How I Got My Job As Creative Director At Ünika Swim

For our career series “How I Got My Job,” we’ll be talking to real people, working real jobs across a variety of industries. These people are pushing boundaries and have made their mark. They’ve found success on their own terms, and now we’re extracting their advice on how to carve out your own career path.

Vanessa Cesario is a creative director, stylist, brand consultant, and certified Toronto cool girl. 

As a woman eager to take on any challenge that comes her way, Vanessa is a force to be reckoned with; she got her start in Toronto working late nights in the service industry so that she could keep her days free to intern and build her portfolio, a smart route that allowed her the flexibility to work with brands she loved. Now, as the Creative Director of Ünika Swim, Vanessa is using her creative eye and skill to build a brand megabeast and pursue her dreams. 

Read on to get a peek into an average day for Vanessa, how she’s gotten to where she is in her career, and how you can follow in her footsteps! Also be sure to check out Ünika Swim on instagram for ultimate vacation inspiration, or book an appointment to get your own custom made swim suit. 

Full Name: Vanessa Cesario

Job Title: Creative Director, Consultant & Stylist

Vanessa Cesario job series
Photo via Vanessa Cesario

First thing’s first, what was the first job you ever had? The job after that? And how did it lead you to where you are today? 

My first job ever was Dairy Queen! After that I worked at a hair salon until I turned 18 and began waitressing, til’ eventually getting into working in nightclubs. I believe this was an integral part in getting me where I am today. Having my days free and making great tips allowed me to do a lot of unpaid interning, which without a doubt lead me to some great opportunities.

What’s a typical day at work for you? 

Honestly, there really is no typical day. Because I do such a mish-mash of things, it can be anything from: working out of our Unika storefront, dressing artists/talent on a music video set, running around the city doing pulls/returns, or answering emails at home in my robe. There are definitely a lot of me staring at my computer days in some capacity, as well as meetings.

Vanessa Cesario job series
Photo via Vanessa Cesario

What has been the most fulfilling project you’ve worked on so far? 

I just directed a Women’s Day campaign for ?nika featuring 5 really awesome ladies—including a firefighter, Olympic weightlifter, and 73 year-old model/actress. It was an all-female team, and overall a piece of work I am extremely proud of—both aesthetically and for its message. It’s the most involved I’ve ever been in any shoot, and allowed me full creative control.

In your time working, what do you think has been the most important thing that you’ve learned? 

That there’s no linear path to success. As long as you’re doing things that you enjoy and doing your best, the dots will eventually connect.

Creative industries are notorious for unpaid internships or pay via “exposure.” How do you feel about this? Are you for or against unpaid internships? 

First off, I believe the reason that this continues to prevail is because people that want to work in this field are usually doing so because they have a burning passion inside them to do so—it’s not really about money for them. Unfortunately, this allows a gaping opportunity to be taken advantage of for many young people attempting to ‘get their foot in the door’. However, I do think that sometimes exposure and unpaid stuff can be beneficial, and can bring you great opportunities. I still do unpaid projects/work if I know it’s going to be beneficial to my portfolio—the key is knowing when to do it.

What’s your advice to someone looking to get into your line of work? 

I would probably have to say…intern!

What was the push that made you decide to move forward with Unika?

Betsy (?nika Founder) and I were both working in a nightclub together – I had watched her throughout the years studying fashion design in Toronto and London, while making swimsuits out of her boyfriend’s den. All that was really there when I came into the picture was the concept and name. I really admired Betsy’s vision of body positivity and inclusiveness, her commitment to running an ethical business, as well as her personal story. Years of working in the fashion sphere left me feeling empty, and it was a breath of fresh air for me. As she was ready to launch the brand, she asked me initially to style her first shoot—which quickly grew into consulting on the brand identity, and eventually snowballed into me directing creative and taking on a larger role within the company. 

Vanessa Cesario job series
Photo via Vanessa Cesario

Do you have any exciting upcoming projects you’d like to share with us? 

Nothing I can talk about to an extent unfortunately, but we have some really exciting ?nika collaborations coming up—one is with a designer, and one is with a makeup brand.

What’s the best thing about working for yourself? Also, what is the most difficult part of working for yourself? 

Freedom of schedule. Whether that means going on vacation pretty well whenever I’d like, working from home when I want to, and having and overall flexible schedule. The part I struggle with most is feeling guilty for not working “enough”, or thinking I should be doing work/seeking out new projects/creating something when I have an off day. I always have this voice barking in the back of my mind—but I’m learning to shut it off!

All images courtesy of Vanessa Cesario

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