An interview with our new Chairman Raoul Shah

Interviews

Our newly appointed Chairman, Raoul Shah, tells us about his passions and influences. Founder of Exposure, one of the world’s leading independent communications agencies, he has worked with many of the most iconic global brands and has more than 25 years’ experience in marketing and communications.

Raoul is a keen supporter of young artists and creatives, as well as a writer and collector.

What are you passionate about? What motivates and inspires you?

I’m passionate about people. I was brought up with a belief that together we are better and can achieve anything. We are most potent when we combine different experiences and diverse cultures to create challenging ideas. I love the energy you get from working with people with varied skills. The idea of seeing things from different perspectives is exciting. I’m motivated by the idea of giving more than you take. My inspiration comes from all over the place but I’ve had the privilege to travel a lot which has definitely shaped my view of the world and cities like New York, Paris and Tokyo give me a constant source of inspiration. The other places that I draw plenty of ideas from are my vinyl collection, design books, and youth culture movements from the 70’s onwards. I think Paul Smith’s book “You Can Find Inspiration In Everything. And If You Can’t, Look Again” is pretty apt and a constant reminder to stay curious, ask questions, listen well and look up.

I keep my mind open and clear by running on a regular basis and escaping to Lake Annecy to re-charge my batteries (when the rules permit…)

What is your greatest professional (and/or personal) accomplishment?

Starting Exposure in October 1993 with no real business plan has been quite a journey. It’s been fuelled by instinct, great people and a restless desire to keep trying new things and taking a few risks. I wanted a ‘job’ that allowed me to simply meet friends with a shared love of music, art and fashion and connect people across my network (mainly via arranging club nights). That eventually helped me establish an actual agency – thank-you Tim – that provided a variety of creative and marketing communications solutions for brands. We attracted a lot of young designers and creatively minded individuals so there was a constant flow of ideas and new narratives being written. I also developed my network and connections across my favourite global cities beyond London: New York, Paris and Tokyo. They were and still remain uniquely connected capitals of culture.

We were aligned to a plethora of amazing global style magazines that existed back then (The Face, i-D, Purple, Self Service, Dutch, Flaunt, Tank, Composite, Dazed & Confused, etc) as well as concept stores that sold independent brands and acted like media in their own right. So many great references but here’s a few: Duffer of St George (D’Arblay St), The Pineal Eye, Colette, Browns Focus, 10 Corso Como, Low Pressure, B Store, Oki-Ni, Nom de Guerre, Reed Space (NYC), Microzine, Hit & Run, Zoltar The Magnificent…)

Having this network led to global brands wanting to be a part of that same creative culture and creative environment. Dr. Martens, Levi’s, Converse, Coca-Cola and Nike are some of the brands that came to us in the late 90’s and still remain clients today. Today our portfolio also includes LEGO, Uniqlo, Muji, Samsung, Brewdog, The London Design Festival and Tommy Hilfiger but we remain close to independent visionaries like Noah, Folk, Pentatonic, Art Comes First, Robi Walters and Bradley Theodore. We always described our purpose as ‘Making brands culturally relevant’ and that’s our red thread that permeates through everything we do.

27 years on we have Exposure, Threesixty and Seen Group with offices in London, New York and Paris housed under our umbrella company The Casbah. Our latest extension is a white space in Le Marais called The Supermarket. It’s our ‘gallery of ideas’ but, clearly, slightly less frequented at the moment.

On a personal level, self-publishing my book ‘Do Not Disturb’ has been a highlight and an incredible learning process. It catalogues a large array of hotel door hangers that I started collecting in 1980 when I first visited America. Amongst my own (circa 500), I have featured guests’ contributions from many close friends and collaborators.

Who has been your biggest influence?

Apart from my family that really do influence, challenge and inspire me, there are three consistent names on my list:

Sir David Attenborough. I’ve been obsessed since watching Life on Earth in 1979.
Joe Strummer. The lyrics, the attitude, the honesty. In his words: “Without people, you’re nothing.”
Nitin Shah, Founder of Pepe Jeans and my first boss. He gave me belief in myself and permission to try things, take risks, learn from experience and obsess about detail. He taught me to have humility and be generous in spirit.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given and who gave it?

“If you make one person happy they’ll tell five others. But make one person unhappy and they’ll tell ten.”

— Nitin Shah

Learn and Pass It On.

— Trisha Jones (Founder of i-D magazine)

What moved you to take the Chair of Creative Conscience?

Apart from Chrissy’s relentless energy and enthusiasm, I was inspired by the ambition and purpose of the charity. It’s open to everyone (global community) everywhere (digital platform) and supports creative thinkers to make a social and/or an environmental impact through creativity and design. Creative Conscience has a foundation for taking action and making a positive impact across society and within our communities, so it’s a business built for the present and a guiding light for the future. Any business not rooted in a core purpose and unable to demonstrate behaviour that’s rooted in clear and honest values is at risk of rapidly losing relevance.

My vision is to help as many brands as possible to achieve this through aligning and partnering with Creative Conscience and, in parallel, making our global community the biggest and most active change-makers on the planet.