Emma Sutton on the importance of winding down

Emma Sutton is the Global Marketing Director at Dazed Group Ltd., leading the integrated communications across the portfolio of titles including Dazed & Confused and AnOther Magazine. Prior to her 5 years at the Dazed Group, Emma founded a streaming radio station, and ran her own brand consultancy providing content solutions to a number of luxury, fashion and retail clients including Selfridges and Soho House. Emma is clearly a determined and passionate marketer but also values time to reflect and center herself as demonstrated by her evening "wind down" ritual and love of yoga.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
According to my mum, when I was really young I wanted to be a lorry driver. Then as I got older, I wanted to be in the SAS. I was obsessed with the SAS. I grew up with three brothers so I was strong minded and tomboy-esque from a young age.

Who would you most like to be stuck on a desert island with? 
I love BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs so I've thought about this question a lot. 

If it had to be one person, I would have to choose my latest lover for the obvious reasons (naked sunbathing etc). Otherwise I would take all my most fun and hilarious friends and I’d invite Jarvis Cocker to DJ, Stephen Fry to talk to, my meditation teacher Alan and the Dali Lama to meditate with, my yoga teachers Harriet, Rahoul, Bernd to bend and flex, and the amazing chef Ottolenghi to cook up some beautiful feasts. Can we go now?

What single book has had the greatest impact on you? 
It’s hard to pick a single book.  When I was younger, it was the Roald Dahl series - I loved James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - such incredible imaginary worlds.

Books I've read in recent years include Theodore Zeldon's A Intimate History of Humanity. It took me about a year to read, re-reading each page over and over. It taught me so much about mankind.  Alongside that there's Peter Theil’s Zero to One, James Rhodes autobiography Instrumental, and the Dali Lama's Art of Happiness.

When do you go to bed and when do you get up?
I go to bed at different times and have a thing to help with sleep called The Wind Down Zone. This is something I started with my flatmate Laura and involves logging off social media, turning off all electronics, stopping reading the papers and gossiping - basically turning off all stimulation and just relaxing.  Ideally for 2-hours listen to the radio, read books, have a bath... watching rom-coms is sometimes allowed in the wind down zone! I get up between 6:15 and 6:45am to do a morning meditation and yoga practice.

Can you briefly explain your career path to date?
My career path is quite unconventional because I didn't go to university. 19 years ago, hypnotized by the bright lights and big smoke, I came to London to seek my fortune. Photography was my dream and so when I got here I worked as a photographer’s assistant but the pay was so low, I switched to working as a PA.  This was a defining moment for me as I worked for some pretty big people including Eve Pollard, the first female editor of Fleet Street.  I was privy to her diary and it was fascinating to have a glimpse into her world. One of the people writing for her magazine at the time was Paula Yates. It was my first taste observing how a leader behaved.

After that I worked for a record label, then the Discovery Channel for five years before transitioning into radio. I worked for BBC Radio 1, the UK's biggest music and youth station, learning how to create premium content working with the best radio presenters and producers in the world. I also worked at the BBC’s Radio 4 and the World Service, seriously highbrow arts and culture. These stations challenged me intellectually and meant I could open books like An Intimate History of Humanity without being totally intimidated.

The BBC was an amazing place but it's bureaucratic and I felt like I was plateauing so I struck out on my own. I segued into marketing, setting up my own company called FUSEbox working with retail, luxury and fashion brands like Whistles, Selfridges and Diesel.  I won a pitch with Diesel to create a music radio station that targeted a youth audience. This turned into the biggest project of my life and we were soon streaming online to a global audience of 2 million. It was one of the first branded content projects that existed.  We innovated with social media – using Facebook and Twitter before any other brands – using the platforms to spread our message worldwide.  We documented everything visually, using YouTube to broadcast our sessions, creating assets, using influencers – all the buzzwords of today! We had tons of live events all over the world - broadcasting out of a chic showroom in Paris, a massive flagship store on New York’s 5th Avenue, we went to Coachella before it was cool, broadcast from a kitchen in London’s 02 arena and a festival in the heart of Milan.

When Diesel finished, after running a team of 50+ people, I wanted some downtime so went back to consultancy work and won the account to be the global music programmer for Soho House.  Whilst working for Soho House, I came across the Dazed crew and started freelancing for them as a marketing and events consultant.  Two years into doing one-off gigs with Dazed, the role of marketing director came up, and having no dream or desire to be in-house, it suddenly seemed like an amazing opportunity so for the last two and a half years I’ve been the marketing director of Dazed Group, working closely alongside Jefferson Hack.

