In conversation with

Nellie Eden

Journalist, co-founder Babyface

Nellie Eden BabyFace

Introduction

Introduction

Nellie Eden lives and breathes creative culture. She’s presented fashion videos for SHOWstudio, written countless pieces about social media and has interviewed the likes of Tommy Hilfiger, Margot Robbie and Kris Kraus. Ask Nellie what she does and if she’s feeling “gutsy” she’ll tell you she’s a journalist, though she’s working on becoming a writer – someone who creates “without an agenda, without a brief”. When she’s not penning pieces she runs Babyface, a creative agency that Nellie founded with her best friend Claire four years ago. The pair have held events for Nike and Glossier, produced content for Adidas and knew how to leverage their network of creative women before most of us could even say branded content. Who better to ask about creating stories relevant to young women today?

Question and Answer

Did you grow up reading as a child?

Yes my mum is avaricious when it comes to reading and I was always trying to impress her and keep up with her. I have a twin brother and we’re both really dyslexic. For Max reading never came naturally but for me it was a way out my dyslexia because I found the more I read the better I became at spelling and the wider my vocabulary became. I could feel the progress – like when you stretch your hamstrings and can eventually touch your toes. As I read I was becoming more confident about expressing myself.

Little Women Nellie Eden
"I loved the idea that they were a group of women bound together"

What books made an impact on you when you were younger?

It’s so clichéd but Little Women. I just read that and I wanted to be Jo and thought I’d cut my hair off and imagine that my father was some sort of Civil War soldier. I loved the idea that they were a group of women bound together, obviously by blood but also by the fact that they were writing this newspaper and making up stories together.

Nellie Eden books
Nellie's desk at the Babyface studio in Shoreditch

When did you make the transition from reading to becoming a writer?

I still don’t think of myself as a writer. I still feel like I’m on the outside. If I’m feeling gutsy then I’d say I’m a journalist (along with being a co-founder of Babyface). I feel like being a journalist and a writer are two different things and I don’t think I’m the writer I want to be yet. I think to be a writer you have to write without an agenda, without a brief, without responding to a pitch; you get to write for the sake of writing. For me, being a journalist means finding a story, meeting a word count and forming an argument. To be a writer you have to rewire your brain and write for the love of it.

“I think to be a writer you have to write without an agenda, without a brief, without responding to a pitch; you get to write for the sake of writing”

That's interesting as I think in general people can associate journalism with traditionally 'hard hitting' subjects...

When people talk about ‘fluffy writing’ they’re talking about feminine writing, about things that pertain to being a woman. For a long time we demoted fashion and beauty as lesser subjects. But fashion writing doesn’t have to be earnest or silly.

What do you most enjoy writing about?

Fashion writing comes most naturally but I think I’d say I most enjoy writing about culture – I like to theorise around social media and the way women express themselves through their mobile phones.

Can you tell us a little bit about your creative agency, Babyface?

My partner Claire and I founded it four years ago and it was just us profiling girls, then bringing all these women we admire together to collaborate on jobs. Suddenly there was this massive scurry to fill this request for branded content – it’s kind of a dirty word but youth culture has always used brands to self-identify, we just call it something else now. We realised this moment was happening and were like: how can we put female creatives at the forefront of those executions and wrangle those budgets away from dead PR companies that are just churning out really pedestrian work?

Why the name Babyface?

Because we’d pull a really tight deck together and then the brand would meet us and because of the way we look they’d say, “no there’s no budget actually”. Whenever the word ‘strategy’ comes up brands are loathe to give that over to an agency run by women.

Nellie Eden Babyface

Which female voices do you really trust?

Ariel Levy, Penny Martin, Sarah Raphael who was my old editor at Refinery29, Eva Wiseman and Hadley Freeman.

Which magazines present a faithful depiction of female experience?

Teen Vogue – it’s such an important magazine for young women, for young black women. I’m really sad to see that go. Mushpit – I share a studio with the girls. It’s so iconoclastic and hilarious and they just made me cackle – they’ve totally skewered what it is to be a woman in London now. And then Gut Magazine – it’s so grotesque, it’s like nothing else on the market right now. I’ve always appreciated humour in writing and I think a lot of mainstream magazines are scared to do that. And I love the Gentlewoman and Riposte. I also have a subscription to the New Yorker – I stash it in my bag and limit myself to reading one article per commute.

Riposte Magazine
"I’ve always appreciated humour in writing and I think a lot of mainstream magazines are scared to do that"

Are there any stories that have spoken to your experience of female relationships?

The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante. When I talk about the books with women I find they either see themselves more in Elena or Lila and side with one or the other. I saw myself with Claire, I thought about all the important female friendships I have. It’s so close to hate when you love somebody – people don’t talk about it enough and you shouldn’t be ashamed of it. Anything extreme inverts itself so quickly. Female friendships are deep, murky, magic, secret things and I don’t know how men survive without talking about how they feel all the time.

“Every intense relationship between human beings is full of traps, and if you want it to endure you have to learn to avoid them. I did so then, and finally it seemed that I had only come up against yet another proof of how splendid and shadowy our friendship was, how long and complicated Lila’s suffering had been, how it still endured and would endure forever.”

Elena Ferrante, The Story of the Lost Child
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