28th November 2020
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Photography: Nathan Sweet
Gia Seo Is a Creative That Doesn’t Really Believe In “Titles”
Shattering glass ceilings, one creative project at a time.
IMG_0662

Gia Seo is a multi-hyphenate creative with her hand in everything from art and creative direction, to consulting and content creation. We joined Gia in her eclectic Williamsburg apartment to profile the self-proclaimed “texturenaut” in her natural environment. 

Gia’s intention, with any work that she does, is to inspire a visceral reaction while raising the visibility of POC like herself. Gia spoke to us about her unconventional professional path, the nuances of being your own boss, and not truly fitting into any one singular creative title. Keep reading for more.

Tell us about yourself and your work.

I’m originally from Alaska, and I’ve lived in New York for ten years now. Personally, I think that the title “Creative Director” is really arbitrary. I meet a lot of people who coin themselves as that, or a stylist, or DJ. For me, I don’t feel like I fit under any one umbrella. I just love creating, so I don’t know what that really makes me. I love the marriage of transforming a written narrative into a visual one.

Given the range of your creative experience, how do you identify yourself as a professional? We know you don’t really identify as any one thing, but when you have to for work, what do you say?

Originally, I would say I was an Art Director. But when I’m looking at my scope of work and speaking to many people who have been in their given field for some time, it turns out I am a Creative Director, in that sense.

Again, I still think that titles are very arbitrary, especially in a city like New York, especially in the day and age of social media. I do think it’s a really important question because the way you identify yourself has a lot to do with the passion you put into your profession. Most of the time, I don’t have an answer.

We’d love to hear a bit more about how you got into your range of creative work. 

I grew up in a super small town, and I didn’t really know what fashion was. All of the fashion I was surrounded with was based on practicality for cold weather, like L.L. Bean, thermals, heat tech, etc. Through that, I learned how to put colors together and how to accessorize patterns. 

My mom was also a huge collector of vintage fashion like Issey Miyake, so I got a taste of avant-garde, luxury fashion. Then I moved to New York when I was 18. That’s when I really learned what fashion was. The move was what opened my mind to try and work for these brands. I got lucky because I got to model for these brands throughout college, and that opened the door into changing the way that they [the brands] saw me. They didn’t just see me as a model, but someone who could be creative and work behind the camera.

What are some of your favorite projects to date that you’ve worked on?

The question is quite on the nose for me, because when a brand reaches out to me to start that initial conversation, I get really excited. But what I recognize in our industry is that we have to make money. By the end of a project, the dream I have turns into more of a fading memory. And then I set myself up for disappointment. 

Regardless, some of my favorite projects have been with Adidas. The last time I worked with them, other than this current project, was about eight years ago, but they’ve kept me in the family ever since. I think that’s incredible. Not a lot of brands can do that. Any time I work with them, they’re so open to my ideas. It never feels like an older, corporate guy turning down all of my ideas. They are always trying to impact and showcase culture in a positive way, which is not how most brands operate. 

A lot of times, when large companies and conglomerates approach me, all they care about is money. But I appreciate the smaller category departments, within some of these companies, who truly try to push the agenda of impacting the community and instilling that change from within. That’s what I love about Adidas. 

We’re always interested in how creative professionals structure their day to day. What are some of your daily routines that you try and incorporate?

Oh, you’re gonna hate this answer. I am not a good self-motivator. I’m really good when people are depending on me, and I have to set deadlines for myself. The small things I do, I try not to stay home a lot. It can be so easy to be like, “I can work from home and get work done and smoke this joint.”

That does not work! I can tell you from experience. The first thing I try to do is act like I have a corporate job. So I’m out of bed by 8, I hop in the shower, I have a coffee. I go where I know I won’t be distracted, where I won’t run into anyone. 

I’m also constantly working on pitches and decks to present to brands or publications. My routine is basically always trying to create something and check something off of my list. 

What’s the biggest struggle that you face as a freelancer and how do you tackle it?

 I’m still figuring out the answer to this question. The biggest problem for me is chasing the money. Brands can choose to ignore the net 30, the net 60, and then you become the bad guy. You can do the most amazing work on the most amazing shoot, and then 3 months later, you’re still not paid. You have to be sterner, more aggressive. Then the client starts to say things like, “Oh, she’s difficult.” In my opinion, you would never say that to a CEO or a higher up. You would never tell them you’re paying them in 30 days. 

