KITRI Spotlight: Joanna Payne

KITRI Spotlight: Joanna Payne

Meet our creative, intelligent and simply brilliant friends who inspire KITRI in every single way. 

If you're looking for some career (and style!) inspiration, you've come to the right place. This month we sat down with the wonderful Joanna Payne, #KITRIgirl and founder of Marguerite, a club for women who work in the visual arts, whose aim is to advance the careers of women in the industry by providing a ready-made professional network and spaces in which to hear from some of the most influential people working in the creative industry today. Trust us, you're going to want to meet her. 

We’d love to hear all about your career path before launching your own company…
After studying History of Art at Nottingham Uni, I started off by interning at Whitechapel Gallery in their Development team. From there, I went for a temp role in the VIP team at Frieze Art Fair which eventually landed me my first full time job! I was there for almost five years and worked my way up to the position of Senior VIP Relations which involved me organising events for some of the most well known art collectors, artists, curators and museum directors in the world. In the time I was there, I was involved in the launch of two new fairs, Frieze Masters and Frieze New York. Inspired by my roles at Frieze and later Photo London where I launched the VIP team, I founded Marguerite. I’d been planning amazing events for wealthy collectors in artists’ studios and collector’s homes and wanted to give my peers this same kind of incredible access to art. After a year or so, I realised that I was onto a good thing so decided to focus on it full time!

What inspired you to launch Marguerite London and what is your mission?
Marguerite first began in my living room back in 2015. As a woman working in the arts, I found that whilst the industry is heavily populated by women, it seemed to be dominated by men at the top. The men I was working with at the time seemed to find it far easier to realise their potential than the women I knew – something that was seemingly caused by a difference in attitude and confidence as opposed to superior skill sets.

In the past few years, women have moved to some of the most prominent positions in the art world today - most notably perhaps in the case of Tate – where the Directors of all four Tates are now women (a huge shift from 2015 when they were all men)! There is however still a long way to go. The current median pay gap for workers in the UK is 18.4% but one of the reasons Marguerite felt so necessary is that the disparity in the art world isn't just 18 or 19%... Between 2008 and 2018, only 11% of art acquired by America’s top museums for their permanent collections was by women. Last year, of the 20 most expensive artworks sold at auction, not one was by a female artist. This disparity in how artists are treated of course filters down to the wider industry – something we are committed to highlighting and overcoming with Marguerite.

With all of this in mind, we named the network after one of the most significant art patrons of the 20th Century, Marguerite “Peggy” Guggenheim. The club strives to uphold Peggy’s famous confidence, ambition and vigour — her fearlessness and her recognition of the importance of surrounding yourself by intelligent, generous and inspiring people to increase your own confidence and network.
Marguerite aims to advance the careers of women in the industry by providing a ready-made professional network and safe spaces in which to hear from some of the most influential people working in the creative industries today.  Through a series of inspiring, innovative and most importantly fun events, Marguerite offers women the opportunity to meet, share ideas and build their careers in the art world and beyond.

What does the Marguerite membership include and what has been the best feedback you have received from your members? 
We now offer 5 different types of membership starting at £5/month. Our memberships offer: varying levels of access to the 40 events we host a year; direct access to some of the most impressive people working in the arts today; the opportunity to network with likeminded women; transcriptions of our past events; and discounts with some of our favourite brands! You can also purchase individual tickets to our events if you’d like to try us on for size before you commit!
The best feedback I receive is when our members and guests report back on the connections they’ve made and jobs they’ve secured from meeting people at our events. A member who is a graphic designer messaged me just last night with a photo of the mood board she’s working on for someone she met through Marguerite – it made me so happy!

What do your ‘FEMpowerment’ events consist of? 
FEMpowerment is an event we host annually with Life Editor of Huffpost UK, Brogan Driscoll. The event focuses on women’s careers in a more holistic way than our regular events. This year’s event took place in Ned’s Club – the private members’ club at The Ned. We hosted panel discussions on topics such as the taboo of money and how to be resilient in the face of adversity and treated our guests to a sound bath, modern meditation and an intention setting workshop – it was such a brilliant day!


