“Don’t Think You Know Everything About What You’re Doing, Ever — There’s Always More To Learn”

Words of Wisdom With Fashion Icon Andi Eaton

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“Find brilliant mentors to expand your values and belief system, don’t think you know everything about what you’re doing, ever — there’s always more to learn. Build a business plan, get comfortable losing more than you win at the beginning. Remind yourself that every morning is a leap of faith. Follow your intuition, don’t allow the self doubt to seep in, and save every single penny you’ve got to get your dream going.”

I had the pleasure of interviewing Andi Eaton, founder of the digital publication Oui We and a seasoned author, who recently released her second book Wanderful: The Modern Bohemian’s Guide to Traveling in Style. Andi is a Creative Director — the playfully potent imagery in her book and blog is a clear reflection of her wanderlust inspired life and vision — and she works with a range of clients from holistic beauty brands to gypset inspired fashion brands too. She’s also an advocate for artists and creatives, founding a fashion incubator program for indie designers in a post-Katrina New Orleans and has become a cultural influencer with a gift for sharing everything from travel and style to astrology and wellness sprinkled with a bit of mysticism. Andi’s projects have been featured in Women’s Wear Daily, Hello Giggles, A Beautiful Mess and Glitter Guide (to name a few), she was named one of the most stylish southerners by Southern Living Magazine, and her 40’s era bungalow, full of collected personal treasures that she shares with her musician partner Ben Alleman was featured on both Domino Magazine and Camille Styles. It seems that everything she works on is a reflection of her joyful and whimsical personality.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

I knew early that both fashion and traveling were my interests — I grew up in a super typical suburban American family. We took long summer road trips and my grandparents on both sides kept colorful travel maps loaded with pins of all the destinations they’d visit hanging on the walls. I was the kid organizing neighborhood fashion shows, however I never considered that there were ways to create a job doing either of those sorts of things.

I spent 10 years working as a senior level executive for AVEDA and began working on my own projects towards the end of my time there. It was an interesting time — while working in my corporate role I was promoted quickly and worked my way up in the company — I truly worked around the clock and I found myself running the sales and education team before my 27th birthday. I founded a program to support independent fashion designers interested in basing their business in New Orleans in 2011 and developed a deep connection to artists committed to the art of their craft during that time.

I was living a life many fashion-loving, career-climbing women in their 20s do. I bought the house with the pool and then after years of that lifestyle I realized I was missing a connection to myself and a higher purpose. I left that corporate job, closed up the fashion incubator program and packed up my camera and a journal and booked a one way flight to the Mediterranean. I’d spend the next season traveling. Since then I’ve written two books, am working on a third and found a connection to a creative spirit I didn’t know existed in me during my corporate years. I’ve since dabbled in designing my own line (which I’d still love to do someday) but have found that my true calling is to inspire women to find their most authentic self and true confidence through holistic practices, creativity and experiential travel.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you in the course of your career?

There have definitely been some moments! Here’s a story for you:

This occurred traveling through the Chihuahuan Desert, this is only funny after the fact! I was traveling with my partner Ben, he traveled with me quite a bit as I was researching and shooting for my book, we’d spent several days in Terlingua, Texas and started out on a venture to a hot springs we’d heard about near the border. We got directions towards a seriously primitive road — with the understanding that in 6 miles we would cross into the backside of the national park where the hot springs would be. What wasn’t accounted for was the heavy rains a few days before. We’d also failed to ask… ‘when we cross that 6 mile mark, how much further until we hit a paved road?’ The answer to that question would have been 18 miles. And 18 miles is major on a mud soaked primitive desert road.

About 3 hours in, we drove deep into a mud bog… no cell service and visions of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre were only half of the fears that were starting to bubble up. We climbed onto the roof of our rental SUV … nothing as far as we could see, and then the coyotes started to howl. This is the first time my skill from being the only girl in a crew of off roaders when I was 16 has come in truly, very handy. I worked that car out of the mud, and a few hours later we were finally drinking beer in that hot springs saying to ourselves… “the stories we will tell.”

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

With my work today my intention is to inspire young women to get way outside of the four walls they’re familiar with, to get outside of their egoic brand and to expose themselves to new cultures and new ways of thinking.

I know that if young women believe in themselves, if they activate their senses, if they are fully conscious and aware then they can do absolutely anything and everything that this planet needs right now. For me I found that realization when I took that trip to the Mediterranean; I fully eliminated the clutter in my life — I let go of the things that weren’t serving me, all sorts of things ranging from objects to deep rooted fears, and blame and past experiences and that truly woke me up. My mission today is to help more women find their way along that path through my work.

