We are thrilled to spotlight our latest Marfa Muse, Charlene Prempeh.
Charlene began her career in marketing and worked at some of the UK’s most prominent media platforms and art institutions including the BBC, The Guardian, and Frieze. More recently, she launched her creative agency A Vibe Called Tech, to encourage a culturally diverse lens in design, technology, arts, and culture by spearheading partnerships, events, research, and workshops across London and through her journalism and consultancy work. She currently consults for the Royal Academy of Arts and Art Fund, is the Marketing lead for Society Centered Design at Projects by IF, and is a member of the steering group for Chatham House and London Design Biennale Design Resonance In An Age Of Crisis.
Charlene is also an FT How to Spend it columnist and contributing editor who writes about Black innovators, design, travel, and culture.
Charlene wears size S in the Down Parka in black, slate and reverse anthracite in the grounds of Somerset House, London.
Tell us about your background
I grew up in East London in Canning Town as the youngest of four siblings and studied at the local Catholic primary and secondary schools. I was a pretty inquisitive child - I loved reading the news and I knew I was interested in telling stories. I wasn’t exposed to a huge amount of careers growing up so I didn’t initially connect this love of stories and storytelling to journalism, content or writing.
I worked really hard growing up and I put a lot of energy into my education. I always knew I wanted to excel in what I was doing. I ended up going to Oxford University which hadn’t been on my radar at all, but my tutors sowed the seeds and went on to pursue a career in journalism and marketing before founding my creative agency A Vibe Called Tech.
Talk us through your career journey so far…
Post university, I worked in marketing for over a decade and consulted with some of the UK’s most prominent media platforms and art institutions including the BBC, The Guardian and Frieze before taking the leap and establishing A Vibe Called Tech in 2018.
A Vibe Called Tech started as a public engagement piece looking at the effects of technology on the Black community. It came from a deep concern about technologies like AI and I wanted to make people aware of those issues, educate people and to allow them to advocate for their own communities.
It’s evolved into a platform dedicated to approaching creativity through an intersectional lens. As an agency we believe in the richness of diverse cultures to inform strategic thinking across all audiences. Alongside Lewis Gilbert, who is our Creative Director, we’ve worked with brands including Gucci, Stine Goya, Faber, Frieze and institutions like Whitechapel Gallery, RA and V&A East to deliver ambitious creative output that nourishes communities.
What are you most proud of?
There are so, so many things; from launching a series of creative campaigns with Gucci, including their first shoot in Africa, to partnering with WePresent on a year-long series bringing Black-owned media to the forefront, to working with V&A East on a new creative residency. A really special moment for me was during our Tate Exchange talks - we were having conversations about Black creativity, and how technology has helped but also been oppressive and someone in the audience stood up and said that before the talk he didn’t know anything about the issue and thanked us for the education. That made a lot of it feel worthwhile.
My column for the FT, The Kudos Project, is also something I cherish. It has given me a platform to tell stories about Black entrepreneurs and creatives in an ongoing way. The idea was to continue to encourage people to continue to invest and engage in Black businesses beyond the editorial focus around Black Lives Matters. There are so many amazing brands that are under the radar that I have discussed through the column and I’m so honoured to be able to tell their stories.
What advice do you have for fellow female entrepreneurs?
The most important lesson I’ve learned is to have the tools in place to be able to run your own business; you’ll need to be able to juggle everything from branding, research, marketing, accountancy and more as well as not being afraid to scale the team when needed.
If you’re feeling creatively challenged, draw inspiration from the things around you. There’s often talk about needing to be in a particular environment to stimulate creativity but I can't stress how many times a great idea has come from a book title beside my bed or a logo I’ve seen on a bus. All spaces are quietly laced with revelation.
How do you style your Marfa Stance piece and why do you like the brand?
I’d describe my style as quite androgenous because I find it comfortable but I like playing with volume and unusual shapes and materials. Day to day, I’d mix my parka with either neutrals or statement bright pieces, for example a pair of green Dries Van Noten tracksuit bottoms and a plain white t-shirt. I love Marfa Stance because every piece feels like an investment that will pay off in your wardrobe for years to come.
Photographer: Amelia Allen