Join us on our journey to unite Elmwood talent and those we admire in one-to-one chats spanning everything and anything creative in our series, Creative Conversations.
This interview below takes place between Elmwood NYC Senior Designer Dee Dalencour and Brooklyn-based Visual Artist/Photographer Miah McCarthy.
So Dee, why Miah?
I’ve been friends with Miah for many years and have always been inspired just by watching her life. She’s a chameleon who is daring and proud of where she comes from—which are traits that I admire in any creative. Even though our mediums are different, following her motivates me to push myself creatively with no fear.
Dee Dalencour: You are such a multi-faceted creative. As best you can, how would you describe the work you do personally and professionally?
Miah McCarthy: I would describe the work I do as storytelling and an expression of myself and where I come. I incorporate my ideas with societal culture, fashion, and my Indigenous culture making it relatable to today’s audiences.
As someone who has lived in many different places throughout your life, what locations inspire you the most/where do you go to replenish your creativity?
After relocating so many times in my life, I have become inspired by the different cultures and people that I have encountered. Cultural exposure has molded my perspective within my art and in life. The most inspirational location would have to be New York. Ever since living here as a kid it is something that has always stuck with me and brought me back after college. Maybe it was the experiences and the childhood memories I made. The hot summers playing outside, block parties, sitting along the pier in Brooklyn with family, sweating in the pizza shops with a cherry ice, freezing in the white winters, playing in the snow with my siblings. These are the things that brought me back, but most importantly I know I can be my true self here. The culture, the diversity, and the legacy my ancestors started (who came to New York before me) couldn’t keep me away. These are all things that inspire me here but also allow me to pave my own way.
Though the city is inspiring it is important to take a small break away from the business. Whenever I need to replenish my creativity, I tend to rest and travel somewhere peaceful. I love to recharge at the beach as well as spend time with family. Nothing beats the feel of coming back to the city encouraged and inspired to do great things.
I notice that you work a lot independently (styling and shooting yourself) but you also collaborate with friends and brands. What do you think are the positives and negatives of both?
A positive in working with others is the final product of a project. When talented artists come together and create an amazing concept, it’s so fascinating to hear their different ideas, ways of thinking and see their creativity in action. When working together we enter into a space where we can learn from each other and can bring something fresh to the table. Most importantly, they get to express through their lens and bring their ideas to life.
A negative in working with many people are the different ways of communication as well as the different ways that artists like to work. Sometimes our differences can cause tension as well as confusion for me. As an artist, I like to work on my own and regroup and communicate my progress. While some need consistent communication, personally I need space, trust and time. I also can be very attached to my ideas as well and it’s hard to let them go when working in a setting where everyone’s voice matters and the importance of equality is prioritized.
With that being said, there are times that I enjoy working by myself and dedicating myself to my own concepts and ideas. I have learned to put the ideas that never make it in a group project down on paper and find ways to improve them as well as bring it to life on my own. Sometimes specific concepts and ideas are only meant for me and not others. A downside of working on my own can be when I do need help or assistance and it’s not there. If only I had the budget to hire or bring on extra help.
There are many pros and cons to working in a group as well as individually, but I am grateful for each experience and learn so much from others.
From one POC woman to another, what frustrates you about the industry?
The most frustrating thing is the lack of diversity, inclusion and the tremendous amount of exploitation at the cost of artists—most importantly POC artists. Many brands and companies don’t want to pay or they take advantage of POC who are not well experienced in negotiating contracts or agreements. Instead of educating or showing POC their worth through an amazing experience, the industry chooses to take advantage of artists.
Being a woman in the industry is also frustrating when mediocrity is the standard and is what’s often accepted. Especially when it is a stolen idea that is usually first founded or created by a BIPOC or comes specifically from a culture/marginalized people group.
Favorite fashion era?
Piece you can’t live without?
My gold chains passed down from both my Grandmothers.
Dream creative to collaborate with dead or alive?
Michelle Elie (IG: michelle_elie)
Mets or Yankees?
Yankees all day!
Worst New York train?
Any number train RIP
Elmwood NYC thanks Miah McCarthy of her generosity and time spent in conversation with Dee.