Working in a creative industry is never easy, Priscilla I’Anson manages to multi-work as a stylist, creative director on Asia’s next top model, founder of womenswear brand PI’A and creative agency Medium Rare. Working under so many projects with her husband, Boris Burgess, let’s discover their secrets on working hard towards their dream together and how they have compromised to have a work-life balance.
– Career –
Priscilla I’Anson: The reason I went into buying is that I got the job at Lane Crawford in Hong Kong by chance. I randomly bumped into a woman who was the Vice President of Pedder Group when I was browsing at On Pedder. We started talking and I didn’t know who she was until the end of our conversation. Then I went back to Australia and said my boyfriend Boris at that time, ‘Look! This is my dream job and I have to take it. I really want you to come with but don’t come for me. Come for you!’
Priscilla: It was an amazing learning experience, but the role of handbag buyer was not creative and challenging at all and I was in the office staring at spreadsheets all day. Boris was out shooting all day and meeting interesting people. I also wanted to have a creative work life like him.
Boris Burgess: I knew I wanted to do something creative from a very young age. I already started making funny comic sketches and short film when I was 12 years old. It just came very naturally to me.
Priscilla: For him, he didn’t have any struggle of doing what he wants.
Boris: But I think it’s an individual process. I have lots of friends of all ages who are still figuring out who they are or what their passion is. In that journey, men struggle as much as women do! I am very fortunate to have a strong sense of what I want to pursue when I was young.
Priscilla: He was definitely one of my inspirations because he started his own business straight away after graduation. He has never worked for anyone else.
Boris: Yes, I founded my company, Mediam Mare, when I moved to Hong Kong at 21 years old. I am responsible for branding and video production for fashion and lifestyle brands.
Priscilla: It’s very brave of him and after seeing him really enjoying himself and working on his own term, that truly inspired me to think ‘If he can do it, I can do it!’ (Proud wifey face). At that point, I had lots of clients looking for clothing which was classic and timeless but with a modern twist, and also, at accessible price point. I was trying to find “it” but I just could not find it out there. With my buying background, it helps me to understand margin and mark-up in order to make a profitable business. On the other hand, I also have experience in styling which helped me learn about what pieces are the customers looking for. At that time, I really thought this was a very good opportunity to launch PI’A.
Boris: I really enjoy watching her design and develop the collection.
Priscilla: Starting my own collection was very scary. It is an extremely competitive industry and you read the news every day about big brands failing or closing. It would be irrational of me to not be afraid, but I don’t think fear should keep it a way of at least trying. If I had never done it, I would always wonder why and what if!
Boris: I feel like I am part of the journey as much as her. I help her where possible in areas such as visual branding and photography, or even with setting up the very first pop-up store in Pacific Place.
Priscilla: I mean without him, things would be so different! When we did the pop-up store, he knew exactly what to build for the environment which fits for the brand. He is such a big part of the brand.
Boris: But in terms of my work, I am constantly asking for her help for different aspects, such as administrative advices in running a day-to-day business. I reply on her not only for emotional support but practical one as well. Our skill sets complement each other.
Priscilla: I studied economics, although my parents originally forced me to do so, it turns out to be very helpful because I understood how to build a business and I believe that anyone who wants to start a business should learn at least a foundation of economics. However, in general, we always ask for each other’s advices on different things.
Boris: Yes! I think it’s nice to have someone who has your best interests at heart to use as a sounding broad for varieties of potential problems and decision making.
Priscilla: And also, creatively we are very much involved with each other’s brainstorming sessions for different projects. It’s always good to have a second opinion to expand your thoughts.
Boris: We have a similar value and expectation in terms of quality so we both see it eye to eye.
Priscilla: Obviously, we disagree sometimes. That’d be weird if we agreed on everything (Laughs). But when he does his personal creative work, that’s his thing! I really have no say, as this is his way of expressing.
“… it’s not always about necessarily putting yourself first…”
Boris: Sometimes there’s not too much you can say when it comes to emotional support. When she is there to offer support and encouragement, it really helps me to get through the challenges of living with my business. For me, I find it challenging when I feel overwhelmed and frustrated or if I am multi-tasking with different projects.
Priscilla: I think it is not always about necessarily putting yourself first and I will never make him to feel like he is doing on his own. I will always support him no matter what the situation is.
