Olya Kuryshchuk: How does a brand work with you?
Daisy Hoppen: We are very lucky that we have worked with a lot of brands since day one of their business. I am always looking for new talent, but it does not have to be from day one. I think we are always looking for somebody that is unique, who has their own visual point of view, who has their own community of people around them – an authentic group of creatives and stylists. Working with a brand, you kind of see them grow their own individual language. Doing nothing copycat and having manners is very important to me.
When young designers think that they need a PR straightaway, I tell them to think how they can best use their money. Firstly, get the business into a good place. There is no point in paying a PR if you can’t fund a business. Actually, for a lot of designers who are part of the BFC’s NEWGEN or Fashion East, or even the LVMH Prize – there is a free PR support network for them there. When you are starting out and cash flow is so tight, you need to think about what you can use around you, that you don’t have to pay for.
I like it when I’ve seen that someone’s collaborated really well with an incubator scheme or the BFC. It shows you work well within the system. It’s not just about being by yourself. Also, these days, think about how you spend your money in terms of shows, like digital presentations. Shows are really expensive, so you have to get the right return on investment. I don’t really think a digital show works. That’s why I always say to designers to come back to their visual language, like a beautifully created campaign, or lookbook which can still be reviewed by Vogue Runway.
“The press loves to meet designers in person and not go through the scary PR, so this is a great way to build your own relationships.” -Daisy Hoppen
The media landscape has changed so much these days so there’s less press out there. You really have to make it work for you. Think of what you are doing. If you are only producing five couture looks, you might not need to do a runway – you might just want to do some appointments or a lookbook. Sometimes, designers can run too fast and need to take it back to thinking about what’s really important at the moment – and for me, that is business, using the support network that you already have if you are part of an institution.
The press loves to meet designers in person and not go through the scary PR, so this is a great way to build your own relationships. A lot of it isn’t rocket science. It’s sending out samples with a docket, making sure it’s all checked upon return. If you are exclusively with a stockist, they can give you advice. Sometimes, they even do this for you. I don’t think you are by yourself; you just need to make sure you’re working with partners that you really trust. I am hesitant these days to take on a designer fresh out of university, unless I know that they’ve worked with other platforms because it’s nice to see how they collaborate and work.
“Find out where you and your friends are actually reading your news and finding your content. That is the best place to start with your strategy.” – Daisy Hoppen
O: It’s interesting that when we speak to graduates, the only thing they think about is press, whereas I think it’s better to not have that as a central focus.
D: I would ask graduates: how many of you buy a newspaper? How many of you pay for your content? I find it really interesting that people care about the press because they want to see their clothes in the Financial Times. It’s a really interesting time and chapter in our industry because the newer group of designers don’t necessarily engage with press in the traditional way. I would say to them: yes the FT is amazing for brand positioning, but if you, your friends, or the people you collaborate with are not buying it, then what are they reading? Is it Apple News? Are they just buying niche design titles every six months? Are they going into coffee shops, like Rose Bakery in Dover Street Market and look at the magazines? Find out where you and your friends are actually reading your news and finding your content. That is the best place to start with your strategy.
“You have to prove yourself to the industry, that your collections will evolve, and that they will sell – you can’t have it all straight away.” – Daisy Hoppen
O: Many of them want five million people to see their work. We always say that you need two stores to begin with and maybe three stylists. That’s the core group of people you need to invest in – you don’t need millions.
D: I also think that patience is a virtue. You can’t have everything at the beginning. It’s easy to launch something with hype, it’s much harder ten years later. I would always be very wary if somebody says that they want all of this now. You have to prove yourself to the industry, that your collections will evolve, and that they will sell – you can’t have it all straight away. It’s important to learn that as well, which is why I encourage designers to work for other brands. It’s really good to see that they’ve worked in a design studio in Paris, Milan, or London. It shows that you know how to work in a business, you’ve probably seen how a business operates outside your small-scale setup. I think sometimes it’s dangerous to think: “I want to launch my own brand and have five million people look at it straight away.” It’s much better to think about where you want to be in ten years and how to get there.
