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How I Got Here: Oyster’s co-founder and the founder of Par Femme shares what it takes to make it in publishing

WORDS BY CAIT EMMA BURKE

“You’ve got to be really passionate, really hard-working, and a little bit lucky too.”

Have you ever stalked someone on LinkedIn and wondered how on earth they managed to land that wildly impressive job? While the internet and social media might have us believe that our ideal job is a mere pipe dream, the individuals who have these jobs were, believe it or not, in the same position once, fantasising over someone else’s seemingly unattainable job.

But behind the awe-inspiring titles and the fancy work events lies a heck of a lot of hard work. So what lessons have been learnt and what skills have proved invaluable in getting them from daydreaming about success to actually being at the top of their industry?

Welcome to How I Got Here, where we talk to women who are killing it in their respective fields about how they landed their awe-inspiring jobs, exploring the peaks and pits, the failures and the wins, and most importantly the knowledge, advice and practical tips they’ve gleaned along the way.

This week, Par Femme’s founder, Monica Nakata, tells us how she went from dropping out of her university course after only six weeks, to launching a successful career in independent publishing, including co-founding one of Australia’s most innovative independent magazines.

Following her brief university stint, Monica took on work experience at a Sydney-based paper, where she met Jonathan Morris, who shaped her career as her mentor and later her business partner. It was here that she discovered her passion and aptitude for publishing, a passion that has remained steadfast throughout her career.

The duo launched Oyster in 1994, and the print magazine grew to become Australia’s largest independent multi-platform media brand, known for championing homegrown Australian talent. The publication has achieved worldwide recognition, and to this day is still one of the longest-standing independent magazines in the world.

Post-Oyster, Monica wanted to create something that inspired and excited as much as Oyster had, but she wanted to veer away from being just a traditional publishing platform. She started Par Femme in 2016 as an Instagram account that focused on curating the feminine and the erotic through a female gaze.

As Par Femme’s following grew, the brand grew into a beautifully curated online publication and eCommerce retail destination. Par Femme’s aim is to, in Monica’s words, “help women traverse the boundaries of fashion, beauty, sex and wellbeing [and] to explore their own unique sexuality in a safe and informed environment.” Here’s what she’s learnt along the way.

What do you do and what’s your official job title?

I’m the co-founder and managing director of Par Femme, an eCommerce retail destination aiming to help women traverse the boundaries of fashion, beauty, sex and wellbeing.

Take us back to when you were first starting out. Did you study to get into your chosen field, or did you start out with an internship/entry-level role and climb the ladder? Tell us the story.

It all started when I was 19 years old. I had lasted six weeks at university doing visual communications and realised it wasn’t right for me. To my parents’ horror, I dropped out and started doing work experience at a paper that had just launched on the streets of Sydney called 3D World. 3D was owned by Jonathan Morris who became a significant person in my life that helped shaped my career as my mentor and later in life my business partner. 3D was similar to Beat Magazine, a locally distributed music and popular culture paper.

For me to be able to stay there I had to create a role and the only role needed was to raise revenue so I took on the challenge to sell advertising. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing or how to sell advertising. I used to go home and pitch to my father to practice before I went out because I was so nervous. In the first week, after walking up and down Oxford Street visiting and cold-calling business owners, I brought in four full-page ads and four quarter pages as multiple bookings and I will never forget the triumphant feeling of what I had achieved and the surprise from the staff. From that day onwards, my passion for publishing was relentless.

In 1994, Jonathan and I consolidated our publishing career by launching our first magazine, Oyster. Being 24 years old, I had both youth and blind ambition on my side. Jonathan, essentially being a creative person, was the perfect partner to encourage and open the boundaries to creative talents in our own backyard that never had the opportunity or platform to publish their true talents, which mainstream publishing in Australia would not allow. I’m proud to say Oyster, even after we sold the title years ago, is still one of the longest-standing independent magazines in the world to date, with international recognition.

 

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Pleasure comes in all shapes and sizes 🚀 Toys available now at parfemme.net 🐰

A post shared by Par Femme (@parfemme) on


What challenges/hurdles have you faced getting to where you are now? Can you tell us about one in particular?

Well, as you’d know, independent publishing is hard! So, running Oyster and 3D was a lot of work, a lot of ups and downs over the years, but ultimately a lot of really brilliant successes that I’m really proud of and that all the staff and people who contributed should be very proud of too. Looking back, what we were able to achieve on such little budgets battling with larger publishing companies for market share, and the quality of the content and talent reaching world recognition despite those hurdles, is pretty unbelievable.

After 21 years of publishing and selling Oyster, I wanted to create something as exciting and inspiring again but not as a traditional publishing platform. Par Femme began as an Instagram account focusing on eroticism and the notion of the ‘feminine’ curated through a female gaze. As our following grew, we started building a community. The idea evolved to encompass my love of publishing alongside an eCommerce retail concept aiming to help women traverse the boundaries of fashion, beauty, sex and wellbeing. Par Femme always aims to encourage women to explore their own unique sexuality in a safe and informed environment.

What do you want people to know about your industry/your role?

I think this is the same for any industry, be it fashion, lifestyle or otherwise: there’s definitely elements of glamour and excitement but it’s a lot of hard work and you’ve got to be really passionate, really hard-working, and a little bit lucky, too.

What’s the best part about your role?

Sex, intimate health, and pleasure have largely been taboo topics for many years, for women. Women were ashamed to speak about their periods and sexual needs and desires. My goal wasn’t so much to change the industry but to break down the barriers of stigmatisation around sexual health; to enable women to feel confident and speak openly and freely about their vulvas and periods and desires and everything else. It’s a real pleasure to be able to be a part of people’s journeys of self-discovery in some small way. And I love working with really amazing people on all of the content and product development.

What would surprise people about your role?

I don’t think there is anything particularly surprising about my role. It’s just like anyone’s day at work really.

What skills have served you well in your industry?

I love speaking to people and sharing their stories. I’ve always had to push boundaries and sell a vision, therefore communicating and connecting with people is important. I’ve always championed talented interesting individuals and I’ve taken a lot of pride in being part of their careers and seeing them grow. Oyster was always a platform for discovery and experimentation… and Par Femme carries a similar opportunity.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be in a role like yours one day?

ARE YOU INSANE!!?? Just kidding. I’d say “Be kind and look after the people around you” and also “Everyone deserves a chance”. It’s really an industry that’s about people and relationships. And look after yourself, of course. Too many people in the creative industries work themselves too hard to their detriment – too many people in general do, actually – but you need to take some time to look after yourself to get the most out of yourself and work.

What about a practical tip?

I used to prioritise work over health and wellbeing and have realised – and I’m sure it’s an age/experience thing – that you need to take time out, even if it’s half an hour during your workday or switching off your phone at a certain time every day. I think technology and access to instant information have created this underlying anxiety that is creating issues and health-related problems more than ever. Look after yourself!

parfemme.net

Read the rest of the How I Got Here series here.

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