There are some tricks you can use. If a project is under $10k, I’ll try and say I’m going to take the case to small claims court. Usually, it doesn’t even get there, but it lights a fire under them. The payment is instantly in my bank account, even though it was so difficult to pay me 3 months ago.  

Then there’s the Freelancer Act that was passed in 2017. I highly recommend everyone to read it. There are different elements from the act that you can use to get clients to pay you on time. Surprisingly, smaller companies tend to pay me first, while bigger companies usually take forever. 

Tell us about the evolution of your work overall. How did you find your perspective and voice? How do you see your work evolving over time?

Originally, when I started moving into content, I just wanted to make pretty images. I didn’t know what a treatment was. I didn’t know about brand decks. So, I guess for me and my evolution, it was more about going inwards. I always just assumed that when you receive a product, you take a pretty picture, and that was that. 

For my work, it’s really about standing up for the fact that I am a POC, that I am Asian American, and very much identify with my Korean background. It’s being able to instill that community and make it so that those minorities are visible. It’s making sure that the story is not offensive. And even if it is, it’s more of a visceral reaction. Maybe you hate that image, but you had a reaction to it, it did something to you. It’s definitely more about being confident in who I am, my ethnic background and culture, and being able to push that message forward. 

Recently I’ve been feeling quite lost because I feel like a lot of the conversation around POCs overlook Asian communities. Not enough Asian women and men are speaking out in the way that they want to or should be. Not to say that I’m a martyr or anything, but I definitely work to tap into my community whenever I’m building creative teams or when I’m casting. 

It’s almost to the point where yeah, I need the money, but I don’t care about the paycheck as much as I care about the context in which the content is being created. I feel very blessed to be in this position, to be honest, but it took a long time to get here. I faced a lot of rejection. It was keeping my mouth shut and knowing it would be worth it down the line. Now, I’m in a position where people trust me. Brands have seen me move from being an assistant to a Creative Director. I’ve built a real relationship with these brands. 

I still face challenges all of the time. Huge corporations don’t care about the Asian market unless it’s benefiting them. For me, even if it’s just suggesting a Korean make-up artist, or pulling Japanese clothing when I’m helping a stylist out, it’s slowly infiltrating until you hope one day, the ceiling shatters. 

Photography: Nathan Sweet
Gia Seo Is a Creative That Doesn’t Really Believe In “Titles”
Shattering glass ceilings, one creative project at a time.
IMG_0662

Gia Seo is a multi-hyphenate creative with her hand in everything from art and creative direction, to consulting and content creation. We joined Gia in her eclectic Williamsburg apartment to profile the self-proclaimed “texturenaut” in her natural environment. 

Gia’s intention, with any work that she does, is to inspire a visceral reaction while raising the visibility of POC like herself. Gia spoke to us about her unconventional professional path, the nuances of being your own boss, and not truly fitting into any one singular creative title. Keep reading for more.

Tell us about yourself and your work.

I’m originally from Alaska, and I’ve lived in New York for ten years now. Personally, I think that the title “Creative Director” is really arbitrary. I meet a lot of people who coin themselves as that, or a stylist, or DJ. For me, I don’t feel like I fit under any one umbrella. I just love creating, so I don’t know what that really makes me. I love the marriage of transforming a written narrative into a visual one.

Given the range of your creative experience, how do you identify yourself as a professional? We know you don’t really identify as any one thing, but when you have to for work, what do you say?

Originally, I would say I was an Art Director. But when I’m looking at my scope of work and speaking to many people who have been in their given field for some time, it turns out I am a Creative Director, in that sense.

Again, I still think that titles are very arbitrary, especially in a city like New York, especially in the day and age of social media. I do think it’s a really important question because the way you identify yourself has a lot to do with the passion you put into your profession. Most of the time, I don’t have an answer.

We’d love to hear a bit more about how you got into your range of creative work. 

I grew up in a super small town, and I didn’t really know what fashion was. All of the fashion I was surrounded with was based on practicality for cold weather, like L.L. Bean, thermals, heat tech, etc. Through that, I learned how to put colors together and how to accessorize patterns. 

My mom was also a huge collector of vintage fashion like Issey Miyake, so I got a taste of avant-garde, luxury fashion. Then I moved to New York when I was 18. That’s when I really learned what fashion was. The move was what opened my mind to try and work for these brands. I got lucky because I got to model for these brands throughout college, and that opened the door into changing the way that they [the brands] saw me. They didn’t just see me as a model, but someone who could be creative and work behind the camera.

