This month, as the world celebrates women, Klarna is spotlighting a selection of female business owners and industry leaders within the Klarna network to share their stories of entrepreneurship, challenges and growth.
Gia Kuan is the founder and principle of Gia Kuan Consulting, the PR firm behind popular fashion labels like TELFAR and Susan Alexandra.
Hi Gia! Tell us your story. How did you get to where you are today?
I moved to New York in 2010, from Melbourne, Australia. To be honest, I was at a quarter-life crisis moment in my life where I had graduated from college and couldn’t figure out where I fit in—the creative industry was a little limited in Australia at the time and I had an extremely hard time finding a job, even an internship. Fast forward, I moved to New York and found my calling. I probably did ten different internships before working at Comme des Garcons for five years, opened Dover Street Market New York here, then switched to be the head of Arts & Culture at Nadine Johnson, a boutique agency, before setting out my own consultancy. My love and curiosity for subcultures and amazing New York stories led me to various amazing designers and friendships, who have supported my journey from the very start. So I feel extremely grateful for where I am today.
Has being a woman empowered you to make any bold decisions in your career?
I have always worked for powerful women, from Rei Kawakubo at Comme des Garcons to New York PR legend Nadine Johnson. Their directional vision and entrepreneurial spirit have always inspired me in what I do. I’ve learnt to be unafraid and a risk-taker in the bulk of my work for fashion and art brands, and the clients will have to trust me and get on that journey with me. With that comes potential pushback from the broader and older notion of the industry, but without attempting to break barriers through my work—predominantly in how press and communications operate today—I don’t think these underrepresented brand voices would be heard. And representation (gender/race) is a huge part of my work and interest for the past decade.
What is a challenge you’ve experienced as a woman in a leadership position?
The glass ceiling and wage gap was very real for a while, having the same amount of experience as my other non-BIPOC/POC and male counterparts but being severely underpaid for the same job was something I experienced. Also having worked in or having had past job clients in the blue-ship art world and corporate hospitality industry, where it’s predominantly male-led, there’s always an expectation of having to also ‘look the part’. Thankfully now I run my own business and call my own shots, so I no longer feel limited by that. I can put Sailormoon-esque branding all over our company deck and my whole team has crazy nails, but we are working with the same gallery types and sneaker clients—it no longer matters. If they don’t like what they see, they don’t have to ask me for our services!
Share one business tool, tip or trick that has changed your life.
Be human. It’s so simple and second nature but a common practice that’s easily forgotten. At the end of the day everyone I’m speaking to is another human being, client, boss, or not, and each conversation should be carried with a level of comfort, empathy, curiosity and understanding—having a real and custom conversation with your clients as you would a friend and cutting the corporate language is okay sometimes. That simple human-to-human connection and ease in addition to our expertise, is what I think has helped me and my brands grow on the same journey together. Lastly, don’t get stuck in the past, be a thought leader. I think I’m a futurist.
What are two products that have helped you be more creative and productive in the last year?
As much as I hate Zoom due to the exhaustiveness and volume of it that happens now, it has definitely helped me move a lot of conversations along faster and ‘meeting’ people I usually wouldn’t have had face time with all over the world. Space is more transient so these inter-continental conversations have helped my team also grow perspective not only from a regional standpoint but a global view.
What was the biggest lesson you learned in 2020?
It’s okay to slow down and appreciate the little things around you. Self-care and mental health is extremely important.
What about the retail and technology industries are you most excited about in 2021?
The increase of speed, and ability to cut and speak directly with your customers through multiple communication platforms, technologies—just the seamless process of it all.
Do you have any advice for aspiring young women or other female business leaders/owners?
Don’t overthink it or let anything get to your head. Just do it.