Not Just One Thing | Meet Lawyer Turned Australian Fashion Icon, Jiawa Liu
From law to fashion, Jiawa Liu has dipped her toes into some of the most fascinating and competitive industries. Law may not be thought of instantly as a highly creative field, but Jiawa has defied that stereotype by being one of the most sought after creatives in her industry. Stylist, photographer, writer, and lawyer, Jiawa is not just one thing and neither are you.
MISSBISH has teamed up with our friends at Vans to showcase those who are Not Just One Thing, the ones who prove every day that following your passion is worth it. Jiawa has used her skills to make a name for herself and her brand, Beige Renegade. Never limiting herself, her skills found while growing her brand have been applicable in every situation she has found herself in. We caught up with this uber-talented, Paris-based BISH to talk about multitasking, measuring success, and how it all fell into place.
Get to know Jiawa Liu below. You can get her look by shopping MISSBISH apparel here.
Your background is in law, and now you have your sights set on traveling, photography, styling, and creative work. What inspired you to make this transition?
Growing up I was always tumbling in wells (yeah, really!), falling from trees, and running off where I wasn’t supposed to be. I guess I knew from a young age that sitting still in an office was just not for me.
Have you been able to use skills from being a lawyer in your day-to-day life now?
Oh yeah, almost every five minutes! It’s really helped to have a general understanding of "how sh*t works." For example, what makes up a legally binding contract? A lot of people don’t know that when you buy something at the mall, it’s a contract. A simple email exchange could be a contract, and, on the other hand, that sometimes what you think are watertight agreements are so poorly done that they’re not worth the paper they’re written on. That said, I think the most important thing I have learned practicing law for many years is that the most precious thing to protect, with all those legal skills of yours, are the relationships themselves.
What skills do you feel are most valuable, no matter what industry you are in?
Hands down, for me, it’s communication. So much can depend on how you communicate, as much as what you communicate. When I am pitching ideas to clients, I spend a great deal of my time and energy trying to put myself in their shoes, imagining how to address their key concerns, and how to get them excited about the project. Then there’s wielding the wealth of technologies that are available to us these days to make our message come across powerfully.
What are some of the challenges you have faced in your profession?
The biggest challenge I’ve encountered so far is building a team and a business infrastructure. From the beginning, I’d always been a one-woman-show, but as my business has grown I’ve realized that it’s just not possible to do it alone. It was a big learning curve to gather up the right people to be on my team. Finding people who are excited about your business is the kind of rhetoric that we threw around a lot when I used to work in large organizations, but it’s not until you have your own business that you truly appreciate how important this is.
Now that you are styling, editing, taking photos, and creating content, how do you measure your own success?
For me, there are two kinds of "success" as a creative in the digital space: personal success, measured by how I produce creative works that I’m proud of as an artist, and commercial success, measured against such tick boxes as positioning and revenue. At the end of the day, I just want to be able to look back and believe I’ve done something significant that has inspired people. However, this is perhaps something that could never be truly measured.
How do you stay organized and handle multitasking?
As much as I would love to be organized, a side of me is addicted to the thrill of unpredictability. This is why I’m probably always going to be a hot mess! Multitasking? I think that’s just a myth. I believe the real answer lies in great workflows to fall back on. Behind what might appear to be the chaos that is "Beige Renegade," I’ve got some trusty processes for such things as project management and post-production that make sure I meet the hard deadlines, even though the bit in between can be riddled with mini-panic attacks!
What is your proudest accomplishment so far?
I always dread this question! I’m not the kind of person to think for long on accomplishments. No matter what I have achieved, they just make me raise my expectations for the future. If I have to list some, a highlight would have to be quitting my job early last year and moving to Paris. At the time, it all happened in the spur of the moment, but looking back, it was probably the biggest risk I’ve taken so far.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to excel in more than one career?
My traditional Chinese upbringing taught me that the secret to success is old-fashioned hard work. Which I still believe to an extent. But I’ve realized that the real secret is to do the thing you are truly passionate about, and only that thing. That’s why I would tell anyone who is currently in a career they are not completely satisfied in, to quit and find their real passion, and fast. Put all your energy into that thing that makes you excited to get up in the morning.
Beige Renegade, your Instagram, and brand are all about minimalism. What is something you wish more people would know about minimalism?
Minimalism for me is a life philosophy rather than just a matter of fashion or lifestyle. It’s about identifying and accumulating only what truly adds to happiness, and systematically culling everything that does not. It applies to fashion--to buy and wear only that which helps you express yourself; to life--where your time and space are spent only on things which add to your desired lifestyle; to people--to concentrate your energies on the really important relationships in your life.
How do you stay creative and inspired?
For fear of sounding completely cliché, my boyfriend (and sometimes-photographer) is my biggest inspiration. We share a passion for creating images that are inspired by the environment that we find ourselves in when we’re traveling, without being colored by any preconceived idea, or concern for "getting likes."
You've proven that you are "Not Just One Thing." What do you love most about being able to jump between so many different industries and skills?
This one is more of a love and hate relationship. I love being able to experience so many different ways to create, but it’s difficult to communicate to people what I actually do. Am I an influencer? Photographer? Art director? I often feel I don’t have the right to style myself as any of these without having that specialization, and yet what I do can fall into any and all of these categories.
Where do you feel most comfortable to express creativity?
Somehow being in Paris makes me feel the most free to be creative. That’s why I decided to base myself here. Perhaps it’s how people are here. Parisians always do exactly what they feel like.
What does MISSBISH mean to you? Who is your own personal MISSBISH?
MISSBISH for me means reaching for the universe, and not being sorry about it. My own personal MISSBISH is one of my best friends, fashion designer, Anna Hoang of Anna Quan Label. She taught me my favorite life lesson: “Give them something they didn’t even know they wanted.”