If someone would want to emulate your career, what would you suggest are the most important things to do?

Study your butt off, find brilliant mentors to expand your values and belief system, don’t think you know everything about what you’re doing, ever — there’s always more to learn. Build a business plan, get comfortable losing more than you win at the beginning. Remind yourself that every morning is a leap of faith. Follow your intuition, don’t allow the self doubt to seep in, and save every single penny you’ve got to get your dream going.

Is there a particular person that made a profound difference in your life to whom you are grateful? Can you share a story?

There’s been several in my 3 career phases: in the beauty business it was Debra Neill (CEO of Neill Corporation). She exposed me to what was then considered hippie woo woo new-age thinking. She said to me once that she was surprised at my ‘depth’. In the moment I was offended, however, I realized that as this young executive I wanted to appear smart, however I was super guarded. Rather than going deep and doing soulful work with people, I focused on sales figures and business-only relationships. From that moment forward I was like — okay — people need your authenticity. Go there.

As I was launching the fashion program in New Orleans it was two women that supported the PR efforts of the organization: Raina Penchanksy and Lauren Lagarde. They saw something in what we were doing that warranted reaching out to a publication like WWD. They made me and the program better than what it ever would have been by constantly questioning everything.

Lastly, as I started working on my second book there were several women that again, saw this bigger potential in me: Angie Niles (who is also an author) and my dear friend Keiko Lynn Groves (who’s one of the OG fashion bloggers). Angie connected me to Kim Perel who’s been my rockstar agent ever since and Keiko traveled with me as I researched and created photographs for my book; these ladies are each forever encouraging my ideas.

So what are the most exciting projects you are working on now?

I’ve just completed the concept outline for my third book, I am so incredibly ready to get that underway. I’m traveling as much as possible, I’ve actually just returned from Mexico City for a brand partnership that was the largest I’ve had to date. I’m traveling to Bali in the fall to speak at a retreat for female creatives. I’m intending to spend more time in the speaking arena this coming year.

What are your “Top Five Ideas About How Influencers Can Monetize Their Brand” . (Please share a story or example for each.)

Well I’d like to mention this first: I started this whole process at the tale end of the time in which instagram was starting to make stars out of the “the girl next door.” That was never my goal. I launched my first blog with the intention to cover what was happening in the New Orleans community. My first opportunity to monetize from my “influence” came when I was commissioned to write my first book “New Orleans Style”. I always think about what I want to manifest and less about gaining “influence”. If you’re doing something special, people will show up. So here’s what has worked for me in regards to monetization:

  1. Writing: When I wrote my first book I’d never written anything longer than a few thousand words for local publications, however, I believed I had a story to tell. After I secured my first commissioned book project I immediately sought out an agent to help me secure a deal for my second book — my goal was to get a five-figure deal and I was able to make that happen! That book came out this past fall, making top 25 lists in both the travel & fashion categories.
  2. Speaking and hosting: If you got an expertise, talk about it! For me I learned that people were interested in how I was building my brand, how to express your inner creative, and how to grow sustainable roots as an artist — these are a few of the topics I’m presently paid to speak on.
  3. Brand relationships: In my case I’m interested in companies that focus on holistic travel & wellness, bohemian style, and conscious-living. I want to help those brands share their story. I also love working with tourism boards and agencies that are interested in “living like a local” or “off the beaten path” destination ideas.
  4. Creative coaching: I work directly with creative entrepreneurs and holistic businesses to develop brand voice, digital style, look books and more. I offer consulting services for brands and businesses that shared a similar aesthetic to my own. I have clients on retainer for monthly creative consulting services and am hired to creative direct brand campaigns, lookbooks or over see the aesthetic of a brand.
  5. Styling: Editorial styling came naturally to me. I literally collected every Vogue magazine from 1991 on. If that’s your gift, submit your work to publications, brands, photographers — whomever you can that might hire you. I started getting hired as a stylist within 2 months of launching my blog. I was hired to direct photoshoots and style celebrities just from what I’d shared digitally.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this. 🙂

Here’s my short list: Emily Weiss, Gwyneth, and Lauren Conrad, because hey girl bosses! I’d like to hand each of them a copy of my book and have them love it! Grace Coddington — she’s inspired my creative eye more than anyone else. And then I’m obsessed, like full on cult following obsessed with Manifestation Advisor Lacy Phillips of Free & Native. She’s a huge expander for me, and I totally know we’d be BFFs.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

My blog is ouiwegirl.com and I’m on instagram at @ouiwegirl!

Originally published at medium.com

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