What would your advice be on starting your own company? 
I set Marguerite up as a side hustle when I was still employed elsewhere. I’d really recommend doing this if you can – it takes the pressure off in that your regular salary keeps rolling in and you can test out the appetite for your idea before taking the plunge. I’d also encourage anyone thinking about starting their own company to meet as many people in the industry as they can. Having a strong support network is key to launching a company – both emotionally and in terms of the people you can call on for help and advice. Speaking of which, my motto is “don’t ask, don’t get”. Lorraine Candy who is the luxury content director at The Sunday Times and editor-in-chief of Style magazine spoke for us a few months ago and said that people often say yes to big ideas. I couldn’t agree with her more!

Having such an amazing career in the arts, what would you say your biggest achievements have been so far?
Taking the plunge by quitting my job to focus on Marguerite full time was a huge achievement in itself but since then there have been so many high points. We hosted a huge event as part of Uniqlo Tate Lates at Tate Modern a few years ago where we welcomed something like 13K people over the course of the evening! It was amazing to share Marguerite’s mission with such a vast audience that night!

Now, securing a big museum director like the Director of Tate, Maria Balshaw or a renowned fashion designer like Dame Zandra Rhodes feels like a real achievement. As does hearing about the brilliant friendships our members make at Marguerite – that has to be the best feeling ever!

What has been the main challenge you've faced since launching Marguerite London?
The lack of certainty around money in the early days was tough. I’m self funded and have never had any investment or family money to fall back on which has made for a rocky road but I’m glad that I did it that way now. I think it can make you work a lot harder when you know there’s nothing other than your business to count on to generate income!

Learning to be more resilient has been a key part of growing the company. Unexpected things happen every day that you have to deal with – venues fall through, speakers cancel at the last minute, sponsors decide not to renew for another year – but I’ve learnt to dust myself off and pick myself up much more quickly than I did at the beginning!

What does your typical day look like and how do you switch off at the end of a busy workday?
On a typical day, I’ll wake up at around 7.30am and grab a coffee from next door at Violet Bakery before walking to our studio in Hackney Downs that we share with Partnership Editions. I’ll work through emails first thing before heading into central for meetings in the afternoon. In the evening, I’ll often have an event to go to - whether it be a Marguerite event, a gallery private view or some kind of launch. On the rare occasions that I don’t, I love to go to yoga in the studio beneath our office before heading home for dinner with my boyfriend (who is handily an amazing cook!) or popping across the road for a glass of rouge in The Spurstowe Arms!

Who is your biggest inspiration and why?
My dad was made redundant when I was in my early-teens. Unable to find another job, he decided to launch his own recruitment firm from our kitchen table. I think that was a huge inspiration to me – it was amazing to see that you can start something armed with just a computer and a phone line!

How would you describe your everyday style? 
My every day style is pretty casual and simple – either floaty dresses with boots and tights or jeans and shirts. I’ve recently invested in a pair of Dr Marten boots which have changed my life. They go with everything! For our events, I dress up a little bit more – you’ll probably find me in a dress and heels with a lick of red lipstick.
We love seeing you wearing KITRI! Why did you choose these particular pieces?
I love the skirts and dresses which can be worn dressed down during the day with boots – and the white shirt is so simple and versatile! The silky collared dress is perfect for Marguerite events where I like to be a bit smarter and the feathered leopard print trousers paired with a cosy red jumper are so much fun for Christmas!

Mabel Red Roll Neck Jumper,  Gina Green Check Maxi Dress Apollo Leopard Print Feather Trousers, Donna Black Rib Knit Jumper,  Tara Navy Polka Dot Shirt Dress,  Meredith Smocked Shirt, Rochelle Vintage Floral Dress, Lydia Animal Print Skirt.

And finally, what’s next?
We’ve just announced our winter programme which includes events with the likes of: the Director of the V&A, Tristam Hunt; the Founder of Alice Temperely, Alice Temperley MBE and dinner in the home of patron of female artists, Valeria Napoleone.

Photography: Luke Fullalove @fullalove 

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