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Agency Life

Purpose Over Profit

Purpose Over Profit

Natasha Smith

Natasha Smith

January 19, 2018

Styling and profiling—for a good cause. Arena Media’s Dominique Perkowski talks about making a difference with her very own fashion brand.

"333 NYC is different from just another fashion or streetwear brand... [T]he message behind it is more important. "

Dominique Perkowski, assistant media planner at Arena Media, shares her personal passion project: 333 NYC, a socially conscious fashion brand.

So, how’d you get your start in advertising?

Honestly, as most unexpectedly amazing things happen, it just fell in my lap. Previously, I had been working in the fashion industry throughout college and right after graduation, but it didn’t feel quite right at the time. After some soul-searching and a lot of job searching, I decided to branch into the digital industry through my background in fashion and social media, and ended up applying for a Media Planner, Fashion position at Havas through LinkedIn. Little did I know that I was wholly unqualified for the job. So, shout out to human resources at Havas who decided to call me back for an opening for a media planner assistant role—because it ended up being the best job and learning experience I’ve ever had.

Have you always been interested in fashion?

I’ll have to ask my mom for the exact date I told her that her services were no longer required when it came to shopping, but for as long as I can remember, yes. I think I truly started to go for it early on in high school, which wasn’t the easiest transition. I got a lot of “What are you wearing?” and “Did you win the heavyweight boxing championships?” when I would accessorize with a thick, but stylish belt. I liked experimenting with my personal style more than I cared about others’ comments, so after a while, it went from “Why are you wearing that” to “I wish I could pull that off.”

I also attended several fashion summer programs during high school, which were essentially like college classes about fashion merchandising and styling. But, my dad wouldn’t let me apply to any fashion schools. He told me to go to a university where I would have options in case I changed my mind. Unluckily for him, I didn’t change my mind and my parents footed the bill for many (many) of my unpaid fashion internships in the city.

Luckily for me, I was also able to pursue a communications degree, which ended up being something that fascinated me. I learned a lot about how external communication affects our sense of self, and how our communication affects people’s perceptions of us; I even finished my last year off with a presentation about how positive internal communications are necessary when working toward a goal. I learned a lot of these things in college—through internships and courses—which enabled me to launch 333 NYC.

How did you come to start your own fashion line?

In college, I would remake clothing, old denim jeans and army jackets, by dying, embellishing, distressing or printing on them, and then sell them just for fun.

But for me, 333 NYC is different from just another fashion or streetwear brand. Creating and working on the clothing challenges me to learn new things and helps me put myself out there—but the message behind it is more important. When you have something like mental health awareness reminding you that it’s about something bigger than just you, it becomes much more important to fight moments of doubts and challenges—because you’re fighting for a cause.  

So, what does 333 stand for?

It’s a reference from numerology. It’s believed to be symbolic of divine protection, help, and guidance. If you see it repeatedly, it means that not only are you a great leader, but the leaders who came before you are encouraging you and that you’re surrounded by a positive creative energy intended to support and motivate you as you move toward your goals.  

Personally, it’s my lucky number. It reminds me to trust myself and trust that everything’s going to work out better than I expect. I started to see it a lot when I decided to switch career paths and kept questioning whether I was making the right decision. Whether it’s actually a sign from above or not, I don’t know. But it reminds me to get out of my head and keep moving forward with things I can actually change.

Why the focus on mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety?

It’s really an accumulation of a lot of things: my personal experiences, my friends’ and family’s experiences, and the fact that I am fascinated by how people think, why they think the way they do, and what tactics they use when faced with negative thinking.

Anxiety and depression are the focus because they’re the ones that hit home. And from what I’ve noticed, they’re the ones that affect all of us to one extent or another. We’ve all dealt with feelings of anxiousness, guilt, insecurity, worry, hopelessness, grief, and so on. I’ve seen amazingly kind and caring people who find themselves in dark places due to anxiety but depression, and are too ashamed to admit they need help because of some archaic stigma. It’s unbearably heartbreaking.

"Advertising is one of the major forms of communication that impacts what society thinks collectively."

