Huffpost New York

Piers Fawkes, Founder & CEO Of PSFK: An Interview

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Every now and then we at Huffington Post New York get a chance to speak to a truly notable, noteworthy, or just plain cool New Yorker. These are the types of people who make this city so great, and who are actively working towards making it even better.

In order to recognize such people, we've decided to launch a series we like to call "New Yorkers on New York." One week it might take the form of a written interview, another week a short film, or perhaps even a series of poems (we're gunning for you John Ashbery!).

In the end though, each edition will feature a New Yorker's take on New York and how it relates to his or her life.

So may we introduce to you the first installment: an interview Piers Fawkes, the CEO and Founder of PSFK. Aside from running the trends research and innovation company and hosting one of the most popular trends blogs, Fawkes is genuine man about town, or as one of his many friends put it, a "connector."

Your company is holding its annual PSFK Conference New York this Friday which brings together filmmakers, artists, new media folk, and other members of the creative set. Do you consider New York to still be a mecca of creativity or do you feel, like many, that the city has lost a step or two?

I came across this quote from New York mayor Ed Koch recently. He said, "New York is the city where the future comes to rehearse."

I really believe this to be true. My event tries to celebrate some of the folks who are creating the future right here in the city.

I think there's no place like New York because of the sheer volume of creative minds mixed with the breadth of things we do here. Sure, we can listen to those who argue that the city may have lost some sort of edge -- but the city isn't built on nostalgia. It's built on change and experimentation. Some global cities are great hubs for certain trends but the colossal volume of cross-cultural creativity cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

The conference seems to have a heavy focus on getting out in the real world and actually doing something, similar to the lecture Seth Godin gave at your last meeting. What are some of the best ways in your mind that creative people can be a force in the world, especially here in New York?

I think one of the big drivers to the themes I explore at the event is that the creative industry is in a state of reinvention and therefore people need to retool. Industries such as advertising, design, publishing and fashion are going through massive change and this is leading to reductions in workforce. This of course has been accelerated by the recession, but the jobs lost aren't just going to spring back because those jobs won't be necessary any more.

Creative professionals will need to stop typecasting themselves in narrow terms like "copy writer" and learn to refocus their creativity so they can produce multiple creative outputs. For example, a designer may need to be able to shoot a film and write copy and program a website. They need to do this because the creative workforce will shift further towards freelance and multi-skilled professionals will be more highly sought after (and paid).

At my event, I hope to introduce people like Ouigi Theodore of BK Circus or Erik Proulx who created the film Lemonade to inspire the audience that they can take control of their future in a moment of uncertainty.


What is your favorite piece of public art in New York?

Right now the Antony Gormley is mind-shifting. Looking up from Madison Square Park to see these quiet, vigilant figures watching over the hectic city. Everyone in New York must see it.


Switching gears a bit, what has it been like being a transplant to New York? What was your first real "New York" moment?

In some ways, I was lucky that when I came to New York it wasn't exactly easy. I didn't have a visa to be here or a job so I had to do two things. Firstly, I had to hustle a lot to stay here and so I met a lot of people during that time who are important to me today.

Secondly, I had some spare time -- so I rode a bike around the 5 boroughs, taking photographs of every amazing aspect of this beautiful city. One day I started a blog called PSFK where I wrote about the people I met and where I added photos that I had been taking. Is that a New York moment? The city creating my future?

If you want literal, there are so many. For some reason, I remember that filled bodybag on a blood stained subway platform that the police didn't mind everyone walking past. Maybe it was a reminder that the city never stops, not even for a fatal accident.

Lastly, as a consultant, which New York company/business/establishment would you most like to take over and redo?

I want to turn Broadway between Madison Square Park and Herald Square into the "Alleyway of Ideas." There's a forgotten city lined along that route that could be brought back to life. Instead of warehouses of fake bags and cheap perfume, could the whole area be developed along the lines of: live, work, play, learn. Meaning residences with managed rents for artists and key city workers, city sponsored collaborative work spaces, Broadway as promenade, a school on every block. I want to create a strip of creativity from people of all ages and walks of life.