For our most recent edition of our D1A Speaker Series, we sat down with photographer, director and creative director Bobby Whigham. Follow along as we discuss Bobby’s career path and how he’s staying creative and inspired during these times.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background
Hi everyone, my name is Bobby Whigham, I’ve been working mainly in fashion, but a little bit in television for the last 15 years of my life. I had a very long career at Urban Outfitters, I started as a fitting room attendant, then became a manager, then went to the Home Office as a buyer. I was into a lot of brands that were starting to do stuff online, like lookbooks, so then I got involved with the website at Urban.
I’ve also done a lot of freelance work in conjunction with Urban. For instance, at a casting for Urban I met a producer for a Viacom TV who was piloting two shows, one ended up being on Teen Nick and the other aired on Netflix, but they wanted them both to feel like Urban, so I helped them with that. I actually ended up leaving Urban Outfitters for a couple of years to focus on these shows, but then came back after they were done filming and worked under the men's design department doing concept and trend. That means I worked on conceptualizing the look and feel, the vision and color palettes for the mens’ brands for each season. I ended up back in the creative department at Urban, shooting and art directing, and then leaving there as the Creative Director to go to the West Coast for Pacsun, where I was the Creative Director for a year. Finally, I brought myself back to the East Coast to work at Ralph Lauren.
Has there been a new hobby, skill or life advice that you picked up during quarantine?
Well I didn't know when I was going to go back to work or if I needed to look for a new job, so any kind of opportunity or thing I could do while I was kind of stuck in my apartment, I tried to take advantage of. Most importantly, I learned how to still remain creative and try to take on new mediums while I was bored in the house. For instance, I started water coloring and taping shapes with printouts that I was doing while I was working at home.
Do you feel like those kinds of side projects and personal work help keep you inspired in your day to day work too, or do you feel like it's just exhausting?
I think sometimes I bite off more than I can chew and I feel like I'm constantly looking at my to do list. Like, how am I going to get this done? And I always get it done. So I have to always remind myself that because I think I get very easily overwhelmed, I'm like, sh*t, why did I say I would do this? When am I going to do it? But it always ends up working. I think personally I do the side projects for myself, but I also feel like in a way they've helped my career. Whether it was to get other freelance projects or get even more of a spotlight in the company that I was working for, people can see what I can do and that I’m up to other things, especially now that you know, we follow each other and we watch each other all the time.
Tell us about the genesis of @shiasoutfits
So I’m not a big Shia LeBouf fan at all, but years ago I was texting with my main group of friends just back and forth and everyone was just making fun of me for wearing Crocs or like wearing technical clothing during the day. And I feel like I get that from my dad and my brothers, and people started texting in the group like “Oh, you really just dress like Shia” and I was like, man, he has such great effortless style, like he's never really trying. So I thought to myself, there has to be an Instagram that has all his outfits and there wasn't. And slowly, it was getting like 20-40 followers a day. And then in a week, GQ wrote about it. I’ve done interviews with Bustle and most recently with PAPER Magazine. I literally get 2-300 DM’s everyday. I think right now it has like 170,000 followers.
Who's the most famous person you have in your phone?
Jonah Hill, probably.
You are someone who tends to be super open-minded and collaborative, very generous with your time, knowledge and ideas. Can you talk to us more about that style of working together and why you think it’s important to the creative world?
Yeah. I think for me, I was put in management roles really early in my career. Something I always tell my team is that no one's ideas are better than mine. No one has a wrong idea, everyone in this room is equal, no one in this room is better than anyone else. I'm just here to make sure everything gets done. I think morale is like my number one goal with a team. So I’m just constantly trying to show the work, show the successes and then keep the team kind of on target and the morale up. I think at all times, sharing and crediting the people that are doing the great work is super important, being recognized for that is a great reward.
You’ve always made and kept great relationships throughout your career. Why are relationships like this so important to you as a creative?
I think as a director or a photographer, your main goal on set is to be a host, to make everyone feel welcome, to make everyone comfortable. It’s important that they feel like they know exactly what's going on for the day and that you help keep the spirits up, so I guess it goes back to that morale thing we just talked about. And I feel like in a sense, I've adopted that into personal life as well because it's the nature of the way that I work. And so I feel like I kind of like bring that both into the real world and into my career.