Creative director and stylist Soki Mak creates hyper realist images that are bold and fearless. This work takes her between London and LA, crosses music and fashion and has been featured in Dazed, i-D, Hunger and SHOWstudio. She counts Amber Rose, Pamela Anderson and Ellie Goulding among her clients – all styled with her unique and colourful signature. Here she tells us where she finds new talent and about her next big dream project.
Soki, tell us how you became a stylist?
I was interning at Vivienne Westwood in between uni and I would meet loads of stylists who would come in and pull for their clients, I love to learn and would always watch the stylists and ask them questions, one day one of the regular stylists phoned up and asked my boss at the time if he could borrow me to assist and I never went back.
Looking back to your childhood, were there glimmers that this would be your career?
I was definitely a creative child and loved all elements of art and design, I went to a very academic school so they didn’t really take fashion seriously but I used to collect i-D magazines from the age of 16, I always experimented with fashion, some great looks some not so much.
You describe your work as hyper real. Can you tell us more about this?
Hyper real to me is fantasy, sex and absolute perfection in an image. Something a little bit out of this world. My work is very particular, Its more art than ‘fashion’. When I’m shooting or have an idea for a shoot I always need the final outcome to be timeless.
There is a confident and vibrant energy through your work, have you found that extroverts are more drawn to work with you and can you talk us through some of your collaborations?
Absolutely, a lot of people I shoot with are pushing the boundaries to create something iconic. The most difficult people to work with but always creating the most beautiful images. I recently shot a cover story with Pamela Anderson, it’s not published yet but it was like the universe heard my thoughts. I’d been dying to shoot her for ages, contacted her agent numerous times to shoot for various magazines but it always fell though and finally when I ended up shooting her it was with the perfect publication, photographer and the theme was perfect, It was one of those moments where I had so little time to prep that I couldn’t enjoy it but afterwards when I realised it’d went really well I could have cried!
You are known for recognising emerging talent in fashion, music and art – is there anything in particular you find yourself recognising in their work?
It’s weird, for being someone who is so particular about perfection I really adore the imperfections in an emerging artists work. I mean the work is beautiful but Its been untouched by all the ‘rules’ of conforming.
Nick Knight founder of SHOWstudio is also supportive of emerging talent within the fashion industry – how did you first work with him?
Yes, Nick is amazing. He emailed one evening asking me to style a fashion film with Courtney Stodden for SHOWstudio. In the email he explained what he did and what SHOWstudio was all about which I thought was incredible and so honourable. Of course I knew exactly who he was and knew all about SHOWstudio. I wasn’t given much time to prep (about 3 days I think) but when I read the treatment It was like it was made for me so I couldn’t turn it down. After that shoot I ended up getting some amazing offers so giving me that opportunity meant a lot to me.
It’s interesting to look back at our past work and see familiar themes running through to the present. Talking with other photographers and stylists many say they create characters that they could never be in real life– Your personal and work styling is similar so what strikes you most when you look back at your earlier stories?
Quite a few people have asked me this but I guess its because all my work comes from me, so as long as I’m always myself, my work and personal style will stay consistent. When I look back at my earlier stories I can tell I’m ‘trying’ to portray sex, fantasy and all the things that come with but I wasn’t confident enough to push the boundaries and try to explore it. Now I feel like it’s quite obvious what I’m trying to portray.
What would be your dream project, either in fashion or music?
My dream project is in process now so I won’t jinx it 😉
Do you have a core team of make-up artists and photographers that you tend to work with most?
I have some makeup artists and photographers that I work with occasionally because we work well together, we end up getting booked on the same jobs but I love working with new teams.
It’s nice to be on shoot and having a catch up with familiar faces but ideally I love working with new talent and meeting new people.
Creating images often means moving around a lot and working with new teams on each project – Is it easy to maintain personal and core work relationships while traveling so much?
I find it really challenging, I procrastinate alot and take on too much work at once then freak out so I have to try extra hard to be as organised as I can. For example, its 5.14am at the moment, I’ve been up all night prepping for a meeting I have a 10am. Even on a day off I can’t relax. I create work for myself, pitch ideas to clients, always trying to create. I don’t see as much of my friends as I’d like to but they all work in similar industries so they understand.
How do you switch off and re-energise for the next job?
I usually go to the gym and then spend some time in the spa or spend all day watching Disney movies…
High Content is all about women sharing stories. Do you have a group of women that you kick back with and use as a creative sounding board?
Ah yes definitely! I know so many strong inspirational creative women! In the last year my flatmates have been Sharmadean Reid (Founder of WAH Nails) and Yasmin (singer and DJ) so there were some major ‘taking over the world’ plans there.
To finish up tell us what you are most excited about working on next?
I’m really excited to be working with new talented artists everyday and just very grateful that I can make a living doing something that I love.
GET IN TOUCH WITH SOKI:
Interview by Lou Mensah
Portrait by Elliott Morgan