC: When you’re not wfh, what’s been keeping you busy and sane?
CS: Exercise - everything feels more manageable after moving. I was a regular at Blok and thankfully they have adapted really quickly to offer an amazing online platform of classes on BLOKtv. I I have also got back in to running which clears my head and I like having a new challenge and seeing progress. Long walks have helped me discover green parts of Hackney I never knew existed. I am also cooking more than ever which I am really enjoying.
CC: As the face of our latest campaign, you’re in the unique position of having tried every single one of our bags! Which bag is your go-to for everyday life? (pre and post lockdown!)
CS: Pre lockdown I would have said the tote as I need something that fits my day in it. However I think I’ll be switching to the backpack post lockdown as I am back on the bike!
CC: We have just launched the last of our 5 new colours for Spring. Which colour will you be wearing and how will you style it?
CS: Always black. Keeping it simple in vintage jeans and a tee.