“Real success is equal representation” – An interview with DIY collective Femme Culture
The term ‘DIY’ is synonymous with young people in the arts who are entrepreneurial, with a simultaneously socially aware spirit.
Femme Culture is a London collective using inclusive nightlife to champion women in the arts and to support the LGBTQ community. They have recently been profiled in Eventbrite’s Generation DIY series – profiling young event creators aged 25 and under who are making real change in the UK.
We sat down with the co-founders Ludo and Elkka to get their insight on how they’re carving a new path within a competitive creative industry and to find out what motivated them to start their own label.
For you, what does it mean to be DIY?
Ludo: We’re a generation of creatives and we all strive for a bigger purpose. But it’s also so hard to get your foot in the door because it’s such a saturated market. I believe we are generation DIY because we can find no other way to do it. It’s not a choice really, it’s striving for survival.
Elkka: Exactly, being hungry for the opportunity and being given no other choice than to try and create the opportunity for yourself means you have just got to get on with it. So we do.
What led you to starting your own label?
L: It was when I moved to London that things started escalating. I started DJing and I was doing partnerships and PR for a techno festival in Cuba. I had time on my hands so I was filling it with creative projects. Elkka invited me to the first Femme Culture club night as a DJ. I played the final slot of the party and we just clicked. We decided to officialise it and divide and conquer together.
E: I started out as a singer and a writer for quite a few years. A lot of it was for the likes of Mad Decent and OWSLA, mostly doing trap. Eventually I got to a point where I felt as if I wasn’t fulfilled. One night I was stood outside a Jamie xx concert with my girlfriend and I had the realisation that I just couldn’t do it anymore. So the next day I started producing for myself. That was about two-and-a-half years ago and it’s been the most liberating thing I’ve ever done. When I was releasing my first EP I needed something to put on the distribution label and Femme Culture just kind of came from somewhere. I knew that I wanted to do something community-based, so after I discovered the beauty of being in control of your own music I wanted Femme Culture to have that ethos behind it.
Can you explain a bit more about your ethos of equality, diversity and inclusiveness?
E: I was at the 2017 march against Donald Trump which was amazing but I was left thinking, “OK, this is great but what happens tomorrow?” I needed to be participating. Even on a grassroots level I need to be doing something positive. We’re not anti-men; we’re not “anti” anyone – that’s the point. We just want balance and that’s what we strive for with line-ups. Putting these people in a room together is so fulfilling because they all want the same thing. That’s why inclusivity is at the heart of everything we do.
L: The struggle that we found was that you get a lot of people saying, “we’ve booked one girl so we don’t have to worry about diversity, we’ve ticked that box” and then people settle at that. One thing that we feel strongly about is using your position to open doors for other femme-identifying individuals, PoC or people from countries that are historically underrepresented. If I’m playing one gig then it’s cool but the real success is when it’s equal representation on the line-up. As Femme Culture we are creating a network where we’re all coming up together.
You are clearly passionate about the importance of engaging with diverse female-identifying and non-binary artists. What advice would you give for someone who would like to start out in the industry?
E: Figure out what you would like to do, and contact someone who’s doing it already. You’d be surprised how open people are to offering advice and mentoring is a really powerful thing, so don’t be afraid to reach out.
L: Manifesting things worked for me. It sounds very cosmic but what I mean by that is just being vocal about what you want to do. You just have to put yourself out there and that’s the perfect step because by just saying it out loud people will start to actually listen. I was so surprised that people later on would be like “there’s this thing happening and I thought of you because I remember what you said.”
What are your plans for the future? Do you have any upcoming projects for us to look out for?
L: Elkka’s single Stay is coming out towards the end of July with an incredible music video produced by Girls In Film.