Some people took it easy during the pandemic, but sisters Shelcy and Christy Joseph hustled more than ever. In addition to continuing to build their social media presence on @NYCxClothes, a style feed they started in 2014, this past July they launched NYCxStudio — a consulting agency focused on helping brands tell authentic stories that tap into a diverse range of creators. In addition to these endeavors, Shelcy also works full-time in the editorial world, serving as Fashion Editor at digital publication PopSugar.
The sisters, who moved to Brooklyn from Haiti in 2010, have always been passionate about improving the lack of diversity in the fashion world, fostering conversations and using social platforms to invite brands and creators to engage about inclusivity.” They’ve even branched out to channels other than their own; they recently appeared on The Partner Ship podcast to discuss their journey as entrepreneurs. We chatted with the duo about how they got started in the influencer industry, what inspired them, and navigating the blurry line between being sisters and coworkers.
How did your IG account @nycxclothes begin and how has it evolved since?
Shelcy Joseph & Christy Joseph: Back in 2014, a few years after moving to NYC, we started craving a creative outlet. Shelcy was always drawing fashion sketches and devouring magazine pages, while Chris had an interest in video, especially around the time that beauty and fashion gurus were taking off on YouTube. We noticed a lack of diversity in the creator pool and the popular content back then, so we set out to build a platform by documenting our style and adventures in the city. We first launched on YouTube in August 2014, then on Instagram around the same time.
Today, our platform has evolved to include a community of 64K creatives on Instagram, a growing YouTube audience, a physical studio space in Williamsburg, and a consulting agency in the form of NYCxStudio. We’ve gone from producing shoots and making videos to curating events, advising brands on D&I within influencer marketing, and fostering the community we wanted to be a part of early on.
How does your agency, NYCxStudio, go about tackling the inclusivity problem within the fashion industry?
SJ & CJ: We simplify the steps for brands (recent clients have included COS, Rails and French Connection) who consult with us by laying out clear action plans they can follow to engage, hire and retain diverse — mostly Black and brown — talent. For many, setting goals and metrics, plus staying consistent, is the hardest part, so we come prepared with the research, business context, and knowledge they can use to improve their organizations and themselves on an individual level.
You’ve been open online about times when brands have expected you to work for free or in exchange for publicity/free product. How do you approach these challenges and what is your advice to other content creators when it comes to fair compensation?
SJ & CJ: Just recently, an agency reached out with an insulting offer then eventually apologized and paid us for an hour of consulting. We try to approach this issue by explaining how prices are set and educating agencies or brands on the very real costs of running a content business like this.
Our advice to content creators — especially to those who put a lot of thought and effort into their work — would be to not only know their worth through doing research and talking to colleagues, but to stand firm by it. The hardest thing can be to walk away from a low offer, but it often sets the tone for how you’d like to be perceived and treated.
Where do you get the most inspiration for your social feeds?
CJ: We’re lucky to live in a place like New York where inspiration lies in every corner, so the streets have been an endless source. We’re also avid readers of magazines and big consumers of digital media, especially documentaries. Lastly, Shelcy and her husband are huge museum-goers.
Has the pandemic impacted your sense of style/fashion choices?
SJ & CJ: The pandemic has given us more time to reflect on the effect of fashion on the environment and our role within the industry. We’ve become more educated on fast fashion, the production cycle, and environmental pollution for example. As a result, we’ve made a conscious effort to wear our clothes more, and donate those we have no use for to reinvest them in the circular economy. We still think of our styles as eclectic, timeless and sophisticated; there’s just more intention behind our choices now.
What has been the best part about building a community online?
SJ & CJ: No doubt, it’s getting to meet — and sometimes befriend — some incredibly talented and intelligent people. The most loyal in our audience don’t just follow us; they actively participate in our book and documentary discussions, share movie recommendations, and help solve our style dilemmas. It’s been really rewarding to be exposed to such a diversity of views, experiences, and backgrounds.
What role do each of you play in the business and how do your roles differ?
SJ & CJ: Chris mostly works on the creative and operations of the business, managing day-to-day projects, figuring out the artistic details of our campaign concepts and hiring the freelance staff with the ability to execute. Shelcy handles client relationships, pitching, and larger brand marketing strategies for both the agency and our influencer business. We ultimately collaborate on everything and no decision is made without the other’s input, but our day-to-day is pretty different.
What are the positives and negatives of working with your sibling?
SJ & CJ: The best part is knowing that we will always have each other’s back. We often joke that we’re stuck with each other as sisters, so this mindset helps us get through any challenge or disagreement.
The worst part is finding a true work-life balance as the boundaries between our professional and personal lives continue to blur. We try to carve out time to just hang out every week, but work often seeps its way into those moments, too.
Do you have any favorite self-care rituals? If so, what do they entail?
CJ: Every night after a long and warm shower, I love to light one of my favorite Alexandra Winbush candles, turn on soothing music, warm up with some tea, and sink into bed with either a movie or a book.
SJ: My favorite time of the day is the early morning or late night when I have a few moments just to myself. I usually spend it reading, thinking, and very rarely, doing absolutely nothing.