Meet Power Girl Yasmin Suteja: One Of Australia's Most Promising Creatives And Style Influencers
In a society that’s so focused on online presences, it sometimes feels as if everyone with a phone is trying to become the next digital influencer. The problem with the whole world striving for fame? The market has become extremely saturated, and “likes” rather than creativity oftentimes run the scene. However, inside an industry that seems to focus on conformity (and selfies), Yasmin Suteja is daring to venture outside of established parameters to create bold, fresh digital content.
At only 25-years-old, Suteja has become the name behind one of the fastest growing creative service agencies— Culture Machine. The Sydney-based talent has already shot a bevy of campaigns for major fashion labels and is one of Australia’s most promising creatives. We chatted with Suteja to learn more about her greatest career achievements, must-have fashion items and the new project she’s co-directing for ABC.
Your Instagram is definitely an account on our radar for some major fash inspo, but many of your followers may not know you’re a serious multihyphenate… Tell us about what all you do.
What an introduction! Haha
Well, I run my own business Culture Machine Creative Agency. I’m also a photographer and a talent agent.
So, under the umbrella of Culture Machine – I do creative direction, photography, film, production, styling, talent management and PR!
Before we fully dive into your extensive resume, let’s rewind a little bit. You lived in Bali for the first part of your life and then for a few years in your very early 20s, right? How do you think the time you spent there affects your style and creativity today?
Correct! I was born in Sydney, but mum quickly got me back to Bali, where I was raised from zero to eight years old.
My family then moved to Sydney when I was eight years old, where I completed primary school, high school and university. I did a BA in communication (media arts and production) at UTS. After I graduated uni, I moved back to Bali and spent two years developing Culture Machine. Finally, I returned to Sydney in January 2016! (Playing a bit of ping pong there!)
I think my childhood in Bali absolutely had an impact on who I am today and the creative, self-driven career I’ve chosen to pursue. I was enrolled in all sorts of creative activities from a young age— from violin and singing lessons to art classes and ballet. My brother and I were always performing a play for mum and dad, painting in the backyard or singing along to a CD with our ‘teddy bear’ band. So, I think we both developed a passion for the arts at a young age! In addition, I was always directing things – from the Christmas family pageant to a VHS home movie on our first trip to Movie World on the GC.
Tell us about your agency, Culture Machine. How did it come about, and what is it today?
The name Culture Machine came to me while I was at uni. I read it somewhere in an academic journal, while I was doing research for an assignment. I kept the name on my computer desktop as an empty folder, knowing I would come back to it. Fast forward two years later— I was at Coachella on my first trip to the States, where I was documenting photos and video for a fashion label. I was in the hotel room in Vegas while everyone was out gambling (haha), and I sat down and decided to make a tumblr called ‘Culture Machine’ to publish the work I’d been doing.
Later, I moved to Bali and started getting photography jobs. I built up a little team and started offering a full package with creative direction, styling, hair and makeup and later on: models.
I started managing models when I saw a gap in the market over in Bali for fresh faces. This was also around the time when Instagram was starting to become ‘a thing.’ So, I’d have Instagram girls contacting me before coming over to Bali to ask me to represent them while they were in town.
I did that for two years and then got a little bored of the work I was doing over there. So, I decided to make the move back to Sydney. I always wanted to get back into film and TV (which is what I studied), and I knew Sydney was where I needed to re-establish myself and start building a bigger network.
"I’m always looking for inspiration outside of Instagram and social media. Because I think that’s where most of us get stuck— regurgitating imagery we’ve already seen."
How do you manage to create fresh content in an environment that’s so saturated?
This is the biggest challenge— and I think it’s what keeps me on my toes! I’m always looking for inspiration outside of Instagram and social media. Because I think that’s where most of us get stuck— regurgitating imagery we’ve already seen. It’s also difficult when companies are generally very ‘safe’ and reluctant to venture outside of established parameters.
But in saying that— it’s a great challenge, and it means that I have to go the extra mile to ‘sell’ a concept, put more time into a visual treatment or think about rollout strategy.
I’m also fortunate to be surrounded by close friends, who are all unique and real innovators in their own right. I draw a lot of inspiration from them.
The Culture Machine team seems like a pretty rad bunch. What’s it like to work with that group on a day-to-day basis?
It’s a lot of fun! Like I said, we’re all unique in our own way— we have our own style, our own taste in music and our own idiosyncrasies. So, when we all come together, it’s like an explosion of creativity and enthusiasm! It’s also cool because we each have different strengths. I never feel ‘stuck’ or lacking inspiration when I’m on set with these guys because there’s always someone bringing something to the table.
"I think I’m most proud of what Culture Machine has come to represent— which is youth."
You’ve created some pretty amazing content since you got started! What are you most proud of?
Thanks! I think I’m most proud of what we’ve come to represent— which is youth. We get really wonderful emails from young people asking to intern or offering their appreciation for our work and the fact that we’re a young agency doing things differently.
Anything you regret?
I regret not starting even earlier! I was on the internet from age 10. I was playing neopets, coding my myspace site and trawling through tumblr. Had I known what the internet and social media would turn into, I probably would have started a personal / style blog way back then!
What label/designer are you obsessed with atm?
I’m really not a brands person. I mostly shop second hand. But I’ve recently become obsessed with jewellery (since finally getting my ears pierced). My favourite jewellery designers are @aletheia_phos @lemonjewellery @cleopatrasbling
Most loved clothing item in your collection?
My trusty blue denim vintage LEVIS jeans. I wear them almost every day!
Your number one go-to sneaks?
These super old, red NIKE sneakers Kath found me at a thrift store in London. I have a tiny foot, so it’s really hard to shop second hand when it comes to shoes. So, the fact that these fit me was a contributing factor to me buying them! I’m still a little sketchy on who owned them before me… haha
If you could collab with anyone, who would it be?
I’d love to collab with someone like Alexandra Spencer. She was one of the first big time Australian bloggers, and her photos are still widely circulated and re-grammed / re-pinned. She has her own style and aesthetic, and I love everything she does!
"I’m a people person— I love chatting. I love sharing ideas. And I love making something out of nothing. People vibe off that energy and want to get involved."
What would you say to young entrepreneurs thinking about putting themselves out there like you did?
JUST DO IT! Haha, to quote a commercial slogan. But seriously, just get out there and do it. Networking is the number one factor that has led to the client base I now have. I’m a people person— I love chatting. I love sharing ideas. And I love making something out of nothing. People vibe off that energy and want to get involved.
And what’s the next step for you in your world domination journey?
We just got funded by ABC for their FRESH BLOOD initiative. We’re currently in the pre-production stages of a show called ‘WOES’ written by my brother Kai, starring Kai and Luka. I’m co-directing with my good friend Claudia Allison.
This is the first step back into film and TV, and my plan is to start building a production company, covering everything from pre-production through post-production. Later, I'd like to move into music videos, TVC and eventually, feature films!