Julie Zhu, I see you have a brilliant career here in the US, and you’re just 24! You started with playing the piano, passed through the Lincoln Center, and now you are involved in fashion marketing...
(She smiles…). Oh, actually I started playing piano in China, by mimicking my friends. I saw them playing and I thought it would have been magical to learn and play music, and to offer it to the public. It’s an act of generosity. I feel this is what art is about.
I am not a professional piano player: I do it just for my pleasure, and for my friends’. I do not own a piano (it’s a very difficult thing to have at home here in New York!); I tend to book a rehearsal room and play it, and play it, and play it. It’s hypnotic.
Being a pianist requires a true sense of discipline: you don’t stop just because your fingers and your mind are tired; you stop when you reach the point you thought you should have reached. It doesn’t matter if your fingertips are numb or your back hurts; I believe my strength and my passion came from that practice.
But I consider myself an art-marketer: in today’s digital society, content is created and shared every second. Businesses need to connect at a deep level with their audience to stand out. I am 24 years old, and I was born and raised surrounded by this new industry: marketing has completely changed in recent years, and especially in the era of social media. I just understand that now audiences expect artists and brands to be authentic and personal. Artists are expected to tell their art stories and to understand and connect with audiences on a personal level.
Julie Zhu in company of the silver medalist of the 2015 International Tchaikovsky Competition George Li, at Lincoln Center
You’ve worked closely with the Lincoln Center; did this passion for music cause you to land there?
Naturally, my passion for music informed my decision to work in an artistic environment; I coordinated some important special events at the Lincoln Center including Member Appreciation night, Monk Festival with Chick Korea, Essentially Ellington Luncheon, and the Jazz at Lincoln Center 30th Anniversary Gala.
I was responsible for prospect research, event sponsorship, scheduling, catering, and seating. I was also able to develop business partnerships with 25 local restaurants and shops to add value to the membership benefits.
On that occasion I had the opportunity to meet Wynton Marsalys, a sacred monster of the contemporary Jazz world. I was terribly excited; I loved this period in my career!
Julie Zhu with Wynton Marsalis
Give me an example of your duties while working at the Lincoln Center.
I worked cross-functionally with the development, marketing, creative, and education teams, coordinating year-end fundraising campaigns across digital channels.
I customized compelling appeals to different audience groups, while also supporting creatives, social media content and live programs and managing high volume of incoming phone calls and emails. I planned five events from sponsorship to catering, which led to $70k in small gifts to the department.
You see, when you listen to music, you never quite think that behind the stage there is this kind of work going on, but now you know it. (She smiles).
Then you moved into the Fashion industry…
Then I moved into Fashion industry, yes.
It happened by chance. I have an expertise in PR and Communications, and, having a strong background in the arts, I knew that I wanted to work in fashion as it was becoming more and more relevant as a creative medium
I work at Parisa Wang, a luxury handbag brand and I have been solely responsible for securing partnerships with major lifestyle influencers such as Karlie Kloss, Jenn Im, Eva Chen, Ali Wong amongst others. Additionally, my efforts at Parisa Wang resulted in increased e-commerce revenue by 18%, with a very limited budget. It was a real challenge, and we made it! I was also able to plan and manage an important event during NYFW at Bloomingdale's from venue to event sponsors to media coverage. That period was great, because I also had to manage the social media of the maison, and I got in touch with a lot of people, building strong work relationships with celebrities, influencers, publishers, and sponsors including Bella Hadid, Blair Eadie and Constance Wu.
We created a brand story with several other brands, so once again, I was connecting with web and non-web influencers and celebrities. We wanted to promote a sustainable fashion industry, and to do so, I secured a partnership with Reformation, a LA-based eco-friendly label and the most wanted brand on Instagram (www.thereformation.com).
Julie Zhu with CFDA fashion designer Gigi Burris
What do you think about Fashion? How do you consider it?
Fashion is art. Fashion has always been at the forefront of the arts world, influencing changes, style, and movements. As an art marketer, my role is to create that connection and to help artists and designers to find their ideal audiences: I share their stories, and converse with them.
Building connections is my natural skill; I am very PR oriented, and I put this savoir-faire at the artist’s service. I’d love to build a network in which everybody speaks an art language. Putting them together, having many different media communicating together, in a virtual place in which we just produce, talk, dream, act and breathe the arts.
Why do you think that artists and creatives should need your services?
Well, I am a PR/Marketing Strategist with a special focus on the arts industry. I help artists to express their art stories and develop strong connections with their audience. As an art marketer, I create effective PR and marketing strategies for artists, from branding to on-site events and beyond, to grow their art making into a thriving career.
It is difficult to be an artist: earning money through art, and to be strong enough to believe in it, and keep creating art. Independent artists know it very well, and I want them to strongly believe that what they are doing is good, that what they are doing is enriching, and that what they are doing is the only possible thing that they can do to reach their personal success. This is why I feel like I have a mission in art: they can do it, but they might need some help to believe it. And that’s where I come in: I know what it feels like to leave art. And nobody should. Not anymore.
I believe art will be a precious tool to save our minds and, consequently, the world. (She loughs). It sounds weird, but I do think so. We are made of the same material as the stars, aren’t we?
Yes, but why YOU?
Because my personal artistic background gives me the tools to understand the perspective that artists have when seeing the world. It is their own unique way. It is like speaking foreign languages: I understand the language of art, and with my unique expertise, I can translate that language to the language of the markets: I am responsible for conceptualizing, liaising, organizing, and planning the marketing and PR of a project or artist. This is an enormous responsibility and only the best should be entrusted with this. (She sweetly smiles again, blushing a little).
When did you come to the US?
I arrived in 2012, to attend the Whitman College, in Walla Walla, where I read for my Bachelor’s Degree in Art History. Then I moved to Columbia University, here in New York, and obtained my Master of Arts degree in Communication and Media Studies. As you see, Art is my fil rouge...
And why did you choose to move to the US?
Because I wanted to visit the New World. I already knew Europe, but I thought I couldn’t find the energy I needed there. When I moved here I was 17, with all my dreams and strengths in my suitcase, and here I found it. First in Washington, then , finally, in New York. I feel the world turns around here. There is such an energy, such an amazing turnover of everything. I feel everything can happen here, and actually, everything I wished for is happening to me!
The art and the marketplace have pulsating lives and keep developing and they just move, and everyone from every corner of the planet comes here to see and study. The idea of LIVING here is astonishing. I still can’t believe it. I mean: I live in New York! The dream of at least one million people! It is a true privilege.