Vanessa von Bismarck and Carrie Phillips founded BPCM Public Relations in 1999. Among their clients are Cushnie et Ochs, Preen and Wes Gordon.
In 10+ years working in fashion PR, what are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in the industry?
Since Carrie and I started the agency, the fashion industry has had a massive evolution. Social media and high street fashion have made this world accessible to everyone. As far as agencies go, the big agencies in New York when we started were very event-driven. It was all about throwing the biggest, splashiest party. Now agencies tend to be more strategic and specialized in one area. Interestingly, female-led agencies have tended to diversify more including us. We added more offices in London and LA and more categories, namely beauty and lifestyle, which includes hospitality, wine and champagne.
One of your first clients was Derek Lam. Would you compare any of your newer clients to him?
We only take on brands that we believe in and all of our clients are so different, so it is hard to say. If I had to say that a client’s sensibility and career reminds me a little of Derek, it would have to be Wes Gordon. They both have very defined voices and they know and listen to their customer.
Do you ever approach clients or do you usually get inquiries?
Most of our business is referrals from existing clients, editors and former clients. Occasionally we will approach someone that we are interested in.
How do the L.A. and London offices interact with the New York headquarters? Are you planning to expand to any other cities?
We speak to our colleagues in LA and London daily and work very closely with them. Many of our brands are clients of more than one office, so we are in constant contact. For now we are happy with the three offices that we have but who’s to say what the future will bring.
What piece of advice would you give young designers that don’t have a budget for PR?
Meet everybody. They should try to make friends with their peers, other designers. Ask established designers for advice. Learn from where they have been and how they got there. And focus on the sales side of the business. PR means nothing if people can’t buy your clothes!
What advice would you give those that dream of working in fashion PR?
Do internships, make yourself indispensable to two or three people in the company you want to work in and you will most probably find yourself with a job. Think of your internships as a working interview. Dress well, be polite, be presentable and be helpful. BPCM has a very intensive intern program and we hire our junior staff almost exclusively from that pool.