Born in Shanghai, raised in Rome and educated in London and Paris, Yi Zhou is more than just your average social media influencer. Despite having Tommy Hilfiger as a mentor and working with major brands such as Chanel, Levi Strauss & Co. and Shiseido, Zhou is most well known for her career as a multimedia artist. Her installations and short films have been featured at Shanghai Biennale, Venice Biennale, Sundance Film Festival and the Cannes Film Festival.
In addition to her artistic talents, Zhou is also a successful entrepreneur. After relocating to China in 2010, she founded the brand management and content creation company YiZhouStudio in Shanghai and Hong Kong. In 2017, Zhou brought the company to Los Angeles and in the same year also founded a new fashion and lifestyle brand, Global Intuition, which debuted at Fred Segal in 2019.
In addition to growing her fashion line, Zhou is directing her first feature “Stars and Scars,” a sci-fi romance film addressing the negative stigma toward mental health illnesses. During a recent interview with WrapWomen, Zhou opened up about her journey as an influencer, artist and entrepreneur and what we can expect from her upcoming film.
How did you get your start?
I became an influencer in 2012 when I started my social media in China and was nominated as the honorary ambassador of Weibo, a Chinese microblogging website.
I grew up in Europe and attended fashion shows just as people in L.A. attend screenings. One day, I recall, I was invited to a Chanel fashion show in Paris, but instead of sitting with the French talent at the front row, I was placed with Chinese celebrities. Even though I was European, I had become an influencer in China.
I started my Weibo posts as an emotional outlet about my new life in China and my past life in Europe. I would speak about my days, ideas, the people I met, the things I experienced and make photo collages. I did not think it would have brought me the influencer status — I was just being honest and authentic with my words and feelings.
How do you choose which brands to work with?
As an artist and influencer over the years, I’ve worked with many brands including Levi’s, Chanel and Shiseido — just to name a few. In the U.S., I am very close to Tommy Hilfiger, he is my mentor.
I am very meticulous in my selections. I select brands where we can grow together. I never do collaborations for the money, but rather I prefer to choose brands with a great history, philosophy and an affinity for the long-run.
In addition to working with outside brands, you also have your own fashion line Global Intuition. Can you tell us about it?
Global Intuition was launched in June 2019, thanks to the support and encouragement from my best friend Diana Picasso and my dad. The brand highlights the importance of female empowerment, freedom, sustainability, inclusion and diversity in a multicultural digitalized society.
Our consumers are trendsetters looking for timeless pieces with designer quality at affordable prices ($30-160). You can mix your essentials with your wardrobe as well as our other lines. Our Basic Line is designed for early millennials 16-25 years old, whereas our Heritage Line is for Gen X to Baby Boomers 26-65 years old.
You can check-out our online store at globalintuition.net and shop our latest collection made in collaboration with the Italian Royal Family and HRH Emanuele Filiberto di Savoia entitled Royal House of Savoy.
You also have another company, YiZhouStudio. Tell us about your experience bringing that business to the U.S.
I started YiZhouStudio in August 2011 in Shanghai as a production company for my artwork and for some top luxury brands’ social media and P.R. assets for China and Global markets. Recently, I have started the U.S. branch of YiZhouStudio in Los Angeles.
We have refocused its scope to be a loan-out company for my projects including the production of my personal social media assets creation, my brand Global Intuition, my joint venture with Larry Namer Rouge Dragon Media, my new branding and marketing company with Colleen Camp Into the Sun Entertainment and my upcoming film “Stars and Scars.”
What can we expect from your upcoming film “Stars and Scars?”
“Stars and Scars” is a story is about a young woman with a disability. She also has a highly specific autobiographical memory (HSMA) and excels at creating augmented reality universes based on details she remembers from things she’s read and the place’s she’s been.
In contemporary societies, disabilities have different connotations and significance. Whether it’s physical or mental, they all have different meaning. In the ever-growing digital era and with the pandemic, our societies have propelled ten years forward, as my friend and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt said in a recent interview to “Face the Nation.”
I am excited to announce that I’ve entered a prelude of the film to Australia’s International Smartphone Film Festival, which is centered on storytelling short formats shot by iPhone during the pandemic.
What do you hope people take away from the film?
“Stars and Scars” highlights contemporary issues like technology and the isolation, desolation, limits and interstices it brings. I am inspired by politics, modern tales and diseases of our minds. All societies and governments — whether totalitarian or democratic — have their glories and their demons.
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