A post-pandemic adventure. After three months of strict lockdown in Paris, founder, producer and creative director of Beige Pill Productions, Jiawa Liu, along with her partner and friends made the daunting trip over to the magical Cyclades Islands of Greece. It was a hesitant and unnerving start, that then grew into a remarkable experience. Here, Jiawa Liu shares with RUSSH her magical postcards from Greece, reminiscent of the old cinema days. We also chat with Liu on journeying post-pandemic lockdown, island travel tips, and the fashion future of this brave new world.
How did it feel travelling for the first-time post-pandemic lockdown?
To tell you the truth, travelling again after 3 months of lockdown in Paris was scary. As excited and - let’s just say it - desperate, as I was to see something different outside of my window, other than the socially distanced line outside the post office, the sleepless nights started even before we left. By 2 June, Paris had completely opened up, coinciding with the Parisians’ favourite season for packing tightly into sprawling restaurant terraces, which we all did like a post-quarantine-withdrawal binge. I’d been out and about, at house parties, in photoshoots, with social distancing admittedly haphazardly practiced. My imagination took me down the plethora of ‘what-if’s’, not so much getting sick, but the disruption to our plans, and being responsible for giving it to others, let alone importing it to another country. The Uber to the airport, going through security, taking our seats on the plane (which was more or less packed) - I was watching every second like a health inspector.
On our island destination, Euboae, it was clear that vacationers had not come back for the summer high season. This was a devastating sign for the Cyclades, which rely heavily on tourism. On weekdays, the island was a ghost town. The restaurants, while open, were not serving a full menu, and the jewel blue beaches with their rows and rows of identical parasols sat abandoned. Visiting the Acropolis in Athens before flying out, we had expected to wait an hour or two to get in and to catch glimpses of the iconic Corinthians between gaps in the crowd. Instead, we found ourselves strolling alone among the eerily silent ruins. Travel in the post-lockdown era is unnerving but also a remarkable experience.
Why did you choose the Cyclades in Greece as your destination?
I’ve always imagined the Mediterranean through the holiday scenes as seen in old movies and vintage postcards: girls with scarves in their hair and polka dotted bikinis, cocktails with little umbrellas and couples racing along in wood panelled speed boats. Old cinema has long played consciously and unconsciously into my photography and video work. So, going to the Cyclades was like a pilgrimage to a place that inspired this aesthetic.
What are some of your favourite moments and travel tips from your journey?
My top tip for making the best of travelling in the Cyclades is to not be limited to the main towns and explore the island. We often see those beautiful white walls of Santorini, but the Cyclades offer much more diversity. We visited design resorts with their infinity pools, but we also dined at the unassuming little restaurants in the fishing villages, where the food tasted homemade. For me the best part of our trip was breakfast on the terrace of our little house in a secluded village up in the mountains, where all you could hear was the wind and the birds as the sunrise lit up the sky in every direction.
How do you stay creative during this time of global unrest?
At the start of 2020, I felt like we were reaching an unsustainable speed in the race to constantly produce, to come up with new ideas and put out new content. So, when the world went into lock down, it finally felt ok to just stop. Of course, the opportunities to be creative in completely different ways inevitably came along. My partner Louis and I had started to document our personal experiences as a couple in lock down in Paris, which evolved into a weekly TV show called ‘Fenetre(s)’, on French channel, Canal Plus. Making this show every week helped us make sense of this crazy time, and allowed us to produce something personal to us as a record for posterity.
What are some of your daily rituals?
I’ve gotten into the habit of cooking a big breakfast. The trouble is now I can’t start the day without one!
What are you ready / watching / listening to?
I’ve finally finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in French, which I have been trying to do for about 3 years.
How do you stay healthy (mentally and / or physically)?
I am ashamed to say I am failing terribly in this area. The one thing I do insist on doing is to sleep as much as my body tells me it needs.
What do you appreciate the most right now?
Time. We are rarely allowed to think about time independent of the external pressures of work and community. Perhaps this is an opportunity to rethink our relationship with it, to ask ourselves, ‘what we would really like to do with the time that we have been given?’
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently thinking about the future direction of my production business in this brave new world. The fashion and digital industries have been irreversibly disrupted by a succession of blows this year. However, I see amazing opportunities as well.
What is your current state of mind?
An amorphous solid! I’m worried about the future like everyone else, but I also feel confident that we have the capacity to move on from all our disappointed expectations, and to find a new direction within the uncertainty.