An interview with Alexandre de Mun, on the importance of creativity. 

What does art and creativity mean to the head of the Fashion Society and the African Business and Culture Society? Alex is engaged with the fashion industry, the music industry and believes in communicating through art. He thinks creativity is a crucial part of successful businesses, and believes that art can be a powerful tool of raising awareness. He provides his opinion on how the pandemic has shaped art and artists.

Earlier in the fall semester, he created an art exhibition together with the African Business and Culture Society as an initiative during black history month. He reveals his favourite piece from the exhibition and talks about how art is an important form of expression surrounding us in our daily lives, and how one can raise awareness through art. 

“Art and creativity are important for us to differentiate ourselves, it is great to express ourselves, it is great to make yourself heard, it is great for communities to have a voice, it is great for societies to raise awareness,it is great for people to learn about problems around the world.”

Terese: Who are you on campus for those who don’t know you yet? 

Alexandre: I grew up in Africa, Southeast Asia and Europe, and it is my last year at Hult now. I am head of events for the African Business and Culture Society and head in the Fashion Society. I’m a part of the basketball team at Hult. For those who don’t know me, on campus you see me around with different hairstyles and I’m always rocking some crazy sneakers, that’s for sure. I’m not always on campus so maybe some of you know me more from doing events with the African Business and Culture Society.

T: What is your relationship with art & creativity?

A: My relationship with art and creativity is actually very recent. I used to play a lot of basketball, I have actually played my whole life, but when I moved to Belgium, the friends I made and the people I surrounded myself with were all  musicians and worked in the fashion industry. So, surrounding myself with this type of people, my environment was full of creativity and art. I was always around in studios, and a lot of my friends would create art. In fact, I started learning how to sew, in the creativity part of IB. I used to make a lot of different pieces, and my friends wanted costume pieces. Since I had a sewing machine, I would do that for them and do it for my creativity part of IB. That is how everything started for me, and today I try to live my life surrounded with art, in the sense that I always keep up with what is happening in the fashion and music world. I am always around my friends’ studios, even here in London. That is what I would say my relationship with art and creativity is .

In business, I always try to focus on making something different, especially in marketing, where it is important to be creative. Even in the business world I would say that I try to always find creative ways to make marketing campaigns. In a design class, we focused on making a business different from others, and I think a lot of creativity is needed for that.

T: What do you see as the power of art and creativity?

A: For me, art is the best way of expression. When you are an artist, let’s say a musician or a painter, you manage to send a message to a wider range of individuals, coming from different countries. That is what I think the power of art is. Art can help spread awareness as it is the biggest way of communication. I think there are many artists that just use art to express themselves, and to raise awareness. For example, the big musician Bob Marly, he really used his voice to raise awareness and to communicate. James Baldwin is a great writer and he communicated through his literature. Malcolm X is another example. All of these people used their type of art to express themselves, and that is why I think art is one of the best ways of spreading awareness.

Through the lockdowns during the pandemic, I have noticed change. A simple example is tiktok, where a lot of the youth started dancing and listening, I know that my sister started tiktok. Another example are my friends who are artists, and that during the lockdown, since work was no longer far away, they had more time to work on themselves. They worked on how to gain more creativity. 

T: To you, what is the importance of art and creativity?

A: I think that a relationship with art and creativity is very personal, as everyone looks, sees and feels art in a different way. For me personally, I would say that art and creativity really helped me in a couple ways. First of all, it helps me with my mental state, for example if I am going to play a basketball game, I will listen to a certain type of music to help my mood and to get myself into a certain environment. Then, if I want to work, I listen to another type of music and it really helps me with my mood. For me, art can also be a way to express myself. If I want to reach a bigger audience, if I want to talk to people, instead of writing a post I can make a fashion piece, and that can be a better way of expression and a better way of reaching an audience. I would also say that creativity and art are something where every artist wants to avoid making something that looks or sounds like another artist, so you really have to focus on being different. I would use art and creativity to be different. Because in the end, we are so many different individuals on this planet and we all want to look different and we all are different. In order to differentiate yourself, you need to be more creative than others and you need to try saying things, maybe even the same things, but in a different way, to make people feel it in a different way. 

Art and creativity is all around us in our daily lives, and we can use art and creativity to make innovative designs.

T: What are your favourite kinds of art?

A: I have two favourite kinds of art, one of them is fashion, because I love everything about that type of art. I think that clothing and shoes and all other items not only make you feel good when you wear them, but  you also feel as part of a community. There is a whole community and culture around fashion, and I think the people within this community are great individuals and great people to surround yourself with. It is very motivating, as I think people within this industry are very motivated people. People that really try to be different and who do not really care about what people think, but just expressing themselves and those are the kind of people that I want to surround myself with. 