“The press doesn’t really have the same bandwidth anymore, because not enough people are subscribing or paying for their content.” – Daisy Hoppen
O: If they get a lot of press at the beginning, it’s often not too hard for them to manage their own PR. But afterwards – that is exactly when they need help because everyone is like “I already wrote about you,” so in the third season, it’s harder to keep the press going.
D: Fashion PR and marketing is a different game to what it was ten years ago. When you are a young designer, you can’t expect to have all these collaborations, endless projects and marketing. It’s better to focus on doing well-designed collections with a very highly creative wholesale partnership, and then you can get some press through that. Do that rather than just thinking: I need something new. Because it just does not really work. The press doesn’t really have the same bandwidth anymore, because not enough people are subscribing or paying for their content.
“When I started, there were no freelancers. Now, there is this incredible array of very young and hard-working freelance PR consultants. The freelancer way can be quite cost-effective, especially if you do a project fee.” – Daisy Hoppen
O: What would be your advice for brands seeking a PR, because obviously not everyone can be with you.
D: I think there are a few considerations with clients and designers. When I started, there were no freelancers. Now, there is this incredible array of very young and hard-working freelance PR consultants. The freelancer way can be quite cost-effective, especially if you do a project fee. Don’t do day rates, do a project fee. Especially around the show, because you don’t have overheads of office agencies to pay. If you are talking to an agency, look at their client roster. If you know someone who works for one of the brands, ask them for their honest opinion. I also think staff retention is very important. So if you see that someone has been there for a long period of time, that is a key factor as well. If you want to move forward, you want to make sure the meetings you are having with them will be the people who will be working with you. So, for example, when I start a relationship with a new client, I will be in the first meeting. But I always bring in the actual team who will be working with them. Because day to day, I’m across all of my clients. Meeting them at their office is also a really good indication about if you will gel well by working together. You can see how their samples are looked after, and you can ask them questions.
One thing you have to be really aware of is if they are going to give you an amazing rate budget-wise, you have to be clear about what they are going to do and what they are not going to do – that way, no one is disappointed in the end. Quite often, we start working with a client on a project basis. So we see how it works, what the synergy is and what the response is. If this is working, we move to a retainer. That way neither side is locked in – so that can be another amazing way to do it.
O: If you are already working with an agency, how can you evaluate the work they do?
D: Well, they should be doing monthly reports for you.
O: I once saw a monthly report for a designer, and it was just like: “We showed your work to these people.” It was just a list of names, but what does it mean? What is the value of those reports? I understand that there is a limit to PR, because what if they show it to the whole world and no one wants it because it’s not an interesting product or story?
D: The first thing you have to remember is that pretty much 80% of what you see in a magazine these days has been paid for because of advertising. If you are a young designer, and you get one credit per month in a magazine, that is very good, because of the advertorial commitments and all the other things to think about. That’s why thinking outside the box is important when it comes to magazines and newspapers. I do think monthly reports are helpful. For example, if they tell you about sample trafficking, where the clothes have been sent, just make sure that your courier bills are within check and agreed in advance. I also do a lot of check-ins – like weekly or bi-weekly calls with clients, just to give them a continuous update. If you are disappointed or concerned, bring it up to your account manager, but be fair at the same time. If a big, glossy monthly hasn’t included you yet – the sample was still sent. Nowadays, they only call in stuff if there is interest because it is expensive to call in things that they actually want to shoot. So that hasn’t worked out, but you’ve still gone through the first step, which is very important. Ask for feedback from your PR, like how the run-through went. Maybe on the actual day the brief changed, or they had to fit another advertiser – you can definitely feel free to ask these things.
“It’s important to stand out against the marketing machines. How do you, as a young designer, stand out? You can go to the best university, like Central Saint Martins, but how do you really stand out? ” – Daisy Hoppen
O: In the last three years, what changes do you think affected emerging designers the most?
D: It’s more important to stand out against the marketing machines. How do you, as a young designer, stand out? You can go to the best university, like Central Saint Martins, but how do you really stand out? That is something I have really thought about in the last few years in a big way. We have also seen so many magazines and newspapers fold in the last few years, and as much as there is an appetite for fashion content, there aren’t enough people to write about it or to shoot it. That’s been a huge challenge, and I think that will affect younger designers. That’s why I say that sometimes it’s not about having your own brand straight away. Sometimes, it’s actually really amazing to work for another brand that has an infrastructure, to understand how they work. Personally, I am not sure if it’s about having your own brand from the beginning, always in today’s climate – it’s just my personal opinion, but I do work with brands who have taken this journey and proved me very wrong.