What are some of your favorite projects to date that you’ve worked on?

The question is quite on the nose for me, because when a brand reaches out to me to start that initial conversation, I get really excited. But what I recognize in our industry is that we have to make money. By the end of a project, the dream I have turns into more of a fading memory. And then I set myself up for disappointment. 

Regardless, some of my favorite projects have been with Adidas. The last time I worked with them, other than this current project, was about eight years ago, but they’ve kept me in the family ever since. I think that’s incredible. Not a lot of brands can do that. Any time I work with them, they’re so open to my ideas. It never feels like an older, corporate guy turning down all of my ideas. They are always trying to impact and showcase culture in a positive way, which is not how most brands operate. 

A lot of times, when large companies and conglomerates approach me, all they care about is money. But I appreciate the smaller category departments, within some of these companies, who truly try to push the agenda of impacting the community and instilling that change from within. That’s what I love about Adidas. 

We’re always interested in how creative professionals structure their day to day. What are some of your daily routines that you try and incorporate?

Oh, you’re gonna hate this answer. I am not a good self-motivator. I’m really good when people are depending on me, and I have to set deadlines for myself. The small things I do, I try not to stay home a lot. It can be so easy to be like, “I can work from home and get work done and smoke this joint.”

That does not work! I can tell you from experience. The first thing I try to do is act like I have a corporate job. So I’m out of bed by 8, I hop in the shower, I have a coffee. I go where I know I won’t be distracted, where I won’t run into anyone. 

I’m also constantly working on pitches and decks to present to brands or publications. My routine is basically always trying to create something and check something off of my list. 

What’s the biggest struggle that you face as a freelancer and how do you tackle it?

 I’m still figuring out the answer to this question. The biggest problem for me is chasing the money. Brands can choose to ignore the net 30, the net 60, and then you become the bad guy. You can do the most amazing work on the most amazing shoot, and then 3 months later, you’re still not paid. You have to be sterner, more aggressive. Then the client starts to say things like, “Oh, she’s difficult.” In my opinion, you would never say that to a CEO or a higher up. You would never tell them you’re paying them in 30 days. 

There are some tricks you can use. If a project is under $10k, I’ll try and say I’m going to take the case to small claims court. Usually, it doesn’t even get there, but it lights a fire under them. The payment is instantly in my bank account, even though it was so difficult to pay me 3 months ago.  

Then there’s the Freelancer Act that was passed in 2017. I highly recommend everyone to read it. There are different elements from the act that you can use to get clients to pay you on time. Surprisingly, smaller companies tend to pay me first, while bigger companies usually take forever. 

Tell us about the evolution of your work overall. How did you find your perspective and voice? How do you see your work evolving over time?

Originally, when I started moving into content, I just wanted to make pretty images. I didn’t know what a treatment was. I didn’t know about brand decks. So, I guess for me and my evolution, it was more about going inwards. I always just assumed that when you receive a product, you take a pretty picture, and that was that. 

For my work, it’s really about standing up for the fact that I am a POC, that I am Asian American, and very much identify with my Korean background. It’s being able to instill that community and make it so that those minorities are visible. It’s making sure that the story is not offensive. And even if it is, it’s more of a visceral reaction. Maybe you hate that image, but you had a reaction to it, it did something to you. It’s definitely more about being confident in who I am, my ethnic background and culture, and being able to push that message forward. 

Recently I’ve been feeling quite lost because I feel like a lot of the conversation around POCs overlook Asian communities. Not enough Asian women and men are speaking out in the way that they want to or should be. Not to say that I’m a martyr or anything, but I definitely work to tap into my community whenever I’m building creative teams or when I’m casting. 

It’s almost to the point where yeah, I need the money, but I don’t care about the paycheck as much as I care about the context in which the content is being created. I feel very blessed to be in this position, to be honest, but it took a long time to get here. I faced a lot of rejection. It was keeping my mouth shut and knowing it would be worth it down the line. Now, I’m in a position where people trust me. Brands have seen me move from being an assistant to a Creative Director. I’ve built a real relationship with these brands. 

I still face challenges all of the time. Huge corporations don’t care about the Asian market unless it’s benefiting them. For me, even if it’s just suggesting a Korean make-up artist, or pulling Japanese clothing when I’m helping a stylist out, it’s slowly infiltrating until you hope one day, the ceiling shatters. 

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