Jo Pretyman: I-Manifest: Sydney

“It always seems impossible until it’s done” Nelson Mandela

Name: Jo Pretyman
Occupation: Founder of I-Manifest
Hometown: Sydney
Current Location: Sydney


Jo is the founder of I-Manifest, an innovative organisation that passionately believes new thinking can solve the current youth unemployment crisis. I-Manifest recognizes that in a rapidly changing world, creativity is the new currency. They provide pathways for young people to pursue real, sustainable careers in the creative economy.

Jo believes in the power of creativity to create social and economic change. She works to see creativity shape a resilient, prosperous and socially inclusive future for Australia and for creativity to be celebrated and understood as an infinite national resource. Almost Real spent time with Jo in her creative element at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week 2015. I-manifest created workshops for kids to learn about the creative possibilities amongst leading mentors of the fashion world…


The first thing I did when I woke up this morning was… Jumped out of bed, threw on the Nikes, headphones in and ran…. every day starts with a run to the end of Mrs Macquarie’s chair where I sit on the rocks and meditate as the sun rises… it’s my time to connect and remember that it’s all so much bigger than us.

When I was a child I wanted to be…Pretty much everything! You name it I think I have wanted to be it! I was always so mesmerized by the idea of things… Someone fabulous in spirit would catch my attention and I would so quickly fixate and create the most vividly beautiful movie in my mind of their existence and want that for myself… until I met the next person… I was a dreamer…

The studies I took to get where I am…I have had a very round about journey that has brought me to where I am today. I started at uni with a Bachelor of Commerce because that’s what I was expected to do, half way through I took a left and completed a Diploma in Remedial Massage and Reiki 2 before returning to my degree. I also studied Fashion PR at The London College of Fashion but in reality, everything that really means something I have learnt through living.

I’m inspired by…Life, people, spirit, the vastness of humanity yet knowing in every moment, each of us is just doing the best we can with where we are at, especially when you meet people that make that so hard for you to get your head around.

I’m inspired by…beautiful images: Slim Aarons, Helmut Newton, Patrick Demarchelier, my dear friend Mr Simon Harsent and his tribe at The Pool Collective. The rock and roll era, … eras in general… I love the notion of any particular era and knowing every little tiny detail about it. Design and architecture. I’m particularly obsessed with modernism. Julias Schulman, Frank Lloyd Wright, Neutra. I’m also loving a lot of the residential architecture that’s coming out of Sao Paulo at the moment. It’s heaven. David Lynch, his film, his art, his music, his TM Foundation. And the kids… at the end of the day it’s all about the kids… they are so authentically awesome and just crack me up constantly… they drive me to be better and keep going and growing and I just can’t get enough of being around them…

I admire…Humility. When I lived in Ibiza I had the very fortunate experience to work for Mark & Sarah Broadbent who are two of the most respected people in dance music globally. They ran one of the most successful club nights that has existed, We Love Space, where every week for sixteen weeks they would pull together an event that was equivalent in size and scale to some of the largest festivals we see in Sydney… yet they were humble, real, true and honest and no matter how “famous” the artists we had performing were, the reality was that they were just people, fellow humans, like us. If Grace Jones needed a drink, she needed a drink and there is really only one way to get someone a drink, whether it’s your mother, your brother, your friend, your boss. If you have respect for humanity, it all becomes the same. And working alongside the Broadbents, you very quickly realize that.

The tools I can’t live without…My people… I am surrounded on a daily basis by an army of the most incredibly talented, kind, loving, supportive people. Every day I am blown away by the generosity of their spirit, taking the time out of their redonkulously busy lives to work with me to refine, refine and refine again my vision to make an impactful contribution to a more equitable world. & reiki… everywhere, every day…

I’m most creative when I’m…Happy and surrounded by equally crazy, ambitious and passionate people. We have a totally overly ambitious and frivolous “hands in the air and see where it lands” approach to life at I-Manifest and I love it!!! Because it always ends up so much better than you could have ever imagined.. I love seeing the moment grow…. 

