No matter what mark you’re looking to leave on the world as a young visionary, there’s one thing that is far more important than the end goal you’ve already set your mind on, and that is the creative journey itself. What does it mean for someone to have limitless self-expression? On a quest to both define and shape the very purpose of new generation artists and, in turn, inspire others to do the same, Calvin Klein asked its community the same question. It’s safe to say that the three visionaries the iconic label spoke to understood the assignment.
Enter creative director, stylist and writer TJ Sawyerr, artist and model Minmie S and professional dancer and choreographer Mukeni Nel, three London-based creatives here to bring us the inspiration and insights we all deserve.
“My creative skill allows me to accomplish so much. It teaches me about grace, power, strength, patience, discipline—how to be a human being and how to go through life.” – Mukeni Nel
It’s almost impossible to put a magnifying glass on London’s creative scene and somehow miss TJ Sawyerr and the endless list of accomplishments attached to his name. Throughout his career, the artist has successfully managed to showcase and shed light on the issues that are close to his heart. From challenging attitudes towards a misunderstood youth and using his influential position within the fashion industry to fight societal attitudes—such as racial prejudice and the UK’s flawed rehabilitation system—one thing is clear: Sawyerr knows exactly how to use his self-expression as a weapon in the fight against discrimination.
“The great thing about working across disciplines and mediums is that there is really no limit to how I can express my creativity, whether it’s conceptualising a shoot or directing a video or even sitting down and writing a poem,” Sawyerr shared with SCREENSHOT. Having explored a number of artistic ways to convey his messages, the Londoner is now faced with endless possibilities every time he decides to communicate bold ideas. “It’s super exciting being multifaceted in that sense and having numerous different streams of inspiration and motivation creatively,” he continued. But even before gaining such a wide array of skills, Sawyerr already knew how to captivate his audience.
Aged only 17, the creative ran his first workshop in partnership with The Basement and Key4Life—allowing him to experience the entire process of producing a community project. Bringing together a group of 15 ex-offenders, aged between 18 and 30, Sawyerr’s goal was to provide them with concrete pathways into creative industries. “Being someone that is so proud of my roots and of my heritage, and being a young black man growing up in South London, my connection to my community naturally runs quite deep. I’ve always felt a strong inclination and almost a duty to remain in touch with and open doors for the youth in my area and beyond,” he said. A large part of Sawyerr’s work has come to revolve around running creative workshops with ex-offenders and teen gang members in the city—while attempting to provide these young individuals with not just the skills, but the confidence to enter a creative field that may have seemed hostile and inaccessible to them until now.
“Working in a creative field, creativity becomes so integral to your existence. For me, it has come to represent a large part of my identity—it’s my means of expression, it’s the way that I choose to channel my political views and something that I truly can’t live without.”
As a form of self-expression, fashion can make us feel empowered and more in touch with our inner self. And the clothes we decide to wear everyday reflect the wide array of people we choose to emulate. In fact, it goes further than just people—we create outfits to match our feelings, moods and ambitions. It is with this outlook on self-expression that model and artist Minmie S has pushed herself to explore as many skills as she could get her hands on.
“Creativity means having the freedom to express whatever you want to, however you want to without caring about what anyone else thinks. I express my own creativity through the clothes that I wear, makeup and different artistic mediums, whether it’s photography, drawing, painting, poetry,” Minmie told us. For the visionary, in order to truly know yourself, it’s necessary that you also keep an open mind to potential skills that might cross your path at some point—turning life into an endless source of exciting teachings.
“When it comes to unmastered skills that I’d like to use to express myself—if I have to learn it, I will.”
Although Minmie, just like Sawyerr and Nel, promotes taking a multidisciplinary approach to creativity, she also shared that playing favourites is bound to happen and completely okay. “I particularly like to use analogue cameras. I’ve been shooting films since I was 13 or 14 and I’m almost 22 now, so it’s been a really long time. To me, it’s a really personal thing because, as much as you can show others through a picture, you’re still the one picking and choosing what you decide to share with them. It allows me to capture moments through my own perspective, which someone else might not have on things.”
Adding to that, Minmie also reflected on how much thought is being put into analogue photography. “With phones, you can take so many photos but on film, because it’s so expensive and you only have a few shots on a roll, it makes you view the world in a different perspective. You’re always looking for something to take photos of and so it forces you to live in the present.”
Minmie’s latest go-to medium of expression? Both crochet and knitting, because why not?
Since the age of six, Mukeni Nel has dedicated his life to dancing—that’s 17 years, and counting. While in his last year at The Urdang Acacdemy, the artist secured a job in the international tour of Cats, a sung-through musical, playing the character of Bill Bailey as well as understudying Mr Mistoffelees. Speaking about his passion for the creative process, Nel told us, “I always say dance is my first language because it’s so universal and it’s just how I express my feelings.”
First encouraged by his mum, the now-professional dancer has always had a knack and love for music and “messing around.” From there, he took it upon himself to master the art form and take advantage of the freedom it brings him. Throughout history, art has been used as a way for people to convey emotions and communicate thoughts. In fact, the expression of an artist’s inner feelings is one of the core aspects of both visual and performing art.
“Dance is just forever changing. There are so many new choreographers, movement directors, and so many different styles are being merged together—I’m so excited to see where it’s going now.”
Speaking about the joyful and transcendental impact dance has had on his life and how he connects with his community, Mukeni said, “Through working on different projects, attending classes and sharing the love of dance and movement, I can connect with others.” Whether carefree or going through more complex emotions, the dancer highlighted that his skill is often the best medium for him to use in order to let go of the past and focus on the present moment.
Sawyerr, Minmie and Mukeni all believe in a culture that provokes discovery and brave thinking. It’s by keeping this mission in mind that the next generation of artists makes its mark on the world. Doing so inspires passion within your own community—spearheading a creative movement that is fueled by authenticity, collaboration and integrity. It’s time to make way for the unmatched generation, because it’s fast approaching.
Explore Calvin Klein’s collection here.