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17 August 2022

Growing a business by going viral with Danielle Clough (Fiance Knowles)

Danielle Clough aka Fiance Knowles is an embroiderer whose career took off, literally overnight, when she went viral on Instagram!

Since her sudden rise to fame she’s built an astronomical following and worked with international brands like Nike and Yeezy, to name just a few.

In this episode, Eitan and Danielle hit record and dive into what it was actually like to go viral, and how using social media to build a brand can be extremely powerful but also incredibly dangerous for your business and future. 

Transcript available at the bottom of this post.

 

 

 

 

Eitan Stern:

So wait, what’s the curse of the spare bedroom

Danielle Clough:

Is that people come and stay over and don’t leave <laugh> it was a nightmare. It’s like

Eitan Stern:

The behind the scenes of Fiance Knowles,

Danielle Clough:

No, it’s just like two people watching you and wanting stuff, and then they’d be talking to each other and couldn’t listen. And I was just like, I can’t do this anymore. And then now I’m burning my spare bed.

Eitan Stern:

Okay. Yeah.

Eitan Stern:

Welcome to Legalese’s Big Fish Stories, the podcast where we showcase local South African entrepreneurs, their stories, and their big relevance to the world, around them. As lawyers, working with startups and established businesses in the tech and creative industries, we get front row seats to some incredible business adventure rides. The problem is that as lawyers, our work is confidential with big fish stories. We’re going inside the room with some proud south African entrepreneurs to talk about their airy, highs, lonely lows, and creamy middles of the road to success. As a country, deep in economic development, there is massive potential for smart entrepreneurs to build something great. Join us as we meet some of these big fish and find out how they’re looking to make their ponds even bigger. I’m your host managing director of Legalese, Eitan stern. Welcome this morning, Danielle. Nice to, nice to have you with well, when I say welcome, we are currently sitting in a restaurant workspace, overlooking the ocean in Muizenberg, just down the road from your house.

Danielle Clough:

Yes. Same view as I have from my home. So I feel very, very comfortable, unfortunate, but comfortable.

Eitan Stern:

Let’s kick it off right at the beginning. Why don’t you introduce yourself and tell us what you do for a living?

Danielle Clough:

Okay. So I am Danielle Clough. I am a fulltime professional embroider from Cape town, South Africa. I think some people would call me an artist, but I like to call myself an embroider. That’s kind of my medium just thread and sewing, like yeah. Professional.

Eitan Stern:

So, so you, I mean, you’ve got a stage name or what do you call it? What’s what is that called in your business?

Danielle Clough:

Ah, Fiance. Knowles is my stage name.

Eitan Stern:

Did you call it stage name?

Danielle Clough:

Yeah, I guess so. I mean, it started out as a stage name. So when I was a VJ, like the, a video jockey. Yeah. You know that, I remember that, that VJ, that was kind of my stage name. I, somebody called me fiance as a joke. And then I was like, if I ever do anything that ends up on a poster, that’s gonna be my name. And then I VJd and it was on a poster and then it kind of just stuck.

Eitan Stern:

That’s kind of just stuck.

Danielle Clough:

Yeah. My Instagram kind of took off like overnight. Okay. And that was my Instagram name. And I think I had like a couple hundred followers at the time.

Eitan Stern:

So do people ever send you emails and they’re like, hi Fiance.

Danielle Clough:

Yes. And sometimes people shout at me like Fiance. I’m like, oh, I love this. Okay.

Eitan Stern:

So you are an embroider. How did you become an embroider? How did this become the, and I’m gonna talk a lot. We’re gonna talk a lot more about where it’s led you, but what’s the backstory. How did you land up doing this for a living?

Danielle Clough:

Well, kind of by mistake actually, I think like all really good, good hobbies have become, you know, full-time vocations usually happen accidentally. So I really wanted to be a fashion designer. I thought I was gonna be like, like Fish Hoek’s next, Coco Chanel <laugh>. And my mom taught me how to sew and it was like very basic stitches and sewing machine. And it was something I was always comfortable with. I never really considered myself a creative. Yeah. But then I think at the end of high school, I realized that I had this inclination to draw and it made me really happy. So I dropped out and I did this alternative metric at False Bay College, which was kind of like, it was a little bit of like a dropout tactic, but I really enjoyed the kind of like art side of stuff, the practical making. And then, yeah. And then I went and studied fashion design, hated it dropped out after two weeks was just not for me and then went and studied advertising, but I had this kind of sewing background and I kept just doing it as a hobby and building it into my projects and watching Isidingo, like omnibus’ on a Sunday and just stitching. And then <laugh> that kind of, kind of just one day took off and yeah,

Eitan Stern:

Because, and it’s funny, a few people who I told I was chatting to you this morning asked the same question, which hadn’t been the one that came naturally to me, which was it’s this art form, which is like it’s associated with the older generation. And here you’ve got this really young, bright, fresh twist on it. Where did that come from?

