The entertainment and legal world’s loss is the fashion world’s gain. Charlotte Blechman was destined for fashion success. Her career has taken her from Assistant to the Head of Pubic Relations at Gucci to Executive Vice President, Marketing and Communications at Barneys New York, where she has her hands on just about everything. From planning the always anticipated holiday windows to creating advertising campaigns to working with designers from all over the world, she does it all with style and still manages to read the papers – in print!
Did you always want to have a career in public relations and marketing?
Surprisingly, I had never thought about it. At first I wanted to go to law school and then after interning, I realized it wasn’t for me. I was living in LA, so I thought about getting into the entertainment industry as an agent. It was then that I decided to move to New York and figured I would try working in fashion, but had no idea in what capacity. The day after I moved to NY in 1995, I went to a headhunter. I told her that I was a good people person, don’t take no for an answer and am not afraid of hard work. She told me she had the perfect job for me and that afternoon I went on my interview at Gucci to be the assistant to the head of PR there. I started the following Monday. The rest is history!
What is your favorite part of the job?
It sounds corny – but I love my job. It touches upon so many different areas of the business and I love the way everything fits into one puzzle. Barneys is a retailer like no other, lending itself to a very creative environment, which permeates everything we do from marketing, advertising, events, to windows and in-store design. I love being creative and working with such a supportive CEO and management team. There is nothing more satisfying then coming up with a big picture marketing/communications idea and then seeing it come to fruition.
What is a typical day at work?
I really do not have a typical day at work! On any given day I can have meetings with vendors/designers to talk about marketing and event strategies, go to a tasting or a site visit for an upcoming event, have internal meetings with any of my teams (which happens OFTEN!), have a store walk-through with the merchant team, meet with visual to talk about window concepts, approve some sort of ads or mailers, meet with publishers, and then cap it all off with a work event that night.
What are your morning media must-reads?
I am still a purist when it comes to newspapers and like to read them in print…I try to read The NYT before I leave my house in the morning, which depending on the time my kids get up, only works 50% of the time if I’m lucky! I then scan the NY Post in the taxi on the way to work and once I get to my office I read WWD (in print) and if I’m lucky I get to scan WSJ. I then of course then check out Buzzfeed, Style.com, Vogue.com and Gawker throughout the day when I have a few minutes between meetings.
Barneys New York has always had a strong brand image. How do you think it has changed over the years?
I think Barneys has stayed true to its brand image, while evolving with the times. In order to be successful you have to reinvent yourself, continue to surprise – yet stay true to your DNA. The core of the BNY brand is wit, luxury, surprise and humor. Through the years it has evolved into a more modern take on the aforementioned – but everything we do is done with that DNA in mind.
How do you maintain the image?
Everything we do from our marketing, and communications standpoint – including creative – has to keep the DNA of the brand top of mind. It is about taking the obvious and adding something unexpected, or even subversive. The perfect example of this is our holiday campaigns.
What accomplishments are you most proud of during your tenure at Barneys?
Big picture, I am most proud of our holiday campaigns. We have been able to collaborate with some of the most genius and relevant personalities in the world. We work on the holidays for over a year, bringing in every department within the company – and it is exciting to see it all come to life in one comprehensive campaign. Our holiday campaigns are the merging of two very different worlds to create a 360 marketing initiative that is out-of-the-box, unexpected and unique.
What is coming up on the Barneys New York event calendar?
Let’s just say that our events calendar for the remainder of the year is 3 pages long! Between PA’s, in-store events and image events the team produces over 280 events throughout the year in all of our markets. Our biggest push for the second half of the year is the renovation of our Beverly Hills store and addition of Freds to the West Coast. We will be celebrating the renovation (along with 20 years of being in LA) through a cocktail party with HOLA (Heart of Los Angeles) along with a slew of smaller events with some of our beloved designers. In New York, we have the 30th anniversary of Thakoon, which we will be celebrating in October. Then, of course, we have holiday! Which, this year, as in years past, promises to be another amazing collaboration!
When do you start planning for the holiday season?
Generally, we start to plan for the holiday season 16 months out. If Mark had it his way, it would be even more – but I think we would all collapse! There are so many different angles involved that it takes time to coordinate with the personalities, schedules, designers, etc.
What goes into planning store events?
All of our events are collaborative efforts between the Barneys team and our different vendors. We always try to keep in mind the aesthetic and DNA of the particular designer, while always staying true to our own brand standards. For example, an event that we’re hosting for Maria Cornejo will differ from what we do for Dries Van Noten, and so forth. When planning events, we always try to think outside of the box to create a unique and exciting experience for our guests.
What would you bring if you were stranded on a desert island?
Mark Straussman, the chef from Freds, to make us delicious meals! Then I would bring an Elder Statesman cashmere blanket to keep me warm at night, Natura Bisse sunblock, Crème de la Mer moisturizing crème, By Terry Rose lip balm, but most importantly, my AMAZING husband David, and my beautiful two children, Serena and Luca. I couldn’t survive more than a day without them.