hunger binge

Jiawa Liu of Beige Renegade on Inspiration, Happiness and Success

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Jiawa Liu, a lawyer-turned-blogger, influencer, photographer and creative director, is a true multi-hyphenate millennial. Craving to connect with her creative side, Liu started her side gig as a blogger under the moniker Beige Renegade while practicing law. After a trip to Paris, she decided to resign from her legal position and move to the French capital, where she officially began her creative career by founding her digital production agency, Beige Pill Productions. Just four years in, the entrepreneur has built an impressive client roster including names like Valentino, Longchamp and Chanel.

“Inspiration and motivation can’t, and should not, be forced. Inspiration is a fickle goddess. She comes and goes at her own choosing — you just have to make the conditions right for her arrival,” Liu tells us. “The secret to happiness and success is dedicating your life to what you love. It might take some time to figure out what that is, but once you have found it, go all in.” Driven by inspiration, the multifaceted artist hopes to build on her experiences and background, and to explore even more creative fields in the future.

Read on for our conversation with Liu on her creative journey.

Tell us a bit about yourself. What’s your background and where did your career begin?

I’m a made-in-China, raised-in-Australia wannabe Frenchie living in the beautiful city of Paris. About four years ago, I decided to turn my life upside down, quitting my job as a contracts and litigation lawyer in Perth, Australia, to pursue life as an influencer in France. One thing led to another, and now I run the production agency The Beige Pill. I’m also a contributing editor to a number of magazines while continuing to publish content on my social media channels @beigerenegade and @minimalstreetstyle.

Why and how did you make the switch from law to fashion and the creative industry? What was the move like from Australia to France?

I think I did what most people from an immigrant family growing up in Australia do: Choose a practical degree that will lead to a practical career. But what I craved deep down was to do something creative, so even as I worked through my degree and career like the proper Chinese-Australian daughter, I couldn’t help but pick up little side-hustles — illustration, music, gaming and then blogging.

Looking back, I really have to thank the mundanity of my day job for driving me to put so much energy into my side hustles. After a few years of building an online following, I began to see the potential for this to be a real job. The final kick I needed was when I traveled to Europe to attend fashion week for the first time. There, I was suddenly surrounded by fashion entrepreneurs. These amazing people, photographers, designers and stylists were all living the creative lifestyle that I was brought up [to consider] reckless and irresponsible. Six months later, I had packed up my life in Australia and moved into a tiny 25m² studio in the center of Paris.

What has been the biggest challenge for you so far?

The biggest challenge was definitely getting out of my own head. Although I’ve always thought of myself as an independent thinker, it is human nature to be influenced by people’s expectations. When all of my friends and family were doing responsible things in their lives, and I was being reassured each day that following the legal profession was the sensible and smart thing to do, it was so scary and unthinkable to choose a different path. Putting myself “dans la merde (in the shit),” as the French say, was what got me to commit to the change in the end. I resigned from my job unequivocally, so there was no going back.

What advice would you give to someone looking to switch industries?

I would say that the secret to happiness and success is dedicating your life to what you love. It might take some time to figure out what that is, but once you have found it, go all in. When faced with a huge life change, your mind will try to hinder you by presenting you with so many irrelevant excuses. “But I don’t speak the language.” You’ll learn it. “But I won’t have any friends.” You’ll make them. “I won’t have enough money.” You’ll find a way to survive. And if my story is anything to go by, it’s never too late.

How do you stay inspired and motivated?

Inspiration and motivation can’t, and should not, be forced. Inspiration is a fickle goddess. She comes and goes at her own choosing — you just have to make the conditions right for her arrival. She loves popping great ideas in your head when you’re in the shower, for example.

As for motivation, I don’t believe it has anything to do with ideas of “willpower” or “discipline.” Actually, I think willpower is a myth. The only thing that really motivates is hunger — metaphorical, of course. Someone who is hungry for a goal will work day and night. They don’t need to be motivated. For me, when I don’t feel the hunger, I just have to let it all go for a while. I call up a friend and chat for hours, I binge Netflix, I play video games. And when that hunger comes back, as it inevitably always does, I’ll be back on it like a woman possessed.

What has been one of the most exciting projects you’ve worked on with your production agency, The Beige Pill?

We’ve had the opportunity to create many exciting campaigns and fashion films for amazing brands from Valentino to Chanel, but my favorite project has to be our cover story for Harper’s BAZAAR Singapore’s February issue this year. Not only was this my first magazine cover, but we were given little more than just one week to pull it off. Along with so many other complicating factors, like most of Paris still being on New Year’s break, COVID-19 restrictions that prevented talents from traveling and locations being inaccessible, it was a really wild ride that tested my team’s ingenuity and perseverance to the core. And of course, having come in as a complete fashion industry outsider just a few years ago, being asked to produce a cover for a magazine I’ve respected for years was the ultimate validation.

What’s exciting you the most in fashion right now? Any designers or brands you’re eyeing?

The movement towards a sustainable future is what excites me right now. For a while, I have struggled to reconcile my choice of industry with the harm that its production, supply and consumption processes do to the Earth. But I have been excited to see so many brands making huge paradigm shifts. The new attitude at LVMH, for example, of appointing Gabriela Hearst at Chloé for its change of focus to a fully sustainable brand, is a very momentous example that has been set for the rest of the industry. For the first time, I really believe that real change can and will happen.

As a multifaceted creative, how do you stay organized?

I would be lying if I said I was totally organized, but here is where I think my background in the legal industry has given me some great basics. I am using the same project management techniques that I did for the legal cases I ran, as I do now for our projects. We use Asana to project manage our workflows, we maintain an asset management database using Airtable, and we also have a team Intranet where we continuously develop procedure documents and templates for everything that we do. Operating the admin side of my business fully on the cloud has also been super compatible with the way that we work.

From writing to photography to creative direction, how have you acquired your skills?

I’m always curious to learn new things and try things first hand, and I have learned quite a lot through just getting involved, whether invited to or not. Learning is never-ending. You can always expand and also…

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