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Filipino Artist Profile: Cush Robles and Madi Vilela
When someone discovers passion in something, an overflowing sense of joy and fulfillment usually follows after. Whether it's a hobby, a particular field of interest, or a simple collection, there’s bound to be an itch to know more about it. That’s how Sarang Culture has grown. What started as a love for all things Korean has evolved into an outlet of art and purpose for Cush and Madi. Find out how they strive to add value to people using their videos and merch.
How did your journey as artists begin?
Madi: Ever since I was a kid, I love drawing. I just converted my love for art to design, into something more practical, like graphic design and branding. Now I’m doing that for a living.
Cush: As for me, I’m more into copywriting more than the visual arts.
How does the setup of being video content creators for Sarang Culture work with the design of your merch?
Cush: Our merch for Sarang Culture started as a side project. Our time is mainly spent on creating content for Youtube because that’s the main focus of Sarang Culture. We’re really Content Creators first with merch being offered on the side.
Madi: It’s literally merchandise for our core business, Sarang Culture.
Cush: The main art we’re into, if it would be considered that, is the creation of video content we’re putting up
When it comes to your videos, what’s your favorite content to come up and why?
Madi: From the name Sarang Culture, Sarang meaning love in Korean, anything related to Korean Culture. K-Pop, K-Drama, learning the Korean language.
Cush: It started as a collection of footage when we went to Korea. We uploaded those videos and eventually, we gained an audience. We decided to push through and continue it. Eventually, some people wanted to learn Korean. It was perfect because I was studying the language at that time and I was also teaching Madi. We decided to add that kind of content. Most of our content is like that. They’re entertaining but the viewers will always pick up something. And it’s always related to anything Korean. That’s the main theme.
How did you guys come up with Sarang Culture and what’s the reason you chose it?
Cush: Originally, we planned to come up with merch. We wanted to have apparel that’s inspired by Korean culture. At that time, we can’t find a service like what Merchiful is offering where you don’t have to use a lot of capital or stockpiling on inventory. That plan didn’t materialize because we had no idea on what the demand will be. A year or two later, that plan became a vlog.
Sarang is a Korean word for love. We just combined a love for Korean culture, which lead to Sarang Culture.
What are the specific influences that shaped your style, both as content creators and as merch producers?
Madi: I would say we’re inspired heavily by K-Pop. When you see our colors, they’re very bright and vivid. It’s really colorful. When you think of K-Pop, those are the colors we try to emanate in our merch.
Cush: When it comes to our videos and social media posts, they’re not refined at all. We’re just playing with style, actually. We don’t make it too produced, too beautiful so it’ll be more natural. It’s like we’re just talking to each other in our videos. That’s the overall style - playful.
Madi: And sometimes, we use K-Pop-related memes in our videos.
When it comes to creating content for your videos and designs for merch, what is that one piece of creation you’re proud of and why?
Cush: We made this eight-part video series that teaches how to write and read Hangeul, which is the Korean alphabet. This series has the biggest impact. Even up to now, there are some who send messages thanking us because they learned from the videos. We’re proud of those videos the most because it accomplished something.
Madi: We made it in a way that isn’t too traditional.
Cush: Yeah, it’s that playful style. Our humor may be too vague at times but the viewers picked it up. So far, those videos had the biggest impact.
As artists, what are the common struggles you encounter?
Madi: Creative block. It’s not that bad because if you have set a goal in mind and you direct all your energy towards that, you’ll eventually get there, whether if it’s a design or producing a video,
Cush: For videos, we don’t run out of ideas because we listen to what our audience is asking. You can see it in the comment section or the DMs about their struggles. We then think about how we can address those concerns using our content. When it comes to the process, it’s more challenging to shoot and edit a video and to make a script. It’s really time-consuming but it’s fun to do. It’s a long process but it’s really fun.
What are the strengths you guys possess to make Sarang Culture into what it is now?
Madi: I consider ourselves as a duo. I’m a designer and he’s a copywriter. It suits whatever we produce, whether it’s for merch or for videos. When it comes to videos, he’s the one who writes the script and he’s getting into video editing. I do the thumbnails and visuals. With merch, we collaborate with the concept and the design.
