This week, we chatted with Phyliss Ha Siler of Rue 7, a couture event and photography company based out of Los Angeles. In this latest installment of our interview series, Phyliss shared her background as a creative in multiple industries, how she brings editorial-style concepting and quality to the public, and why she’d love to take on the LA Auto Show in the future.
Twenty Two: Let’s start with the basics. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Phyliss: Like many others, I’m a transplant. Growing up in the suburbs of Silicon Valley, I always felt out of place and suffocated. I was an artistic person in an environment full of techies and engineers. I was always wearing too many bright colors or something! I originally moved down to LA to attend Art Center College of Design, to study Graphic Design. The first day of school, I remember looking around and finally able to let out a deep sigh of relief! People had their own style and ideals!
Since Art Center, I’ve worked in Architecture, Entertainment, and many years as an art director in the fashion industry, where we would design retail windows, campaigns, environments, bicycles–whatever the brands/stores needed. But the corporate world can be devastating to a creative, especially if the top priority is making the money and sacrificing quality or integrity. So I finally left it behind and started Rue 7 with my business partner, Hiro, who I met at Art Center.
Phyliss: The fashion industry is very similar to the advertising industry–extremely fast-paced, tons of pressure, and intense. But I’ve always loved fashion, so it was a great meld for me and my discipline. I gained so many valuable life lessons during my years there. I’ve survived the economic collapse, when my entire design team was laid off, and I suddenly found myself doing an entire team’s work for a couple of years. So I had to fortify myself mentally, become very efficient, and learn the ins and outs of many different departments. Then I was able to rebuild the design team one person at a time. They were some of the most difficult years in my adulthood, but I learned so much about people and about my own capabilities.
Twenty Two: How has starting Rue 7 allowed you to maintain your creative freedom?
Phyliss: Hiro and I started Rue 7 to fill a niche–we bring editorial-style concepting and quality to not only companies, but the general public. We refer to it as “couture” design and photography, so we are able to go all out across the board–location, styling, lighting, etc. For example, we did a Mad Max, post-apocalyptic theme for a couple’s engagement session last year. We brought out the leather, chains, fog [and shot in an] industrial building… and really tried to tell that story. We have our team of makeup / hair stylists, a fashion stylist, and a lighting person–so we can bring our concepts to full fruition. And it’s great fun telling stories through our images! So much of what’s out there in photography and event design seemed cliché and similar in styles. We feel that everyone should be entitled to artistic and quality-driven design / photography.
Twenty Two: What other kinds of design and photography projects have you done in the past for Rue 7?
Phyliss: We have done portraits, couples, headshots, and most recently, a fashion shoot. We have also done fine art shoots, which allowed us to combine them with our commercial images for a gallery show that’s been showing the last couple of months. We have also designed weddings–from invitations to floral arrangements and lighting.
Twenty Two: What’s the process you go through when you’re working on a project with a client?
Phyliss: We first sit down with the client and discuss what they want or what their goal is. Sometimes if they are not sure themselves, we help them brainstorm and figure things out. Based on the client’s feedback, we begin coming up with concepts for their photo shoot or event (unless the client has provided one).
Once all parties are happy with the concept, we begin creating image/mood boards, and scouting locations. The mood boards are a very useful tool not only for everyone on our team, but also the client, since they are the “protagonist” in our “story”. Simultaneously, we coordinate our team members that will be necessary depending on the project. Weddings and events, for example, require our in-house coordinator, in addition to our stylists.
After photo shoots, we provide a contact sheet or thumbnails to the client, and will help them pick the most promising images. Once the images have been chosen, our team retouches them to bring out their full potential, before handing the final high resolution files to the client. The overall goal is to give the client something they can be proud of, and of course, we can be proud of as creatives.
Twenty Two: What kinds of events would you like to plan but haven’t had the opportunity to do so yet?
Phyliss: I have this fantasy of doing an elaborate birthday party with a crazy theme (like Mad Hatter or the rain forest), where we can go all out. Whether big or small, there’s something intimate and joyful about celebrating someone’s birthday. And with an eccentric theme, there are endless types of materials and prop building and lighting we could explore!
Another type of event I would love to get my hands on is the annual LA Auto Show, specifically, one of the car company’s section. I attend the show every year, so I’ve seen the great ones, and the disappointing ones. But I saw a really inspiring section last year by Ford… it even beat out the usually impressive Porsche area. Overall, their environment looked tasteful and cohesive. But the best part was all the subsections within their area, that each appealed to a different type of driver–from the speed junky to the soccer mom. They had life-size simulators, robot arms, giant screenings… it was well done. My partner and I are always looking for new technology to use in our events, so designing a space in the Auto Show would be a wonderful challenge.
Twenty Two: How has living in Los Angeles influenced your work with Rue 7?
Phyliss: LA is great for creatives because it’s made up of such eclectic people and tastes. This city is a full spectrum and lets people be themselves. So we don’t feel there are many boundaries or boxes we have to jump out of. It’s fantastic because some of our ideas may seem over the top or crazy, but in LA, nothing seems that farfetched.
Twenty Two: What can we expect to see from Rue 7 in the future?
Phyliss: More of the imagination and surreal ideas becoming reality! We will continue pushing our point of view, so we can capture something rare every time.
Click on the images below to see more from Rue 7.
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