The Female Focus: Cookie & Alexa
Cookie and Alexa
Introducing two of our favourite kick-ass ladies and 'ones to watch' Cookie and Alexa. Designing at Mellor&Smith by day and hosting Take Fucking Risks events at night, we talked to the gals as part of The Female Focus series to get the low-down on role models, #metoo and their future plans to take over the world.
After a few years of full-time employment - has it been what you expected?
Cookie: Hell no! I studied Graphic Design at uni, but my career changed completely when I started at Mellor&Smith (for the better). I go to cool events, record podcasts with sex toy companies and design badass work for awesome companies. And I get paid to do all this. Mind. Blown.
Alexa: Really not. I definitely expected a more passive role, doing some drawing, making pretty pictures. It’s changed a lot over the years, and in the last year or so I’ve just become a lot more outspoken and outgoing, and have progressed into mentoring roles and a much more active role in the business. NEVER thought that would happen.
What/who were your biggest influences growing up?
Alexa: I lived a very sheltered countryside life so my influences were definitely family-based. My mum has the absolute skin of a rhino. She had cancer when I was a teenager and she showed me you can battle through anything as long as you’ve got your lipstick on.
Cookie: Vivienne Westwood, I’ve wanted to design jewellery for her since college. I remember always reading Jameela Jamil’s articles in Company magazine growing up. She’d tell me to be myself and not give a shit about the weight loss articles/boy troubles my teen self would stress about.
2018 has been the year of #metoo and #timesup - what is your take on these movements as young women in the ad industry?
Cookie: I’ve seen a positive shift in the industry since I started merely 18 months ago. People (it’s not just women) are speaking up and calling out the snakes, thanks to the likes of Cindy Gallop, Chidera Eggerue, Jameela Jamil etc.
Alexa: Yeah thankfully, I’ve yet to experience anything these ladies have had to go through, but it is shocking what has happened to them. I think that the noise they’re creating and the empowerment they’ve given each other is a force to be contended with. I hope it makes people sit up and fucking listen to them.
Who are your current female role models?
Alexa: There’s a lot. I don’t think there’s anyone I actually want to be, just I aspire to be like them in some aspects. I always wanted to be Jessica Walsh, because she’s such an amazing designer and achieved so much so young. I’ve just finished Helena Morrisey’s book, and that woman has done SO much in her life. She has genuinely had it all. And my OG Emma Watson, who started the HeforShe movement around the time I was just starting to form my views on feminism (also she’s Hermione who is the most badass role model ever).
Cookie: Still Viv. My love for her and her work will never die 😍. But my biggest female role models without a doubt, are my Mum and Granny, the strongest, most badass women I know. I also have to give a shout out to Charlie Brooker, not a female but equally awesome (although I’m still waiting for an email back regarding TFR, c’mon Charlie!?)
What's it like to work at Mellor&Smith? How do the founders empower you as employees to go and do great things?
Alexa: We work fucking hard, but we party fucking hard as well. It’s a nice little family we’ve built. A very sweary one, but one where everyone’s got each others' backs.
Cookie: Yeah it really is as fun as it looks! The guys always push and support us to do extra-curricular, whether that be creative, a side hustle or something a bit more off the wall like Bollywood dancing. Everyone in the team has a voice/say in everything that we do.
Alexa: It’s been something of a process over the years to build up the kind of environment where we all feel comfortable voicing opinions, and I think that’s what any small business would have to do. I’ve enjoyed watching the change as since I started being more open about my views on feminism, the guys have become more vocal about it too. I took Paul and Jim to a Creative Equals night and the change in their attitudes since then has been amazing.
What's your biggest learning so far since starting at the agency?
Cookie: I’m capable of more than I think I am. I’ve almost single handedly run one of the biggest event series in London - even though I convince myself that I don’t know what I’m doing!
Alexa: Patience. As someone with zero patience, I never thought I would find myself training interns, which generally involves telling them things over and over and over again. It’s a fun challenge. I remember when Cookie was an intern and she was the first one I properly took charge of. But she’s turned out alright I guess.
Take Fucking Risks is fucking awesome. Tell us more about it and your plans for the future.
Alexa: I’ll defer to Cookie on this one as she is the Queen of TFR.
Cookie: Take Fucking Risks is something that Mellor&Smith have been saying to clients since before I joined the company 18 months ago. We were also getting bored of the same old London events. So decided fuck it, let’s give it a go ourselves.
What started last year as 50 people at the top of a pub, is now a 400+ attendee event with badass speakers such as Cindy Gallop, Dave Trott, Vikki Ross and Mr Bingo. What to expect for the future? Think bigger. Better. More sequins. And more risks, of course.
You've recently started a book club. What are you currently reading and why?
Cookie: “Write Language” by Allan Pease and Paul Dunn, very helpful when trying to spice up emails.
Alexa: I finished A Good Time to be a Girl by Helena Morrissey last week and it’s really helped me form some ideas on how I’m going to live my life. I wrote a blog on it recently (just slipping that in there 😉). I just started A Big Life (in advertising) by Mary Wells Lawrence. She was one of the first women in advertising and she was a wise, wise lady.
Any advice for young gals who are graduating and looking to enter the design/advertising world?
Alexa: Be fucking different. I look at shit loads of intern applications and the ones that are funny or weird stand out and make me want to speak to them. Be weird.
Cookie: Yep, all I can say is be yourself. It’s cliché but there’s seriously only one of you, and only you can do what you do. Sprinkle that shit everywhere.
How do you get inspired? Any advice on favourite podcasts, instagram accounts or events you've recently been too?
Cookie: I get off of my arse and go for a walk. London is such a vibrant city and there’s inspiration everywhere if you just look for it. I also read, drink a lot of wine and check out my favourite design / fashion blogs. Jessica Walsh, Viv, Marina Esmeraldo, Dylanlex Jewellery, Sammi Maria etc.
Alexa: I second Cookie – actually seeing the world (often through rosé tinted glasses) is inspiring in itself. I’ve been to a couple of Ladies, Wine, Design nights which is always nice to meet fellow females and get trashed on lots of wine. My absolute fave podcast is My Dad Wrote a Porno – it’s hilarious.
What's next (apart from world domination, obviously)?
Cookie: Bigger events. Risky podcasts. And world domination. Obvs.
Alexa: Shouting more.
Quote you live/work by...
Cookie: My dad always says that life is about ‘stepping stones’. Wherever you are at the moment (good or bad), it’s just your platform to step onto the next big thing.
Alexa: Helena Morrissey said “To become equal, but to stay different”. Definitely words I’m living by.
Make sure you check out the next Take Fucking Risks event if you can (special call out to Charlie Brooker - c'mon now ya know you wanna get involved....) we can personally vouch that their events are fucking awesome.