Danielle Clough:

I think because I, the way that I actually found embroidery specifically was I was making, while I was studying at Red and Yellow, I making these plus toys and the school was actually situated above a fabric store, which was like really fortunate, very convenient. <Laugh> very convenient.

Eitan Stern:

It’s funny. How, how history turns on a knife edge with something like, <laugh> like the venue that your school was

Danielle Clough:

Exactly. And it’s moved now. So I think of all this like potential competition that I’m luckily don’t have anymore. But the school, yeah. The school was above the fabric store and, you know, I was working with other creatives and we were studying and like super young and they would, people would draw these little monsters and then would run downstairs, buy fabric and then draw the detail on with thread. Okay. So it was as simple as drawing on these details. And then those kind of drawings of the details just started evolving. And I actually thought I’d like invented this art form. Okay. I was like, it’s called thread sketching. No one’s ever done this. Okay. I am taking over the world. I’m like, I’m gonna go to fabric store and buy thread and show everyone this new thing I’ve discovered. And then obviously there was a huge, there was obviously a whole department for thread and hoops and embroidery, and it had been around for centuries. So it’s been, so because

Eitan Stern:

I it’s that you found this very organic thing and found that you, you were part of something a lot bigger.

Danielle Clough:

Totally exac. And, and I think because I found it accidentally and I built my voice around it organically. I wasn’t, I’d never had like the preconceived idea of what it is and then had to do that thing and then build off what already was there. I like naturally created an alternative foundation. Totally. So I was never breaking any rules because I didn’t know what the rules were, what

Eitan Stern:

Rules were. Yeah. I can relate to that immediately. I started my practice when I was quite a young attorney and without ever being jaded by the traditional practice, you know, you were able to write your own own rules of it. Dee, I wanna ask you something. So, so you’re a young, you’re a student you’re embroidering stuff for these little characters and you’re discovering this art form. What happens next? I mean, today you’ve got quite a following and, and this is what you do professionally. What was, how did this career start to you? What was the moment?

Danielle Clough:

So I think I’ve kind of been very fortunate by having a lot of supports around me. And I think that’s given me the confidence to kind of just share everything. I’m like, maybe it’s part of being an extrovert, but I would like doodle something or draw something on thread. And I would just like put it on a blog and put it on Facebook and put it on Instagram or whatever the case may be or just, and just like put it out in the world and then carry on doing something else,

Eitan Stern:

Which I think not a trait that a lot of arts, a lot of artists also very private around it until

Danielle Clough:

Well, yeah. And I think maybe because I come from a commercial background, I never saw it as being and still kind of don’t see it as art, you know, so I would take photographs and I never saw it as being like I’m expressing myself and be like, this is a cool, this person looks really pretty and like taking a photo of them. So always sharing stuff from a place of not really feeling any internal pressure of having to say something or represent something kind of like, this is cool, put it out to carry on. And then I was at the time when everything kind of like kicked off, I was waitressing and working as a freelance designer and just kind of like hustling as, as they,

Eitan Stern:

As, as we do in our twenties.

Danielle Clough:

Yeah. <Laugh> yeah. And then you know, one day somebody was like, oh, I’d love to buy that. And I’m like, are you sure? You know, put something on Facebook. Can I buy that? I’m like, ah, guess you just made this. And then I was making the embroidered rackets, which was kind of like an experimental thing. And I put one online and somebody wanted to buy it. So I was like, oh, maybe this is a thing. And then I made a few and then built a website for Design Indaba which I applied for and the rackets on the website went viral. So they, yeah. And then that was that within three months I was a full-time embroiderer.

Eitan Stern:

What do you mean by went viral? Where did that happen? Did you put it on a blog? Was that on your Instagram?

