In our long-running sequence “How I am Making It,” we speak to individuals making a dwelling within the vogue and wonder industries about how they broke in and located success.
When Gia Kuan was a regulation pupil in Melbourne, Australia, she wasn’t organizing samples at a vogue home or crafting pitches at a PR company. She’d go on to do these issues, in fact, however not but. As an alternative, an 18-year-old Kuan was working at a nightclub, first as a promoter, then as a “bottle lady,” serving champagne set ablaze with sparklers.
“In Australia, the ingesting age is far youthful, so it was quite common for faculty college students to work in nightlife,” says Kuan, who grew up between Taipei, Santo Domingo and Auckland. “And actually, it was a straightforward job and you bought paid in money. Little did I understand any of that might apply to my profession sooner or later. However now, fascinated with what I do by way of occasions administration and PR, lots of what I had accomplished early on set a basis for the way I may function the best way I do immediately.”
On the time, Kuan wasn’t precisely angling to interrupt into the style business. It took her working one other part-time job — this one at a luxurious vogue retailer — for all of the items to click on into place. As a result of although she was all the time all in favour of vogue, she explains, she by no means envisioned really working within the subject itself.
Kuan made a reputation for herself within the PR area at Comme des Garçons, Dover Avenue Market and Nadine Johnson (the place she took a hiatus from vogue altogether to concentrate on artwork), earlier than launching Gia Kuan Consulting (GKC), her eponymous consultancy that immediately reps the likes of Telfar, Kim Shui and Luar. Right now, vogue contains simply half GKC’s roster, with the remaining being a cocktail of arts and tradition purchasers. The place GKC is completely different from a standard vogue company mannequin, she argues, lies in that combination in and of itself: No two purchasers are alike, so neither are the methods wherein GKC helps them.
“Discovery is a really huge factor for us,” she says. “We do a ton of analysis on individuals and the press so we’re not regurgitating the identical context time and again. That is an enormous no-no for us. We’re all the time fascinated with what strikes the needle, and what the brand new communities are that we will construct upon.”
Under, we caught up with Kuan about her childhood rising up throughout three continents, producing blockbuster vogue exhibits and amplifying rising designers to uncharted heights.
Inform me concerning the origins of your curiosity in vogue, earlier than you pursued it as a profession.
It has been an fascinating experience. Intrinsically, I used to be all the time all in favour of vogue, nevertheless it was simply a type of aspirational jobs. I did not come from a household who labored in artistic industries, nor did I actually achieve publicity to vogue. I had zero model consciousness. Till the top of highschool, I simply did not perceive what luxurious manufacturers signified. Solely after I went to school in Australia — after I was hanging out with children who went to personal college and had the technique of having the ability to devour higher-end vogue — did I begin to uncover what vogue meant on a model stage.
In faculty, I labored at a luxurious vogue retailer in Melbourne known as Assin, and that was my first step into luxurious vogue. They stocked lots of Belgian designers, from Ann Demeulemeester to Rick Owens, and Japanese designers, like Junya Watanabe and Comme des Garçons; that impressed me to pursue it extra. After I lastly made the transfer to New York in 2010, I got here to pursue a correct profession in vogue, so I enrolled in a brief vogue advertising course at Parsons.
You had been born in Taipei and raised between Santo Domingo and Auckland. Did your international upbringing affect the best way you concentrate on creativity and self-expression?
Rising up in Asia, popular culture was very closely impressed by Japan. My grandma knew how you can communicate Japanese as a result of there was Japanese occupancy in Taiwan throughout her period. I used to be influenced by that, and it nonetheless resonates immediately. Like, this concept of Kawaii, the tradition of cute issues. My model could be very a lot that.
Then I moved to the Dominican Republic — my father was working for the Taiwanese embassy on the time as a diplomat — and lived there for 3 years, after I was between 5 to eight. I simply keep in mind sporting these super-vibrant ensembles, and that was additionally my first foray into late-Nineteen Eighties, early-Nineties Americana. That is how I realized my English. That is why I’ve an American accent. [Laughs]
Afterward, I moved to New Zealand. I do not know if I embraced vogue as a lot throughout that point as a result of I would not say it was like, a modern place. It was very suburban. My model was extra knowledgeable by practicality and uniform tradition. In school in New Zealand, you need to put on a uniform more often than not. It wasn’t just like the American college system the place you’ll be able to put on no matter you need, so solely on the finish of highschool did I begin to discover model.
Stroll me via your profession path from the time you graduated from College of Melbourne to your time at Comme des Garçons, Dover Avenue Market and Nadine Johnson. What classes did you be taught in these early days that you simply nonetheless carry with you immediately?
Parsons was very a lot catered to the truth that they’re anticipating you to do internships. So I did lots of completely different internships, my first one at PR Consulting. It was lots of pattern trafficking and working errands. That was my intro to studying the map of Manhattan as a result of we needed to lug garment luggage all over the place. I obtained my first style of what a PR company meant as a result of whenever you’re learning PR, you haven’t any concept what PR actually is till you are working in it. I additionally interned at Tom Ford when he debuted womenswear, and thru that, I began to be taught the large names within the business. That is after I realized that relationships are all the pieces.
Scroll to Proceed
Towards the top, I began working at Comme des Garçons, and it grew to become my first-ever job. I used to be there for six years. After I first joined, it was a really small staff of solely 4 or 5 individuals within the U.S., together with gross sales and PR. The primary adolescence of working at CDG encompassed a extra conventional PR function — pattern trafficking and once more, studying who’s who. I realized to be hyper organized, working with a Japanese headquarters, which is simply the best way the corporate works. There was a very, actually robust work ethic throughout, and that trickled right down to their retailer workers.
