[The following is reprinted with permission from Jill Sherman of Trend de la Creme. The post originally appeared on Trend de la Creme in February, 2008. For more information about Melissa, check out her guest post for PR Couture entitled “Top 5 Ways to Promote Your Fashion PR Agency.” If you are interested in being profiled on PR Couture, please email info[at]prcouture.com for more details.]
The Charming Melissa Davis: Once You Go Flack, You Never Go Back!
For most fashionistas, the fantasy of becoming a senior editor at a major fashion glossy is just that — a fantasy. (The swag alone is worth more than the paycheck!) But for Melissa Davis, founder of Ruby Press, being a fashion editor was just the beginning of a long line of seemingly glamorous stints in the cut-throat world of all things glam.
Given her impressive resume (senior fashion editor turned online fashion director turned fashion publicist)you might expect her to be a relentless bitch/snob/diva. (You did see the Devil Wears Prada, didn’t you?) But alas, she is one of the handful resilient enough to keep her head above water while diving into the fashion whirlpool feet first. (Gotta love her for that!)
So, what was it like working at big guns like Harper’s Bazaar and Lucky?
My time at Harper’s Bazaar was amazing! I honestly felt like pinching myself everyday. I started there right when Liz Tilberis’ first issue came out- September 1992- as an intern, and I was hired three months later. She had hired all of the best people in the industry, so I really couldn’t have asked for a better training ground. What was really wonderful though, was that she hired really nice people too. That made a world of difference.
The fashion department there really came to feel like a family to me. (I was there for three years.) With Lucky, I worked for them from San Francisco , so I didn’t work in their NY office. (But I did work for Conde Nast in NY for 5 years, where I was an editor at Mademoiselle.)
Your first fashion shoot was with Kate Moss, what was that like?
Well, I was literally just there to help steam, iron, unpack the trunks, etc., but it was a bit surreal. I think I had only been at Bazaar for a week or so, so it was my first time on a shoot. I remember Kate was sitting on a stool getting hair and makeup done and she was very sweet and just seemed like a girl. Of course, once she was in hair and makeup and in front of the camera, she was transformed!
It was the December 1992 cover, shot by Patrick Demarchelier, and she was wearing a red Dior gown. It was a gorgeous cover- Bazaar was really pushing the envelope creatively back then. The shot was of Kate holding a snow globe with a mini Kate inside the globe.
How was it adjusting from 24/7 New York fashion editor to California fashion publicist?
My life has changed a lot with the move across the country and change of careers. In NYC, when you have the job of a fashion editor you are expected to attend events, dinners, and cocktails almost every night. It really is your life- not just a job. I remember months in a row when I didn’t have one week night to myself. I was an editor in NY for 8 years, and it was the best experience, but as I got closer to 30 I realized that I needed a change.
Moving to California really did that… It’s much more relaxed and laidback here, but I have to say that as a business owner, I still work very hard. I do make a point of not working over the weekends and trying to get home at a decent hour. Of course though, I’m always thinking of ways to get our clients into the media and brainstorming on ways to improve the business, no matter what time of day. And I start working the minute I get up in the morning.
You started Ruby Press in 2001. Was it difficult to find clients when you first started out?
The reason I started Ruby Press was that I kept meeting designers and interesting fashion companies out here in the Bay Area who didn’t have a publicist. As the SF editor for Lucky and the fashion editor for local San Francisco magazine 7×7, I met a lot of designers, so I got into the loop pretty quickly. It’s great because not only did some of those designers become our clients but also my good friends.
Jewelry designers, fashion websites, stationary, organic bedding. You have such a varied client list. How do you select the clients your agency will represent?
I’m very picky about the companies we’ll represent. I started this company with the reputation of being someone with a trained editor’s eye and as soon as we show something uninspired to the editors in New York , we lose our credibility. We show our clients’ lines to the national press in NY twice a year and about 60-70 editors come see us in a hotel suite (over a span of three days) where we set up all of our clients’ products. Editors are very busy- I know from experience- so if we waste their time they won’t bother coming back the next time. We have to make sure it’s worth their while. And quite frankly, I don’t want to fake the enthusiasm! We really love and believe in our clients.
And as far as the categories go, yes, they are varied, but they all fit under our ‘style’ umbrella. And they all have my personal stamp of approval.
Have any strange people/companies knocked on your door looking for a publicist? You don’t have to name any names.
Yes, some very bizarre companies! But there is a market for everything…. Companies that aren’t the right fit for us might be the perfect fit for another agency.
You also do event planning. How do you get any sleep?
We really pick and choose which events we want to do. But even so, yes, I am a very busy person. But I think it’s worth it when you love what you do. And I’m lucky in that my husband is my business partner, so I get to see him more than I would if we worked apart.
Is there a story behind the name Ruby Press?
Oh, it was a name that I was always saving for a child but when I met my husband and learned that he wasn’t fond of the name, I decided to name my agency that. I wanted to use it somehow!
You’ve been a senior fashion editor for print magazines, a fashion director for websites, now a fashion PR exec. Which would you say is your favorite?
Because I wanted to be a fashion editor since the age of 15, I have to say that I really loved that job- it was a dream come true, and it was the perfect way to spend my 20’s- but there came a time when I really needed a change. I’m so glad I made the move to California and made the leap to starting my own business. I really love what I do. Being that I never got to do the dot-com job (the website went under before the site even launched!), I guess I can’t comment on that one!
See what else Melissa is currently up to at www.rubypr.com.