O: It’s a weird one – I keep telling everyone to not start their own label straight out of uni. It’s basically a suicide mission.
D: Don’t get me wrong, I am full of admiration for designers starting brands.
O: It’s often the case that when you don’t get a job, you start a brand. The majority of the designers either had the plan from the start, like Simone Rocha, or they literally didn’t get a job. If you get approached by Louis Vuitton or Prada before graduation and get offered 30K straight away – the majority can’t just be like, no, thank you, I am starting my own brand.
D: Also, thinking in terms of sustainability, how many more brands does the world need? Are you putting a product out there that is represented nowhere else? But have you also done your due diligence about sustainability? I also think in today’s climate in terms of finance, world politics or sustainability – it’s good to think about going to work for someone else, rather than doing your own brand. My biggest concern is that there isn’t enough space in the world for all these new brands, unless they are putting something out there that is truly unique. And when I do see that, I get very excited. I have to say, there is still some magical talent coming from London, which I get very excited about.
O: What would be your main advice for someone in their first few seasons on managing their press without reaching out to a PR agency?
D: It comes down to being very true to yourself. Be humble. Be honest, don’t expect everything at the very beginning. Think about which celebrity you’d like to work with. Is there one magazine that you really love? It’s good to be very targeted. But also, don’t be secret to your customer – you will have to start selling clothes at some point. If you know what your customer wants, keep it for the next season. Look at your brand as a business from the very beginning and think about what’s working and what’s not working when it comes to PR. You can think of what makes sense at the current point. Like does it make sense to take on a PR for the next season? We sometimes do pro bono advice. Same with Sarabande, or the BFC. Utilise the network that is going to give you free advice.
O: How important is the personality of the designer? I don’t even mean the character, but you can see some designers out there gorgeously styled in pictures. I think of designers like Sonia Rykiel or McQueen. There is an additional stylized character.
D: We work with everyone from Harris Reed, who is highly visible on social media, to other designers, who are far more discreet, so that the product is more important than the image of the designer. Think about what press you feel comfortable with. I am much happier behind the scenes, I don’t do many interviews. Some other designers are far happier to be front and centre. It’s about what really works for you. Just make sure you are telling the story in your way of speaking so that your narrative is really authentic to you. It can’t be a character that you put on.
“Sometimes you really want to slow things down. Personally, towards the end of last year, there were so many events, I felt bored by the format repetition. The editors and guests also felt the same I think; no one wants to go to the same event every time. So we put a slight pause on some events and looked to work out what felt interesting.” – Daisy Hoppen
O: We realised that young designers are really scared to say no. When someone emails them with a request, when a big stylist loses their garment, or when any media emails them – they are worried about burning relationships from the very start.
D: When it comes to samples – if someone really treated your clothes with disrespect, they should pay for them. That is why documents and dockets are so important. It clearly needs to say that when you confirm samples, that is how the item works. We expect it to be returned in this condition, otherwise, we have to invoice. But also, don’t over-invoice. You know, trade value. Be fair. Ask if it is being shot in a studio or on location. If they say it’s being shot on location, if it’s a river – are the clothes going to be wet? Ask the questions in advance, don’t be afraid to do that. I also think the right kind of editor will always tell you if something has happened and will always apologise. Quite often they ask how they can make this up. Sometimes they say we’ll run a feature on you or we ensure that you will be in the next credit. Have the dialogue on invoicing. Or ensure that the magazine can make it up otherwise. If it’s irreplaceable, you are within your rights to do this, especially if they are not pleasant to work with.
“Everyone thought COVID was going to change the pace. If anything, it’s ramped up.” – Daisy Hoppen
O: What frustrates you most at the moment about working with designers?
D: I think the hardest is just the pace. But I don’t think it’s just me – it’s designers, pattern cutters, editors. The immediacy is quite crazy. Sometimes you really want to slow things down. personally, towards the end of last year, there were so many events- I felt bored by the format repetition. The editors and guests also felt the same I think; no one wants to go to the same event every time. So we put a slight pause on some events and looked to work out what felt interesting. What do we actually want to do? What do people want to buy? What feels actually exciting right now? So, for me, the pace is the hardest thing.