Danielle Clough:

I was on the website that I just built. And then I was on my Instagram and Instagram. It was very different at the time they had, I don’t know if you remember, they had a search explore page. Yeah. Like they have now, but it was a little bit more curated and it was to themes. And I think because I had the embroideries on the tennis rackets and I called it water racket, and I made its own hashtag maybe that’s what it found, but was on the Instagram search and explore page. And then This Is Colossal picked it up. And at that time, This Is Colossal was a massive creative hub. It still is. But obviously just the way that media and we, we engage with it has changed so much. But at that time they were just career makers. They put Lorraine Loots on and with, she was also just became massive. Yeah. You know, through Instagram. So, yeah. So it was almost, I remember the dates was 2nd of January, I think 2016 and then everything, just every, all these doors just kind of blew open.

Eitan Stern:

Yeah. And so I guess that is my question. So, well, two aspects to it. In what way has social media been critical to your journey? It sounds like a lot. And I guess my question is like, was that a strategic thing for you? Did you always know that that that would happen or is that, was it just this organic thing that you were engaging with? It quite honestly. And that honesty took of like, how intentional were you around using social media to build your following in your name?

Danielle Clough:

Oh, not intentional at all. Okay. I think there was this heyday in about 2016, 2017 on Instagram. Yeah. Specifically Instagram. I think people started, I don’t know if you remember that time where everybody was posting pictures of their coffee. Like there was a phase and there was, there were about six filters like gingham or whatever it is. And it was always a coffee. And then there was a point where everybody just collectively got irritated with coffee, photos and breakfast photos, but that was what Instagram was. And then if you were creative on that space, it was this like insane like break from like mundane, homogenized coffee photos. It’d be like what a miniature painting between 17 different breakfasts of coffee and lattes. And, and I think then it was a really amazing space for anybody who started using Instagram as a creative. It, it was kind of cuz the platform wasn’t so orientated around portfolios. Whereas now there are like many websites, you know?

Eitan Stern:

So, so I do want to dig into that in a minute around where it’s changed. And it sounds like what you’re saying is there was some aspect that was time and place was right for you. I do wanna dig into that in a minute, but what I want to know first is when you said the doors just blew open, like what does that look like for you? So what opportunities, I mean, if anyone listens to this has never heard or seen work. Like you went from someone who was posting rackets online, what’s opened up for you since then.

Danielle Clough:

Well that year, specifically 2016, I was approached by Yeezy. I worked for Gucci. Wow. I worked for Adobe. I worked for Nike. I worked for Vans. I,

Eitan Stern:

And they’re all just finding

Danielle Clough:

To, yeah, I did a street art festival in Bristol. I mean, I was a waitress like four months before and I was like, I don’t think I can make rain. And then I was in the UK doing a street art festival.

Eitan Stern:

I think that’s the dictionary definition of the doors just blew over.

Danielle Clough:

Yeah. It’s yeah, it was really, really surreal. And people also, I mean, from the, from the social media, like behavioral aspect, people really engaged. Like when people talk about engagement, now it almost feels like buzzword. But at that time it made sense. It was like, it was pre the words influence and everything it

Eitan Stern:

Was before people knew this as a strategy. It was

Danielle Clough:

Just exactly. And it wasn’t, didn’t see it as a strategy at all. And so, you know, you’d post something and people would like it. If somebody shared it, you would get posts, you would get like more, you know, more followers and everything. So I mean, what it looked like was waking up one morning, going, you know, going to bed with whatever 1000 followers and waking up with 10 and looking to the left and having another 5,000 followers that would have, and it was crazy and people would repost your work and then it would mean something. It was really,

Eitan Stern:

People are not just reposting, but they they’re commenting. They’re saying things they’re engaging with

Danielle Clough:

You. And they’re asking you for sales. Like really? I mean, it, it really also created, I naturally built my business around the demand that came through social media. Yeah. So it was never like I’m gonna use social media to put myself out there. It was like, there was this influx because of social media. And then I had to build the systems around the demand.

Eitan Stern:

So if I think about myself personally, I’ve got my 900 followers on Instagram or whatever it is. And I think all of us can really identify with like, it’s an anxiety space, right? It’s like when you post something you think about like, what are people gonna read into it? What does it mean? Like, and that’s for my 900 followers, you’ve got a couple of hundred thousand, like from a personal level. How does that feel? Do you remember? I

Danielle Clough:

Feel powerful. <Laugh>

Eitan Stern:

No, I mean, is it still an anxiety space for you? Do you feel powerful? Is it nerve wracking every time you press post? Is it a thrill to watch the likes come in? Or is it, is this very much this routine in terms of like, this is my day to day life now

Danielle Clough:

