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Adrian Bianco on the Value of Passion Projects

"We really doing this beyond business. It's our "ikigai" - what gives your life worth, meaning and purpose."

GAHSP recently had the chance to get into conversation with Adrian Bianco, Tokyo based creative director and editor in chief whose talent and influence reach an impressive number of disciplines and teams, seamlessly interlacing the current creative landscape.

Bianco is ...

- the founder of Bianco Bianco, a Tokyo based creative agency and co-founder of Nero Nero a Berlin based creative agency

- the head of network of Ruby Pseudo, an international strategy agency that consults big brands on how to do the right things

- the editor in chief of Sabukaru Online, an online magazine focused on culture, products and people, while also being part of Gata magazine, a magazine focused on art, high fashion and avantgarde

- the buyer and part-owner of ARYS Store Berlin, a clothing and lifestyle store for future humans

In his words, "it sounds like a lot, but all of this is the logical evolution of all the things he did over the last 10+ years."


My professional background, in short, is everything 'content' and content marketing. I started as one of the first 'kids" way back then, creating social media content for fashion stores right when Instagram started. From then on, I looked more and more behind the scenes of the retail and fashion industry. This led me to work for VICE and Virtue for over 4 years. One the agency side of the magazine, I took care of clients like adidas Originals. On the magazine side, I built their German Snapchat Discover channel. From 1 to 1 million unique readers in about 1 year, my team started this whole fast media Snapchat monster from scratch.

Until I moved to Tokyo, I had several other stops, and freelance jobs focused on content and culture. I am pretty good at bringing together the right faces with the right stories and brands while choosing the best fitting channel. This sounds like the typical marketing ‘bla bla’, but this is what I do and why people pay me.

Since I always was and still am an active part of street culture through my magazines and writing, it never felt hard for me to bring more culture and context to a job because my interest always came first. The world is now run and led by street culture, and people like me know more than the typical agency person. This is our world in terms of culture and storytelling.

What makes me the proudest is definitely the team around me and the two magazines we run out of Tokyo. Gata and Sabukaru are our 100% "ikigai" and the reason I wake up every day with excitement. It's a 24 hours job while running an actual agency behind as a ghost business. The way both magazines grew over the last year just makes us all proud and happy, and there is so much more planned.

We could not do anything of this without the people in Tokyo and the rest of the world who help and support us. We are very cautious with how we want to run the magazines, so I would say, that they are still 89% passion projects. Through my work and experience with many magazines, I realized that money usually kills content. So our magazines are, first of all, big cultural platforms, and we are selective with monetizing it. We want to do it right and not just become another commercial platform if we do it.

As a result, we have to work our asses off like crazy. The agency work has to pay all the agency bills and the magazine bills on top. I always joke that if I had gotten minimum wage for every hour, I worked on Sabukaru, I would now be able to drive a Porsche. It's actually not even a joke; there is so much energy, hours and days into this project. We really doing this beyond business. As mentioned, it's our "ikigai" [what gives your life worth, meaning or purpose].

THE Qu & A

What are 3 relevant problems that you wish to solve through your work?

  • Agency side: We want to help brands to create better products from second zero. Right now, my agency helps marketing already made/designed products. But what we want to do is be in the process earlier through consulting. We want to be part of the whole circle, so our impact really can be seen and felt.

  • Agency side: There is still a massive gap between East and West regarding any possible creative job and a diverse range of services. We want to start connecting both sides in a newer, fresher way with our agency. We are currently working on our first Tokyo Showroom, for example and also join this year’s Innersect to bring brands we work with to China. There is so much potential, and so much still gets lost in translation. We want to change that.

  • Magazine: The same ‘lost in translation' concept applies to culture. It is the same information repeated over and over right now, and people do not really have a first-row seat on culture in Japan and beyond. The same scans, images and pictures get re-shared. Sabukaru will and is changing that. We really want people to understand the place we live in beyond cultural boundaries and stereotypes.

What is your biggest concern regarding the future?

I am not afraid of the future. This world definitely is f***ed; I am a realist. But we will make the best out of it while we are here.

What are 3 values that you wish to mediate through your work?

  • Youth always wins.

  • Do what you love; work hard for it. The only thing that can stop you is yourself.

  • Respect the ones that paved the way for you.

What is your biggest hope for the future?

To keep doing what we do.

What is the downside of being a Creative that no one talks about?

I barely have a REAL DAY off, like an actual day with nothing to worry about. I miss this.

I am sometimes\always stressed, clients and feedbacks can hunt my sleep, sometimes I look like a zombie. I am responsible for a whole team, and I feel the weight on my shoulders every day.

How does creativity help in challenging times to keep you energized - “CHARGED”?

Doing the things I like makes me feel excited. With Sabuakru, I wake up full of energy and when I see what we can do for the culture, how people react, learn and interact with it, it really gives me a boost. People pick up movies, books, music because of us. They look beyond, might start a new job, or head into a new direction. This is it! When I feel this Sabukaru energy, I know why I am going through all possible stress. It's the reason we do this.


Short Reflection by Adrian Bianco

Please share a personal story based on the topic of “SILVER LINING”, explaining the positive and valuable aspects of a challenging situation you had to go through.

Oh boy, I might have to give you the light version of that because life is really cruel, a dark place full of fears, insecurity, anxiety and fear. Like honesty, when do you not have to go through something? From growing up trying to balance the monster of puberty and insecurity, to finding your career and path in this awfully dull and depressing work-life you see around you. Then you are finally starting in the job you want to be in, and anxiety, burnouts and all the other work trouble kick in.

I am not even talking about what can all happen in your private life simultaneously.

Is there a silver lining? I think so. But there also is a simple "No" that might be actually the silver lining that you were hoping for. So what I learned is to actually not just wait and hope for better times. Simply say no, quit the job, quit the life you are living right now, quit everything and start new. Restart the computer, move into a new city, country, find new friends, do everything new. Create the silver lining if things are dark or complex around you. You will leave and create trouble and problems behind, but life is about you. So f*** it and start over. Every time I quit a job, I was afraid, but it was the right decision every time.

So maybe don't wait for the silver lining, be the silver lining.

This following interview contributes to a new media format, where Creatives are in full control of their narratives. By exploring alternatives to narrative journalism, GAHSP starts unconventional conversations, emphasizing values and problems that shape our lives collectively.

Written and Edited by Julia Horvath

Image Courtesy of Adrian Bianco

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