Mandrake Public Relations is a boutique fashion PR agency based in Miami that specializes in searching and representing up and coming South American designers. The firm owned by Paola De Castro, who is passionate about bringing South American talent to the United States. “There is so much talent in South America that goes unrecognized in the US because of geographic distance,” explains Paola, “Mandrake PR works with designers to help ease the transition and soften the barriers. Mandrake keeps a complete set each client’s most recent collection in their showroom in the heart of Bal Harbour where they set up showroom appointments for media and potential buyers.
Recently Mandrake PR successfully introduced Miami to Marl Vilaro, a veritable unknown Columbian designer who works with materials like coconut, rope, stones, and wood. His official launch was in an art gallery/boutique store where shoppers loved the intricate craftsmanship of his designs and Mandrake will continue to slowly introduce his work into the fashion scene.
Paola was nice enough to send over some tips on fashion PR for South American designers:
Educating Designers about PR
In South America, the idea of a PR agency is understood to be more like a sales representative. It can take time to educate designers about the difference between a publicist and a sales representative, and to clearly explain the benefits of having professional public relations firm. Before signing a new designer, we take considerable time to set expectations. Primarily, we discuss the difference between “introducing” and “selling.” Luckily, since we are from South America we completely get the language and culture which helps us know what to expect and how to work with designers in this market.
We had a client sign our contract and who kept stating that she understood what a fashion PR agency was. A few weeks after being retained, she came into our showroom with a couple of boxes of swimsuits that she expected us to go door-to-door to sell them. We had to start over again and actually got her to watch Kell on Earth so she could have a visual input of what a PR agency was. Today we love her and is one of our favorite swimsuit designer.
In South America, it is possible to be successful without media coverage. Having press is more of an ego boost, but it doesn’t necessarily mean sales. For this reason, designers in South America do not depend on publications and magazines the way we do in the US. That said, most Mandrake PR clients have already received media coverage in South America and are looking to enter the US Market. JetSet Magazine is a fashion and lifestyle magazine that covers most of South America and is similar in influence to a Vogue or Elle here in the U.S. Another great publication for designers in South America that is a bit more risque side is SoHo Magazine.
In Miami, we have Miami, Brickell and Key Biscayne magazines that are always on the lookout for new designers, and being Latin is a big plus. We find great synergy between our clients and Nylon Magazine as well.
We often end up last-minute interviews on behalf of our clients because we have cultivated such a strong relationship them and know their designs, their concepts and personal views. However, many of our our clients travel to Miami several times during the year so we take advantage of print publications advance schedule and set up interviews, and press meet and greets when our clients are in town. If clients don’t feel comfortable with their English, we will translate for them.
Let’s just say that in South America things go, well, at a somewhat slower pace. We use a technique learned after living in Colombia for many years – if something is due by the 15th, we tell our designers it is due by the 10th. They actually thank us afterward for those little “white lies”!
We use Skype, We use Skype, Facebook, Twitter, and text messages in order to resolve last minute issues and meet editor demands. We are the eyes and ears for our clients and when an opportunity presents itself, it’s important to have a plan of action in order to be able to get in touch with someone thousands of miles away and in a different time zone!