Those outside the tight-knit fashion PR community might be familiar with Paul Wilmot, who sold his firm to Omnicom's Fleishman-Hillard; HL-Group, which got snatched up by MDC; or People's Revolution owner Kelly Cutrone, who through reality TV demystified the frantic nature of fashion-show seating and swag-labeling.
But inside the sartorial bubble live some highly influential shops unfamiliar to those outside the industry. Despite their insular existence, they're responsible for a majority of the runway shows and presentations that make Fashion Week, which kicks off on Feb. 9, possible for clients, buyers, media and an insatiable pop culture. Here we look at three of them.
Pierre Rougier, founder of PR Consulting, forged his first connections as communications director of Japanese clothing manufacturer Onward Kashiyama. His early client roster featured Helmut Lang, a then up-and-coming Narciso Rodriguez and his former employer. But arguably his biggest break came not from working with a cutting-edge designer but from one of the most mainstream marketers out there: Procter & Gamble.
Mr. Rougier had been busily building his practice -- he spent 18 months doing PR out of a cramped one-bedroom apartment -- when P&G came knocking. He was initially hired to support the U.S. launch of Vidal Sassoon but the project eventually grew into P&G's entire prestige-beauty portfolio (Gucci, D&G, celebrity fragrances, etc.), and "shaped the way the company should grow," said. As Sylvie Picquet-Damesme, who joined Mr. Rougier's practice as partner in 1999, puts it, "It gave us the corporate vision. We didn't have it. When it's P&G you can't just say, 'We want to do this because I feel it.' It forced us to get that kind of thinking."
Soon after, the firm went low-end but high-style, supporting the launch of H&M in the U.S. in 2000 and riding the wave of accessible fashion. Soon it was applying what it had learned with H&M and P&G to clients such as Vera Wang. "It was an awakening that Vera Wang -- which is obviously a household name and custom bridal -- could offer a service of that level of runway and high-fashion [while also designing for] David's Bridal, Kohl's and Men's Wearhouse," Ms. Picquet-Damesme said.
In 2004, PR Consulting launched a lifestyle division with clients Thomas Keller and The Morgans Hotel Group. "Business was good," said Mr. Rougier. The U.S. had become a bigger player in the international fashion scene and fashion brands were doing more events and marketing around Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. Around that time, the firm also hired Stephanie Cangiano Milia from L'Oreal to run the beauty business and bring a more corporate sensibility to the firm.
Though the agency is less dependent on high-end fashion, with clients such as Joe Fresh, Mr. Rougier said that hasn't eroded its edge -- or its roster. What's next? A deeper dive into digital and expansion in the U.S. "It's a trend to open everywhere, but we'd rather grow here," said Mr. Rougier.