As part of an ongoing series highlighting young talent in the industry, Branding in Asia brings you “One Under 30” – a special feature that focuses on up-and-coming talent in the ad world, one person at a time.
This week we feature Aanchal Wadhwani, Founder of STAGE Creatives & Co-founder of STAGE Management.
When college internships didn’t pan out Aanchal decided she didn’t need help from anyone; she could make her own career. “I didn’t want to wait for the next summer to gain first-hand experience, so I decided to launch my own little handmade jewelry brand ‘Matryoshka’.”
Name: Aanchal Wadhwani
Agency: STAGE Creatives & STAGE Management
Position: Founder of STAGE Creatives & Co-founder of STAGE Management
Hometown: Hong Kong
Current Location: Hong Kong
Education: Middlesex University, BA in Fashion Design, Styling & Promotion, 2013
How did you get your first break in the industry?
I was 16 when I started studying my first degree in fashion design. I was one of the youngest in my class, only a first-year student but had a very entrepreneurial spirit. As much as I learnt in university, I felt a lot was lacking in order to successfully run a business, so I approached many fashion companies for an internship – but unfortunately, none replied.
I didn’t want to wait for the next summer to gain first-hand experience, so I decided to launch my own little handmade jewelry brand ‘Matryoshka’. Within a year, I had stocked my jewelry in two stores locally and learned so much about different target markets, what products worked and what didn’t, and clients’ feedback! It was my first business and I still hold those experiences very dear.
During my first degree, I was also experimenting with other areas of the fashion industry – like retouching, art direction, styling and even modeling. I decided to photograph my own jewelry catalog to present to clients and promote my business. That was my first photoshoot ever!
A while later, I was invited to be a stylist for a photoshoot in which the photographer last minute canceled. The team turned to me and asked me to photograph the shoot considering I had done it before and had experience as a retoucher. Those photos ended up being a favorite of the model’s agency and gave me more opportunities in photography! I fell in love with the boundless canvas that photography allows me and over time, changed professions.
What is your personal mantra?
Before my professional journey began, my fine art teacher told me once that in order to be a master of any craft, I had to learn the rules before I could break them.
Those words have stuck with me ever since.
From what person, place or thing have you drawn your greatest creative inspiration?
When I was getting into photography, my biggest inspiration was Tim Walker. I have always (and still am) in awe of the cinematic visuals he creates. It’s so surreal and dreamy, but so believable and relatable. He’s a genius!
What do you love about the job?
I love that everyday brings different challenges.
Running a creative production means I have to be in so many places at once! Some days I’m working on photography assignments with a big team, some days a small team for e-commerce shoots, some days I manage our events team, some days we have a video shoot, some days I’m at the studio working on images, some days I’m running around the city location scouting for a project. It’s hectic but it’s fun!
Being a co-founder of a talent management is more about bringing change within the industry. My partner and I launched the business in order to promote diversity and inclusivity locally. We were tired of seeing the same kind of look and culture represented throughout the media, and were inspired to bring about change where we can. My favorite part of the job is to scout a beautiful face and help him/her grow as a professional within the field! It’s extremely rewarding.
What about your job are you not so crazy about?
I end up with so much to do everyday, I rarely have time to get a breather. Although, it doesn’t bother me much because I’m a workaholic.
What is some work you’ve done that you’re most proud of?
My favorite commercial I worked on recently is a campaign for Kohl Kreatives UK. The company is a non-profit that supports people with disabilities, disfigurements and more through workshops on beauty and skincare. The workshops are funded through sales of makeup brushes. This particular collection has braille on each brush, so we incorporated that concept into the images!
My favorite fashion editorial is one that I shot in Mumbai, India. It was a collaboration of many talented individuals and we began work before the sun rose in order to capture special locations in the city that only open for an hour or two very early in the morning. It was an amazing experience and a beautiful memory!
Although I’m not a professional cinematographer, I have experimented with fashion films and my favorite work to date is my most recent beauty shoot with two of our models at STAGE Management!
Apart from being behind the camera, I have a career in front of the camera as well! I am an actress & model, and one of my favorite and most notable projects to date is for DBS Bank’s mini-series ‘Sparks’ in which I play one of the main characters, Riya Rai. Shooting the series, now in its second season, for the past 5 years has brought our team so close, we’re like family!
If you had to choose another career what would it be?
I love animals and if fashion & photography doesn’t work for me anymore, I may consider becoming a vet for exotic animals (although I must admit I am terrible at science). My sister and I have rescued many unconventional animals and have learnt to care for them over the years!