We had the good fortune of connecting with Giulia Gallon and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Giulia, how do you think about risk?
As any other person working in the creative industries, taking risks is what my career is entirely based on! The performing arts world spins so fast that stagnating in the same position for too long could be fatal. As well from a completely creative point of view, I feel that I can produce my best work when I push myself into new territory, with all its potential and all its challenges.
Taking risks did not come natural to me at all! The first risks I took were decision I had to suddenly make as a result of failure: I found myself in various situations I did not plan for and that forced me to think outside of the box, and eventually I also had to act outside of my own comfort zone, take the risk.
For example, the catalyst choice for how my entire life looks like now was a risk I took when I was eighteen and, after failing the admission test to an Italian university, I decided to pack up my wardrobe basics into two suitcases and move to London. I believe at the time I was very young and did not weight up properly the pros vs cons of what that move would entail: I had no connections, no money, no skill, no education, and could barely speak English. After a couple of difficult years, I eventually did fall on my feet nevertheless and that first enormous risk I took thoughtlessly ended up making me more happy than I ever thought I could become when I was dreaming about my future in my little village in the Italian Alps.
Subsequently I heave learnt to look at risk as a jumping off point for betterment, especially when it comes to my creative work: I try, then if it works, it works; if it doesn’t work, I learn. It sounds cheesy, but in an industry that changes and evolves so fast, being able to learn from your mistakes, and not being held back by the fear of making them, is key.
Of course every risk taken has to be based on research and analysis first, but it helps for me to think back to my past and see that most risks I took did end up paying off, although often not in the ways I expected them to.
Many risks I have taken and which have really propelled my career forward I was able to take because I am in a very supportive loving relationship with a partner whom I know will be there for me to pick up the pieces if everything went wrong.
Perhaps if I were had been single or in a different relationship the past eight years, my career would also have been very different, probably I would be much worse off in many ways and perhaps better off in some other ways?
As I have grown into a professional risk-taker, I cannot but think what a privilege it is for me to push myself out of my comfort zone with so little apprehension now, knowing that most likely I will fall on my feet once again. It would be unfair not to be appreciative of the very lucky situation I have found myself into; I have a strong support-system, I am not been held back by caring responsibilities, mental or physical health issues, race-biases, or other partialities that unfortunately restrict some in their decision making when taking risks, and that ultimately make our creative industries such a sadly homogenous place. With the heavy focus my work has on social sustainability I cannot help but wonder whether we would all be better off if risk-taking was seen as a negative inherent trait of this business, and would then the kind of job I do be more accessible to all?
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My name is Giulia Gallon I am a costume designer with a focus on sustainability. I help directors and other creative professionals working in film, tv, and performance art communicate visually with millennial engaged audiences in a way that does not harm the planet and helps communities develop.
When I started attending university to study costume design I was immediately shocked by the lack of inclusivity within this field, and unfortunately, since I started working in the industry too, my view hasn’t changed much. Just as an example, in the British performing arts, employees from working class backgrounds make up only 12% of the overall workforce, and in a culture of politeness, we tend to avoid talking about the problem rather than attempting to tackle it.
Through my practice I try to offer a solution to these issues by engaging with projects and subjects that I believe would benefit my community and uplift the lives of others as well as my own. Additionally I believe that to achieve progress not only we need to slowly start to change the kind of work we are doing, but also how we are doing it: my creative process involves thorough research into how garments and materials are made and sourced, but also a planning of how these will be disposed of after the project.
One of the last shows I was involved in trained young circus artists from different backgrounds to showcase their work in a theatre piece which reflected on class-inequality within the borough of Haringey. The costumes for this show were partially up-cycled using elements of clothing belonging to the performers themselves, together with items sourced in local shops to create a recognizable setting for the audience to engage in discussion about local issues.
Basically I am just trying to take one very small step towards a very big cause, but I am so looking forward to collaborating with many others who might want to make an impact in the future!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
London has plenty to offer to both visitors and residents, and over the years I actually did have to create itineraries for people coming to see me from my hometown in Italy and elsewhere. What to see in London always presents itself as a very daunting question because… There is SO MUCH to do! Based on my interests, I would say the best fields to explore while here would be: art, nature, food, British culture highlights.
ART-WISE one of the great things about London is that most art is free! My favourite art galleries and museums are the V&A if you are a design enthusiast as there is the biggest collection of applied arts I have ever seen in my life. The Barbican centre always has excellently curated exhibitions, and is really worth spending a full day at, if you like brutalist architecture especially take one of their rare guided tours of the whole estate, if you are shorter on time I would suggest at least visiting their stunning conservatory for a post-apocalypse-like scenario. I do really like Tate modern, although they did fire me years ago and I am still holding a grudge, despite this I would strongly recommend attending one of their Tate Lates events on every last Friday of the month for free live art performances, drinks, and music. London has plenty of smallish museums also that are so worth it! I always take visitors to the Fan museum in Greenwich (great and cheap afternoon tea there too!), Sir John Soane’s Museum (do the tour, it’s great!), the Foundlings Museum, and any of the National Trust properties as so worth it for traditional British architecture and history of London!