Dazed trusted me to forge my own strategy and vision, to create a new marketing department by geographically bringing the events, PR and digital marketers to sit side by side in the office.  No day is ever the same and every time I think we’ve done the biggest project possible, almost the very next day, something else even more brilliant lands at our door.  I worked out the other day that in my time at Dazed myself and my team have run around 145 events, including three with Kate Moss and one with David Beckham!

We’ve launched covers with Michelle Williams, Nicki Minaj, Kendall Jenner, Alex Turner.  Huge partnerships across multiple territories, from the UK and USA to Japan, from sell out exhibitions at the Royal Academy to a Rihanna, McQueen, PCH, Colette, Selfridges, Opening Ceremony, Dover Street Market and Yoox collab! Tangibly linking IRL to URL, working with the world’s leading cultural icons, as we transition even more deeply into the age of the Internet and take our print heritage to new innovative realms.  It’s been a mind-blowing five years.

What is the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome, as it relates to your career or industry?
Throughout all these different industries I’ve worked in, the one thing that I would say is that my obstacle has nothing to do with outsiders; it's always come from me.  Internal blocks of fear, self-doubt and an inflated ego have been the biggest.

I’ve overcome these through yoga, meditation, therapy, a wisdom that comes with age, mentors and pushing myself out of my comfort zone on regular occasions.

I also think it’s good to acknowledge that I've achieved some pretty big things and without any real qualifications.

What motivates you?
Yoga and meditation.

The desire to do good and make positive change.

My Dad passed away six years ago. He was a formidable businessman and strong-willed so I've definitely got his mindset, drive and motivation to succeed.

My mum inspires me too. She’s built her life back over the last six years.  She has recently returned from traveling around Australia and New Zealand on her own for 5 weeks. Being able to do something like that at 68-years of age is incredible and I’m so proud of her.

What do you wish you’d known at the start of your career?
I wish I'd known that I am good.

I was painfully shy when I first moved to London. I remember my first internship, I couldn't even pick up the phone and say hello.  I had this awful self-doubt. Becoming aware that I am good unlocked tremendous confidence.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro for Kids Company.  I did this two years after my dad died, when I felt utterly desperate.  Amazing friends gathered around me and gave me the confidence to believe that I could do it.  Camping on the mountain for 9 days was so harsh and uncomfortable - getting altitude sickness and having the most insane sleep deprivation, but I did it and came back to London with a renewed vigor for life.

Last year I did the Yoga Alliance 200 hours teaching training qualification.  It started during fashion week season which is the craziest time of the year for us.  It was an amazing juxtaposition to do yoga and fashion week so intensively side-by-side.

What do you believe has been the key to your success?
Motivation, will power, hard work and a bit of luck.

What is your life motto?
Carpe Diem.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
To visualize that place you want to be and know you'll get there. I did this the first time I went to SXSW eight years ago. I didn't know how I was going to get there or who I was going to go with. I looked at the airport online and imagined myself walking through it, a couple of months later I was in Austin’s Bergstrom Airport recognizing the images from the photo I’d stuck on my wall.

Who do you most admire in business? Why?
Elizabeth Holmes, Thalia Mavros, Peter Theil, Elon Musk – because they are all out there, doing their thing, first timers, truly innovating, truly inspiring.

My boss, Jefferson Hack, as an incredible creative visionary.

Do you think there's a secret to rising to the top?
No. I think its single-mindedness and hard work.

Who do you turn to when the going gets tough?
My friends. I wouldn’t be here without them.

What are your favorite traits about women in the workplace?
Women have a natural sense of nurturing. Regardless of what it's because of - how we have been raised in society or whatever – women are (for the most part) able to see a wider picture outside of just ourselves.  We don't have such a ridiculous sense of pride and we're natural communicators.

The women at Dazed are some of the best I've ever worked with. Super fun, funny, incredibly clever, creative, strong-minded and beautiful.  I feel privileged to share a workspace with them.

What's next?
I'm doing a meditation teacher training course. It's a hard thing to learn to teach but yoga and meditation have literally changed my life so I want to share them with as many people as possible.

On the work front, I have just come back from taking the actress Samantha Morton and Jefferson to Cannes Lions where we announced a new initiative to support female film directors called Female Firsts and I'm looking forward to taking that to the next stage.

At the end of July we are partnering with Amazon to launch their London fashion studios and our first ever Dazed Fashion Forum – a one-day symposium for fashion students and young creatives with Nicola Formichetti, Gareth Pugh and Kim Jones all headlining.

Then America…I’m really excited about what lies ahead.


As told to Caroline Hugall over Skype on Tuesday 12th May 2015. Emma is based in London.