The goal of 333 NYC is to show that mental health is less of a diagnosis and is something we should all be aware of and should work to improve. We want people to view mental health more like they do physical health. You wouldn’t look at someone differently because they caught a cold. You also don’t have to be at the brink of a heart attack to start eating healthy and developing a workout routine. We should think of mental health in the same way.

More consumers are drawn to brands that are socially responsible, and you donate 20% of all proceeds to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Why is purpose just as important as profit?

Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have gone into clothing again without the purpose behind it. It’s fun to create clothing with meaningful purpose, but so are a lot of things—like sleeping in instead of waking up at five a.m. to do design work before going to work, and spending money on things you want rather than taking a large sum out of your savings to start a brand.

I recently watched a TED Talk that highlighted the concept of the so-called “Mama Bear Effect”, where woman feel more compelled and more assertive by advocating for others. This concept helps women find their own voice, and feel more confident to speak up. From my experience, this has been 100% true.

Your shirts have positive phrases like “I’m doing my best” and “You are not obligated to set yourself on fire to keep others warm.” Where do you get your ideas?

The majority of my affirming mantras are from motivational speeches I listen to at the gym, TED Talks, poetry, art, books, and podcasts.

It’s probably so corny to admit this, but those two phrases were reworked quotes I found on social media that I could personally relate to and are things I try to tell my friends

What would you like to change in the advertising industry?

I’ve already noticed the changes I’d like to see happening, but I think it’s because our mindset as a whole is shifting. There’s no doubt that advertising is one of the major forms of communications that impacts what society thinks collectively. But advertising is also always trying to connect with the consumer on a deeper level. It’s all very chicken and egg.

As this generation starts to stand up for causes like women’s rights, body positivity, mental health, LBGTQ rights, and just general acceptance of others and themselves, advertising is sure to follow for fear of being chastised social media or of seeming outdated. It’s also important for advertising agencies to make sure their creative work sends the right message and that we stand up for what we want to see in the world.

What do you hope stays the same?

I love change.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Reading this on my iPhone XYZ and laughing at how much I’ve grown over the past 10 years.

"333 NYC is different from just another fashion or streetwear brand... [T]he message behind it is more important. "

Dominique Perkowski, assistant media planner at Arena Media, shares her personal passion project: 333 NYC, a socially conscious fashion brand.

So, how’d you get your start in advertising?

Honestly, as most unexpectedly amazing things happen, it just fell in my lap. Previously, I had been working in the fashion industry throughout college and right after graduation, but it didn’t feel quite right at the time. After some soul-searching and a lot of job searching, I decided to branch into the digital industry through my background in fashion and social media, and ended up applying for a Media Planner, Fashion position at Havas through LinkedIn. Little did I know that I was wholly unqualified for the job. So, shout out to human resources at Havas who decided to call me back for an opening for a media planner assistant role—because it ended up being the best job and learning experience I’ve ever had.

Have you always been interested in fashion?

I’ll have to ask my mom for the exact date I told her that her services were no longer required when it came to shopping, but for as long as I can remember, yes. I think I truly started to go for it early on in high school, which wasn’t the easiest transition. I got a lot of “What are you wearing?” and “Did you win the heavyweight boxing championships?” when I would accessorize with a thick, but stylish belt. I liked experimenting with my personal style more than I cared about others’ comments, so after a while, it went from “Why are you wearing that” to “I wish I could pull that off.”

I also attended several fashion summer programs during high school, which were essentially like college classes about fashion merchandising and styling. But, my dad wouldn’t let me apply to any fashion schools. He told me to go to a university where I would have options in case I changed my mind. Unluckily for him, I didn’t change my mind and my parents footed the bill for many (many) of my unpaid fashion internships in the city.

Luckily for me, I was also able to pursue a communications degree, which ended up being something that fascinated me. I learned a lot about how external communication affects our sense of self, and how our communication affects people’s perceptions of us; I even finished my last year off with a presentation about how positive internal communications are necessary when working toward a goal. I learned a lot of these things in college—through internships and courses—which enabled me to launch 333 NYC.