It changes. I always kind of think about it. Like I feel like we all have a relationship with social media because actually the relationship we have a social media is our relationship with ourself and how we presents ourselves to the audience and to the world. So like that relationship within ourselves and within this app has to be healthy. Right. But like any relationship, it oscillates depending on what you need from it, depending on what it can provide for you, what you can provide. It it’s difficult. I mean, I’ve definitely gone through phases where I’ve been like quite anxious about what I put out, what am I representing? What am I trying to say? Am I saying too much? Am I saying too little? Yeah. Who am I? Who am I? But for the most part, I think now I’m at the most peace with it because I’m kind of like, because it’s changed so much, it’s, you know, you’re being throttled left, right. And center there’s algorithms, this, this, this, and you just kind of go actually as a space for myself, what do I want this to be? What do I want this relationship? How do I want it to serve me? And I kind of just go, well, okay, it’s a portfolio now it’s a portfolio.

Eitan Stern:

It’s a, it’s a very powerful one.

Danielle Clough:

Yeah. And it’s one where people can message me, but it’s a mini website and what do I want it to look like? Sure. But it’s taken me a long time to get to this place. Okay. And I think what I’ve realized as well is that they can turn off the taps, this social media business thing. Yeah. This tool, isn’t actually your tool. As much as you feel like this is my page, your page can disappear overnight. It can, you can get hacked and you’ve gotta be like, this is a dispensable tool. Yeah. That can be taken from

Eitan Stern:

Me. I mean, I mean, let’s dig into that. This is kind of core to it. Right? Like how do you think about that in the sense that, well, have there been algorithm changes that have shifted your, your income month to month and then how do you think about that? How do you kind of future proof yourself knowing that you do not own where your portfolio is hosted? Essentially?

Danielle Clough:

It’s been super tough because you know, like a couple years ago I would post say now a print and then I would know, okay. I would sell at least five prints and then that’s changed, you know? And

Eitan Stern:

It’s, and that’s you get more or less, less, less,

Danielle Clough:

Yeah. Okay. So,

Eitan Stern:

But, and that’s because people are just not seeing it there’s the algorithm changed or you’ve been throttled

Danielle Clough:

Or I like to tell myself it’s cuz people aren’t seeing it. It might also be the work, you know, obviously that’s another part of the relationship that you have to reconcile with. Cause as any artist or anybody who’s putting themselves out there, your first go to is like, what have I done? Is it me isn’t me. And like, oh, nobody likes it. I mean, literally the words around it’s like, nobody likes it. Yeah. I’m getting no likes on this. I mean, how can you say that out loud and still be confident in what you’re putting out. So it’s, it’s a difficult thing to kind of wrap your head around knowing that there are changes. Is it you, is it the algorithm? Is it, this is it that?

Eitan Stern:

And, and, and there’s no insight that you can get into that. I mean, there’s there statistics or data, I mean, is your, there’s your Instagram page? I’ve always wondered. This, does your Instagram page with hundreds of thousands of followers look the same as mine, or do you have special features and analytics that you get if you use it in a business sense?

Danielle Clough:

I have special features and analytics. I think it’s also cuz I have a business profile, but I think once you have a certain amount of numbers, you do get insights. Will you be given to you whether you have a business or personal account? That in itself is a really difficult thing because you’re like, oh, the best time to post is Wednesday at six o’clock and now you’re curating your output based on other people’s reception of it. And that’s a really, I wouldn’t say negative. It’s a very fickle and difficult place

Eitan Stern:

To work from it’s way from what you said a minute ago, which is you need to be confident in your relationship with this thing. And exactly. So, so where do you sit with that? It’s like, and I, I imagine it probably your answer might be that it changes, but, but on a general level, how do you think about that? So do, when you view social media, do you view Instagram as a business tool for you? Or do you view it as something about just still this creative expression and you’re gonna use it organically regardless of what the algorithm says?

Danielle Clough:

Well, I’ve gotten to the point now where I’m like, I have to use this regardless of what the algorithm says. Yeah. I need to remove myself from these little dopamine kind of kicks that I get out of like, oh, this post is doing well in somebody. Oh. And they liked it and oh, okay. And, and I’m getting emails and now I’m getting a few business requests and all of this feels really good. Oh, lots of affirmation. You know, you like really excited. You can’t help it. It’s like, that is why it is such an addictive. Yeah. I mean, it’s both to be

Eitan Stern:

Different. I wonder. And maybe you’ve got some sudden engaging with people over the years. I wonder what it feels like for someone who’s got 10 million followers or a hundred million followers, do you think it’s still, I mean, have you engaged with, or do you have a community of other people that have big social media followings and, and is this something, does that problem ever? Does that feeling ever go away?

