There are very few areas of the fashion value chain that London-born, Sharmaine Aderemi hasn’t added her special sauce to. From product management and licensing, becoming a talent manager and pushing digital strategy, she’s really become an indelible part of the scene.
If you are as fashion obsessed as we are you’re probably familiar with the career of a celebrity, model or influencer that mastermind talent manager Sharmaine Aderemi, has fostered. Sharmaine is killing it 24/7, whether she’s getting her clients insanely profitable deals, pulling off amazing events, or elevating the personal brands of her clients to the next level. We managed to catch some time with the multi-talented Aderemi between one of her many meetings (on different coasts no less!).
Trust us. you’ll want to take notes on this one.
BNS: Tell me a bit about your journey. Where did you grow up and where did you go to school?
I was born and raised in London. When I was a teenager I went to a boarding school in Benin, Nigeria. It was a turning point in my life; I changed beyond recognition and for better. It really made me who I am today.
BNS: How did you get into brand & talent management?
My background is product development & Branding. It involves working with brands and retailers. When I was at Swarovski; a friend of mine became the director at an agency called ITB Worldwide, he was brought in to do licensing and branding for talents and they needed someone with a product development experience. He called me and invited me to work alongside him and that was how my career crossed over to talent. It was not that different to what I had been doing previously, but now I was working directly with talent which I found easier as you get to sit face to face with them to understand what their vision is, likes, dislikes etc and doing all you can to achieve it.
BNS: What does a typical weekday look like for you
A typical day for me consists of 100000 meetings in different locations! I can start off in Paris, be back to London at lunchtime and finish the day in Manchester… My days are never the same – no two days are the same. The reason I love what I do is because I don’t have a typical day, to be honest, one day I could be on set shooting a campaign with talent, the next day I could be running around central London having back to back meetings, the next day I could be flying to LA to work on projects with my talent and brands and the following week I could be in the office having meeting and numerous conference calls. My schedule isn’t for the faint-hearted, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love the buzz!
BNS: What is the most important moves you’ve made in your career so far?
Moving to Storm Model Management. The move changed my career and enabled me to realise my potential. At Storm I have been able to spread my wings; bring new ideas and suggestions. As a forward thinker, I have to get the team to grasp my plans and vision for our talent and models, that I am working with and put it all into practice.
BNS: What are the best and worst parts of your job?
The best part of my job is working with brands and on projects that my talent are passionate about, and seeing the results later on down the line. Whether it is a campaign, collaboration, ambassador of a brand, it always makes me smile when I see a project come to life.
Worst part is… missing out on family time & spending time with friends due to my work commitments and travelling. I have a great support system around me so they understand but it still gets me down a little when I have to miss an important family event.
The best part of my job is working with brands and on projects that my talent are passionate about, and seeing the results later on down the line.
BNS: Were there mistakes you had to learn the hard way?
For sure! But the mistakes I made have moulded me into who I am today. I have worked within the fashion industry for over 15 years, so within that space of time I have learnt a lot, the hard way at times. I remember when I was in my 20s I use to take everything to heart. I would get angry when things didn’t go well, I would have sleepless nights whenever I knew I had a meeting the next day as I was scared of making mistakes, saying the wrong thing etc. But I realised being scared was holding me back from a lot of things in my career. I am grateful for the mistakes and the people that took time out not only to correct me but to explain why and where I went wrong and also show ways of improvement.
BNS:What advice would you give to people looking to get into talent management?
Go for it….But don’t be side-tracked by working with talent or signing talent based on your personal preference. You need to think about their followers, their consumers, what brands would suit their style and understand their vision. Do not do business with Talent based on numbers and how much cash is being offered, because sometimes one bad deal could stick with your talent forever and hinder you from working with other brands that might be offering you less money but they will give you more exposure. Give your talent more creative input which in time will lead to you building long lasting relationships.
BNS: How different is your current role from your roles at Swarovski and Calvin Klein?
Those two roles were more product-related and dealing with brands and retailers. As they were established brands I was restricted in what I could do, what I could change etc. I worked according to season, colour pallets and retailers preference. Whereas now I have full control over everything I work on and who I work with which is fun.
BNS:Do you have any client disaster stories?
Not disasters, more funny situations that I laughed about then and I can still laugh about it now. I was once at a talk with one of my talent, who is also an international model, she was doing a talk and presenting an award on behalf of an international online retailer. She had her hair and makeup done at the venue and a PR company were due to deliver her outfit to the venue. Ten minutes before she was due to go on stage the only items that arrived were tops and blouses. No skirts, no trousers and no dresses. My talent didn’t have anything apart from the casual floral lounge wear trousers she arrived in. I was however wearing grey skinny jeans with a ripped design on the knee, she looked at me and said “Sharmaine what size are you?’ A minute later, we were exchanging trousers…bear in mind this is a model I’m talking about, I mean she is tall, very tall and I’m like 5’5 in height so where the jeans has a torn design on the knee area for me, for my talent/model the torn design was up near her thigh! I stood in the audience with a bright coloured pair of baggy floral lounge trousers, which made me stand out in a room of people dressed up in black dresses and glitzy outfits! We laughed about it then and we still laugh about it now! That is how you turn a disaster into a positive moment.
