Interview with Influencer Dorien Russell
Dorien Russell, Photo By: Martin Nuñes Bonilla
Dorien Russell is an influencer living in New York City. I recently had to chance to talk to him about his career. Russell who has a love fashion told me about his journey to get where he is today. Keep reading below to hear his story.
Where are you from?
“I’m from Baltimore, Maryland. I moved here to New York eight years ago in 2014. I came here for school and stayed all the way through.”
Would you say growing up in Baltimore, Maryland and now living in New York affects your work and what you do?
“I’m not sure if coming from Baltimore has had much impact, but moving to New York definitely has because I think that there aren’t as many influencer marketing opportunities in Baltimore. I would argue social media marketing is much more prominent back at home than influencer marketing. Plus, I think it’s a bit harder to grow your network in this field back at home, whereas there are so many content creators and marketers in New York.“
Have you always wanted to work in the influencer marketing field to some capacity?
“In some ways, sort of. My grandmother once asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I said I wanted to network. She was like ‘that’s not a job!’ But now, a decade later, about 65% of what I do is networking and meeting other influencers, brands, and agencies. When I first came to New York I wanted to act. I came to Fordham to study theatre. Eventually I switched gears and moved into communications, which got me into fashion. I always say that this path kind of fell into my lap. Once I left the theatre department, I got an internship at 300 Ent. which is a record label.
“I always wanted to work in the music industry – that was my next passion, but then this Barney’s New York collegiate program popped up in my email and I figured, why not?. So, I applied and got in and it was an amazing opportunity to learn about the inner workings of fashion retail. I got hooked and tried my hardest to stay in that fashion world – cold emailing Bloomingdales and Barney’s for work. I ended up working in their social media department and running their influencer marketing programs. From there I kept sticking with influencer marketing.”
How long have you been involved in influencer marketing?
“I have been in the influencer space for about four and a half/five years now.“
Who are some of your influences?
“I feel like my inspiration comes from a bunch of different sources. It’s based on my mindset or whatever I’m obsessed with that day. It could be the weather and I have to figure out an outfit for the elements. Or, maybe I’ve been listening to like a Yeat album and am in the mood to wear a dark, baggy look with big cargo pants and massive boots. If I’m tapped though, I will look to creators like Jordan Adessi and Obed for style and content inspo.“
What motivates you when it comes to making content?
“On a very surface level, getting more brand deals to be honest. Further developing my approach to content in general and to attract more brands for sure. But, there is definitely a part of it especially with Tik Toks that is more authentic and fun. I had a partnership with Poshmark and I felt fortunate to be patterning with a brand that was just asking me to style my own clothes. It was fun to just go in my room and pull out a bunch of different things and create outfits. So, it’s a mix of developing my content, and online presence but also having fun too.”
Can you tell me about PNB Apparel?
“PNB is a small everyday-wear brand I soft launched in college and recently picked backed up during the COVID-19 lockdown. Essentially, I had seen those ‘Post No Bills’ sings around the city and loved the way they looked. If you’re not familiar, the signs are put on construction sites to tell the public, you can’t put signs on this wall. I started painting ‘POST NO BILLS’ on random pieces of clothing and selling them to my friends on campus. Because I was hand painting everything, it took too much time, and I couldn’t keep up with the demand so I took a pause.“
“Then, during the lockdown everyone was inside and really investing in sweats and comfy clothes. I had some extra money from the stimulus checks, so I thought it was a great opportunity to bring it back. I took the idea of not posing signs and advertisements and applied it to the brand. To me it meant ‘You cannot put me in a box or categorize me in a way you see fit.’ I think so often we meet people and place these traits or ideas on them after the first time meeting them. So, the brand functions almost as a shield for that. It’s unity in the unique. I’ve taken a pause to focus on my career but am planning to drop some new pieces from the archive in February.“
What would you say is your favorite piece you’ve created?
“It’s this army liner jacket I styled with this fishing vest and then painted my brand name on the back. This is the kind of clothing I’d like to develop PNB into with more technical fashion design training. I think that is my favorite so far because it’s a glimpse into what PNB can be.”
What does a normal workday look like for you?
“My office is in the Lower East Side, and we start at 10 o’clock. I get in and then check my email and that can mean reviewing content, reviewing contracts, negotiating with influencers for rates and reporting on our projects. Sometimes I’ll be in a pitch, and we’ll pitch to a brand on why they should come to Fohr. Right now, since its q4 the focus is on getting ready for the new year and planning what the rest of the year looks like. Also, what’s cool is we have a full stocked bar in our office so sometimes at the end of the day we may all go to the bar and grab a drink.“
What is something you would say to aspiring or up and coming creators?
“Strive for authenticity in your content. There are so many fashion, health and fitness, and finance creators on every platform and that can be an excuse to not get started. But your unique POV and personality is what makes your content stand out and connect more easily with an audience. This makes your platform better. Also, don’t underestimate the power of being on time and prompt with deliverables and email communication. Lastly, don’t mind the negative comments or trolls. You’re going to get them and it’s so much more of a reflection of the person saying something nasty than it is of you. I live my life based on what I called ‘qualified opinions.’ What that means to me is that everyone has an opinion and is entitled to it, but only certain peoples are qualified to me.”