Danielle Clough:

No, I don’t think it does. Yeah. I don’t think it does. And I think it’s, I think it’s all relative. So like you’re talking about 900 and you might get 90 likes. Yeah. And then you’re like, oh, that’s 10% of my following or what is that? That the right maths, whatever. <Laugh> quick mass, quick math. Whereas like I, if I get 10% of my likes, then that feels good. If I only get two that feels bad. So it’s, it’s all it scales, you know, the, the feeling just scales up with you and the numbers kind of feel irrelevant at the end of the day because fascinating it’s because it’s your work, right? Yeah. Whether it’s you and it’s also what you get used to. Yeah. So I’m used to getting X amount of likes and now I get less and then I, you know, have a little like inside sob and then <laugh> you get back and I get back to work and I have to talk myself out of this space of like, this is just a tool.

Danielle Clough:

This is not who you are. This is, and what I’ve done is I’ve taken a step back round about December when there was some big changes. And I was noticing huge shifts in engagement. I was like, why am I so upset about this? Am I upset? Because I don’t, I, I don’t feel loved or am I upset because I’m worried about the longevity of my business and of my career. And I was like, okay, if it’s because I don’t feel loved, I need to go like hug a friend and like, you know, go out, figure that out. <Laugh> yeah. Maybe have a surprise birthday party for myself.

Eitan Stern:

But if it’s longevity of your career, then,

Danielle Clough:

Then what do I do? How do I strategize around this? Yeah.

Eitan Stern:

I, I wanna pause you on that before we get into how you strategize around. Cause cuz cuz I do want to delve into that. I just wanna ask something on a more practical level. Like when, when, so your, your, well, I suppose you do, do you have a team around you? So is it when someone messages or emails, Fiance, Knowles, are they speaking to you or do you have an agent for this? Do you have a manager like or is, is it kind of in a realm which is still manageable for you to be able to engage?

Danielle Clough:

No, I just roll solo.

Eitan Stern:

You just roll solo.

Danielle Clough:

So just a lone Wolf <laugh> I was working with artist admin for quite a long time. Okay. Since, since my print specifically, my prince have slowed down. Sure. I’ve just decided to go and do it alone. But also since I kind of recalibrating how I’m going to structure my career and what I want to do, it doesn’t really require so much kind of product output as much as bigger picture stuff. And then that’s just me in a room sewing.

Eitan Stern:

Of course. So again, then still gonna bring you back from that. I’ve got one or two more questions about the social media aspect before I speak about what life is like outside of it. We talk a lot about this positive affirmation thing, which we all crave from it. And I think one, I imagine one of the things that comes with having a lot of followers is there’s probably negative comments as well. Is that something that you’ve experienced or is it not really in your, are people ever nasty about your work?

Danielle Clough:

You know, if you ever wanna join a community of really, really nice people start knitting. Okay.

Eitan Stern:

<Laugh>

Danielle Clough:

<Laugh> like the embroidery community is just kind and amazing and lovely. And there’s a few things here and there, people with maybe like start working political agendas that maybe don’t agree with other people don’t agree with. And then there’s obviously like there’s that kind of dynamic that happens with just the social media stuff. I personally have felt very, very, very fortunate that I haven’t had anything, nothing severe. I mean, there was one I’ve had one very, very, very hectic.

Eitan Stern:

Do, do you mind telling us or

Danielle Clough:

So I was, I was featured on CNN, African voices. Wow. And then I got a very long message all in capital letters about not being African. Okay. And being called a cracker.

Eitan Stern:

Okay. Yeah. Well that’s gonna happen. It’s interesting. I, I mean anything that someone puts out there in the world, there’s gonna be someone that disagrees with it’ll

Danielle Clough:

Finds of course. And you, you know, you just,

Eitan Stern:

It doesn’t feel nice. Someone internet calls you, but

Danielle Clough:

You know yeah. And, but you just kind of like try to figure out where it comes

Eitan Stern:

From. Totally. What about cuz I imagine when you , sounds like when you started this while there was a world of people doing it, it wasn’t in the bright, fluffy design orientated world that you’re part of. Now there’s a lot more people doing embroidery arts. How does that feel for you? I mean, do you feel, did you feel a sense of ownership over it? Do you mind that are people copying your work or do you feel like you’re considered as inspiring people or people copy it? Where, where do you sit with that?

