Byron Bay born Joanna Ryan, 36, is the Director of The Out Crowd, a fashion and lifestyle brand consultancy and marketing agency that she cofounded with Christian Stokes (her fiancé). She tells Billabout about her bicoastal life repping Aussie brands and her LA tips.
How did you get here from Australia?
About three years ago, I was the global marketing manager for Insight and I worked on their campaigns. I travelled to America and Europe and I met Christian who was working for Insight here in the U.S….and now he’s my fiancé – so I moved over for love. I quit my job at Insight, packed my bags, and moved to Portland, Oregon, not knowing what I was going to do. I knew that I wanted to work with him because he had this great sales background, I had the marketing background and we wanted to pool all of our contacts together and create a different agency. It kind of evolved from there.
Where are you based?
In LA, we’ve got a showroom in Laurel Canyon. We converted a shed on the property into a showroom. There are eagles and deer that run around and the buyers and media seem to love coming there! We’ve also just opened an office in New York and brought Luke Cleary on board (Aussie) to run it.
Do you represent exclusively Australian brands?
It’s not exclusively Australian, but I personally think that they’re the best brands for us right now. Their price point is good and they’ve got such a point of difference in the U.S. market – the buyers absolutely love it.
What are some differences between the industry in the US and Australia?
It’s such a big business here and you have the opportunity to showcase your brands to retailers that can give you reach to millions people. Whether we’re working with a more boutique account in the East Village, or we’re dealing with a major like Urban Outfitters, it’s really exciting because only the best of the best survive.
What’s an average day like for you when you’re working in New York?
Appointments with media and buyers, so we’re meeting everyone from retailers like Pixie Market, Scoop, Urban or Barney’s and showcasing the brands. We’re also meeting with the likes of Nylon Magazine and making sure that the brands have exposure in editorial.
How do you rate Los Angeles compared to New York?
We just love that contrast between the cities. I grew up in Byron Bay so I’m always a sucker for a bit of sunshine and LA is a little closer to Sydney. But every time I’m in New York I’m always like, why the fuck aren’t we living here? But we need to be bicoastal.
What’s your background in Australia?
I did a business degree at RMIT (University in Melbourne) and majored in Communications. Then I went and worked at Spin, I worked for clients like Converse, Lee and Tropfest and then I moved to London and I worked for i-D Magazine, so I got into publishing and media. I worked for their magazine in London for three and a half years and then set up the Vice office in Sydney – that was two years, and then from there to Insight. I’ve jumped around a bit.
Tell us about your client Shakuhachi.
Jessie White, this really creative girl from Melbourne with no formal design training started selling t-shirts in a suitcase while she traveled around the world – she’s amazing. We have fun representing her; we have 35 accounts in the U.S. and it’s just gaining more and more momentum. She spends most of her time in Bali and has a factory there.
Has the E3 Visa made an impact on bringing brands to the US market?
Yeah, I feel like it’s a cultural shift in the US – there’s such warmth towards Australian talent.
Any advice for Australian brands looking to break into America?
You’ve got to work out your position in the market. You’re competing with so many brands that are probably going to be able to do things quicker, better and cheaper, and so you’ve got to have that point of difference – and just stick to it! You’ve got to be different, to stand out and be smart, and you have to have the business background. Fashion is tricky and you need some good people on your side.
Some LA tips for us?
Food and drink:
– Eveleigh is one of the ones that George and the boys from Ksubi owns
– The Dresden in Los Vilas. It’s a piano bar, Swingers style music and the cocktails are so good.
– Yamashiro Night Market on Thursdays – you can get tacos and bottles of wine while you look out over all of Hollywood.
– Pace in Loral Canyon which is a neighborhood restaurant and it’s just off the hook! Good wine, Italian, organic – it’s so good.
-American Rag, Robertson’s, the Rose Bowl Flea Market that happens every second Saturday.
Runyon Canyon if you want to hear people talking about scripts and themselves for an hour. Malibu is really good and Topanga Canyon is amazing – the canyons are where it’s at.
Interview by Pete Maiden