WORDS by SYDNEY LOWE
PHOTOGRAPHS by BEA HELMAN
WORDS by SYDNEY LOWE
PHOTOGRAPHS by BEA HELMAN
Dani Roche is a child of the Internet.
Born in the beginnings of the digital age, the 25-year-old Canadian founder of creative agency Kastor & Pollux has been steadily building an empire of her own via the World Wide Web—starting, naturally, with an early interest in Neopets.
Roche’s introduction to the virtual pet website in 2002 opened up her world in suburban Scarborough, just outside of Toronto. “I started talking to a bunch of people from across North America and beyond. And because I lived such a secluded life, I was shocked that I could connect with these people in different time zones at 11 years old and find commonalities just through conversation.”
Those virtual connections set the groundwork for Roche’s reverence for online communities—and for digital design. She soon developed a passion for creating layouts for her pets, which led to learning how to code her own websites. For Roche, the site became a self-teaching opportunity. “[I could] talk to my friends online and see if they had any tactics to... cut out images in a really quick way or apply a new brush set or a new effect on Photoshop,” she explains. “A lot of what I’ve learned has been trial and error through talking to strangers on the Internet.” Roche’s online presence evolved from more anonymous channels to being front and center on Lookbook.nu, where she documented her personal style. Roche set up her first business in 2008 with her then business partner, long before Instagram, where they sold reworked vintage and thrifted clothes while promoting them on the likes of LiveJournal and Myspace.
As she harnessed an intimate understanding of nascent virtual fashion communities, Roche decided to create her first iteration of such a community by launching Kastor & Pollux, a fashion blog and store at its start. “We figured if we could create our own audience,” she says, “that would [serve as] built-in distribution for the products that we were selling.” Roche’s artful comprehension of digital literacy and style soon landed her gigs as an editor for MTV Canada’s style vertical, FORA, and as a channel editor at Free Agency. She eventually took the leap to running Kastor & Pollux full time as creative director. Now, the platform is a bustling, full-service digital and experiences agency offering a number of services, from photography and videography to creative strategy and concept development.
"A lot of what I’ve learned has been trial and error through talking to strangers on the Internet."
Roche’s long, ongoing run on the internet has made her acutely aware of the shifts in digital spaces, self-identity, and the culture of brand and content curation. “I find that with Instagram influencers with millions of followers, it’s very much like I’m elevating myself above an audience as a person who knows everything—like, you should buy this product, wear this thing because I really like it, versus everything that was really appealing to me back in 2008 with these online communities was the accessibility of everyone. [You would meet] people based off of common interest, [not] follower count.” Roche adds, “Kastor & Pollux is a way to really reach that audience—an audience no matter what your follower account is, in a very human way [as opposed to] something that feels intimidating or inaccessible. Now the forefront of my work is really design and service-based. But also using our brand’s tone and what we’re known for, which is being a group of girls who are funny and have a sense of humor and offers more than just … elevated influencer content to really drive brand ideas forward.”
Roche currently runs the agency out of a studio space in Toronto alongside a dynamite team of women: “It’s so rewarding for me now to have a team of girls who I really believe in and admire … working toward this common cause with me, not for me.” While much of her day-to-day work is relegated to administrative tasks (“Google spreadsheets are my life”), Roche finds excitement in creative problem solving and lending her hand to new projects: she has recently taken on the role of creative director of a new outerwear line, Bi-Annual, slated to launch in September 2017. The common thread that ties together each of Roche’s projects? Shaping—and maintaining—a palpable sense of community.
“I think success is constant collaboration and knowing that I never lose sight of what’s important to me, which is not only doing good work but also solving problems. And those problems don’t always have to be productive, per se, but to know that I have an impact on either someone or something. That’s success.”
With her finger firmly on the pulse of millennial connectivity, it’s clear that Roche is going places—online and off. ★