Danielle Clough:

Oh, <laugh>, it’s such a good and big and it’s a big question. Multi it’s a big question. So my background is in like photography and design and I have like always taken being an individual as like really, really important. I don’t know if you had the same thing when you were growing up, like one of the most hardcore things anyone could call you was like a poser. Yes.

Eitan Stern:

Fake. We grew up in the nineties. Of course.

Danielle Clough:

So one of be, if you being called a wannabe, nothing stings like that. So you are like, you gotta fight for originality. You know, you go like to records or you’re digging in the back. You’re like gotta find something that nobody else has heard of before. So for me that, because like individuality was like such an important part of what I did. I did find myself when I was doing photography and stuff, being quite possessive over like my style or like what I did, like I shoot film and nobody else can, and it was so destructive and really really, so by the time I got into embroidery and started doing better, I was like, there’s two ways I can go about this. I can either be possessive over this thing, which I did not invent, you know, country to, to first kind of feelings about it, but has been around for centuries.

Danielle Clough:

Literally we have been embellishing cloth since like before we, yeah, we like hardly wearing anything, but we’re like beat it and we use it to like show status and we’ve just been using embroidery and embellishing cloth as a way to communicate since forever. So for me to think that I’m now like uber special on this like huge, huge history is just a little bit naive. So I was like, so how do I counteract these feelings of possessiveness? So I just decided, okay, I’m just gonna crack open the doors and teach. So I started doing workshops. It was really hard at first. Yeah. It was like very counterintuitive, but I like fell in love with teaching. So I just kept doing workshops and growing my workshops and now I teach online and then I’ve got a few online courses and then I, I travel and I teach classes and I love it.

Danielle Clough:

So what does happen with that though is that obviously you’re teaching. So now people are reproducing the work that you’re teaching. So certain things that look and feel like mine and it does sting a little bit, but then I’ve also gotta be like, I’m not the first, I’m not the only, this is inspiring and this is a gift and people are like tagging me and stuff and you’re building into their lives and they’re building into yours. And so once I let go of the possessiveness, every time I consciously let go of that, like feeling like this is mine, the other side of that, the sunny side of that is like connection community.

Eitan Stern:

Yeah. It’s a beautiful thing that you’re saying. And I think that message that really hits home for me as well. And we are while we are in a very different businesses. It’s like, if you can start to view imitation as the compliment, which is what our parents told us to do as kids, it, it doesn’t make you fear it as much. Yes. And you know, I think we’ve also Legalese who are also account like a counterweight of the way law firms operated and now other people do it. And it’s very easy to view that as something that you’re scared about. And then it’s very, also if you clock your head sideways, it’s very easy as well to view that as a, as a compliment. And you’ve been inspiration for people, but you know, but of course, sometimes these things can hurt you. They can hurt your business. Yeah. And so, I mean, what you’re saying is a, it’s a simple thing, but it’s, it’s complex to do.

Danielle Clough:

Yeah. It is really complex, especially cuz once you’ve done all of this, you know, I think what it is is you, you do the work. Yeah. I mean, somebody gets to bypass all that effort and just get onto the thing. But that’s, I mean, that’s also why I find teaching. So beneficial is because I go, hang on, I am actually getting a reward out of this. It’s monetary it’s community. And then you’ve also kind of, instead of just sitting back, being possessive and having these things being imitated anywhere, at least now I’m like taking an ownership over that, like for you, with your business when you build courses or when you teach or when you share or when you consult. Yeah. You’re actually essentially doing the same thing you’re teaching, you’re giving somebody the, the cheat codes that you’ve been working for, but you’re also establishing yourself as an authority

Eitan Stern:

For sure. And it sounds like this ties in quite well with that question that we, we were, which we paused earlier, which is like, what is life outside of social media? So the social media thing, which has built your audience and built your business. But as we’ve said is a little bit IM permanent is the teaching. Is that the answer for you on, on what life looks like outside of going for likes?

Danielle Clough:

Well, yeah, I mean teaching is definitely a part of it. It’s not predictable as a freelancer, as a freelance artist that like, I can’t say I’m gonna definitely get X, but the Skillshare approached me a few years ago about being one of their Skillshare originals to do you wanna

Eitan Stern:

Just explain what

Danielle Clough:

Skillshare is? Skillshare is an online learning platform. Okay. Most of the content that’s on Skillshare is user generated, but there is a strong formula to it. So there’s a high standard of quality to all of it. But then they have a section called Skillshare originals, but like Netflix originals, where they select teachers and they produce a content and they build a class and they promote it and everything, but all, and

Eitan Stern:

You, you’re one of those originals?

