An interview with The Mannequin Collective's Jay Vaz
Who are The Mannequin Collective? "The Mannequin Collective is a creative family of six individuals, specialising in generating film, photography, graphics and bespoke sound design", Vaz tells TAO. The project, initially discussed by designers Jay Vaz and Joe Ellis when the pair were just 17 years old, started out as an idea that flourished just two years later into a fully operational production company. Vaz admits that proceedings didn't truly start until members Hugo Inglis, Ollie Inglis, Ollie Meeke and Lawrie Miller joined the team in 2017, where they met in Leeds at university.
The project was inspired due to Vaz and Ellis constantly creating art at college and wanting a platform to put all these works on, with the idea gradually developing: "An an idea of a creative agency naturally formed and we felt really excited that this was coming together so quickly". Vaz had already dipped his toes into the creative industry years before this project, working at 13 to collage and illustrate over disposable photos of his brother's jazz band during their tour. A year prior to this, he was establishing his first record collection based purely on how "engaging" the covers were. Being exposed to art and music at an early age would prove pivotal, cementing the foundations for what would later become his very own blend of the two mediums.
"We get inspiration from family and friends, which is a fundamental part of Mannequin"
Collectively, Vaz and The Mannequin Collective have produced a healthy body of work. Their typographic posters (below) possess the aura and mystery of early 80s/90s acid-house rave flyers, utilising space with eye-catching fonts and bold colours. Their vintage cassette-tape covers (above) put a retro spin on the work of some of the best female neo-soul musicians of the last twenty years. They've worked with promising London hip-hop collective, House Of Pharaohs, to produce the music video for their track "Backseat", and even thrown a house party with Melé and DJ Boring for the EP release by DJ Haus.
Among the host of names listed above, the creative family have also pinned their name to a myriad of festivals, providing annoucnement visuals for Outlook and Sunfall Festival, and exploring the DJ Directory for Dimensions Festival, in collaboration with Smirnoff. All of this in just over a year. It's fair to say there's a bright future ahead.
Recently, the group have worked to shine the spotlight on the blossoming jazz scene of the UK: "The UK Jazz scene series was a spontaneous project for fun to get away from commission work, recreating covers of singles were listening to in our studio of the UK Jazz scene". Vaz explained to TAO that the creative process involved listening thoroughly to certain tracks and then translating specific colours and imagery that the group associated the music with. From there, it was a matter of taking various little aspects from their sketchbooks and transforming those into the digital pieces that you see below.
"We get inspiration from family and friends, which is a fundamental part of Mannequin", Vaz explains. "As a group we love watching films together and music videos as it creates idea generation within our groups as we discuss sections of the visuals we love and dislike, which then leads to turning into interesting debates. We’re also really inspired by the UK Jazz Scene at the moment and all the young creatives in London that are really pushing their personal projects and voices". There's a clear group consensus in every area they operate on; everyone seemingly on the same wavelength, everyone moving forward at the same pace. But they each pursue their own interests, adding individual perspectives into the mix. Whether that be following directors on Vimeo, or visiting art exhibitions, the goal is to immerse themselves in as much art and culture as possible. Platforms such as Cosmic Slop, Rhythm Section, Gal-Dem, Balamii and NTS are cited as influential projects, projects that Vaz admits "are really positive in supporting young creatives"
As the group are now all approaching their final year of university, they admit they would love to work together in a studio in London, working on solo and group projects: "Our plans for the future is to also run some more music nights, events and exhibitions. We also have plans to release our limited edition clothing range by end of next summer, and we also have a really exciting project that were releasing next month, that you will have to wait for!".