Reenvisioning a World Built on Love with Jillian Knox, Founder of The Astute Agency

We have had the distinct pleasure of working with stylist Jillian Knox for the past few years now. With a personal warmth and an incredibly artistic eye, Jillian has been an essential force in bringing our kimono robes to life in our imagery. The beautiful thing about Jillian is that she is as kind as she is talented (and she is very talented), and it has been absolute joy to continue to work with her.


When Jillian launched The Astute Agency this year, we knew it was a platform we wanted to amplify in any way we could. Jillian’s compelling warmth and clarity of vision has been poured into The Astute Agency, a “community for, about, and by artists.” They go onto say, “We are a global community platform for industry and multidisciplinary creatives with a focus on brilliant and talented artists who are uniquely erudite in our craft and concentrations– and we are ready for hire.” During so much uncertainty this year, Jillian decided to reach out from her empathy to create a place for artists to land and to launch. We have been so inspired by Jilian’s work and her mission closely aligns with the purpose behind our kimono store to bring communities together (once we can safely do so again!). Please take a read in today’s journal to learn about Jillian’s vision for the future, rebuilding a world with love, dedicating yourself to practice, and creating a village so that we can each thrive in our own unique ways.

 The Astute Agency
Photo by Karen Santos (also pictured)
1. What made you want to found The Astute Agency?

I saw a need for collaboration and all around me my community was losing work and had so many questions about what the future held. And then George Floyd was murdered. I honestly couldn’t sit by and watch everything fade to nothing. There had to be a way to keep the community together. I love my community. Every. Single. Person.


Washable Silk Peony & Butterfly Kimono Robe

Photo by Jillian Knox

2. Your site says you “claim how social science defines agency” rather than the conventional agency model for artists. What is that distinction and why is it important to claim that word in this context?

Sociology defines agency (human agency) as; the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices. We also need to keep in mind that social structures (e.g. social class, region, gender, ethnicity, ability, customs, etc.) could have possibly determined our course in life as well. The distinct difference here is that we use our varied backgrounds to our advantage-- we think this is what makes us shine as a community. On top of this, we took stock of the hierarchy of needs at play in this moment and we decided not to take any money from anyone at Astute (artists or clients). We believe that right now, a pay-it-forward model best suits our community and artists as a whole. Funds are limited, and budgets are tight-- the most important thing right now is getting folks back to work and advocating for their safety. 

In other words, if we give agency to the artist they will be able to have security and confidence that the future is not so unknown, it is in fact right here in their hands.

Azumi Kimono Wrap
Photo by Anna Raben

3. In many places on The Astute Agency, you honor and speak to the pain felt in this current moment during the coronavirus pandemic. What role does pain play in an artist’s work and over their career?

I think I can only speak from personal experience here, as perhaps I think about pain as something useful.

I think without pain, you have no empathy and without empathy, there is no compassion and therefore-- no love. Love is extremely important to me and my work as an artist and community member. From the basics of loving what I do to loving the people I work with. With love, you try harder. I’ve always demanded a lot of myself because I love what I do so much that I want it to show. I’ve learned many lessons over the years and I can take those experiences and use them to push myself to be better.

I think the world has forgotten how to love, and so right now we have to experience pain in order to rebuild and for the cycle to continue. We are in an interesting time where we are charged with reconstructing our society, and usually times like these tend to produce a wellspring of work from creative communities telling their stories and leaving their indelible mark for future generations so that we do not forget what this time was like. Just as artists before, they have left traces behind from what it was like in their time-- for us to use as a tool to learn. 


Jillian Knox of The Astute Agency

Photo by Karen Santos Photography

4. What advice do you wish you had when you started out as a stylist?

People are haters. Lol! But seriously, they are out there. People will try to say anything to you to get you to break or discourage you. Don’t believe them! Who cares what they say!? You really have to trust your gut. And if you don’t know something it’s okay to admit it-- just take notes and ask questions, and make sure you practice, practice, practice. You can do it!


Jillian Knox of The Astute Agency

Photo by Elvis Santoyo

6. Who and what are some of the influences that have inspired your own work?

I went to school for photography (I have a BFA from SCAD), so a lot of my influences came early, mostly in the form of photographers, painters, and artist movements. David LaChapelle, Marc Babtiste, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Gordon Parks, Daiane Arbus, Henri Mattise, Mark Rothko, Dadaism, Bauhaus, and Barbara Kruger are some major influences to name a few.

Today they still continue to inspire, but I think there is so much that inspires me especially as I continue to learn and try new things. I am a very curious person in general, so I am always seeking to know more. At this moment I’m really obsessed with traditional textiles, layering, the use of black, and visual and oral storytelling.

Jillian Knox of The Astute Agency

Photo by Elvis Santoyo

7. Your site says that you “do not accept compensation from any company or artist in exchange for referrals, information, features or promotions.” Is it important to divorce capital from content in this era? Why or why not?

Well, this is tricky because we need artists to produce content, and those artists should be paid for their time and expertise. You’re paying them for the time it took to learn how to do that one thing very well, precisely, and quickly-- not just the time it takes to do the job start to finish. In the same breath, I think it’s important to divorce our systems from the old ways we have been doing things. This is a new world, in which we need a new set of rules.


Washable Silk Peony & Butterfly Kimono Robe

Photo by Jillian Knox

8. Why is community an integral part of your mission?

It’s the same reason why people say “it takes a village to raise a child.” You need all hands on deck to take care and protect the things that are precious. Except here in this situation I think every artist is precious and without the community we can’t take care of each other. We have to be tender right now. And since we can’t physically embrace, we need to find more ways to accomplish this. One way is by keeping people connected to each other and to hope.


Washable Silk Peony & Butterfly Kimono Robe

Photo by Jillian Knox

9. What gives you hope?

I know it’s hard to find hope when things feel so dark, but honestly it’s always been one thing. People.

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