ARTIST.JEWELRY DESIGNER. DESIGN MANAGER, NEW YORK
Kelly Shami is #careergoals personified. The 25-year-old New York City based visual artist has taken the creative world by storm in a major way. You know all of the captivating visuals used on Beyoncé's merchandise, album and promo for her Formation tour? As the design manager at Parkwood Entertainment, Shami is responsible for the creation of those materials, in addition to a bevy of other things. Before working at Parkwood, she spent four years at NYLON Magazine, where she worked her way up to assistant art director. But wait, there’s more. Her line of jewelry pays homage to the gritty but captivating city of New York. And, Kelly’s design studio, Legs NY, boasts clients including MTV, Nike and Allure magazine. It’s quite clear why I had to get career advice and the lowdown on how Kelly has grown to be a rousing success.
Krav: Take me through a typical work week.
Kelly: I'm not a 9-5 on-the-clock type. My mother likes to say I am a doctor which sounds dramatic, but in the end she is right. I am always on call for whatever is needed at my position at Parkwood Entertainment. I work mainly 5 days in office and the rest of the time glued to my two phones and laptop. When I have my own time I do freelance, sketch, and I’m in the process of creating new items for my jewelry line.
You've interned for companies like Teen Vogue and NYLON, what was your learning experience like?
The editorial world is a whole different ballgame. It is fast paced and competitive. I developed the mindset that I always have to be on top while working in the fashion industry because someone is always going to be working harder than you. I was in it more so for the creative aspect and less for the fashion, which kind of let me see it on the other side of things.
What schooling, internships, classes and daily practices do you recommend for anyone looking to grow as an artist and follow a path like yours?
I say this to everyone—internships are great, go in there and get the job done. Put in the time and work, but never devalue yourself. Once you feel like a job or internship has no more room for you to grow, move on to the next. Sometimes I feel like people are scared to take chances when there is always going to be a new door to open with a whole set of new experiences.
What was it like transitioning from working at a magazine like NYLON to now working with Parkwood Entertainment?
I have been working for Parkwood for years now on a freelance basis, which made my transition a little easier. I will always have respect for my past jobs in the fashion industry and I am so thankful for my experiences. I have tons of respect for the music business now, in a way I feel like music drives fashion. The two worlds push and tug at each other. Parkwood is a small company staff-wise but a huge company in terms of its effect on society. Everyone I work with is extremely talented and hardworking. I'm happy to be a part of the family.
Where did you draw inspiration from when designing Beyonce's tour merchandise?
There is only one answer to this, the boss herself. She inspires us all in everything that we do.
You also freelance. Which is something a lot of college students are interested in. What's the blueprint to being a successful freelancer?
Freelancing in its own can be an entire career. To be a successful freelancer you have to be honest and upfront as well as having a business mind. I find that also being a good person and treating every job with respect only helps your network grow immensely.
Your father owned a jewelry shop, so jewelry design is something that has come naturally to you, right?
It's customary in my family and my culture to give jewelry as gifts. Even when you are younger and expecting a toy, my relatives instead for example would give me a small gold bracelet instead. In that sense jewelry to me is a forever keepsake. It is a piece of your own history that you can have forever or pass down to someone else. When I was younger I would work a lot with my father at his shop. I learned so much first hand on dealing with customers the right way and the value of merchandise.
Your jewelry is very clearly inspired by NYC. Why did choose to reflect 'home' in your designs opposed to anything else?
Although I have only touched the bare minimum of my accessory designing career, New York will always be first. When you grow up staring at the skyline there is such a respect and attraction involved. If I didn't live here I probably wouldn't be where I am mentally. It is very real, aggressive, and at the same time uplifting to me. I like the pressure and I like the grit.
Social media is becoming more important in careers. How has social media helped advance your career? And what are your tips for students get the most out of social networks?
I like the idea of some social media platforms. I use the ones I like mainly for people to understand who I am, who my brand is, and as an artist to show the world how I see it. I love to connect with people who inspire me as well as people who are inspired by my work. As always if you have nothing nice to say, don't say it at all. Of course I can handle the negative stuff, but in my opinion some of these social media platforms are so visual and revealing that it would be amazing to just fill the world with beauty through words and images. Also as a woman I hate to see problems and conflicts over something stupid like the internet between women. Power to all the women keeping it classy and showing the world what they are about.
What is the most challenging part of your career?
If my career wasn't in its entirety "challenging" then I wouldn't be doing it. I love that every aspect of it is challenging. From time management to pushing creative boundaries there is a lot of moving parts.
What is the most rewarding?
What is extremely rewarding is to see your art in the world. It lives on and travels to places beyond my reach. Also finally working for someone like Beyonce who is empowering is the ultimate reward. All that she stands for and all that she has accomplished is a symbol for me every day to push myself harder. It's great to work somewhere you truly believe in 100%.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Andre Gray