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Creative Director - Derrick Odafi 

Production Manager - Efosa Idubor-Williams

Photographer - Amy Peskett 

D.O.P - Sami Zubri 

Gaffer - Omar Sultan

Stylist - Seyon Amosu 

Hair Stylist - Aaliyah Sanchez

MUA - Amie Harfield 

Production Assistant - Shorayi Mauluka

Production Assistant - Shenead Porosotoom

BTS Photographer - Bijoux Chima 

Something that has always engulfed the creative was being surrounded by love and support. Having multiple tattoos dedicated to her mum, working with her closest friends, to even being held by her year 12 sociology teacher who gave Ronan her first commissioned piece, she has always followed her intuition and those around her. Despite the demands of notorious fashion brands and succumbing to the gatekeeping of platforms, brands, and celebrities, Ronan has always shied away from giving into the system. Admittedly, maybe making her journey less straightforward, there is always a greater legacy in walking a road least taken…

For someone coming across Ronan Mckenzie for the first time, how would you describe the work you do and what it’s supposed to evoke?


I think the work I create is supposed to evoke comfort and support and acceptance. But I also don’t know, every day I am learning and expanding, so if someone comes across my work, I just want them to feel warm.


My work is about being black and highlighting people of colour, but it is about feeling warm and held through everything I do.


You are so natural in front of the camera, it’s like you know what the camera is seeing?


I’m not even used to it but in 2020 I started taking self-portraits, not all the time but now I’ve shot myself quite a lot if feel more comfortable. But it was a process, through photograph and myself, I know what I feel comfortable doing and not doing. 


So, the pandemic and lockdown started a lot of things for you; self-portraits, a clothing brand, and HOME.

Definitely, I started looking at spaces in April 2020 for HOME, it has really expanded my career because I had to stop photos. I had to start thinking about other things and do things I’ve always wanted to do, I had time to play, it gave me time to broaden my creative outputs, and the more I did that the more I found things I enjoyed doing. 


Suit: John Lawrence Sullivan
Bra: John Lawrence Sullivan
Shoes: Milsta

Gloves: Ludovic De Saint Sernin

Jewelley: Artist's Own

The Exceptionally Talented Ronan Mckenzie Is Right At HOME In Any Path She Takes

There is a great level of peace when you are greeted with the presence of Ronan Mckenzie which is also prevalent in all aspects of her work. Evoking comfort and warmth all while illuminating her inner self, everything she partakes in comes from the heart. The youngest sibling to a Bajan family, there was never a moment where she realised that this was the path meant for her, it has always been a free-flowing journey. From photography, art, her own brand Selasi, and her space, HOME the focus has always been what feels right.


Emerging into the industry over a decade ago, beginning as a stylist, then moving into photography and videography, the pandemic aided as a necessary pause to delve into new mediums to showcase the work of communities and her passions. Two of her most notable ventures include HOME, a multifunctional space based in North London that was ‘born out of necessity’. Acting as one of the few black owned art spaces in London, it is a hybrid of traditional art galleries that feels just like its name, home. The second is Selasi, meaning ‘God hears me’ in the Ghanaian language, Ewe. The focus is not to sell the garments but to explore the many forms physical art can take. How it makes you feel, how it can intersect into our lives, and the infinite meanings curated once in the hands of others.


WORDS Hiba Hassan

Ronan Mckenzie Cover.jpg

10 years from now we will be the big thing but only if we support each other in growing it.” 


NW: You started off in photography, why do you think that was the first pillar you were drawn to? 

RM: The first thing I did was styling, but as time went on I realised I was more interested in photo and capturing those moments and emotions than I was in putting the clothes together.  


NW: Did you have to change any habits from working with photo and then transitioning to video?   

RM: I think with video I just need to think more in motion or in movement as opposed to thinking in still because when you get used to thinking in still everything is a moment. Whereas in motion you can’t just have people standing about all the time you have to think about the movement. This led to dance-related stuff, I’ve always been interested in dance so a lot of the videos I’ve done have incorporated dance movement. I think using that in my video was kind of like a safety to me because I didn’t really have to think too much on what the video would be.   

NW: Let’s talk about Hard Ears, your photography book released back in 2016, meaning ‘if you don’t hear, you will feel’, how did that fit into your life growing up?

RM: She would say it all the time growing up if we didn’t listen ha-ha. I guess I wanted to use it because through doing it [Hard Ears] I was going my own way instead of following that editorial route. I think Hard Ears will have a comeback though, maybe not in the same format but as something in my life. 


