The fashion industry is under pressure. Traditional bricks and mortar retailing is dead – a demise brought about by savvy, Internet using customers. The continuing online pressures are transforming old ways, and the experts predict that’s going to mean further fallout.
If you were considering entering an industry, even if it were to do something as seemingly peripheral to the main stage of that business as public relations (PR), what in the above scenario would lure you to the fashion industry?
Hindsight is a wonderful thing but not something Holly Garber had in 2005 when she began her fashion public relations business, Golightly PR (and yes the name comes with a story) with six clients.
No one, not even this financially literate, entrepreneurial, Gen-Y-31-year-old, could have predicted the shake-up retail and fashion are going through now. However, with clients numbering 19 and covering everything from the UK’s largest online-only fashion and beauty store, ASOS.com, to jean giant Wrangler via Sportsgirl, Thurley, Dion Lee and LifewithBird, Golightly PR looks set to weather the storm better than most.
“The fashion industry is changing globally and that will affect us all in the long run,” says Holly, matter-of-factly. “My role is to determine what that change and transformation looks like and, in turn, determine what that means for my business.”
She has a few hypotheses, mostly revolving around her feeling that the mid-level of fashion is being squeezed out of the business by the pressures of rapid production and the sky rocketing costs associated with quick turnarounds.
PR, she also says, can no longer work to the old rules of creating stories in advance, timing their placement and charting the outcomes that follow. Instead, “it’s about constantly creating news and feeding information into the sites people use for research and to find out what they want to know. How we do that effectively and get results, and how we measure those results, these are the issues in the back of our minds as we grapple with the changes.”
Smart, sensible and articulate, Holly doesn’t see herself as incredibly financially astute just careful and interested. Her mother, Jenny Garber, is in awe of her daughter’s financial independence as well as extremely pleased that what she had to say about being independent and financially aware has made the impression it has on Holly.
The two women appear to be classic examples of their generational cohorts and yet, in sharing something genetic, have bridged the gap in places.
Jenny, whose had an ongoing career in PR and is now a Director of Inforum Group, is a Baby Boomer whose biggest regret is that she was not more “financially wise or literate” when she was younger. Holly is preoccupied with saving and budgeting without being a “cheapskate”, works to live rather than living to work and is aware that any ‘partner’ in her life would have to be equal on every level: financially stable, independent, interested in family and in no way under the misapprehension he’ll be providing for her.
“If someone I was seeing thought they were going to be my Prince Charming then we’d be having a serious look at us, because there’d be a major connection missing here,” says Holly, indicating to herself with her hand and laughing wryly.
As for her mother, who’s never had a PC complex and has, like her daughter, always remained debt free, she wishes (along with most of the Baby Boomer population) she’d looked into superannuation sooner and for longer.
“I’ve put myself on the five-year plan to begin with. It’s a strategy I’ve developed with my financial advisor to build my wealth quickly and appropriately,” says Jenny, who admits she’ll be working like a dog.
One afternoon just after the lunch rush, with the sun out and the rain that’s plagued a whole Sydney summer some other place for once, Holly Garber arrives at our pre-designated meeting spot ready to chat about work and life. Her hand out-stretched in greeting (we’ve not met before), there’s no mistaking who she is: a dark haired, olive skinned version of her mother with the same deep toned inflexions to her speech.
“My passion is fashion,” confesses Holly. “I do PR because I want to work in fashion and that was where I saw my fit. I love looking at a brand and thinking, when the designer and the marketing guys talk to me about the message they want to get out: ‘Cool, well this is what that message is going to look like and this is the journey we’re going on to get it there’.”
Having done Economics at university, Holly says her choice of degree was driven by ego (“I had the marks”), rather than careful thought, the Arts subjects (Philosophy and English) were where her heart lay.
“I’ve always been interested but not at a deeply mathematic level in the concepts of business. I enjoy the ideas behind it around marketing and brand building,” Holly says, explaining her own reasons for beginning a business when she was 24.
Suited, she says, to self-employment rather than being an employee, she admits she wanted the autonomy and the ability to make decisions and act on them, to direct and plan her own future: “I never played games as a child. I always found other people too slow at taking their turn. To be passionate about what I’m doing and who I’m working with, to know what conditions of freedom I can create for myself, how much balance there is in my life – other than my car, that’s what drives me to work in the morning.”
As for the future and her full time staff of five: her business vision’s jumped a notch or two.
“To maximize the potential,” she explains, “has meant bringing in a business manager to work with me in a more formal way. I don’t consider myself incredibly financially astute but when I talk to my friends I find I know more than they do and certainly the company’s working. I think my knowledge comes from having learned to ask questions. I couldn’t afford to sign on the bottom line and not know what was going on above it.”
And if you’re still wondering from where the Golightly name sprang: think Audrey Hepburn, fashion, icons, and a young women daydreaming about answering the phone, “Golightly PR, Holly speaking.”
Some things can bridge any generation gap.