Danielle Clough:

I’m one of those original teachers. Yeah.

Eitan Stern:

And you love it?

Danielle Clough:

Love it. We’ve made two class, three classes and the Skillshare family are just so great. They keep this kind of like pulling me into really interesting projects and they’re just fantastic to work with. But then it’s a really nice way for me to reach an international audience, to be able to also when I get asked questions where people are like, how do you do a French knot? I’m like, well actually I have a Skillshare class. Have you followed this link? You know, which is really nice as well, because it’s a way that I can still give to, without having to like plug in consistently into answering every message on social

Eitan Stern:

Media. Yeah. I think also like online education is becoming such a massive field because it is a really, I mean, not to, to translate everything to a business model, but it’s an excellent business model. You are, you, you create something once and you’re able to kind of keep commercializing that over and over again. Yeah. For, you know, as long as the platform goes

Danielle Clough:

As <laugh> yeah. As, or as long as there isn’t too much in your market already, which will dilute, you know, can sure. But it’s, I mean, I’ve been, I’ve been loving it and we launched the first class. We actually formed the first class in November, 2019. Yeah. So it came out February 2020. Perfect. So when everyone was at home and wanted to learn something, so I was very fortunate, brilliant with the timing, but the outside of Instagram, it’s also been a case of like, I’ve decided to restructure myself as less of a crafter and more than artist I’ve wanted to basically build bigger works things that are a little bit more, I don’t wanna say conceptual, but a little bit more layered. I decided to do that and take a step back from producing stuff within like my Instagram business model, my social media business model. And I’ve just got a whole lot of commissions and stuff that have come in. So it’s been really amazing.

Eitan Stern:

Yeah. One of those commissions have actually come to me, it was a wedding presence. I’ve got one of your pieces, which is going off on our wall, which is super exciting. D I wanna ask you something and maybe this is coming in from the left, but as someone like who you’ve grew up, I mean, you, you were part of this original generation of that saw like being able to go viral on social media at a time where it was all still organic and it wasn’t the direct business model for people today. And you mentioned it earlier, there’s the rise of the influencer campaigns, right? Yeah. Like everyone’s an influencer and people have seen a way to utilize social media to and gain a spotlight and use that spotlight for commercial success. Like, I don’t think you fit into that bracket because it’s not, I mean, I don’t think you’ve ever posted anything about yourself. It’s all about your art and your craft. How does it feel to you in that, on this platform where you are promoting your work, there’s influences promoting themselves to sell things for brands? Like, is that, does that form part of your consciousness at all? Or is this not really something you that you engage with much?

Danielle Clough:

Well, it’s definitely something I I’ve I’ve made a conscious decision about was like, how much do I want my work to be about me and my work mm-hmm <affirmative> is it about my work? Is it about me? Do, is it like Danielle Clough slash Fiance Knowles happens to be an embroider or this embroidery’s name is, you know, Fiance Knowles. It was like, really, what do I want to put forward? I’ve been approached by multiple kind of industries and campaigns to do this kind of influencer style work. And a lot of people actually only want you because of maybe the size of your audience. Sure. So it has to, it’s actually had to be kind of like sometimes have to turn away some, like, you know, really big, well paid jobs because strategically it doesn’t actually fit into your brand. Yeah. My brand just happens to not be me I’ve and that’s something I’ve had to decide. I’ve I’ve made it,

Eitan Stern:

There’s a strategy behind it. It’s conscious.

Danielle Clough:

It’s conscious because actually that’s what the market wants now or has wanted for a long time is the, this is me and I use this perfume or a lot of you have been asking about my skincare routine.

Eitan Stern:

Yeah. The people at home can’t see the, the hair flick,

Danielle Clough:

The hair flick and the <laugh>. But I had this discussion with a friend yesterday, actually about how I struggled to wrap my head around making money outside of social media. Like she’s studying psychology and she doesn’t have Instagram. And I’m like, but how, how do you do it? How do you do it? And of course she can do it, but I it’s just the world that I live in. You know? So I’ve been have to be very conscious of how much power I give this idea of my personality being on social media, on social media, onto the world and in the world. And, and it is important to inject your personality into your work. Cause it is your work. Totally. But,

Eitan Stern:

So, so what is, is that it for you? Like, what is the thing that keeps you ticking with it? Why do you do what you do?

