FiveFiveFabulous.com recently got the opportunity to have a fabulous chat with managing director of Fashion Press Week and Fearnhurst PR, Sam Fearn. We discuss the States, personal experiences and the launch of Fearnhurst.
[Images credited to Debra Hurford Brown]
FFF: You previously worked in New York for Weber Shandwick. Would you say the American market is more perceptive to Fashion PR/PR generally in comparison to the U.K?
SF: The same core principles apply across both markets but the tools and tactics are quite different. Within the American market each state operates like a separate country and most states are significantly larger than the UK. To communicate your brand within this context takes a much more strategic and focused approach. It was this strategic approach that I wanted to bring back to the UK and apply to the campaigns we develop for our clients at Fearnhurst PR, whatever their size and their scope.
FFF: Do you feel your personal experiences have contributed to your exceptional business success?
SF: I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 26, two years after I set up Fearnhurst and underwent 8 operations, many of which were throughout the pregnancy of my first child. Although my health and my growing family were my priority I continued to develop my agency and for the first time in my life I was forced to rest – although I was unwell my brain was still working at its usual rate of 100 miles an hour and it was during this time I had the ideas for the new business ventures I wanted to launch. Experiencing a life threatening disease at such a young age made me even more determined to achieve my vision.
FFF: What are your future career aspirations? Do you think you have reached your goals in revolutionising the fashion PR industry? Any other business ventures apart from Fashion Press Week?
SF: I have only just uncovered the tip of my career path. The launch of Fashion Press Week is just the beginning. We are planning 10 shows across 4 markets within the next 18 months. In addition I wrote the technical and functional specification for a web platform called BIPO.co.uk which is set to revolutionise communication between press and brands. I am very fortunate to be working alongside industry leaders and we are very excited about working with the industry to offer a product which will significantly reduce time, offer enormous cost savings to press office budgets and provide valuable information for PR’s and press.
FFF: Do you think being a young businesswoman in such a competitive industry has made it harder for you to of founded a reputable fashion PR company such as Fearnhurst PR?
SF: It is a highly competitive space but many of my competitors are my friends. We all look out for each other, even more so since the economic downturn. Reputation is something you earn through a combination of many different factors and I don’t think that the competition has had any impact on our reputation. We are known in the industry for our strategic approach. We work with brands we are passionate about and we work to extremely high standards. Delivering results which impact our clients bottom line through collaborative and integrated campaigns is our strength and this is what has earned us our reputation. We have cherry picked a team of some of the best professionals in the business and our work has earned us numerous award wins.
FFF: Fashion Discovered launched a range of new brands such as Draw in Light, Frater, XANA and many more in Fashion Press Week. What sort of clothing can we expect to see from these new brands?
SF: We are going to be doing something a little different for the next Fashion Press Week with Fashion Discovered and Fashion Fair. Working closely with leading international law firm, Mischcon de Reya who are the proud sponsors of both galleries, we are going to be launching a competition to find brand new talent. Designers will be invited to pitch for their space in the gallery. Its going to be really exciting and add a whole new dimension to the event.
FFF: What do you consider are the fundamental qualities in order for a brand to be successful in today’s competitive fashion industry?
SF: There are so many brands competing for consumer’s attention that in order to stay ahead they need to understand their audience, the market place they are trading in and stay true to their core values. The commercial infrastructure and business model is equally important. The business should have a realistic sales target and growth strategy with the right support / team to help drive the business forward.
FFF: Would you claim that there is not enough press coverage in the industry today of non-mainstream fashion brands?
SF: I think that there are so many different magazines, newspapers and websites out there that every brand whether they are high street or designer, is able to have a constant media presence. The key is being interesting and creating an experience that journalists and consumers can engage with – that way you are constantly in front of the people who you want to advocate your brand.
FFF: Can we expect to see more brands joining Fashion Press Week in Next Seasons collection?
SF: We had such an overwhelming response to Fashion Press Week in November that we are fortunate to have already secured many of the brands that showed for May’s event. We are looking to attract new brands and are approaching some really exciting brands to come on board for AW 2011. Our first show was such a learning curve and the feedback has been so important in helping us shape the future shows. AW11 will see a different layout with a new floor plan. We have some exiting partnerships coming on board too and we look forward to announcing these shortly. We posted the Fashiontv footage up on You Tube and within a few days we had thousands of hits. We are really excited at the response from the industry and welcome any brands who want to apply.
FFF: What made you want to start your own fashion PR company?
SF: Before I graduated I was offered an incredible opportunity to work for one of the world’s largest PR agencies in New York. I was very fortunate to have been fast tracked and became an account director within 18 months. I returned to London at 24, just a few weeks after 9/11 and found it very difficult to secure a role as an AD at such a young age. I was told I was too young and this really frustrated me. I felt my only option was to go it alone which is when I launched Fearnhurst PR. I have never looked back a day since.
FFF: What has been the highlight of your career to date?
SF: There have been so many highlights. The biggest highlight was meeting Her Majesty the Queen and all the Royal Women at a reception held at Buckingham Palace for 200 women in business who had made a significant impact to industry. Being featured in Management Today’s 35 Under 35 Business Women of the Year and being recognised as PR Week’s top PR Professionals under the age of 29 was a real honour. Earlier highlights include receiving 8 industry award nominations for my work on a campaign in New York which resulted in my being invited by the Public Relations Society of America to judge their Silver Anvil Awards. Most recently the best highlight has been receiving thank you emails from the press for Fashion Press Week.
FFF: The aim of Fashion Press Week is to improve communication between the press and fashion brands. Therefore, do you feel that this is a major issue in the industry? If so, are there further ways that this can be improved?
SF: I could spend an entire day answering this question! For an industry that prides itself on trend led design and cutting edge fashion we are still working with such archaic processes.
The press are being invited to over 500 press days each season and often up to 50 in one day alone. It is an incredulous task for the press to see all the brands they want to review. Rather than rushing from one event to another they can spend a few hours at FPW leisurely reviewing the brands they want to visit all under one roof.
With more brands than ever before and with the upsurge in the digital arena, the amount of information being distributed to the press is unmanageably high. he launch of BIPO, Brand Information Platform Online is a new service that revolutionises the way press and brands communicate. BIPO is an extremely exciting launch and together with Fashion Press Week and Fearnhurst it is my commitment to the industry to work with the leading professionals to deliver products and services which will really help us in our roles as PR professionals and journalists.
Images from the Fashion Press Week 2011 GalleryFor more information on Fashion Press Week view the website.
[Questions by FiveFiveFabulous' Press Assistant, Reem Mursi]