How did you come to start your own fashion line?

In college, I would remake clothing, old denim jeans and army jackets, by dying, embellishing, distressing or printing on them, and then sell them just for fun.

But for me, 333 NYC is different from just another fashion or streetwear brand. Creating and working on the clothing challenges me to learn new things and helps me put myself out there—but the message behind it is more important. When you have something like mental health awareness reminding you that it’s about something bigger than just you, it becomes much more important to fight moments of doubts and challenges—because you’re fighting for a cause.  

So, what does 333 stand for?

It’s a reference from numerology. It’s believed to be symbolic of divine protection, help, and guidance. If you see it repeatedly, it means that not only are you a great leader, but the leaders who came before you are encouraging you and that you’re surrounded by a positive creative energy intended to support and motivate you as you move toward your goals.  

Personally, it’s my lucky number. It reminds me to trust myself and trust that everything’s going to work out better than I expect. I started to see it a lot when I decided to switch career paths and kept questioning whether I was making the right decision. Whether it’s actually a sign from above or not, I don’t know. But it reminds me to get out of my head and keep moving forward with things I can actually change.

Why the focus on mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety?

It’s really an accumulation of a lot of things: my personal experiences, my friends’ and family’s experiences, and the fact that I am fascinated by how people think, why they think the way they do, and what tactics they use when faced with negative thinking.

Anxiety and depression are the focus because they’re the ones that hit home. And from what I’ve noticed, they’re the ones that affect all of us to one extent or another. We’ve all dealt with feelings of anxiousness, guilt, insecurity, worry, hopelessness, grief, and so on. I’ve seen amazingly kind and caring people who find themselves in dark places due to anxiety but depression, and are too ashamed to admit they need help because of some archaic stigma. It’s unbearably heartbreaking.

"Advertising is one of the major forms of communication that impacts what society thinks collectively."

The goal of 333 NYC is to show that mental health is less of a diagnosis and is something we should all be aware of and should work to improve. We want people to view mental health more like they do physical health. You wouldn’t look at someone differently because they caught a cold. You also don’t have to be at the brink of a heart attack to start eating healthy and developing a workout routine. We should think of mental health in the same way.

More consumers are drawn to brands that are socially responsible, and you donate 20% of all proceeds to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Why is purpose just as important as profit?

Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have gone into clothing again without the purpose behind it. It’s fun to create clothing with meaningful purpose, but so are a lot of things—like sleeping in instead of waking up at five a.m. to do design work before going to work, and spending money on things you want rather than taking a large sum out of your savings to start a brand.

I recently watched a TED Talk that highlighted the concept of the so-called “Mama Bear Effect”, where woman feel more compelled and more assertive by advocating for others. This concept helps women find their own voice, and feel more confident to speak up. From my experience, this has been 100% true.

Your shirts have positive phrases like “I’m doing my best” and “You are not obligated to set yourself on fire to keep others warm.” Where do you get your ideas?

The majority of my affirming mantras are from motivational speeches I listen to at the gym, TED Talks, poetry, art, books, and podcasts.

It’s probably so corny to admit this, but those two phrases were reworked quotes I found on social media that I could personally relate to and are things I try to tell my friends

What would you like to change in the advertising industry?

I’ve already noticed the changes I’d like to see happening, but I think it’s because our mindset as a whole is shifting. There’s no doubt that advertising is one of the major forms of communications that impacts what society thinks collectively. But advertising is also always trying to connect with the consumer on a deeper level. It’s all very chicken and egg.

As this generation starts to stand up for causes like women’s rights, body positivity, mental health, LBGTQ rights, and just general acceptance of others and themselves, advertising is sure to follow for fear of being chastised social media or of seeming outdated. It’s also important for advertising agencies to make sure their creative work sends the right message and that we stand up for what we want to see in the world.

What do you hope stays the same?

I love change.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Reading this on my iPhone XYZ and laughing at how much I’ve grown over the past 10 years.

Natasha Smith is the strategic communications manager for Havas Group. She happily represents 404 in the 212.

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