Friday, July 22, 2011

BLACKLOG EDITORIAL #16: Mother & Father PR designers by Thom Kerr

Roxanna Zamani
After attending the past two Australian Fashion Weeks we have been struck by the groundswell of interesting young Aussie designers who quite simply think outside the sartorial square. Romance Was Born have had a lot to do with the development of a new Down Under fashion ethic where there are no rules, only ideas. One company that has captured this zeitgeist rather well is Sydney-based PR company Mother & Father PR. Helmed by Matt Jordan and Candice Wyman, Mother & Father represent labels like St Augustine Academy, Elliot Ward-Fear, kiwi designer Roxanna Zamani, Perth high flyer Jaime Lee, Ms Couture Lingerie, An Ode To No One and more. Long time Black contributor Thom Kerr beautifully captures some of the company's labels on model Lou Lou from London Management, in glorious balck & white at The Compound, Chippendale. Hair & make-up by Jovita Lee all ably assisted by Tegan Bates. Thom also found time to interview the pair about their shared background in retail, the digital landscape and why swearing is not a problem.

Elliot Ward-Fear

Thom Kerr: Where did the name Mother&Father PR come from?
Candice Wyman: As cornball as it sounds, we wanted a PR agency that was warm and friendly and could treat clients like family. And what’s warmer and friendlier than your parents? Well, mine are anyway...

TK: How did you both first get involved in PR? What was your background?
CW: I used to work full time at Sportsgirl and part of my job was to deal with all of the ACP mag girls who would borrow pieces from the store. Retail sucked arse, and I used to think how much I didn’t want to work on the shop floor, and how cool fashion magazines were. So I enrolled at FBI Fashion College and not long after got work experience at Spin Communications. This was back when the Spin showroom was cool, and we looked after young designers like Romance Was Born – we actually had their very first collection, I remember it was full of like, eyeball dresses and was just so fucking unlike anything else! Anyway worked at Spin for a few years, and then worked at an amazing agency called One Green Bean for awhile, doing PR for a big international denim brand. Spin gave me my love of emerging designers, and One Green Bean gave me the knowledge to deal with big brands.

Ms Couture Lingerie, shoes by
Cassandra Scott-Finn 4 Roxanna Zamani

Matt Jordan: Like Candice I started my career in fashion as a shop girl, after 12months I was asked to move to Melbourne and join the company’s Buying Studio as an Assistant Buyer. There I was taught the science of fashion footwear buying and eventually worked my way into a senior buying position. After leaving that company I worked for a number of other companies as a buyer before joining Dunlop Footwear as the Product Development and Marketing Marketing Manager. I consider the four years I spent at Dunlop as the most enjoyable and rewarding of my life (apart from Mother&Father). We were a small team of misfits and oddballs, none of whom fitted in with or liked the corporate culture of Pacific Brands (Dunlop’s parent company). During my tenure I relaunched the iconic Dunlop Volley – my proudest accomplishment – and oversaw the relaunch of Dunlop Sporting Footwear.
Social media was a key tool in the Volley relaunch and this was back when MySpace was considered the vanguard of social times have changed. A lot of people including the Advertising and PR agencies we engaged couldn’t see the bigger picture and consequently the vast majority of my annual advertising budgets were spent on above-the-line activity like print and TVC. However I managed to squirrel away a small amount for below-the-line social media campaigns. These campaigns, coupled with a revamped product offering and an aggressive PR campaign became the cornerstone of the Volley relaunch. From this experience I realised that no one was specializing in social/digital media PR and so Mother&Father PR Beta 1.0 was launched.

An Ode To No One, jewellery by Katzi

TK: At what point did you both decide to start Mother & Father PR?
CW: Matt and I were both a bit lost around the time of Fashion Week last year, I’d left One Green Bean and had just coordinated Saint Augustine Academy’s first solo show. Anyway, we went out on the booze one night, and had the brainwave of starting our own agency. I have to credit Matt for making it happen, cos I’d perhaps thought it was just the Gaslight wine talking. But we actually did it!

TK: What is the ethos behind the brands you represent?
CW: All of our brands are independent and they have worked hard to get their label to the position it’s in – even if that position is having one amazing collection and no stockists. They should all be proud of themselves.

Jaime Lee

TK: What separates Mother&Father PR from other PR agencies in Sydney?
CW: We are pretty much ‘no bullshit’ - that makes us sound like Gordon Ramsay or something, but were both pretty sarcastic and like to swear a lot, so may be a good fit?

TK: What do you believe is the importance of digital media is in the PR world?
CW: Digital media is just as important as print these days. We know this, and have for a while now – however sometimes clients need convincing that a clipping on a website with 500,000 unique browers kicks the arse of a print page that sells about 20,000 copies.
St Augustine Academy, jewellery by Katzi,
heels by Arlecena
MJ: Coming from a digital media background (making my opinions totally I would argue that digital media is more important (to new designers) than print. Establishing your brand presence solely via print can take most new designers up to 18 months, if not longer. Yet with digital media there’s the potential to reach a global audience in a matter of days. However fashion is subjective and the interweb can be a razor sharp sword that cuts both ways. What in one blogger/editor’s opinion could be the greatest collection ever, may be in another blogger/editors opinion a steaming pile of student pretension and trust me, the comments attached to those types of blog posts will be brutal.
Either way, the old adage ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity’ still applies. Providing your work is being discussed, it’s a win-win situation.

St Augustine Academy
TK: What kind of relationship do you have with your brands?
CW: An honest and open one, we hope. If there’s a problem on either side, we deal with it straight away. We want them to succeed, and we care about things that aren’t always related to PR services. If they come to us with personal worries, we may not be able to help, but we will always listen. And we like to assign our clients to family member roles – i.e we have a moody adolescent son, our baby who gets spoiled, the responsible older daughter, the hippie runaways and the eccentric adoptee. Depending on the day, there’s always a favourite!

TK: What advice do you have for new designers in the market?
CW: Have a business plan, for the love of God!! And be patient. And have rich parents.

TK: What keeps you motivated through the tough moments?
CW: Remembering that we work for ourselves, and no matter how shit our day is, we can always just take our laptop and work from home if you feel a sulk coming on!

TK: Where do you see the brand in five years time?
CW & MJ: Definitely not with our own reality show. How boring would that be? It would just be an hour of us talking, typing on our laptops, putting clothes in bags....and account keeping.

Matt and Candice