Boris: She would say ‘It will be okay! It’s going to be fine!’ and that would really help me to calm down and find focus again. I think there are times we get exhausted like there is no gas left in the tank, then you have to distance from what you are working on at that time and spend time doing something else to re-charge. Chill out and refresh. That’s why I never feel like I am losing my passion at work. There is no conflict or confusion. I believe the key to not losing passion is to create a mindset that focuses on where you are making progress, rather than being perfect.
Priscilla: Agree! Every project we are involved is so different, you will never get bored. I think one way you can prevent yourself losing passion is to be consistently evolving with different roles because it is not just about you and like the rest of the world is evolving too. If you continuously remain the same, or the other things around you are changing, you either fall behind or are likely to fail. You need to make sure you are keeping up with what’s going on with the industry.
Boris: I should not have said this term – “losing passion”. Let me rephrase that! I should say losing interest in particular area? I mean you cannot take passion away from itself, so naturally you have to do something that you have interest in.
– Work-life balance –
Priscilla: With Fox Life Asia, Asia Next Top Model is the biggest project I am working on, as Fashion Director and the most recent season that will be aired soon, was filmed in Thailand. Whenever it starts to shoot, I have to travel there and be away for a long period of time. So, I don’t have free time to think about how much I miss Boris (Laughs). Obviously, sometimes I’d rather not go but it’s work that I really enjoy and gain lots of satisfactions from. I really appreciative of him being very supportive, especially during last season, as we actually got married in the middle of the show.
Boris: That was crazy!
Priscilla: Yes. We just made it happen (Laughs). There are things in life that you have no control over. It would have been easier for me to say that I am not going to do this season because I have to get married, or we cannot get married because I have to work for this project? But sometimes you have to work around and make it happen.
Boris: I totally get it. If I am working on a huge project, I will also be investing all of my energy into that until it finishes. But if there is not too much work, I am very comfortable with my team leaving the office at 5 or having a flexible schedule. It is essential to have a break or enjoy some relaxation time to balance out the intensity of some projects.
Priscilla: If not, you will have really bad ideas!
Boris: (Laughs) On weekends, we always make sure that we spend time with our family and go hiking with our dog Foxy.
Priscilla: I don’t understand why people can work 7 days a week. Weekends are so important! I did have a high time where I feel like I could not do it anymore. Sometimes I have a mini freak out, like crying to get the feelings out of your system and then move on. I never think it is an issue to have a break down as long as you don’t allow to continue…
Boris: Instead of waiting for a big event like break down, taking up journaling on a daily basis helps you to get the emotions out because it provides a sense of connection with your soul.
– Self-care –
Priscilla: We have been doing yoga together.
Boris: Not really!
Priscilla: I don’t enjoy working out with people around me. I’d rather watch videos on YouTube and do it at the park. If I work out, it’s just me. It’s my time! Nowadays, I do yoga and HITT. Or hiking with my dog at Bowen Road.
Boris: For me, I play basketball for a team every weekend.
Priscilla: He likes to play it at 5 in the morning for 2 hours. When he gets home, I am still asleep (Laughs).
Boris: This is my positive physical outlet to deal with stress. I also go to yoga for recovery as playing basketball is very demanding on your body and your muscles will feel very stiff and sore. It helps to stretch it out and feel better for my body, essentially.
Priscilla: He likes to eat salted cashew nuts.
Boris: A whole package for the day. You can get it from 7-eleven. It’s only HK$22 to get one of them.
Priscilla: He likes to drink coffee as well.
Boris: OHH! Too much coffee. For a single shoot, I usually have five or six coffees with Nespresso.
Priscilla: Luckily, he doesn’t have any anxiety reactions to coffee.
Boris: Because I have been drinking since I was at 5 (Laughs).
Priscilla: Coffee is in his blood! I used to have a cappuccino a day but he got me hooked on a morning coffee as well.
Morning or evening rituals that make you mentally stronger
Priscilla: After a long day of work, I love to spend time with him and ask him how his day was, and of course, with our dog as well. If I am feeling stressed, I give her lots of cuddles then the stress goes away.
Boris: I don’t have an evening ritual as I like to get up early. I have my morning rituals, so part of that could be meditation and then reflection on the day, or even composing a gratitude list that includes what I am grateful for. It helps me to create positive vibes and get me into the right mindset. Also, thinking about couples of key things that I have to tackle on that day’s to-do list. I may not get everything done but at least I have completed the key ones. By the end of the day, it helps make me feel more relaxed and less stressed.