Cush: Al of the tools and skills we need are already there because we both came from advertising before. That experience also helps us come up with concepts and designs we know consumers or the audience will enjoy.
Madi: For us, it’s not just we want to create something just for the sake of it. We make sure to think about it first and there’s a basis for everything we produce.
Whenever people watch your videos or see your merch, what do they usually say about your work?
Cush: Mostly of the reactions we get are from our videos. A lot of people say that they liked our merch. But since the majority of our time is spent on making videos, most of the feedback is about those videos. Just recently, we announced a big development in our channel. Our subscribers sent messages and posted comments congratulating us. They said we helped them a lot. Even if it’s time-consuming, we’re really happy because the audience is happy. It’s not like the audience is ignoring us or they’re not watching. Those who are actually watching are invested in the content already. They’re always thankful we release videos and they’re always looking forward to them. They usually send messages on Instagram thanking us for everything they learned. That’s the feedback we mostly get.
On the other side of the fence, how do you handle criticism directed towards your work?
Cush: We usually pay attention to valid criticism. For example, someone said our audio or lighting is bad. We take those things into account and see how we can fix them. One thing we can also get from criticism is analytics. When we release a video and the response is not that good, we review that too. But for hate comments, like when someone says our work is horrible, that kind of vibe, we don’t mind them. We haven’t received that kind of feedback yet, though. When it doesn’t make sense, add anything to our process, or there isn’t anything valid to criticize, we don’t pay any attention to it.
Madi: We have been watching seasoned vloggers and they share their experience. Considering we’ve only just started, we now know what to expect.
Do you have any advice for talented individuals who want to start creating videos or designing merch?
Cush: I think if you want to start with merch, the setup of Merchiful is perfect because there’s no risk if you want to create designs or products. Traditionally, you’ll create a design and have it printed. Usually, there’s going to be a minimum order, at least a hundred. You already spent a lot of money and you’ll be left with a lot of shirts or other types of merch. If you’re going to start, better start with a platform like Merchiful. All you need to do is place your design. You won’t lose money if you don’t have sales, but if you do, that’s better. That’s the safest way if merch is concerned.
Madi: For videos, the best advice when starting is to just do it. That’s what we did.
Cush: You don’t have to worry about equipment if it’s good enough. Just start because practice is more important. Eventually, if you want to push through, you should find a way with a subject you’re most passionate about to make content out of it. You should give value to the viewer. It shouldn’t be just a video about anything. The viewers should get something from all the content you’ll release.
How did you discover Merchiful and why did you choose it as the platform for your designs?
Cush: We really searched on Google before. There were a lot of options but a lot of them were unresponsive. When you message them, they won’t reply. There were some that are okay but they lacked something, like logistics or payment processing. We didn’t want to think about those things anymore because we didn’t have the time. We also wanted the store to be in auto-pilot mode. Merciful offers that exact setup with the inventory, order fulfillment, payment processing, and logistics. We didn’t have to do anything. All we need to do is send our designs. They were also easy to talk to.
What can Merchiful customers expect from Sarang Culture in the coming weeks or months ahead?
Cush: It’s been overdue for us to release more designs. That’s the next thing we’re going to do. Hopefully, we get to release a new set of designs. We’ll ask our subscribers what they want to see from us. When we made our first set, our following was still small. It has grown from that time so we need to ask them what they want to see next.
Madi: Our merch right now is based on individual K-Pop groups. There are times when someone would suggest if there is this particular group. So that’s what we’re going to listen to.
Cush: And maybe right now, there are a lot of people who like Korean stuff, and not just the K-Pop kind. We need to survey our followers first. But definitely, we’re going to release more designs soon.
What one word best describes Sarang Culture?
Cush: It might seem strange but the best word that describes us is creator. Even when we weren’t vloggers, we can’t stand still in one place if we aren’t doing something creative. We used to be in a band before and we were in advertising. There’s always a need to create something.
Madi: We were making cookies before for a while too.
Cush: We always feel the need to create something. It might be cringey but that word describes us the best.
Don’t let another day pass by without getting your fix of all things Korean. Drop by Sarang Culture’s Merchiful page today and find something amazing for yourself or a loved one. You can also check Sarang Culture out on these different platforms.