That was curated in 2016, back then I was at the beginning and trying to find a space for myself, I guess it is the same thing I'm doing with this space [HOME] just a different medium. I've grown so much and learnt so much that now I look at it and think ‘this is awful’…


NW: No, really?                        

RM: Yes, awful. I think that's natural though like outsiders can see it with fresh eyes whereas I can only ever see the mistakes. I value it and appreciate it because I invested in myself and the things, I think are important. But what it is, the next one, whatever it will be, I know where it will be if that makes sense. I don’t think I’m interested in publishing in that format anymore, so we will see how it makes a comeback.


Full Look: Gucci

NW: You said it came out of the frustration towards commercial and editorial industries, looking back at that now, have you seen a shift in focus in those spaces?


RM: Not really, it’s the same thing. Of course, there are more people of colour doing things, but there are still gatekeepers and we now have gatekeepers of colour which is, of course, better but still the same thing. A lot of people still get excluded, it has changed for the positive, but I don’t think the format has changed making it still the same. The power shift hasn’t really happened, and all those big titles and big publications still have the power. Until people are ok with doing other things then they will maintain that.


Of course, things have changed, the things I used to look at before I started have changed but for me is not enough.


NW: What more do you think can be done to illuminate those creatives?


RM: Going to those spaces, buying into those brands, in 10 years from now we will be the big thing but only if we support each other in growing it. I think what we need to do as a community of people of colour is really back and support each other. And also collaborating more, bringing our spaces together, and creating more of a generational power, I think it's more exciting that way.

Full Look: Richard Malone
Jewellry: Aymer Maria

You have delved into almost every creative sphere out there, how do you find the time and stay innovative?

My first practice was photography and from being on set I found that I had other interests, as I grew other things just started popping up. For example, working in Fashion was really difficult in terms of getting commissioned and working with magazines, but then that’s the only way you can show your work. So that got me interested in using different spaces and finding different outlets to show our work, so that’s why I started showing an interest in using physical spaces. That kind of came out of a necessity really. And then I needed something else, so once I had my photography and this [HOME] I create for this and do the space design, which naturally allowed me to have more of a perspective in design and architecture. 


And to be honest, I’ve always drawn, like I plan my shots through line drawing, so I started to draw garments just rough sketches, so I knew what I wanted to work with. Towards the end of 2019, I was doing it more, and then it was lockdown which gave me more time to play. So my brand [Selasi] came from my hobby, I love the photo but it is my job. HOME is my selfless pursuit of curating something for myself but primarily for others. It is very collaborative, but then I needed something for myself and that’s where Selasi came in. Even though they are all different things, they all fill in those cups.

Selasi is not a religious God but more about hearing myself, trusting myself, and following my intuition.


Even though they are different industries, you can distinctively tell that they are all by Ronan Mckenzie. From the colour scheme, design, and even the titles of your work. The name Selasi, why did you want that title?


I think for me it was more of the God in Selasi is not a religious God but more about hearing myself, trusting myself, and following my intuition. When I decided that I wanted to create a brand, I wanted to be really intentional about the connotations. And the connotations of my name are, that my first name is Irish, my second name is Scottish, and Mckenzie comes directly from plantations. So, when people realise, I’m not a white guy, it is directly from slavery. I wanted to put something out there that of course acknowledges my history but something that is stronger and something that stands on its own grounds, and something that you don’t think white you think black straight away, that was really important to me. 


Now that the brand is out there, and has something that is for yourself and its connotations, has it provided that fulfilment?


Definitely, and it’s like a place where I can constantly play, there is no pressure I can really do what I want. I am guarded about who I let into it, and where it’s seen who borrows it, I can take my time. Like photography is my career so I have to do strategic moves, whereas with Selasi I get to do with it what I want. And also, it provides so many more opportunities to collaborate, I’ve worked with knitwear designers, and my friends and I make pieces for myself. but for my next collection, I am doing some products so it comes away from garments and I can create a world. With a photo, the engagement can only be someone looking at it but with garments, you can create a whole experience that brings it somewhere else. It makes you feel a certain way, it is part of how we hold ourselves and how people read us, there is so much more to it. 


There are so many different mediums because they all come from the same place but there are definitely levels to where I can take each one.

Tank Top: Christina Seewald
Jacket: Tokyo James
Trousers: John Lawrence Sullivan
Shoes: Ugo Paulson
Jewellry: Aymer Maria

The idea on this new record is just to do things that are outrageous, fun, tongue-in-cheek, and mischievous.

