Leanne Elliott Young is a force. We first met through mutual British Fashion Council pal Charlotte, Whitehead carousing on the London Fashion Week circuit one season. Unlike in Paris and New York, London fashion folk are less precious about the little things, like over-indulgence and responsibility, and despite the 9am show the following morning, the evening culminated as the sun came up, in a manic house party in East London with a who’s who of on-schedule designers, PRs, editors, movers, and commensurately, shakers. But it is often these nights that lead to the greatest meetings of minds, and I might even go so far as to say, it’s why London is always the most cool and creative of the major fashion weeks – yes, I said it.
Leanne, Charlotte, and I spent the night hatching plans and solving the fashion world’s ills. We put paid to pollution and slave labor. We advocated for sustainability and accountability. And we did this all after dinner ‘til just before breakfast. Since then, Charlotte has moved to Germany to raise her beautiful daughter, and I’ve moved to Dubai for Sorbet. Meanwhile, Leanne has forged a business that continues to drive all these sorts of conversations. And it is conversations about these issues we face that will force the kind of change we all talked about that night.
“For institutions looking to elevate the democratic reach of their brand and create a succinct digital narrative, CommuneEAST bridges the gap between on- and offline”, says Leanne. “We offer solutions and activations in the worlds of AR [augmented reality] and VR [virtual reality]. We create space for questioning, collaboration, exchange, and fusion. We draft strategic glo-cal IRL and URL partnerships, incubating relationships, conversations, and talent, with a view to creating a holistic utopian sensory output.” And that’s what’s up.
Q: Hi Leanne; how does it feel to be inhabiting the print and digital space simultaneously for Sorbet magazine?
A: This feels like an obvious position; we are at home between IRL and URL, considering the physical and the digital. We incubate these landscapes in unison – it’s our comfort zone.
Q: In globalised internet culture, perhaps this is the future of interviews?
A: : In a time when there is a warning “LONG READ” on content over four mins (YAWN), immediacy and instancy are second nature to our current communication streams. I’m aware you can see my pauses like you are watching me take a deep breath. It’s bizarrely nerve-racking . I need tea.
Q: What flavour?
A: Guess! So anyways I was thinking about the possibility of this stream being a bore? Will they tune out passed the first sentence? Or get locked in because it feels more human and less of an edited forum? Short-form? Perhaps we need to throw in a headline so at least if they leave they can talk about it over supper with their woke friends? I love the idea that thousands of people only read headlines, then layer and weave those narratives into their agenda and realities. It’s like Chinese whispers and exquisite corpses all in one...
Q: Will there be QR codes? I hope so. We are right now only restricted by what we talk about – not even the pages themselves.
A: Hmmm, will the QR codes not lead to a distraction; take them away from the physical? Does that matter? Is printed matter purely ornamental now? Are we holding, yearning for a faded nostalgia; is it just the touch of the page lending a historical charm? I always thought of printed form as fact and knowledge transfer; will handwritten form and IRL be the only way to communicate with truth in the future? In a time of fake news and technology, with face-mapping and AI, will the future of news and communication about-turn and morph into a close-quarters one-to-one space? Will the world get smaller again? Will this glocal chain of open free- thinking and communication just become a giant bowl of catfishing?
Q: You actually talk about something called a ‘glocal’ community that lies at the centre of CommuneEAST. What does this mean for an agency, and why is it so important to the fabric of CommuneEAST?
A: We aim to diversify and break the echo chamber for progression and innovation – that’s a must for us. This means looking beyond our eye- line; via cultural osmosis we all inherently think peer-to-peer. We naturally aim to look beyond and beneath the common places, and high-brow to investigate further – that means a global positioning and reach – but also thinking local and community first, specifically spending time listening, and championing the cultural lenses that fire those ripples. We have trusted minds and makers that disrupt the now and bring invaluable insight; working with us means you become a part of this and have access to this wider framework with the ability and opportunity for partnerships. We are building more into this right now, so get in touch!
Q: How big is the CommuneEAST community? What kind of people do you have on your roster?
A: Think outside of agency; think of a studio that’s a space for questioning and debate, for rethinking, where problems are encouraged to show themselves. We relish this space. It’s not about a ‘talent roster’, it’s about our community. The way it has evolved and grown is organic and rich – through art, science and philosophy, we partner and support as well as curate. Within the strategic arm we pull these talents together for roundtables, assemblies, and forums, using a S.T.E.A.M. [science, technology, engineering, art, mathematics] narrative we engage and dissect with a wider, broader understanding of any positioning.
Q: This actually leads me on nicely to my next question: a core part of the solutions and forums you create with CommuneEAST are positioned around bridging something you call ‘IRL and URL’ landscapes. What does this mean?
A: We always observe and build these narratives into our work. Whenever IRL and URL are discussed,one of the two is almost always ignored and, more importantly, they are never viewed as a whole. We push this consideration and perspective. We are now in a dual existence of IRL and URL as one, due to the technological revolution we are sitting within. This boasts a chorus of conundrums but also excites me massively. It’s a chance to build new pathways towards our possible futures, considering some of the biggest sociopolitical issues of the day. Our main direction the moment is building VR and AR into tangible, collaborative, social environments and to push the bespoke, having sustainability as our anchor. This is all coming soon.
Q: CommuneEAST is “a visions and ideas institute, curating the Utopian taste of the future” – go on tell them about that.
A: his is obviously quite a provocative statement, as ‘Utopia’ is always subjective and essentially unattainable, but that is the starting point of our conversations, public and client-facing PR.
Q: What’s your Utopia?
A: With any project we undertake, we head towards it, dissecting the route and the possible dystopic elements within the journey. We talk about how things ‘taste’ a lot, as we don’t just concentrate on surface aesthetics, we focus on ingestion and processing. To summarise, we work as a modular studio with partners and key talent within a glo- cal roster, pushing cultural collaboration and pollinating new modes of thinking. Each project starts from an S.T.E.A.M. narrative with a view to looking objectively at the problem and to bring fresh insight and disruptive patterns to splicing the problem.
Q: Who’s on your dream client list?
A: We are lucky enough to work with some of the most innovative clients right now, but our dream list would include Venice Biennale, Versace, Google, Depop, Alzheimer’s UK. More hotels too, please. We want to build a residency program that has a conscious heart. We’re lucky that some of the above are also manifesting themselves with CommuneEAST – watch this space.
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