O: How do you keep motivating yourself and the team?
D: I feel very lucky, because I work with brands, clients and creatives who constantly keep me on my toes. Those are the ones who bring me inspiration and get me excited. I am not a creative, like they are. I really love it when the team gets excited naturally. Whenever a new client approaches us, we always try to take them to the next level. I also always ask the team, if they are not excited it’s an absolute no. I am aware that I am only one person, other people have a different sense of style, tastes and things like that. It’s really important to gauge other people’s opinions. I’m never bored. Every day is so different, literally. It is just the pace – something has to change. Everyone thought COVID was going to change the pace. If anything, it’s ramped up. I am happy to match that pace, but I wonder if the consumer can stay up with it. Which is why I come back to brands that really understand their identity – the Simones of this world. Whether you like Simone Rocha or not, when you see it on the page, you know it’s Simone Rocha. Same for Molly Goddard. Really important to me. Brands that know their identity get me excited. It’s the brands that are constantly changing that I struggle to understand more.
O: How important are influencers? And how do you make those relationships work?
D: It comes down to your brand. What do you stand for? If your brand stands for TikTok stars then they should be your focus. If your brand is about slow, sustainable, very expensive cashmere wool coats, then you will probably target very different kinds of media. You have to think about who the customer is. It comes down to that every single time. Then you work out your strategy.
O: In terms of the BFC, London Fashion Week, how important do you think this is in the journey of someone beginning their brand? Can they skip?
D: I have to be really careful because everyone has their own journey. It’s not something I go into, to be honest. I think we are lucky to have those platforms like the BFC or Sarabande. At Dover Street, so many brands have been sourced from there – not just the BFC, I also think what Luly Kennedy is doing at Fashion East is amazing. If you are part of the LVMH Prize or any other platforms – they can be so helpful, although I also appreciate that they are just not for everyone. You have to be aware in the beginning that there are a lot of people looking for the same attention and looking into how to stand out. I don’t think that a digital video on social media will get you there, honestly. It’s about what will be unique for you. You also can’t expect all the platforms to do all the work for you at the same time.
“Sending out invites and expecting people to come doesn’t exist anymore. I think we confirm people five times on the lead up to a show, for every single show.” – Daisy Hoppen
O: But sometimes, same as with stylists or editors – it feels like you can’t say no when they insist on doing a show, you feel obliged to do it.
D: You should always be able to say no. You should also always think about the financial repercussions of doing these things. But the reality is, sending out invites and expecting people to come doesn’t exist anymore. I think we confirm people five times on the lead up to a show, for every single show. Even for some of the biggest shows in London, because everyone has their own life, their own agenda, and you can’t expect them to turn up to a show right away. Everything has to be pre-placed, pre-organised. If you do a show, do it properly. Because people don’t show up in the same way anymore.
O: I find it interesting how PR is selecting the value they assign to people – sometimes they move someone from the front to the back row within a season.
D: It’s not just that. It’s also the show venue. That is the biggest problem. The designer can fall in love with the show space, one season – it’s huge. Then you have a giant front row, next season their collections are inspired by a Brutalist art gallery that can only fit 50 people in – so that changes. When that happens, I think about who has been supportive, who has shot the brand, who has written about them, and who didn’t turn up last time. It’s highly personal, the show space dictates the whole thing. The next thing is the support: who is really showing up, who would I prefer to have in the front row, who did an amazing review last time that the designer loved reading?
O: Do you always monitor who shows up?
D: I monitor it all. And I will ask why, especially if they reconfirmed coming like five times. Because it’s about the amount of work that goes into doing your show. It’s months and months and all-nighters. It’s really demoralising when people don’t show up. Things happen, I understand.
O: If someone “outgrows” London and decides it’s time to go to Paris, do you do that?
D: I can’t speak for any of my clients, but ultimately, I would always follow what they want. Whether they want to show in London or Paris, Milan, New York or Copenhagen – we are there to support them. We serve them what they want. We would go wherever they wanted to go.