Photos: Tom Concordia, ELLE.com
In the pantheon of fashion, the fashion publicist is the most powerful mortal on the planet. They hold the keys that open the gates providing entrée to the gods, goddesses and titans of the runway. They are the priests and priestesses of media. Without proper tribute, your request will never reach the deities of design. Bravo’s first season of Kell on Earth shined a spotlight on the zany universe of fashion PR. There are times when Ms. Kelly Cutrone and her team appear to be fierce Medusas piercing an arrow through the heart of any ne’er–do–well who does not have the fortitude to pass the series of tests it takes to make it in this glittery/grueling industry. Truth is they are not far off the mark. It takes the will of a titan and skin as thick as a Michelin tire to be successful as a fashion publicist. A fact that Claudine Desola knows all to well. She stands at the gilded gates, a place of undisputable power, but as I have come to learn, she wields her force in a benevolent manner. “I wouldn’t say everyday is crazy, it’s pretty calm right now,” Claudine expresses, “but if you come when we’re putting an event together, everyone is running around and it looks like they have two heads. I do think you need to have thick skin but not at all points because some clients are super chill. You just have to go with the flow.”
The most important role of a PR rep is to make a client desirable enough that a demand is created, which can also be interpreted as sell…sell…sell. Fashion publicists look as if they lead a chic, glamorous life, but there is a lot of elbow grease behind all the shimmer. To succeed at the business of public relations, one must have desire. “I think it is important to know if you really want to do it or not. It takes a certain type of person I think to be in PR because you have to be outgoing. You can be an introvert but you have to be sort of an extrovert too,” Claudine explains, “You’re essentially a sales person. Do you want be in sales? If the answer is no, then you don’t want to be in PR. You are selling something whether it’s a person, event or a product. Before you have the skills, you need to have the attitude. That is fifty percent of what we do here.”
Claudine entered Marist College as a Communications major with a concentration in PR and Marketing and a minor in Fashion Merchandising. While attending classes, she interned at JCrew, WWD and Pfizer Inc. Soon after graduating with a B.A., Claudine received a phenomenal opportunity to work at Yeohlee Inc. For three years Claudine carefully honed her skills working alongside one of the immortals of innovation. As the public relations director/global sales account executive, she oversaw all press aspects of the 7th on Sixth Bryant Park shows, special events, trunk shows and exhibitions. She was also part of the organizational team for ENERGETICS: Clothes and Enclosures, an international exhibition that combined the disciplines of fashion with architect Dr. Kenneth Yeang and designer Yeohlee Teng. “That was a great experience because I did everything. [Yeohlee] gets amazing inspiration from architecture [and] artists. She is very intelligent, besides being talented; it’s almost to the point where you feel silly talking to her so you take notes and look it up later,” Claudine recalls jokingly.
No one forgets their first time, for Claudine the first show she helped to organize came with a dose of anxiety. “For the first five years of my career, especially at Yeohlee, I always got nervous, like freak-out nervous,” she says. But over time this seasoned pro has learned to brush the nerves off her shoulders. “I’m much calmer now. We just did a show with Kim Kardashian and we did a show with Pete Wentz and Khloe Kardashian. We’ve gotten to work with some really amazing people so now there’s like a formula, if you do all the legwork you need to do, you’re organized, troubleshoot and if you’re encountering a problem, you let the client know sooner rather than later, there is no reason to be nervous,” Claudine adds.
Since THINK PR opened its doors, Claudine, Reshma and staff have worked with DKNY Jeans, STYLELOUNGE, Rock & Republic, Too Faced Cosmetics, ArgyleCulture by Russell Simmons, Bensimon, EMU Australia and The Humane Society of the United States. “A lot of what we do is thinking about how we are going to position someone, like this isn’t just a pen,” Claudine explains, “what can we say about this pen? All of our clients have something so interesting about them, so the first step is for us to think about it; the second step is to get the editors to think about it.” Other services offered at THINK PR are celebrity wardrobing for red carpet events, premiers and appearances as well as product placement.
Thinking outside of the box is not just a phrase for Claudine, it is a lifestyle. In June 2005, Claudine launched Caravan; a refurbished RV converted into a clothing store on wheels. The Caravan RV could be seen in densely populated areas in the city such as the West Village and the Meatpacking District creating a phenomenon. In 2006, Caravan opened its first store in NoHo totally revamping the shopping experience by combining the elements of a cool lounge setting and a retail store, and in 2007, Caravan expanded opening an appointment only boutique in the Carnegie Hill area. With Caravan, Claudine has met with numerous celebrities such as Ashlee Simpson, Chevy Chase, Eva Mendes, Gabrielle Union, Miley Cyrus, Sophia Bush, Penelope Cruz and Christy Turlington and dressed them in peices from the store.
Music is an essential component in fashion. Designers use music to create the best aural effect and the music played in retail stores can transform a shopping experience. Constantly searching for ways to expand her creative horizons, Claudine has started to dabble in world of DJing. “It really is an art form,” Claudine says, ”cause you look at a really good DJ and they’re just doing amazing things up there. But I guess it goes back to fashion, there are all these fashion houses that are all about music for their runway. And it is a way to learn more about music.” Merging the two worlds together Claudine interviewed 20 designers and asked about the songs they were listening to when designing their collection and on the day of their shows, their answers ended up becoming a mix that Claudine used at her first DJing gig.
To excel at DJing one must have the same inner abilities as a fashion publicist. Desire, the ability to sale yourself, an extroverted personality and a deep knowledge about your craft are essentials. DJs spend hours “digging in the crates” and downloading music to create an experience that is heard in the audience’s ears and expressed in their feet. There is more to DJing than playing music; being able to lay a set down using vinyl, looping, blending, knowing when to drop the beat and let the song go are what make legendary DJs great. “I use turntables. I’m trying to do it the right way so it’s not just on the IPod,” Claudine states. Just recently Claudine prepared a spring 2010 mix for Beba’s preview. During fashion week she djed at Capitale. The event attracted musical celebrities such as Fabolous, Charles Hamilton, Josh Madden and Pras Michel. On May 8th she will be DJing at Joonbug.com’s and FashionIndie.com’s Prom 2010.
With all Claudine’s achievements, she could rest easily at the threshold of fashion taking her place amongst its divine. But for Claudine the journey to make sure the creative voices of the world are heard is one that continues. “The one thing I love to do is to get more people to be inspired and come up with more creative ways to show creativity,” Claudine reveals, “You can have a creative idea, but you also have to figure out a way to present your idea. I meet a lot of creative people, with good ideas that want to work with us so I also want to find ways to be more creative with my time too. I have a lot of creative friends. I have some friends that have lost their jobs and have been out of work for more than a year and they have brains of steel. My goal is to raise enough capital here so I can figure out a way to put a creative team together because I think you’re better when you’re inspired, you do a better job.”
Dresses designed by Claudine
To learn more about THINK PR, visit www.thinkpublicrelations.com.
To learn more about Claudine’s DJing endeavors or Prom 2010, visit http://caravangirl.com/.
Photos provided by Claudine Desola