Liz is our account executive who runs the Lotuff blog and has been responsible for conducting all the interviews seen here thus far. This week, Ellen turns the tables, interviewing her on life in France and what she loves about working in the studio.
While in college, you studied in France for a semester. Can you tell me a little bit about what led up to your decision to do this and if you feel your experiences influence what you do here at Lotuff?
When I was attending Providence College, I really didn’t know how I would apply my major. People told me I should have focused on business because otherwise – as a double major in English and French – I would end up unemployed and living with my parents (if I didn’t want to become a teacher, that is). I decided that if I loved these subjects as much as I did, though, then I should still pursue them and would somehow figure out something to do with my degree.
That partially manifested in me going to live in France for four months in my junior year. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done; I didn’t know a single person when I went there. My host family did not speak a word of English, and all of my classes were conducted entirely in French, so that was challenging even though I’d been studying French since I was eight years old. I found that maintaining who I was and keeping my sense of humor intact was difficult, and I was forced to figure out how to express myself in French beyond just words and phrases. I can be very sarcastic and sort of jokey at times, and it didn’t really translate. It was tough trying to figure out how to convey my personality in a way that was understandable.
From the beginning (with living abroad), I thought, “Even if I don’t do anything else with this degree, I’ll be happy knowing I went to France, lived there, and got by.” But I worked everything out, and at the end when I left, it was so bittersweet. I felt as if I were leaving my home all over again. In those few months, I met some wonderful people and was able to see amazing places thanks to living in a city where a half-hour flight could bring you to another country. I even climbed a mountain! It just really showed me the importance of being immersed in a place and connecting with its people and the culture. My ability to speak French and communicate skyrocketed, which I’m also deeply grateful for. So I absolutely think a lot of what I do at Lotuff is influenced by those experiences. They’ve taught me how great it can be to step outside your comfort zone and seek out new opportunities, because the takeaways are often almost endless.
What was your first job and maybe the one where you considered social media as being an option for the first time?
Between my sophomore and junior year, I took on a virtual internship for a wedding and special events photographer. I worked in this role from June through October and was responsible for researching how the owner could make her work more accessible online and bring new people in- a new audience who could appreciate the quality of her perspective and her images.
That was probably the first time I realized that I was interested in harnessing social media for a marketing purpose and understood that my comfort with the platforms gave me a distinct advantage relative to learning how each could be used to communicate a unique message. I mean, my generation grew up using computers. I think I was using one by the time I was two years old and was on Twitter in my early teens. Today I would say Instagram is my platform of choice because it’s so visual and accessible- it’s even proven to be a successful business tool for Lotuff. Who would have thought that someone would be searching a geo-tag and our bag, which happened to be shot there, would pop up and then send that same seeker to us? Instagram works. It’s easy, and it’s fast.
While in the studio, what have you come to most enjoy doing? Has this given you any ideas for what you’d like to do further on in life?
One thing I’ve unexpectedly realized is that I like marketing and, in a broader sense, the communication aspect of it. You need to know how to speak to people so they become engaged with your brand, and that’s something I’ve taken an interest in. I also really like doing photography in our studio for the blog and observing what everyone is doing at their various stations. It’s not as though I sit in a stuffy office and write about bags- I can actually see the whole process come together from start to finish, and that’s very cool to witness. We’re all in one space together as a team, and I can honestly say that I see a bag when it’s just a bundle of leather and get to know the people who eventually give it a form. It allows me to be more intimately familiar with everything, which then makes the work I do feel more authentic.
Right now, I don’t truly have any specific position in mind for the future. I do know, though, that I don’t want to pigeonhole myself, so that’s almost intentional on my part. With a liberal arts degree, I think it can be a bit dangerous to limit your opportunities because nothing is guaranteed for you, which is both scary and exciting to consider. It’s not like I have a degree in accounting, for example, and am naturally advancing on a specific accounting track.
What has surprised you the most about Lotuff?
Probably how diverse of a team we have here in the studio. Every place I worked before – whether an internship or part-time job – tended to be much more homogeneous, and I’ve met people here who I might never have encountered otherwise. We’re all able to converge in one space and work so well together even though we’re all from very different backgrounds, which is something I think most people might not expect to see. Not everyone has the same interests or has the same type of energy, but everyone is invested in the pieces we make. Another good surprise, and another thing I find unusual, is that essentially everything here is happening in one space. No one has to go upstairs to knock on the door of the CEO, for instance; we all just walk over to your desk. There’s no hierarchy where anyone is made to feel less than. Everyone has their “thing” to do that’s helping to get a bag out the door, and it’s all made to feel important.
So, what interests do you personally have that you pursue when not sitting behind your desk?
Well, I’ve found over the years that I really enjoy photography- and I actually just got my first “real” camera. I’m no professional, but I love taking pictures of the places I go and of the people who are with me to the best of my ability. It’s become a great way for me to appreciate where I live. New England is really beautiful!
I’m also teaching myself to play guitar. I’ve never taken a formal lesson, so it’s fairly slow going, but I’m definitely getting somewhere. I tried piano lessons for about a month when I was younger, but I never made much progress; there’s only so many times you can sing “Row, Row, Row, Your Boat” without going at least a little crazy. Guitar is different and easier for me to pair with vocals, which goes along with how I enjoy singing. It’s never something I’ve taken too seriously, but once a week, when I was living in France, there was an open-mic night that I would go to and sing at with friends. People would bring their bongos and keyboards and guitars; there was something very improvisational and open about it. It wasn’t formal. Two or three of us would just crowd in, take the lyrics and sing. Something about being in a new place with new people I didn’t know was freeing, and it was a lot of fun.