Breaking into a creative industry — even as a well-versed professional in makeup, design or photography — can be tough. One can learn the skills from notable institutions but establishing a network of valuable contacts, expanding one's portfolio and booking jobs is another huge feat for those who want to take their careers to the next level.
That's where Mastered comes in. The entirely-online program provides hundreds of working creatives one-on-one access to industry gurus like makeup artist Val Garland and fashion photographer Nick Knight. "There are incredible icons who really want to help and teach the next generation of talent," explains Program Director and Co-founder Perri Lewis over the phone from her office in London. "They have so much to share but don't have the time and are in such high demand. So we give them the chance to mentor these professionals in a global classroom setting."
Lewis teamed with Adil Abrar and Cheryl Adamson to launch Mastered in Jan. 2014, combining their passions for technology, creative careers and online experiences. In addition to gaining truthful, industry-related anecdotes from the courses' instructors, students are also provided valuable opportunities to boost their careers, from portfolio reviews to networking skills. What sets Mastered apart from other online courses is not only the credibility that comes with its instructors but the chance for students to also attend Q&As and discussion panels. Over the span of a four or six month course, they can pick the brain of and receive feedback from their instructor — and the fellow industry leaders who tag along to these regularly scheduled online sessions. During Garland's makeup course, she brought on close colleagues from i-D, NARS, her agency Streeters and even Vivienne Westwood. Mastered also serves as a pipeline for new talent: A few of Garland's makeup students had the chance to assist her backstage at the Issa spring 2016 runway show during London Fashion Week.
"[The instructors] are like a mentor and a curator with opinions on how a program for their particular profession should and shouldn't be taught," said Lewis. She mentioned that Knight, whose course starts this month and will run until Feb. 2016, had strong ideas for building a syllabus inspired by his own three-decade career as a world-renowned fashion photographer. In addition to online videos and conversations, Knight's students are required to produce multiple fashion editorials, a fashion film and a brand campaign proposal that will push their own technique and style.
So who's enrolling at Mastered and how are they chosen? "Our audience is massively global," explained Lewis, noting that Garland's makeup course included emerging professionals from the UK, US, Canada, Australia and across Europe. "And that's exciting because people in certain countries don't have access to those incredible names."
Mastered's talent management team are looking for prospective students with talent, passion and commitment. The initial application process is fairly quick if you have a portfolio of work and a few minutes to answer questions like "Why is this program a must for you?" and "How will you fund the cost of participation?" (A course at Mastered can cost between $1,600 and $2,200 and can be paid in monthly installments.) "These are professional programs," she said. "[The applicants] don't aspire — they are already hairstylists or photographers. We look at their portfolio, their career decisions, ambitions and goals." The team reviews applications daily, which can total up to the thousands. (Garland's course received about 5,000 applications from around the world.) There are 800 student slots available for each course.
Although Mastered is still in its early stages, the program's impressive faculty roster continues to grow. The application process has recently closed for editorial and celebrity hairstylist Sam McKnight, known for creating the hair looks for Chanel's runway shows and a slew of international Vogue covers. Professional manicurist Marian Newman and designers Katie Hillier (for accessories) and Off-White's Virgil Abloh (for streetwear) are also in the lineup. The designer-focused courses are "for individuals with brands that already exist," explained Lewis. "We liken it to an incubator that will push their brands forward." As a fashion news website, we were very curious about a four-month fashion writing course to be taught by Tim Blanks, formerly of Style.com and the newest recruit to Business of Fashion. He will aim to "polish the talent that already exists" within his future students. "But I actually think what'll happen is I'll be learning as we go, too," mentioned Blanks. "It's not simply a question of professional longevity. Curiosity keeps you alive. Stop growing and you die." Blanks's course recently opened for applications and will kick off in February of next year.
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