“CULTURE MACHINE IS A BRAND AND IT’S A BRAND THAT REPRESENTS YOUTH, CULTURE, FREEDOM AND INNOVATION.”
If you’re unfamiliar with the name Yasmin Suteja, maybe you’re more familiar with the name Culture Machine. Yasmin is both the brains and the beauty behind this ‘new gen’ creative agency. From photography to creative direction, branding to talent management, film making to styling, there doesn’t seem to be much she can’t do. Have we mentioned she can also sing like a boss and models as well?
“Gen Y got a bit of a bad rap in the early days with the rise of the slashy and this concept that we don’t like commitment and we’re jumping from one job to another. But I think it’s really just essential to kind of keep up with everything. Technology changes like crazy and we live in a world where a social media platform can be dead tomorrow. We can see Instagram is slowly dying and that video is coming back, Snapchat is kind of taking over, Facebook is pretty much just videos of animals now…everyone is just trying to keep up with everything, so the more skills you have across a broad spectrum the more valuable you are within this industry.”
Sounding wise beyond her 24 years, pretty much the vibe you get when speaking with Yasmin Suteja, she really knows her shit. Everything she says demands your attention and better yet, you want to listen.
The idea of Culture Machine was born in Las Vegas after a weekend of partying at Coachella. Giving herself a fifty-dollar limit on the casino floor, Yasmin quickly found herself back in her room scouring over photos she’d taken on her travels.
“I’d gathered all this content and I was mostly shooting in 35mm film and I was getting it processed along the way in these random Walgreen markets. I was like, ‘I want to create a platform to share this work that I’m doing but I don’t want to identify myself as an individual’ and I think that’s been something really important to me right from the beginning you know. I’m a photographer at the end of the day but I never wanted to be like Yasmin Suteja.”
Half Balinese, half Australian, Yasmin lived in Bali until she was eight, which she credits for most of her creative juices, before moving to Sydney with her family. She returned to the island almost four years ago and it was then that Culture Machine began to hit its stride.
“It’s the best place to be a freelancer really. Advertisement through word of mouth and through Instagram was something that was really effective in Bali. People are on holiday, they talk and then straight away we were coming up as ‘oh yeah, you’ve got to work with Culture Machine’. That was cool you know, it was like ‘big fish, small pond’ kind of situation.”
“Bali is so transient and it is such a big tourist destination that I think this whole creative thing in Bali flourished in the time I was there. I was living in Canggu, it’s just become this absolute hub of creativity. My mum has two businesses in Canggu, a café that’s really successful and a skate bowl bar. She really created that space [café] for me to be able to do all this stuff.”
The café she is referring to is called Crate Café. A clear play on the word creativity, fitting for both the huge creative expat community and local culture in Bali. The cost of living in Bali is a major draw card for aspiring young entrepreneurs, whether that be photography, fashion, design or just finding somewhere to inspire ideas and make them reality.
“Bali is just this incredible place and I think it’s also that the Balinese people are extremely creative and they’re amazing artists and also just very accepting. So I think what attracts people to Bali is you can be anyone from anywhere and you can find a place to belong there.”
Culture Machine evolved rapidly in Bali, but Yasmin felt she had soon exhausted the offering that came with the laidback island life.
“We started getting a little bit bored with the content we were getting asked to do in Bali and that comes with the territory, you know it’s a tropical island, people go there for the beaches, the sand, the sun, the palm trees. I come from a background in street style, I started when I was really interested in youth culture particularly between Sydney and Melbourne and I kind of tried to apply that look in Bali to an extent, but it just started getting a little bit stifling.”
As a consequence Yasmin recently moved roots back to Sydney. And if you’re wondering who the “we” is, no longer is she a one-woman band, Yasmin has brought on a strong team of like-minded young guns to work with her (Yasmin being the eldest), they even all live all under the same roof.
“So I’ve basically moved into a house in Bondi with my boyfriend Kale who makes films and works with Culture Machine, my brother [Kai] who is a very funny comedian and our best friend Luka who’s an actor, who I also manage. So yeah we are kind of all just living together creating and at the same time getting employed by brands to work as a team which is really where I saw Culture Machine going.”
If you already follow the Culture Machine collective, you’ve probably questioned why your friends aren’t as funny, or talented. Everything they do almost seems like way too much fun to be considered “work”. The group has also created a YouTube series called Free Radical TV. The first episode documented their commissioned work in Cali, USA. Now episodes are random and hilarious like Yasmin doing a Vlog in entirely different accents (she kills it) and the group running madly around Kmart in the 'Kmart Challenge', dressing themselves for ‘FASHUN’ week in Sydney.
“I just absolutely love working in a team. The fulfilment that you get out of starting with an idea and finishing up with a product, and being able to bounce ideas with people in your team, I really do get a kick out of that. I’ve kind of naturally taken on leadership roles in a lot of the things that I’ve done and part of the excitement of that was bringing out these skills in the people in your team and being like you have a strength in this area and you have a strength in that area and then together we can create something amazing.”
FINISH THE SENTENCE...
My favourite person is… there’s so many of them. Can I put them into one? My Free Radical Family person? Anyone in the Free Rad Fam, I can’t label them.
The best book I’ve read… The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. It was a huge influence on me starting Culture Machine. It’s basically a study of social trends and it looks at all these case studies on marketing. So its got like this examples on Hush Puppies, the shoes and how they basically went bankrupt and then this group of hipsters in New York somewhere started wearing them because cause that’s all they could afford, and then they became cool and the whole business came back up again.
I’m inspired by… my friends and colleagues. I’m inspired by the people that are around me and the people I live with are my closest friends.
The best thing I’ve learnt… do not be afraid to fail. That’s like such a huge thing everyday and it’s something I almost mentor the people around me with as well. I watched a video where JK Rowling was talking about failure and how she was basically came as close as you can be to homeless when she was writing the first Harry Potter and look at her now.