Julie, I see you have a brilliant career here in the US, and you’re so young! You started with playing the piano, passed through the Lincoln Center, and now you are involved in fashion marketing...
(She smiles…). Oh yes I was fascinated by the sound of piano and thought it would have been magical to learn and play music. Music has been such a huge part in my life. I am not a professional pianist, I do it for my pleasure, and for my friends. I do not own a piano here in the city (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 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, Essentially Ellington Luncheon, and the Jazz at Lincoln Center 30th Anniversary Gala. I had the opportunity to meet and work with the jazz legend Wynton Marsalis and the JALC orchestra. 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 campaigns and events. I was also able to develop business partnerships with local restaurants and shops to add value to the membership benefits. You see, when you listen to music, you never quite think that behind the stage there is so much 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 worked at Parisa Wang, a luxury handbag brand and I had been responsible for securing partnerships with major influencers. I was also able to plan and coordinate an important event during NYFW at Bloomingdale's from venue to event sponsors. That period was great, because I got in touch with a lot of people, building strong work relationships with influencers, publishers, and sponsors.
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 styles, movements, and culture. As a marketer, my role is to help artists and business owners scale and optimize their online presence through marketing, branding, and PR. 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?
Because sometimes artists and business owners may not consider themselves as a brand. But marketing oneself is important and is one of the most overlooked components of success.
I help artists grow a personal brand and build strong presence with effective PR and marketing strategies. It is not easy to be an artist: keep creating art, to be strong enough to believe in it, and make their art careers sustainable. Independent artists know it very well, and I want to empower them and want them to strongly believe in themselves and make amazing art. This is why I feel like I have a mission in art: I help artists with the business side of their art careers so this will allow them to free up time and devote themselves to their passion. That’s where I come in: I believe art is a precious tool to save our minds and, consequently, the world. 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).
When did you come to the US?
I came to the US for college. I studied History. Then I moved to New York City, and obtained my Master of Arts degree in Communication and Media Studies from Columbia University. As you see, Art is my fil rouge...
And why did you choose to move to the US?
When I moved here I was 17, with all my dreams and strengths in my suitcase. First in Washington, then, here in New York. I feel the world turns around here. There is such an energy, such an amazing turnover of everything. I feel everything is possible here. 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 City! It is a true privilege.