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Mary Katrantzou on left | image by Ian Morales Mary Katrantzou on left | image by Ian Morales

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Relative | MO: Paris and London’s super agency

Thursday, Dec 16, 2010, 9:52 AM



If you had a dream wardrobe, it would probably look like RelativeMO’s showroom in London. The fashion PR agency is rated one of the top five most influential agencies in Europe, with a client list that reads like a Who’s Who in emerging designer talent: Mary Katrantzou, Louise Goldin, Erdem (womenswear); Nicholas Kirkwood, Raphael Young (shoes); Florian Denicourt (handbags) and Dominic Jones (jewellery). What more could a fashionista possibly wish for? Well, there is also John Galliano.

Formed on January 1, 2009 by a merger between Relative PR in London and MO Communications in Paris, the two respected PR agencies were brought together by the fashion and lifestyle marketing group Saturday to create a “super agency.” Saturday owned Relative PR at the time, and acquired a majority stake in MO Communications to facilitate the merger.

RelativeMO is now jointly managed by the founders of the two agencies, with Justine Fairgrieve, the founder of Relative PR, heading the company as CEO. From her office in Shoreditch, East London, she works alongside her French counterparts, MO co-founders Mesh Chibber and Olivier Bourgis, situated in Paris.

"We have known Mesh and Olivier for a very long time and have always wanted to work with them. We are beyond excited about expanding the brand of RelativeMO together with Justine, Mesh and Olivier into both new areas of the business and internationally," said Saturday’s chairman Jens Grede.

The aim of the merger for the London and Paris offices is to increase the profile of their clients in international markets. “We felt that to grow the business over the long-term we needed a partner,” Chibber told Women’s Wear Daily. Relative and Saturday were attracted to the partnership by the prospect of maximising public awareness of their London-based designers in the most important fashion capital of all, Paris.

Almost two years after the takeover, both offices still maintain separate client lists, with Fairgrieve representing many of the clients that were on her books before the merger. She maintains control over the strategising of intelligent campaigns for each of her London-based clients, while Chibber and Bourgis oversee strategy tailored for their Paris clients.

The benefits of the cross-channel venture lie in that each office is able to offer the other specialist insider knowledge of their regional market. This enables a London-based client like Fairgrieve’s new signing, Australian designer Dion Lee, to be promoted in France, while a Paris office client like footwear designer Gianvito Rossi (son of Sergio Rossi) is introduced to influential editors and buyers in London. The parent company Saturday plan further expansion of the RelativeMO brand to other countries, with rumours of an office to be opened in New York in the near future.

RelativeMO handles consultancy, media coverage, celebrity placement and sales for its designers and lifestyle clients, which includes securing marketing opportunities, license negotiations and brand partnerships. Each of the managing partners has developed valued long-standing relationships with key journalists, sponsors and fashion retailers in their region to ensure their clients receive the right exposure in targeted influential publications. The company relies on successful media exposure and brand partnerships to generate revenue for the designer.

The agency has made great strides with new emerging talent since the merger. However, in such a competitive industry, the fusion may not have been enough to keep its two biggest London-based talents: Julien MacDonald is now represented by Starworks, and Christopher Kane has defected to The Communication Store.

One of the most important platforms for revenue is fashion week. While interns from the agency police the guest list at catwalk shows, arrange seating plans and attend celebrity parties, the sales division of the company come with little expectation of glamour. The RelativeMO sales team host a biannual showroom in each of the four big cities: New York, London, Milan and Paris. The company also has permanent showrooms at the London and Paris offices.

Each member of the management team has a least ten years fashion PR experience. Before establishing MO Communications, Chibber was director of public relations for John Galliano, where Bourgis also held a senior communications position. Chibber and Bourgis went on to work for Stella McCartney, before defecting to start their own company in 2003; their mission was to achieve a global outreach to challenge industry leaders like New York’s KCD.

Fairgrieve answered her calling while working in a small designer boutique on South Molton Street in London. "I was 29 and just had to do something for myself. I met Sophia Kokosalaki through a stylist friend of mine from college, told her I was setting up my own PR company and asked her to be my first client,” Fairgrieve told Elle. “I was a one-man band at the time. I remember at her first show at London Fashion Week, the stylist walked in and I was on my hands and knees scrubbing the floors.”

Ian Morales | TribaSpace

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