Of course as a theatre-person I would also suggest some live shows! I freaking love camp so my favourite spots for theatre are English National Opera and Royal Opera House (both do very cheap tickets, so don’t be put off by opera’s reputation!). For a super fun night out of burlesque and cabaret any of the events at the Phoenix Theatre, Proud, House of Burlesque, and Bethnal Green Working Mens club would do! For all regular theatre I suggest downloading the TodayTix app and going for whatever is offered there.
NATURE! London is absolutely full of amazing parks where you can enjoy the genius of British gardens, and the best way to get around whenever you can is to walk, my favourite are my local Clissold Park, the Woodberry Downs Resevoir, the Queen Mary’s Rose Garden, the Serpentine, the Pergola and Hill Garden in Hampstead Heath (there is also a very small free zoo near there with the cutest lemurs), and Kew. If you fancy a day trip outside of London the Chilterns are spectacular, and anywhere in the south coast too! The south coast is very easily in reach via public transport as well.
FOOD, gosh I do not know where to start with this one! It is very traditional from the Londoners to go for Sunday roast, well, on a Sunday! The best spots near me are the Pig and Butcher in Islington, and the Clarence Tavern, but any gastropub will do, although ignore my suggestions if you are vegan, as the options are quite limited with traditional British cuisine. If you want something cheap and chill any of the amazing food markets are so worth a visit! My favourites are Seven Dials, Spitalfields, Borough Market, my local Junction Market, but there are so many more that you will just randomly run into if you walk through zone 1.
My absolute favourite restaurant is Angelina in Dalston which does Italian-Japanese fusion! I also love Anglo, Rasa Vegetarian, Ramo Ramen, La Bufala di Londra, and my local Big Jo, I would strongly recommend going for tasting menu whenever it’s available! There are some amazing cocktail bars around the city too, many worth a visit for an elegant and quiet night out (although do research before as there are also many bad ones around that would serve you a small glass of sugary water for £15!).
BRITISH CULTURE HIGHLIGHTS. One of many things that makes Britons stand out from all other populations is their love for the pub, there are so many stunning ones around the city in literally any corner, where you can taste one of the local beers, or a summer Pimms. They do close early though (compared to what I am used to as a Mediterranean at least!) so definitely head there before 10 pm. What I like to do with people coming over to visit is taking them for a brewery crawl (the hipster version of the more traditional pub crawl), the best spots to sample some beer straight from the brewery are Tottenham, Bermondsey, and Hackney Central-Hackney Wick. Make sure you go on Saturday as most breweries are only open on this day. Another very London thing to do is spending time outdoors! We get so very few days of good weather here that when the sun is out everyone migrates to the park for a picnic or for a bike ride (there are many bikes to be rented through various apps like Lime or Uber), so if you are lucky enough to visit on a sunny day, be outside to enjoy it! A nice walk along the Southbank would be a great way to sightsee as well as to enjoy the weather.
Us Londoners, we love our public transport, so hop on the tube, bus, or on one of the few ferries going across town for a true taste of where people living in London spend half of their lives!
The British culture is vibrant and colorful and what a better way to enjoy it than getting lost in the streets of Shoreditch, where you can admire many beautiful graffiti, then head to Brick Lane market for some second hand shopping.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Who do I thank for my success? Well, where to start?!
I believe everyone that I have come into contact in my life has affected me and my work in some positive way, even those experiences which have affected me negatively, have eventually turned into a valuable lesson!
Luckily though I have come into contact with some pretty special peeps, whom have influenced my practice greatly:
The main ones do not even do similar work to mine in the least, but we cannot underestimate the effect that a support system has on us creatives!
Shoutout to consistent love and support from my partner Matthew, as well as many many many hours of free counseling and coaching, and a steady example of how to live and work with others choosing to be led by kindness every day.
Out of all the friends I want to give a shoutout to, a special one to my fellow working-class immigrant friends, as we do not often receive any shoutout at all: what a bunch of resilient hustlers and talented hard-working people!
Shoutout to my family who has given me generous warm love at times, and tough-love some other times, but inspire me everyday in my work to strive to improve the lives of others together with my own.
I have to thank UAL where I graduated from for believing in me and giving me the chance to take part in their graduate incubator scheme last year, where I did learn loads, and met a number of inspiring creators and founders. I have to especially thank Alyssa, Bridget, Peter and Marcus, who have mentored me and helped me turn one of the worst years of my life into one of the biggest years for my personal growth. Together with UAL, I have to thank Pinsent and Masons for a very generous grant which allowed me to focus and take risks which proved crucial to my practice.
For years I have worked in a coffee shop where the two owners have taught me leading by example how to conduct business with humanity at its heart, shoutout to Matt and Rachel from Craving Coffee! Unrelated, but also best caffeine in London, I would strongly recommend if you are in the area!
I thank everyone who has ever believed in me and in my work and hired me as a freelancer, so far too many to name, and can’t wait for the more to come in the future!
Other: My email is firstname.lastname@example.org, I am hoping to create a biannual newsletter soon to share the stuff I find inspiring, and hopefully connect with some like-minded people! Please get in contact if you would like to be added to my mailing list!
Jenny Khan Victoria Ralph Jacksons Lane Eylem Fidan