Courtney Blackman, founder of Forward PR and Managing Director of The Industry London, chats to Shopcade about her unusual Christmas wardrobe this year, hanging out with Kate Nash and why David Gandy is a true gent…
Hi Courtney! Thank you for joining us for this Christmas Special. What’s in your Shopcade Wish List for the season?
Have a peek! @Courtney Blackman
Do you have an ‘it’ fashion item that you are planning to wear for this year’s holidays?
I’m going to Kauai for Christmas – I’ll be in bikinis, cut-offs and t-shirts with a surfboard.
What are your favourite tunes for the festive season?
Kate Nash is putting out a Christmas EP, so obviously the songs on the EP will be my favourites. I’ve also just starting representing indie band Early Morning Rebel from Los Angeles, and while their music isn’t Christmassy it is awesome and I will have it on my iPod over the holidays.
Which film puts you in the spirit of Christmas?
I love the film Bad Santa with Billy Bob Thornton – it’s hilarious. Also, Home Alone and Elf.
What would be your dream holiday destination? Would you prefer Santa’s village or someplace warm and sunny?
Anywhere around the equator! I grew up spending my winters in the British Virgin Islands and The Netherland Antilles. Sun for me please.
Dolce & Gabbana were the designers behind the famous Claridge’s Christmas tree. Who would you choose to design it and why?
Alice Palmer. She’s a knitwear master and I can’t think of anything cosier than a knit Christmas tree – but with Alice’s trademark spikes as such to make it edgy.
What type of Christmas tree would you be?
I would be a Balsam Fir Christmas tree, grown in Nova Scotia and I would be covered in lots of crystal icicle ornaments, white ribbons, white globe ornaments, tiny white fairy lights and star on top.
What is the one thing that you can’t have enough of during Christmas and what is the one thing that you absolutely can’t stand anymore?
Food! I revel in gorging on food. Christmas is permission to really go for it and I do. I could do without the non-stop Christmas advertising everywhere. It makes me feel stressed out.
OK enough of Christmas! Shall we talk business? You started Forward PR in 2004. How has the fashion scene in London changed since then?
Fashion has changed a lot and in some places not at all. We’re still on the antiquated six-month lead-time from shows to retail delivery, but I’m sure that will change soon enough. On the flipside, social media has revolutionised the way the industry interacts, especially from a PR angle. With the launch of Facebook in 2004, Twitter in 2006, Instagram and Pinterest in 2010 and the onslaught of bloggers over the years, fashion has exploded. It’s more transparent and has a larger voice than ever before. Conventional methods of PR have completely shifted. Companies across fashion from designers to photographers to retailers to magazines now have a huge opportunity for direct communication and engagement. All it takes is time… and being a clever communicator.
Can you tell us about The Industry London? What is the concept behind it?
The Industry is a members-only private networking group for fashion professionals. It was launched in order to bring together the people that form the foundation of the fashion community, as often times stylists, milliners, etc. work in solitude, so coming together at regular meetings gives people a chance to interact and create new business together. Our members span the industry from lawyers to bloggers to pattern cutters to filmmakers to manufacturers – emerging to top-level, well-known industry personalities. Our meetings are relaxed and fun and we’re currently working with London’s Condé Nast College of Fashion & Design as our venue partner.
You work with celebrities like Kate Nash and you recently hosted a talk with David Gandy. What does it feel like collaborating with all these high-profile people?
Kate Nash is honestly one of the nicest people I’ve ever encountered. Not only is she insanely talented (she writes all her own music, plays piano, guitar, bass, drums… and starred in three films in 2013), she’s so kind with her fans, she’s genuine, honest and generous. Working with someone like Kate is amazing and I feel really lucky to be a part of her team. David Gandy joined us for one of our Industry meetings, where he was interviewed by the legendary Hilary Alexander and he was very charming. He shared so much about ‘brand Gandy’, which was fascinating and he stayed on for ages accommodating every single person that wanted a photograph with him, which was a lot – a true gent
How has your work in fashion changed the way you view this exciting industry?
I love working in fashion. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and working with some of the most creative and respected people in the industry, and some of my closest friends also work in fashion (i.e. superstar fashion and celebrity stylist Rebekah Roy) – it has a tendency of melting into one’s personal life.
You were born in the US. How is London different to NYC when it comes to trends and style?
I was born in Denver and I’ve spent most of my adult life in London, with stints in Central America (Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic) and not really in NYC, but based on visits to the Big Apple (I have family in Manhattan and Brooklyn), I would say New Yorkers dress a bit safer than Londoners. Londoners aren’t afraid to look “creative” and experiment and mix colours, patterns, vintage, designer…I definitely think the way people dress in London is more fun.
Speaking of style, what is the one thing that you wouldn’t want to be seen wearing?
Revealing sandals. I have the most unattractive feet. Ever.
What kind of combinations make you cringe when you see them?
Not really anything. The way someone chooses to express themselves should be completely free and liberating.
Which strategy is best according to you: investing in some quality, yet expensive staples or spend on a lot of cheaper items for a more diverse look?
A bit of both. Having good quality investment pieces in good fabrics is really important, especially as you get older, as quality fabric, good cuts and structure are going to be far more flattering. For testing out seasonal trends, it’s nice to be able to incorporate a selection of high street finds, but I’m not a huge fan of buying too much throwaway fashion. It feels kind of irresponsible.
If you could press a button and control everyone’s taste, what would you make people wear?
Anything they wanted. I couldn’t think of anything more boring than controlling other people’s creativity.
What’s the one thing that you are waiting patiently from a fashion designer to discover/ come up with?
The perfect sandals for unattractive feet!