My favourite book…Ernest Hemmingway “The Sun Also Rises” and although not a book Vanity Fair long form articles … the multi-issue Maddoff Ponzi Scheme coverage circa 2009 became an obsession of epic proportions!!!

The website I hang out on the most…Hmm, randomly I’m not a big web surfer…I’m tactile… I live for paper!

I’m currently listening too…Gonzalez Solo Piano is a daily morning ritual, Groove Salad for the working day, Dimitri’s Tribute to Frankie Knuckles for my Woolloomooloo stair runs & everything from Kings of Convenience, J Dila, Pete Rock, Fleetwood Mac, War on Drugs, Talk Talk, Talking Heads (Naïve Melody is my forever favourite) Radio Head, Pink Floyd, Tangerine Dream, Blood Orange, Janet Jackson, Mr Doris, Nightmares on Wax, Chopin, Debussy and jazz in between. Music really does make my world go around!

The obstacles that have come my way…Probably the biggest obstacle I have faced and overcome is myself… finding that relentless tenacity to just keep on going when all I wanted to do is shrivel up in a ball and fade away into the ether… finding the strength to keep going when everyone told me over and over “this won’t work” but somewhere inside without knowing how, I just knew I had to keep on going despite my immense and at times near debilitating fear… fear of (lack of) money, fear of being alone, fear of being “behind” everyone else in life, fear of what people thought of my choices… learning the tools to enable me to overcome that has been the hardest, but most rewarding obstacle I think I may ever overcome.  The reality that all the power in the universe lies within you is such an abstract notion to get your head around (in it’s practical application), but once you do, everything changes.

My favourite place in the world…Ibiza. Words cannot describe the magic that exists on that island. I knew the minute I stepped off the plane in August 2004 I had found my spiritual home and that, it will always be. That and the fact that goats exist on a magnetic, baron rocky outcrop (Es Vedra)!

I would like to travel…Sooo many places… having lived between Berlin, London, Ibiza, Sydney for 7 years the reality is I haven’t seen a lot else of the world… which is crazy I know!  Currently top of the list is Tulum, Mexico… and rural Japan.

My travel essentials are… I love to write in my MoleskinAll the minis of my fave products… Evian facemist, Beauty Flash Balm, Eight Hour Cream, Eua Dynamissante are a must… Vanity Fairs, Bombay & Tonics, American Apparel black everything for curling up in the plane like a cat, and pouches within pouches… I like to be organized!

One thing I would like to do but haven’t got around to it yet… mmm… one thing? mainly it focuses around my work and mission for young people and education …oh & learn to fly a plane!

The highlights over the past 12 months have been…My goodness it’s actually quite hard to believe what has transpired in the past twelve months.. it was a tough one that’s for sure but we made it and as I look back highlights have to be I-Manifest STUDIO at Vivid Ideas 2014. It was just the best, the workshops and seeing our student’s work projected on Sydney Uni building was so special and then our neon nightmarket fundraising event on the rooftop of 1 Bligh St was phenomenal to say the least! Seeing our STUDIO program launch at MBFWA this year was so cool, my new Board of Directors… seeing my then volunteer (Laura) grow into one of the best Producers in Sydney in the space of 1 year… the list goes on!!!   

The latest project I’m working on…Argh… so many right now we are drowning!!! Haha!  Inspired Education, Vivid, TED X Youth just passed, Good Design Festival, Remix Festival, National Education Conference, preparing for Art & About.. .it’s my favourite time of year but it’s just MADNESS!

Advice I have to share for those who want to get into this profession…. Be fearless, practise gratitude, surround yourself with people that are smarter than you!! Seek lots of advice from multiple sources but at the end of the day always sit quietly and work out what is true for you. Find your truth and the courage to live it, have focus, have purpose and relentless tenacity, pick up the phone! Be kind, smile, laugh, cry, and always believe that with vision, determination and unwaivering conviction, anything, really is possible.

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Photo: Katie Kaars

Interview: Michelle Owen

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