You are creating a legacy with Selasi, what is your goal with curating that exclusive world?


It’s interesting because garments will always be there, it's been in our existence for a really long time which is the most exciting thing about it. In the next collection, I’m making a chair, so you can have that in your house or a store or gallery space and before you know it the chiar has a story that is told in so many different ways. My goal with it at the moment is to push myself, test my ideas, and how I can execute those ideas through collaborations and different mediums. The thing with photos, sometimes my work looks the same because I will come back to the same colour pallet, and I love that, but the industry does put a cap on you. As a designer, it is a bit more open because that’s your signature, I am more excited about where I can take it. I’m even really interested in fabric and would love to develop my own, there’s a lot you can do.


You do a lot of collaboration work with friends and creatives outside of your circle, how important is it to work with like-minded creatives?


So important. It is both 50/50, it is equally as important as having my own space and doing my own thing, collaborations also help me to flesh out different ideas. When you find a creative partner that you just connect with and you can vent to, creating with it is the most amazing thing. Some of my best friends are those people for me, at the same time I am very protective of who I let in and who I share my ideas with.


How do you know when someone can serve that purpose for you?


My intuition, I am very protective of my space so you just know when you click with someone and when they can hold you in that regard. I meet so many people, so many people come in and out and I have a good set of friends but there are not many that whom I can sit there and have those rich conversations. Someone I can share my dreams and hopes with I am so protective of those relationships.

You’ve been in this industry for 10 years now, how have you seen your career, and that selective nature grow in that decade?


It is something I have learnt, it started with shoots. I would work with stylists or a set designer and I’d get the pictures back I wouldn’t feel that it did what I intended it to do. After a while, those creatives refined and I was exposed to more people that could also refine that, which is a natural process. But also, it is also a process that happens in an industry that is rapid and quite cut-throat, for me instead of leaning into that and doing what I need to do to be an ‘it person’, it pushed me away and made me want to be in a safe space with people I love and care about. Sometimes I do feel on the sideline because of that, but on the sideline, I can really focus on what I want to do. It has an impact on my career not chasing covers and those things, but now I am doing things that I wouldn’t have been able to do at this time, I’ve taken risks and spent money but I know I want to create longevity in my work and if worse comes to worst I can always go back to mums.


Is mum okay with that?


You know, she’ll have to be cool with it! but it won’t ever happen, I take comfort in the fact that I’m willing to get there if it means I’ve tried my absolute hardest to do what I need to do, put myself on the line and I’ve really lived my life. that isn’t always the easiest road, but it is the road I need to take. I always need support and help to keep everything together; I’ve expanded my team which has been amazing sharing the process. It is scary because sometimes I don’t know how I will pay people at the end of the month, but it was necessary you can’t do it all alone.

I am trying to self-reflect more and celebrate more which was my resolution this year. but if you asked me a year ago I would’ve been too busy or too stressed to have that.

Who would you say has been really influential in your journey and where you are today?


It’s hard to say because I don’t think I’ve had anyone with that I could mirror my career on. But I think the painter, Kerry James Marshal, influenced my career because he made me see the colour brown differently. Not being afraid to use brown and black and soak that up. Also, Carrie Mae Weems, her Kitchen Table Series allowed me to focus on the beauty of every day, Samuel Ross from A-COLD-WALL has been so supportive of me and even gave me a grant for HOME.

There are so many people that have supported my journey and were inspired by so many types of people in different ways.


My parents have also been so supportive of what I want to do, I have so many tattoos of my mum. My sociology teacher in year 12 was so supportive and commissioned me to paint a photo of her and her fiancé. She paid me £50 which was insane, being paid to do something creative, and gave me so much support to pursue that. My friend, Jodie, her parents were so supportive, and their love was so necessary in growing up, being wholly accepted and loved by people around you, carries with me and it is what allows me to go forward even when I am scared.

Do you feel like you’ve done what you’ve set out to do and do you self-reflect?


I do feel like I have done that, I am trying to self-reflect more and celebrate more which was my resolution this year. but if you asked me a year ago I would’ve been too busy or too stressed to have that, so I am proud of myself. I think at this point I need to help myself as much as I help others otherwise it wouldn’t work.


What is your legacy?


For me when I leave this world, I want to fulfil the peace that I’ve enjoyed in my life. so hopefully through that, those who have also enjoyed me and my work can hold that in high regard.

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