PR man to the fashion stars
MANY PEOPLE THINK of the PR world to be all about glitz, glam, and endless schmoozing at cocktail parties among society’s namedroppables. Well, yes it is, but thats only one aspect of it. There is a whole other side to this cutthroat business that involves a lot of hard work, strategic planning and creative thinking for valued clientele.
Meet Artus Concepcion, a Filipino at the helm of the very successful Headquarters PR in New York City. It all stemmed from a passion for fashion (I can relate to that), which led him to the ins and outs of working for such high-end clientele as Calvin Klein and Vivienne Tam.
This seasoned PR man’s resume reads like a red-carpet invite list: Hes done publicity work for the likes of Anna Sui, Isaac Mizrahi, Betsey Johnson, Calvin Klein and Jimmy Choo.
He likewise led PR work for London-based brands Ben Sherman and Evisu Sportswear, and directed activities for hip-hop brand Marc Ecko.
Along with his partner Karina Sokolovsky, who has done global publicity for eight years at J Crew, he heads Headquarters PR, whose services run the gamut of professional PR services, from public relations strategy development to day-to-day press relations, special events, celebrity wardrobing, product launches and philanthropy programs.
Step into his office and find out a few tricks of the trade of fashion PR in one of the world’s fashion capitals.
What kind of publicity work do you do?
I do fashion PR. We do mostly fashion-oriented planning. The clients that we have are Vivienne Tam, Catherine Maladrino, Mexx. We have a few European brands, like Evisu. We also do shows for Oakley and Calvin Klein, which is currently a consulting client of ours.
Are you only US-based?
Our work is mostly centered in New York, but were trying to open a satellite office in London, too. There are a lot of hot new designers there, and so we want to offer our PR and representation services if they need it in New York as well. We are a small PR agency, and we want to keep it that way. We have about 14 clients that we deal with directly.
What is your background? What led you to PR?
I grew up in Pampanga, and then I went to college in UP and in San Francisco. After college I moved to Los Angeles. So I used to work for an AIDS foundation there. And then in 1991, there was an event for Calvin Klein, which was for an AIDS foundation, and Kate Moss attended this. She was really hot and she was the poster girl for Calvin Klein. Then I met the people from New York who produced the show, so I freelanced for them in 1993 and I moved to New York to work for KCD. They had Marc Jacobs, Versace, Chloe, and Anna Sui. So pretty much I started doing PR in 91-92. I have always loved fashion, so I was led naturally into it. It wasnt really my major in college, so I just fell into doing what I really love. I’ve worked for different agencies, I’ve worked in-house for Mark Ecko, and I did PR for Old Navy as well, and then started my own agency two and a half years ago. This is really my baby; its so much better to work for you!
How did you get your roster of high-end clients?
We didn’t really advertise our agency to get our clients, it was mostly through networking. Most of the fashion editors recommended the hot new designers to us. We always work with all of the fashion magazine editors, from Vogue to Bazaar, even men’s magazines like GQ. We also work with international magazines, like ID in the UK, Dazed and Confused, Italian Vogue and British Vogue. Since we also do store events, the bulk of the work is actually the calling of editors, insider TV, fashion segments on TV, celebrity channels, celebrity magazines like People or Us Weekly.
Which part of publicity work do you enjoy the most?
I think it’s mostly the networking. Or just promoting the clothing of clients that you really believe in. We don’t just take clients just because they pay. If I can’t promote it, why take advantage of the monthly retainer? We also don’t try to take clients that are conflicting or competing. For example, if I have a client specializing in men’s suits, I won’t take another client in the same line. What I enjoy the most? The events, the talking and networking. Now I go to only the important ones, like the Cosmititude Ball, or the CMV parties. But my job is to publicize my clients, not myself. I’ve done the party circuits, I’ve done the social events, I’ve been there done that, and I’ve been to every show. I hobnob all the time; I see Calvin Klein all the time, he lives in my neighborhood, I just wave at him. I did Isaac Mizrahis show once.
Is it all as glamorous as you see it on TV?
Yes and no my job is really to get the photographers to, say, run over to Sharon Stone if she walks into an event. Celebrities are usually very discrete when they come in the shows during fashion week. They try not to. But let me tell you a secret for fashion shows, if you need a celebrity, you need to hire a celebrity wrangler. You give them a budget, and they would give you at least two good celebrities. Maybe you’d end up with, say, Lindsay Lohan or Mischa Barton, and maybe a few B-stars. If the designer has a budget for it, then we would hire them.
So how about shows like Marc Jacobs?
Of course, there are designers who have A-list friends. J Lo did his last campaign, so she was there, along with Uma Thurman. Many designers pay for celebrities to attend, it’s part of it. Versace pays for them, Armani flies them over. Its a big industry, but once youve got celebrity endorsement, your name gets branded.
Whats your typical day like?
E-mails, phone calls to clients, fashion editors press previews are coming up with Spring 2007, so we have to prepare for that. We invite editors of both mens and womens magazines and they come at a certain time, we give them a slot and we preview them. We represent these collections; right now its for Spring 2007, they’re not in the stores yet. We’re working for Rosasen, Mata Piri which is a ski brand, Mexx, owned by Liz Claiborne. We have a few downtown designers like Unis, she’s Korean, Eunice Lee. She used to design for DKNY and she’s a darling of the editors. It’s really a variety of designers that we believe in. For celebrities, I did J Lo’s show once and she’s doing really well. We did Lamb by Gwen Stefani. I’ve done it all (laughs).
So would you say you’re a bit jaded?
No, not at all! I love what I do! I just don’t get overwhelmed anymore. We just did an event last night, with Global Dream, the Al Gore foundation that he represents. Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Ed Norton Jr. are big supporters of it because they’re very environmentally conscious. We produced that event so we invited fashion editors.
You dont get star-struck anymore?
Oh we [still] read all those [gossip web] sites, like Perezhilton.com the blogger (laughs)they make fun of everyone! But celebrities are usually very nice; I haven’t really handled someone who wasn’t nice. Like Paris Hilton is very nice. But I’m not a celebrity stalker, I’m over that! There are some publicists that are they actually go up to celebs and offer them free clothes and all. But I don’t do that, that’s not our style!
Advice you can give to aspiring businesses?
It’s a lot of hard work. A lot of people think it’s just all glamour and fun, but you have to be very organized, and be very nice. For a startup, you just need to get out there and network! It’s also about moving your company, talking about your company, and being street smart. It’s also about hard work and not burn bridges. Publicize your clients. Publicize your company, not yourself.
Why is it not advisable to promote yourself?
Again, promote your company, not yourself! I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about these publicists who do that, but the really good, professional ones don’t do that.
What difficulties do you face?
If you can’t get enough fashion credits for your client. Even if you have good relationships with editors, it means that the season is not that strong. It’s a big issue with clients if you dont come out in the big magazines like Cosmo or Marie Claire. Sometimes, even if the clothes were shot, the editorial gets scrapped, and we just have to tell our clients in a nice way.
What is the future of your company?
Exciting developments are moving on to representing restaurants, furniture lines, and airlines. Its about diversifying into more corporate clients. In the long run, we hope to have a junior partner whom we can trust and we can do more of overseeing the business. We still want to retain our boutique size because we deal with our clients directly, not like the big PR companies who usually assign junior publicists to handle them.
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Copyright 2006 Philippine Daily Inquirer. Source : Financial Times Information Limited (Trademark)