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Creating waves when it first launched in 2020, tech-led label MCQ continues to defy tradition with collaborative collections crafted by select creatives from its global community. In rejecting the mould of a single voice from a single creative director, MCQ is uniquely placed to craft capsules, aptly known as icons, that precisely capture the global zeitgeist and embody what community truly means in an increasingly connected world.
Ever in pursuit of increased connectivity, insight and disruptive ideas, MCQ joins LN-CC in conversation with creative partners Flo Huntington-Whiteley and Faith Robinson, who together with Claire Yurika-Davis run CogDis, a new-wave ethics consultancy, as we seek to understand what draws them together and what collaboration means to them.
When did you first meet? And how did you begin working together?
Flo: Faith and I first met at university, we had a big love for the outdoors and that kind of nature. We kept in touch as distant friends. We tried to work together on a few things, but it wasn't until Faith ended up on a panel talk with Claire that it felt fateful that we'd all come together at this moment. From then we started sharing where we were at in our lives, where we were at in our work, and that was the inception of CogDis.
Could you tell me more about the first project you worked on together?
Faith: We were drawn to each through shared frustration with where sustainability was and still is. We decided to work on our first project as something self-initiated just for us to learn how to work together, and to articulate what we stand for as a group. ‘Manifesting Utopia’ was part research project, part educational project, part cultural report. We wanted to understand what our community was feeling and thinking when it comes to sustainability. We surveyed over 2000 people in ten different cities and recorded interviews with 14 different leaders from our shared network. It talks a lot about being connected with nature, being connected online, alternative forms of education, all these different macro themes that we think the sustainability movement was really missing.
So, your very first project together centred on collaborating with others. Were there revelations in that exercise that you weren't expecting? And how has it informed the work you've done moving forward?
Faith: The first thing that was how unappealing and ugly a lot of sustainability aesthetics are. The second thing was this big gap between citizens dreaming about a better society, then not having the tools or knowhow to build that better society. At CogDis, we believe that brands need to close that gap. Manifesting Utopia really informed our mission. It was a great first project together.
What makes you good collaborators and what qualities do you admire in each other?
Flo: Each of us has had what we call a corner of the triangle. I come from a corporate background, based in marketing and relationship building. Faith comes from a background based in research, organising, and programming of talks. Claire comes from a creative background, and is that spiritual grounding for us, as well as that artistic vision. We all accept how one another works. What I admire most about Faith is her leadership and confidence. At uni, the question “What is it that you want to be when you're older?” came up, and I remember Faith going “A motherfucking CEO”. It's never been my aspiration; Faith normally is the one to go drum that into us as a collective.
Faith: I really admire Flo’s charisma and ability to connect with people, which is so important when you're creating new worlds; the ability to really connect with people and just be fun with it, with that good energy, that's what I mean with the charisma. I think we really complement each other well.
You've known each other for a long time, but how have you had to adapt to each other if at all? And was it smooth sailing since the beginning?
Faith: Working with people, you have to be adaptable. I've always worked with people that are very similar to me and I didn't realise that. I don't think that's very conducive to changing things. So, as similar as the three of us are, we have such different approaches to work. Ideologically, we're very aligned, but it has taken a while to understand what works for each other, but I think those are our strengths as well.
Flo: From a structural point of view, I've had to learn a lot of self-motivation, which is a huge work in progress! I came from a job where you get handed things on paper, you get emails into your inbox, you get given projects. This, if we're not working on a project, or something doesn't come to me, I tend to struggle a lot and I tend to be looking for direction. So, I'm using my strengths of connecting people with the ‘Powered By Purpose’ series on our Instagram, which is all about highlighting our community through a lens of purpose and ethics in their careers. That's been my adaptation. It’s a lot of adapting and asking questions It's all a work in progress.
Discomfort and contradiction are key elements of your practice. How do you challenge each other when working together and what's the result of that?
Flo: Cognitive Dissonance, is the name CogDis in long form. Across all that we do as a company and in modelling, I have a huge discomfort sometimes in wanting to slow down and wanting to reduce consumption yet being the poster child for it at the same time, that is my CogDis. I think we challenge each other because we have different working styles and techniques. As a company that believes in degrowth, decolonization and ethical ways of working, we all have very different approaches. Those are all internal conversations that we're constantly having. We use spirituality, tarot and divination as an external neutral guidance on how we work with clients. Often Claire will do readings of the clients that we're working with, and will help us spot out strengths, weaknesses, you know, what we need to look out for, with this developing relationship. That's a great tool.
Faith: Discomfort and contradiction, these are central themes for sustainability in any sector, and in fashion, even more so. The hypocrisy of sustainable fashion as a phrase, and even the tension of buying sustainable fashion. Let's talk about it and acknowledge it, that's a big part of CogDis, I feel weird about buying fast fashion, but I've done it before. If we can own the hypocrisy of our lifestyle, then I think that we get a little bit closer to changing the system that exists.
What's next for CogDis?
Flo: We're in quite like a transformational time at the moment actually, which is really exciting and really challenging. There’s no definitive answer yet of what's to come but, I hope that we can show and lead by example, a business that cares about its employees’ well-being and the people it works with, as much as the quality of the work and the partners that they work with. And I think that that will be really coming through in the next few years. Right?
Faith: Yeah, just integrating more with people outside of our community. I think this is something that needs to happen in a sustainable fashion. Generally, we all have these little echo chambers, where we agree with each other; there's the industry over there there are non-profits over there, there's all the talent in that corner and over there are the old school consultants. I really feel like that's going to change.
So, more collaboration! Let’s all meet in the centre of the Venn diagram.
Flo: I think that is the next stage, it's a couple of couple of years away, but we need to be finding spaces where these C-Suite level members can be meeting with grassroots organisers and activists, and there be a certain level of empathy and compassion for one another, to be able to build bridges, because there's a lot of shouting and screaming. I get it, I totally get it, but there has to be this human level of integration where we start having those conversations more.