At Dover Avenue, we nearly operated at an company stage as a result of we needed to perceive the ins and outs of a lot of the distributors the shop was carrying. It was identified for championing lots of younger and rising designers, and that is what impressed me to get excited concerning the new expertise that exists inside the U.S. and past. We arrange a help system for these designers, making connections for them with the press contacts we knew, and on the finish of the day, that is what felt essentially the most rewarding. Quick ahead a number of years after I began freelancing, serving to associates who’ve vogue strains get began, and it was the identical course of: They did not have any sources, so with my information, how may I bridge that hole between them and the press?
After Dover Avenue, I exited vogue and began working at Nadine Johnson, which is that this iconic boutique company primarily based in New York Metropolis. I labored together with her arts and tradition accounts, which means all of their galleries, artists, museums and nonprofits, which I discovered actually refreshing.
And I feel Nadine took an opportunity on me as a result of I used to be like, ‘Effectively, I studied artwork historical past in faculty and I’ve a great understanding of latest artwork, however I’ve by no means labored in artwork.’ And she or he was similar to, ‘In order for you it badly sufficient, you’ll be able to catch up.’ I used to be so grateful to her for that. We each believed on this concept of, why invite somebody you speak to on a regular basis to dinner? That is so boring. She was all the time into this concept of a spiced-up visitor listing, and so was I.
How did you resolve to embark by yourself, with your individual consultancy?
I’ve all the time been a curious individual. Rising up, I did not devour vogue the best way lots of different individuals did, and if I did, I wished to know the ‘why’ behind it. The product itself is not sufficient. So I used to be wanting to have the ability to really feel a bit extra linked to the model and the individual behind it. On the time, a few of my older friends had been beginning their very own tasks. Eric Schlösberg, who was considered one of my outdated colleagues, had his namesake model and requested me to assist him join with a number of individuals. These little e-mail introductions had been how it began. I used to be simply serving to a good friend right here and there.
Actually, I used to be additionally simply going out so much. That is how I met Kim Shui and Raffaella Hanley from Lou Dallas and Carly Mark. All of our lives simply got here collectively whereas going out within the New York partying subculture. It was what I imagined New York could possibly be, however I do not assume I discovered it after I moved right here in 2010. Trend week was a lot about, I do not know, Lincoln Heart and Trend’s Evening Out. It was only a completely different aesthetic. There was this uncooked vitality I felt was lacking. However then I began to satisfy all these individuals, like Telfar [Clemens], and it simply began from there.
Your agency has been acknowledged for its illustration of impartial designers and a democratization of vogue exhibits. How do you go about constructing out your portfolio, and what are your priorities to your purchasers as soon as they signal on with you?
After I assume again to the sooner days, I wasn’t so purposely curating it — however I assume it was. I felt devoted to giving designers a platform to speak within the press and even simply to letting individuals bear in mind that these associates of mine existed. It was a egocentric self-fulfillment factor. I wished that New York, American dream that I moved right here to pursue.
I consider that as a result of vogue could be very a lot an artwork kind, you do not essentially need to have formal coaching to have the ability to have an viewers, nor do you need to have this super-commercial imaginative and prescient. So it is about believing in that and persevering with to struggle for it for others and inform their tales. That ethos could be very a lot central to what we do once we take into consideration the manufacturers we work with, which spans past vogue now. The manufacturers I am drawn to are those that do not match the mildew. They create their very own path.
For those who had been to undergo the spotlight reel of your profession, what can be the large moments that stand out to you, and why?
I imply, Telfar has undoubtedly been an enormous second for me. We have not accomplished a type of huge exhibits shortly, and to be sincere, I do not know if I am mentally prepared for it simply but. [Laughs] However within the earlier days, we did these huge, huge exhibits, like on the helicopter pad or at Irving Plaza. It was loopy. It was clearly worrying, nevertheless it was so rewarding to see everybody come collectively, to see the kinds of people that got here via.
I keep in mind doing the White Fort celebration a number of years in the past, and that was one of many bigger events we had accomplished as a result of we needed to go so huge with that visitor listing. To this present day, I keep in mind so many individuals who had been like, ‘That is my first Telfar occasion, and I totally perceive the vitality of Telfar at that celebration.’ They remembered Telfar and have adopted it since. I used to be happy with having the ability to deliver worth to the model via that. And naturally, now they’re so profitable they usually have their very own platform that may attain so many individuals instantly. It has been superb to see that evolve.
What’s one thing that is thrilling to you concerning the vogue business proper now?
There’s extra of a way of liberation within the business now versus after I first began. Trend is not as tied to business requirements because it was once. And in my little utopian mindset, that was what I had all the time wished it to be. After I first moved to New York and entered vogue, there have been way more inflexible requirements we needed to work via only for younger designers to be acknowledged. However previously few years, I feel individuals have began to comprehend that in case your model is robust, in case you have a powerful voice, you’ll be able to pave your individual method towards success with out having these restrictions anymore. That is actually, actually thrilling.
There are extra creative methods for manufacturers to speak on to their audiences. There are methods for them to create their very own content material and use their very own voice. I am excited to see what’s coming subsequent.
This interview has been edited and condensed for readability.
By no means miss the most recent vogue business information. Join the Fashionista day by day e-newsletter.