BNS: What do you think about the rise of bloggers and influencers? Are they a key part of your talent mix now?
We (Storm) created a board called Storm Vision over five years ago and this board solely consists of Digital influencers, bloggers & YouTubers. It’s amazing to see the mix of brands we work with on projects for our influencers. They are a key part of many industries, food, travel, fashion, beauty etc. Gone are the days when brands spend a high amount of their marketing budget on billboard campaigns and glossy TV adverts; when they can work with influencers who have a large following and who relates to their brand ethos.
BNS: How has technology influenced your work?
It’s given me more of a variety in terms of projects I can work on with my talent.
BNS: What are you looking for when you decide to work with a particular client or brand?
I look for a difference – talent wise – someone that’s either commercial or has a different style and vision that brands haven’t yet tapped into. Brand-wise – a brand that is willing to listen to my talents ideas and not a brand that solely wants to follow trends and offer what is already out there. It’s not just about placing a talent’s name and face on a product, the talent has to have 100% input for a project to really work.
BNS: What are some recommendations you’d give to an African brand trying to break into the UK or the US?
Don’t price yourself out of the market, do your research on the regions you are moving your brand into; know what type of consumer you want to sell to. Most importantly, cover the legal side of things first. When I say legal; I am referring to trademarking your logo, prints, brand name etc. I have seen so many great African designs prints being replicated by big international brands and that is because they know they can, they know there will be no repercussion and mostly because they have a bigger reach and can produce on a mass scale.
BNS: What advice would you give a young designer starting out today?
Do not be afraid to think outside of the box. Do not question your ideas of creativity if it does not fit within the current trends. I know someone who designed their entire range in neutral colours and their styles were basic. They took their designs to the retailer they were working with at the time and they showed the buyer their basic range of t-shirts, cycling shorts, leggings, sweat pants etc. Only to be told their designs were too basic and their grey and beige colour pallet was too dull. Then three years down the line Kanye West launched his collection and what did it consist of……beige, grey & cream tonal colours, t-shirts and cycling shorts. The exact colour pallet and designs shown to the retailers three years before hand and they turned the collection down because they thought it wouldn’t work. Imagine how well that range would have done if that buyer/retailer gave the brands owners ideas a chance!
BNS: What talent or passion have you been able to use in your career in an unexpected or unorthodox way?
My sense of humour and speaking my mind…. my friends, colleagues and family know me very well for speaking my mind, sometimes my delivery is wrong I will admit (my father tells me this all the time) but now that I’m older I’ve realised people, especially talent and brands appreciate my outspoken side, because it makes life easier for us both and also I have built really good working relationships based on the way I communicate. My sense of humour again can be a bit tongue in cheek! Ha! But it’s what keeps me sane through bad times, when projects go wrong and most importantly when I’m in meetings with CEOs, international brands, onset with well-known photographers, casting directors, my sense of humour helps me break the ice and has also been my secret weapon for signing some of my biggest deals.
What makes you happy? – My family and food.
Favourite workwear brand? – I like to wear a mix of high-end brands with high street brands to work, and other stories do great pieces for work mixed with some pieces from Kooples, YSL & Gucci. A designer bag and pair of shoes can spice up any outfit!
Weekday Uniform – Everything and anything, one day I could wear a pair of jeans, with a t-shirt and blazer another day I could wear and skirt, hoodie and heels. In the industry I work in I am lucky that every item of clothing and every type of outfit is appreciated, apart from ballet pumps and wedges! Those are a fashion No Nos for me!
Weekend Uniform – No different from my weekday uniform unless I’m running errands, then it’s a comfy pair of William sharp cashmere trousers with trainers or sliders. I live in t-shirts, come rain, snow or sunshine a t-shirts goes with all types of clothing.
Guilty pleasure – Kettle Crisps ….I also LOVE canapés (Naija small chops) I just can’t resist!
Favourite curse word? – Jesus is Lord! (Which on a good day is a replacement for “fu*k sake”) LOL!
Happy place – Home – with my family and church, I always feel like I can conquer the world after a good Sunday church service.
Heels or flats? – Heels, I hate flats because I’m short, I need the extra inches! Haha!
The one thing you can’t leave home without? – Lipstick and a small comb for my fringe
Afro beats or 90’s R&B – Depends on my mood, Afro beats all day every day, 90’s R&B when I need to chill out
Prized possession? – My jewellery & shoe collection
First thing you do when you wake up?
Thank God for waking me up to see another day as no day is promised. I try not to go on my phone until I leave the house but it’s hard not to check my emails and the news headlines before I get out of bed, bad habit I guess & something I’m trying to do less this year.
Last thing you do before going to bed? – I’m a very very neat & tidy person so I tidy my house before I go to bed every night, Then I thank God for the day I just had and pray for God to take control of the day ahead.