I also love music, and I think everybody loves music, but I think that music is not only here to make us have fun, but to help us deal with breakups, to help us celebrate. Music is around us everyday. Certain artists also use music to express situations in their countries, such as violence, certain artists use music to talk about governmental problems. So you can also keep up to date with what is happening around the world by listening to certain musicians. A lot of musicians speak about their communities and what is happening in their environment.  So those are two worlds, but of course fashion and music go hand in hand, that is why I love the two. The people I surround myself with work in these two industries, in the end that can be the reason as to why they are my two favourite types of art and creative expression. I am sure I am not the only one, and that a lot of people can relate to loving music and fashion.

T: In what way do you enjoy being creative? 

A: I think everybody is different when it comes to creativity. Personally, I think creativity is important to help differentiate yourself in anything. It is important to have a company that is different, it is important to be creative even when you are doing your assignments so you write an essay that is different from others. When you present a project, it is important to be creative. I try to be creative in all aspects, I always try to think outside the box. I really love and enjoy brands created by people who are really creative with what they do, and I support that environment. I have really been into these kinds of brands recently, and I think that is another type of creativity; how to build brands using environmentally friendly products that look cool and feel cool. I also think that  I can use creativity in my day to day life, in order to organise myself better. I am a very visual person, so for my notes and calendar, the more visual it gets the better it works. That is why I try to be creative in the way I organize things and plan, as it helps me a lot making my day better and easier.

T: How do you think creativity and art have been influenced by the pandemic?

A: I definitely think the pandemic has influenced not only art, but everything around us these days. In the art world, I have spoken to a lot of artists and all of them have given me both positive and negative feedback. 

The positive thing for most of them, especially for my friends who are musicians, they were focusing on discovering different types of music. They were not only focusing on the singing and rapping part, but started focusing more on the production that comes with a song and the mastering. They developed themselves as artists. The painters I talked to also told me they tried to develop different types of techniques and used different colors. 

The negative thing with the pandemic is that it blocks your creativity in the sense that going out, being with friends and talking to people is a common way of gaining inspiration. Since we are all stuck indoors, for most of them it was harder to be creative. So, focusing on developing themselves and learning more about their art form was a way for them to develop their art. 

I also think the pandemic has influenced the way that people express themselves. A lot of fashion companies are using video games and online platforms to show their campaigns. They are developing online shopping, so a lot of things are moving to the tech world. Many people are more focused on environmental and eco friendly things because of the pandemic, so it is very interesting.

T: Do you think art can reflect the situations of society?

A: Of course, I think art can reflect the situations of society, like I said before, art is the best way of expression. A lot of artists use art to raise awareness of situations, for example Nina Simone or Malcom X, James Baldwin and even Tupac uses art to express themselves and raise awareness on issues that are happening in black communities. Even with athletes, I know some people who consider sports an art, and others who do not, I do consider it an art. A lot of people use their art to express themselves, to raise awareness, reaching bigger audiences, musicians reach audiences around the world. In Nigeria with SARS a lot of artists managed to raise awareness of the situation and to speak through their art about what is happening. They can communicate in a way that perhaps is more safe than journalism, and speaking straight to the point. For instance, with black lives matter, artists made songs and used their voice to raise awareness. Artists have used their voices on instagram and they have used their voices though their art pieces. In fact, for black history month here on the London campus, together with the African Business and Culture Society I invited artists, they were all black women and they used their art to raise awareness about the daily lives of black women in segregated countries around the world. One of them was from Zimbabwe and one of them was from Colombia and they spoke about black people and their communities back home as well as the dangers they face here in Europe and back home of being women and being black. I think art is definitely a great way to reflect on situations ongoing in your society. 

T: Do you have a favourite art piece, or artist- and why is it your favourite?

A: Like I said, I love basketball and I love fashion so my favourite artist would be Tinker Hatfield. He is a designer, and he designs a lot of shoes. He designs Jordans and he created the Nike AirMax as well as a lot of innovative technologies for Nike, with self lacing shoes, including fully environmental friendly shoes. He is really a great influence of mine, as he has worked with Jordan and he manages to express not only the athletic capabilities of Jordan through the  shoes but he also tells stories about Jordan through the shoes and implementing innovative tech. It is really inspiring what he does. I watched a documentary they made of him, and even his life and his story of being an athlete always trying to make athletes’ lives easier through his products is inspiring. He uses his creativity to innovate and tell stories that have a huge impact today creating a culture, like the sneaker culture. His shoe designs are always part of the most hyped up trends. 

T: What is your favourite piece of the art gallery you arranged with the African Business and Culture Society, and why? 

A: Out of the artwork that was exhibited on campus for black history month, this piece by Liliana was my favorite. 

She usually tries to raise awareness or picture issues through her art. In this case, she talks about stereotypes often given to black women. The word “excotic” is often given to brown and black skin women around the world. I personally hate that word. The piece pictures a beautiful black woman in what seems to be a wedding dress clearly crying. Perhaps because her husband doesn’t like her for who she is because she is “exotic”. I can just keep on going but the artwork has so many hidden messages to me.

I love this work because not only does it look great it also has a powerful message behind it. The artist is an amazing human and fights for black and women rights in the UK but especially in Columbia where she is from. To me it is a genuine art piece and a powerful message.

T: Thank you so much for your time, Alexandre!

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