Danielle Clough:

I think not just like, oh, that’ll be really ki like, oh, I really wanna like, how nice would it be to do like a Flamingo or like, I’ve got these lollipops. I really wanna do these lollipops. And I’ve got this like green fabric. I’m like, oh, it’s juicy. I can’t wait. Yeah, love it. That’s why I just love it. I love making stuff. I love that. So it feels good. Like I get excited about it and then sharing that is like a part of the process like, oh, I can’t wait till you guys see my juicy lollipops. <Laugh>

Eitan Stern:

<Laugh>

Danielle Clough:

And then sometimes a bit bummed. I like put it out and then I’ll get like maybe a couple hundred likes. They’re like, oh guys, you don’t feel the way I do.

Eitan Stern:

Yeah. I missed it.

Danielle Clough:

But then, but then, you know, you just need like one person to be like, these are the best lollipops. And you’re like, oh, you get it. You know, that’s kind of why I don’t make for the audience. I try not make for the audience. Yeah. But it’s so much consistently having to think about this stuff and reconcile with this stuff and like really look at it because if you just start putting out based on what people wanna see, and especially now people on entrepreneurs like programs are like, if you wanna, you’ve gotta make two reels a week. And you’re like, that is so much time to make a real one. Real. Yeah. There’s a lot of time.

Eitan Stern:

That’s your job now to make that real.

Danielle Clough:

Yeah. Yeah. So I was like, I got really annoyed with this whole idea of like really consumable, badly made video content. So I was like, I wanna make nice video content. Yeah. And I have to learn how to make no. So now I’m teaching myself to film and edit and

Eitan Stern:

Stuff. Yeah. That’s the artist in you speaking? I mean, it’s interesting for me and maybe, maybe we can wrap up with this. It’s interesting me for me to to think like, oh, from what it sounds like, it’s like, you you’re, you’re an artist first you found happened to be right place, right time. And then we’re able to get your art out to the world, but that artistic ethic and value hasn’t left you. And that seems to be something which you keep focusing on and whether your career is on Instagram now or Skillshare, or whatever’s gonna come next. It sounds to me like, what you’re saying is if you just kind of keep to that value and that ethic, like it’s going to, you know, you’ll still be Fiance Knowles, or Danielle Clough, then it’ll be fine.

Danielle Clough:

Exactly. Exactly. And you also, I mean, it again about longevity, you know, like how much of what we do. Everything is gonna come in and out of fashion. Sure. Everything. There’s always gonna be the cycles. The technology can change, but you know, I’m pretty sure coffee photos are gonna be very popular soon, you know, <laugh> and I see it with, with, I mean, you mentioned earlier how they’ve become a lot more embroidered all of a sudden, but this is not new. This, it always comes in and out of fashion. I mean, the reason it’s been seen as an old fashioned granny craft is because grannys were in fashion thirties once and they were like, this is a cute little thing to do. And they did it until they were older and it was unfashionable and now it’s fashionable again. And you know, so the everything

Eitan Stern:

It’s the cycle of life.

Danielle Clough:

Yeah. So you just have to

Eitan Stern:

What what’s next for Danielle Clough slash Fiance Knowles. And then what do you want people to know that you’re working on?

Danielle Clough:

So I can’t tell you what I’m working on. Okay. Technically sign some papers. Let’s say I’m not allowed, but I am. Once I’ve wrapped up these big projects, I’m gonna be focusing on doing a big body of work. It’ll be the first time that I have anything underneath one umbrella theme. I’m always doing like random things and now I’m gonna actually just focus on a body of work. And I’m hoping to have that altogether in like 2023. So my work takes time. So in about a year and travel and exhibit it. Yeah, so that’s kind of the next big goal is to be like, how do I become a stronger, better creative? Just all in all

Eitan Stern:

Brilliant strength to you in doing it. I look forward to following it wherever that is. Thanks for joining us today. I really enjoyed this and enjoy the rest of your afternoon, looking at this view.

Danielle Clough:

Oh, thanks chat soon. I don’t know. How do you end these things? <Laugh> I even know. Okay,

Eitan Stern:

Bye. Generally. Yeah, we

Danielle Clough:

Thanks for having me.

Eitan Stern:

There we go. Perfect. This podcast is recorded by Simon Atwell. The intro music is by PHFat. I’m your host Eitan Stern for more information about Legalese, catch us on legalese.co.za or on the socials.