Representing the creative future

How Sam Ross’ New School is transforming the world of artist management for good

We went to New School’s “Major” exhibition at 180 Strand and asked all the questions

The founder of New School Represents, the talent agency representing some of the boldest and brightest names in the fashion industry, Sam Ross talks about putting on Major, his first exhibition, working at your own pace and building a creative collective from the ground up.

“I’ve learned a lot in the last few weeks,” Sam Ross says, in one of those tones where you can’t quite tell if he’s excited, ecstatic or exasperated, but after the last couple of weeks, he’s had we’re leaning towards all three.

He’s just come back from Paris from the Off White show, “It was really stressful, we went with the boys [Ib Kamara and Gareth Wrighton]- that was their first show,” he shares.

The Editor-in-Chief and Art Director of Dazed respectively are not only Ross’ closest friends, but most prominent collaborators; “We went obviously to support,” Kamara was announced as the brand’s Art & Image director earlier this year, with Wrighton as Art Consultant, “but you’re still trying to work and keep the pace up so that was the most stressful part, to be honest.”

And he has been incredibly busy: alongside producing fashion week shows, viral Dazed cover shoots and stylish ad campaigns, Ross has been curating his own major showcase not only to showcase his artists’ work but a testament to the community he’s been building since New School was founded in 2021.

“You can’t say that you represent artists if you don’t display their work.” – Sam Ross

“Major”, the agency’s debut exhibition brought together works from the artists New School manages along with close friends and collaborators including Kamara’s striking Uncomfortable furniture pieces and Wrighton’s auric Stronger. Along with Campbell Addy’s photo series Am I Paining You, installation pieces by set designer Ibby Njoya, Crunchy Cheeto bodybuilder sculptures by Lydia Chan and photographer & stylist Joseph Lokko’s larger-than-life photographic cutout Untitled.

“Calling the show ‘Major’ was kind of cunty,” he laughs, the name Major itself being so easily quotable and irreverent; a way of fitting the creative force of the works on show in a single phrase and a tribute to Ross’ sparkling sense of humour; it set the show up to be a major success from the very start.

“Probably 70% of the work was created just for this, I think it’s important to give an artist that,” Ross continues, there was power in giving Major’s participants space to do work however they want which manifested itself in the display. Doing what makes them happy without a client to please or a brief to meet; shifting the focus from commercial potential and internal showcases to platforming talent in its rawest form on a public scale. “Most people in the show, they’re used to working brief by brief so it’s great to say to someone, just do whatever you want […] you can’t say that you represent artists if you don’t display their work.”

Opening in October 2022 the show was held in the Sutton Street galleries, one of the many exhibition spaces at the mythic 180 Strand building, which is where coincidentally New School’s office is located along with Dazed Media’s HQ. “This building is incredible, I keep saying this to people. Mark, the curator, he fully created this.” The ‘Mark’ in question is Mark Wadhwa, the property mogul and entrepreneur who after purchasing the 180 building in 2012 transformed it into the cultural centre it’s known as today.

“Everyone [in the industry] is so untapped, held back because of existing relationships or whatever hierarchy they’re in.” – Sam Ross

“I think so many people have been approached and are on the fence about moving here. I mean I turned up here when Ib started at Dazed. I’ve done the whole working from someone’s garden in East London, it’s so detached. Here you’re a few doors down from everyone, you’re somewhere that’s alive. There are negatives of course, but for the most part, it’s incredible and it really can accelerate people’s careers as it is literally a podium. It’s like an arena for people to perform in through a collective mindset and community. It’s a destination.”

Major at 180 Studios

But what was the turning point to inspire Ross to create New School in the first place? “When we chose the name New School, it set out mentally what we should be.” A new school of thought. “It’s pretty cringe but we should be changing perceptions, it’s up to us. We shouldn’t just carry on with what people were doing in the 90s. Everything is different now. […] I was suppressed under a bloody thumb for so long by people who thought they knew the world,” a statement anyone making their way in the fashion industry can relate to. “When you’re sitting there, and you’re like I know this is wrong, but I had no voice to say it. Everyone is so untapped, held back because of existing relationships or whatever hierarchy they’re in.”

“It’s important to not push people too far too quick.” – Sam Ross

“If you go into some of those older companies that are more rigid and more regimented you can really lose yourself in that procedure. You’re gone. Any sense of humanity or any sense of your own taste or your own opinion is gone. With New School, it was like, tear it all down.”

Graduating from Central Saint Martins’ Fashion Communication and Promotion course in 2016, along with Kamara, Wrighton and Addy, an extended collective which he jokingly calls “survivors of Saint Martin’s”, Ross’ subsequent rise to success in the six years since he left CSM, comes from his awareness of how fast the industry can move. “It’s important to not push people too far too quick. So many people take on all this stuff and it doesn’t work.” A phenomenon he’s familiar with on a personal level. “I had a burnout last year, so it’s something I’m really aware and guarded about, […] Looking back I’m really lucky it happened to me when it did.”

“Everyone’s careers are quite quick now, and it’s really important to take stock of that. When you have a strong collection of work, it all just kind of falls into place so easily.” – Sam Ross

With a growing list of names and an exhibition to boast, what’s next on the horizon for New School Represents? “We’re growing,” he confidently replies. “The show has been great. It’s a whole different way to sell people as well, we have our own visual identity, which I think really elevated the exhibition.”

Going back to what’s next Ross is clear: “Everyone’s careers are quite quick now, and it’s really important to take stock of that. When you have a strong collection of work, it all just kind of falls into place so easily.” One thing which is really the most noticeable about Sam Ross is his down-to-earth approach; an openness about every part of his process, which has an undeniable presence in New School’s identity. “I hate things being quantified as ‘cool’, I don’t ever want to be cool, I’m not cool; I love my friends and what I do, and I really care about people, that’s me.” Whatever is next for Sam and New School, we all know it’s going to be major.


Get your tickets for the Major exhibition here