Designer and DJ Brohn On Creative Success and Dealing With Setbacks

Creativity is a curiosity that manifests in many forms. It’s the reason you might meet pianists who write short stories, actors that paint, or photographers with a flair for cross-stitch. Australian-born Berlin-based Brohn Smith is a creative who has managed to carve out two booming career paths from his artistic endeavours, so SONIA TAYLOR caught up with him to talk success, while quietly hoping some of it rubs off.

Hearing Luciano play at the 2008 AGWA Yacht Club party in Sydney was a life changing experience for Brohn. He’d been introduced to DJing through friends and had purchased turntables to experiment with, but it was Luciano’s set “with his tribal-driven percussive house” that spurred Brohn along his own musical path. And after cutting his teeth with residencies at AGWA Yacht Club and Aussie arm of insanely popular Ibiza club night Circoloco, and gigs at renowned international spots like Berlin’s Watergate, London’s Fabric, Burning Man’s Robot Heart and Mexico’s BPM festival, this path has been one paved with good fortune.

Brohn’s sound, injecting infectious yet emotive vibes to his sets, isn’t his only successful creative output. In 2012 he launched jewellery and accessories label Breath & Stone, with designs that are an extension of his sound: strong, brooding, intriguing. Featuring signature black diamonds, the initial concept was inspired by the Middle Ages and Viking era’s military technology.

It’s not a big call to say Brohn knows a thing or two about taking a risk for your personal brand of creativity and having it pay off.

Tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do.

I’m a Berlin-based Australian Designer, DJ and Producer – my creative output spans two industries, I’m the Creative Director of my own jewellery label, Breath & Stone, and I DJ and produce under my moniker Brohn.

Both fashion and music have been a huge part of my life since I was younger thanks to influences from both my parents and older brother, ultimately seeing my roots planted deeply into my current direction across both professions.

What made you want to launch your own label during a pretty successful run as an international DJ?

It was something that was brewing for years before officially launching Breath & Stone in 2012, and I’ve met a lot of people in fashion through music, which made the evolution easier. I share the same passion for each industry, and designing came naturally for me – there is no shortage of ideas or creative blocks, which is refreshing.

What is your definition of personal success?

Success is setting realistic and achievable goals and timelines – and executing them. People usually set unrealistic goals and are then disappointed when they don’t come to fruition. Setting daily or even weekly goals is key to progression, as you’re instantly seeing a positive outcome while keeping in mind your end goal.

Building anything from scratch takes a lot of patience and dedication; highs and lows are all part of your story.

Can you clue us into some of the things that drive your ambition?

Collaborating with humble and like-minded people, my family and friends, living in Europe. Europe is extremely inspiring; I constantly pull inspiration from my surroundings and assimilate this into my music and designs.

Taking risks is a positive thing (within reason). It’s a very defining, character building process to throw yourself out into the unknown; it really lends perspective and builds confidence.

How have you coped with professional setbacks?

I use creative visualisation, which is such a positive tool and similar to meditation. This process involves getting a clear picture of your goal and focussing on it daily, ultimately feeding it positive energy. It helps refocus your mind away from any negativity so you can move forward from a setback productively.

Know that moving backwards is sometimes just what you need. Having two career paths can very be challenging as you’re often trying to juggle both businesses. There have been times where I’ve had to take a backward step in order to move forward – cliché but a fact. You might need to pull back from something in order to put energy into other projects, a concept I’ve had first-hand experience with in the past few years.

When I decided to launch my own business, I had to step away from another project I part-owned. At first it was tough – doing my own thing meant I had nine months off producing – but ultimately it was beneficial as I had time to focus on myself as well as my musical direction.

Time management and forecasting the year ahead is also paramount. It will save a lot of heartache to understand that timing is everything: you can’t force it, things will find their way organically (and with a little commitment).

DJing and designing sees you travel the world, but is it everything it’s cracked up to be? How does travelling constantly impact your focus and work rhythm?

I have been lucky to see some beautiful places so I can’t complain, but it’s definitely not all wine and roses. This lifestyle is not for everyone; I don’t get much free time, fully disconnecting from both careers mentally can be arduous, and travelling does upset your vibration, especially between the northern to southern hemispheres.

What’s the one piece of career advice you’d give to your younger self?

Be patient, get as much experience as possible regardless of the field of work you’re in, as these times are purely ingredients that construct your foundation. Be smart with your money. I’m sounding like my parents now, how things change!

What are your proudest career achievements?

Looking back at the milestones: Breath & Stone is entering its 6th year now, our vernissage (preview exhibition) at Darklands Berlin was a very appreciative moment, we showed at Paris Men’s Fashion Week, and have an upcoming feature in GQ Spain. Our next campaign launches on January 25 and will be another milestone for the label with a big year ahead.

From early in my musical career I’ve been fortunate to DJ at parties around the world, which is surreal. Playing Robot Heart at Burning Man has to be up there, and Room 1 at Fabric was a moment I’ll never forget.

Being able to do what I love and constantly be creating is the ultimate achievement.

Check out Breath and Stone on Instagram, and Brohn’s soundcloud page.

Sonia Taylor was the Founding Editor of The Cusp. Catch her on Instagram @sonnietothetee

All images supplied by Brohn. Lead image: Salar Kheradpejouh