Artist Spotlight on NYC's Julie Zhu (THICKK MAGAZINE ix-clusive feature!)
So you currently live in New York City, tell us your story...
Born and raised in Beijing, China, I was surrounded by all kinds of music, from Beijing opera to Western classical music, which made an impression on me at an early age. I always wanted to get involved in the arts industries on the business side and help artists build a thriving career.
I joined Ogilvy PR, a leading global communication firm, in 2015.
It was invaluable and rewarding to learn how the real PR world works while sharpening necessary PR skills. I was involved with a diverse range of projects and experienced different aspects of the PR industry, from media relations to social media campaigns strategies to events management. Through this opportunity, I have enjoyed many aspects of communication. I got a sense of my true interest in this field, and I decided to pursue a career in PR.
I was always ready for an adventure. I moved to NYC three years ago and immediately fell in love with the city. I am a PR/Marketing Consultant with a special focus on the arts industry. I have worked with world-renowned artists, such as Parisa Wang and Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, to find niche markets and develop customized solutions, from creative campaigns to on-site events, to grow their business organically.
What do you feel is the future of Fashion in 5 years?
Based on my successful experience working with luxury handbag designer Parisa Wang, I believe that only a few fashion brands have led the charge for sustainable practices in this industry. For example, Stella McCartney has built her entire line on the idea of environmentally appropriate and constantly explores new fabric technology. She recently used recycled plastic waste from the ocean for materials for sneakers.
In 5 years, I believe most fashion companies will embrace more eco-friendly practices as customers become more educated about materials and expect their brands to care about the world too. As a result, even now more fashion companies are taking sustainability seriously.
Who are your top influences in Fashion and Art?
I am inspired by many artists, from classic painters like David Hockney to surrealist artists like Joseph Cornell, who made the most dream-like, delicate, glass-fronted boxes with arranged materials: old newspapers, letters, photographs, marbles, seashells, twigs, and so many wonderful little things.
I am constantly influenced by nature. It is the best inspiration for color and inspires me every single day.
How do you implement your influences in your work?
My own artistic background has given me a unique and creative perspective, and it has helped me understand the artists that I have worked with. My client Parisa Wang is well known for her singular, luxurious handbags with a feminine edge. I implemented my art influences in my work when I organized Parisa’s trunk show during New York Fashion Week. I incorporated on-site personalization services with a range of painting options by artist and illustrator Ruffles Tao. We offered the opportunity to add hand painting and a personal touch and designs inspired by floral and natural elements on our products because it actually aligns with everything I believe in Parisa. I feel the custom artworks make statement pieces, which also make great content for social media and marketing. The customized purses and the limited on-site offers were fun and popular, which drove over 500 foot traffic to our pop up. Many customers told us they really enjoy seeing their names written beautifully on the purses, and they like things that are personalized because it is like a treatment to themselves.
What marketing advice can you give to fashion brands?
It is important to pick a tight niche when you are starting a fashion business because it is easier to focus your energy and time on one specific area, and a narrow niche delivers a clear message about what your business stands for. And later on, you can expand your business.
What are some major contributions that you have made for the brands that you have worked for? How did you help Parisa Wang build up her fashion brand? What did you learn?
Parisa Wang is a super talented Parsons graduate and a luxury accessory designer. I was excited and thankful to join such a rapidly growing fashion label. I directed all marketing strategy, from creatives to content and partnership.
One of my most rewarding experiences at PW was launching a brand ambassador program and planning a successful design collaboration with global fashion icon Zanita Whittington. It is not easy to find someone who is authentic and original, yet able to align with our brand image and add value. With compelling campaigns, we gained over 3 million exposure, and our collaboration piece was sold out via the online luxury retailer Shopbop within two days.
In addition, I am very proud to embrace sustainable values, make them part of our brand culture, and integrate them into our marketing strategy and business model. We teamed up with Reformation, an LA-based eco-friendly label and the most wanted brand on Instagram, and sourced the most beautiful and high-quality recycled leather scraps that might otherwise be considered waste. We create accessible handbags using sustainable methods and materials.
I was able to find interest among our consumers in a sustainable way of life and connect to our target market organically.
How about Jazz at Lincoln Center?
I have been lucky enough to work with some amazing world-renowned artists, such as Wynton Marsalis, at JALC. Marsalis is my all-time favorite Jazz musician, and I spearheaded massive fundraising revenue and social media growth among international audiences through email marketing and event planning efforts.
What fundraising advice do you have for others?
I believe it is important to know your patrons and communicate with them regularly so you can establish a real relationship and a lasting connection.
In your expert opinion, how is the Fashion Scene different between China and NYC? China and the US? Tell us more!
I am so excited to see an increasing number of young Chinese designers and Chinese models on the NYFW runway, and many American brands have opened stores and are gaining popularity in China! I definitely see the world as more interconnected than ever before.
NYC not only is a fashion capital but also has a strong entrepreneurial and collaborative spirit. I have a few international designer friends who chose to start their own brands in NYC and pursue their dreams here because it is such an open and great city that welcomes all talents.
China has a long legacy of history, culture, and the finest artisanal craftsmanship. It is a rapidly changing society and a young generation who seek ways to express themselves. I fully believe there is now an enabling environment to create some truly global trends.
Where do you see your journey taking you in 5 years?
In 5 years, I would like continue working for powerful and distinguished companies such as Parisa Wang and Lincoln Center. I want to continue to further my expertise in the marketing/PR sector. I would like to help brands develop global and localized strategies and plans and also mentor artists to establish an international career.