Brenda’s Business with LUCIEN PAGES
A text conversation between industry people during fashion week in Paris will often go as follows, "Will try to stop by tonight. Who's doing the PR?" Seven out of ten times the answer is "LP."
LP stands for Lucien Pages, which is both a person and an agency with a roster of clients from Schiaparelli, Loewe, and Pucci to Courrèges, Peter Do, Y/Project, Sacai and 032c Readytowear. This inventory also includes luxury hotels, magazines, as well as beauty. The agency has locations in Paris and New York and is responsible for putting brands on the map, fashion accelerations including Jacquemus' growth, the Coperni x Bella Hadid spray paint moment, and Doja Cat covered in red rhinestones, among others. This summer, it seemed that if you wanted to be on the outfit lineup of Beyonce's renaissance tour, you had to be a Lucien Pages client. I met Lucien for lunch at Chateau Voltaire during his four-day-"break" between men's and couture. He was 20 minutes early.
BRENDA WEISCHER: We're going to mostly skip your success story in this interview and just talk about the present. People can read your BoF 500 excerpt for that. For those who don't understand what you do, how would you explain your role in the industry?
LUCIEN PAGES: Put simply, my job is to represent people. It can be a brand, designer, or an entity like a museum or hotel. I represent them, try to raise awareness, advise on image positioning—but it's all mostly in the communication field.
BW: Do you think it's more beneficial for a young brand to have an agency or one in-house person?
LP: There are no rules anymore. There are new brands, for example, that are born into Instagram and already have a community. When they need to elevate later on, an agency is the next step. But young brands that start the classical way need PR to do a show.
BW: How do you curate a crowd for a show?
LP: We evaluate the needs of the brand first. Is the need to create awareness? Sales? At the beginning you cannot be so picky. When you get known that's when you get more precise. There is always a core group—the press you invite to every show. But after that it's up to the brand.
BW: I feel like there has never been such a huge focus on numbers. It's all about Media Impact Value and KPIs (Key-Performance-Indicators).
LP: I'm not personally a fan of KPIs.
BW: That's surprising from someone in your position.
LP: I think when you only push numbers, you start to make mistakes. Those numbers are mostly fake, which means that we are basing our communication strategies on fake numbers. You cannot tell me that "there was all this influence that has a lot of following at a show" actually means anything.
BW: Okay, but what is a good KPl?
BW: Who measures all of these things at LP?
LP: In Paris? There is 50 people in the office. We have PR managers and assistants from every field: fashion, beauty, VIP and lifestyle. They do the reporting. But they do not sit at a computer and calculate themselves. There are programs with formulas, which costs quite a lot of money.
BW: Do you know how many shows you do a season? Even though the seasons technically don't have a clear end or beginning anymore with so many added off schedule events.
LP: I calculated 55 shows from January to March, including F-W-2023 men's, women's, and couture. This excludes presentations, events, dinners, and parties. I try to go to each of my shows, but you won't see me at any after parties.
BW: That's true, now that I think about it. That's a good segue into my next question about visibility. A lot of your competitors are stuck on the old ways of staying behind the scenes. However, you are a very recognizable face.
LP: Yes. It's important to say that I chose that. Not because I was dying to show myself. I've told this story before, but it's important. When Sarah [Andelman] asked me to do a curation for Colette before she closed the store, I hesitated at first. Because this is not my job, I should be in the background. I remember that I took the weekend to think about it. On Monday I felt like. "Ok, let's do it." It was a turning point for me because for the first time, I had to do press about myself and expose myself personally.
BW: Looking back, it was perhaps unusual for a PR, but you were ahead of your time. From my perspective your core team is also very visible today. They're all characters and have their own relationships with the people they work with. And they are approachable, which is not typical for PR people.
LP: All characters are unique. Jonathan is very unique. Romain is very unique. They are not like robots. They are people and have an opinion, and I'm happy with that. I cannot have this big company and do it all alone. I already do so much alone. People need to be happy to see my team and not only happy to see me. I already got my validation. Sometimes celebrities see the name tag Lucien Pages in their sample clothes or invites and think I am 90 years old or no longer alive. I will hear, "Oh, he's still working?"
BW: [Laughs]. What's important to your clients right now?
BW: Reviews? Celebrities? TikTokers? What's your main deliverable in this moment.
LP: The clients want everything. It's 360 degrees. A review, the Instagram, the KPI, the elevation, the viral moment, another review, and a smart review.
BW: I was wondering if a lot of your work now is also crisis management? Since fashion has become obsessed with scandals over the last years. Are you prepared for everything?
BW: If something happens who delivers the bad news to you?
LP: The designer personally, the CEO, or the head of communications of a brand will reach me. I would say I am not a specialist in crisis management, but I am doing communication in a world in crisis.
BW: What a perfect quote.
LP: I have to do it, but I don't have all the tools. There are people who are specialists, and they have the tools. I'm just trying to think with honesty and understand what the audience is looking for. In every scandal the audience needs something. Do they need an apology? Is it clarification? Is it both? The best is being honest. You cannot bullshit. I know that a lot of the time, crisis management is trying to bullshit. Sometimes you cannot say the truth for many reasons.
BW: I agree from a moral standpoint. I think the audience today wants more than only an apology. Is it better to sometimes completely ignore a scandal from a PR standpoint?
LP: It depends on the source of the problem. If the source is not a big problem, for example, it's a scandal but nobody was hurt, an answer only feeds the monster. But when there is real mistake, you have to acknowledge, apologize, and propose solutions. In my work, my first step is to be calm. The designer and the house are emotional. They will perceive things as unfair. A scandal is never one singular event. It's mostly a sequence of events that lead to a scandal. Something happened, someone found out, that someone doesn't treat the problem and ignores it. Then it becomes a galaxy of problems, which will eventually bring a crash. I need to analyze the sequence of events to see where we can act and where we can't.
BW: I'm guessing the most stressful scandals are the ones you can't talk about publicly.
LP: I will write about them in my memoir.
BW: I feel like scandals have also become a commodity. People use it for the wrong reasons as a way to create buzz.
LP: Yes, but it's not long-lasting. You're running behind if you create this. Everybody is tired.
BW: On to more fun topics. A lot of young people will read this eager to find out how you request show invites. Where do you start?
LP: Not in my personal DMs. If we could pass the message here, I'm not personally doing the guest lists. There is an official email contact for the agency, and it's not a dead-end contact.
BW: How do I write a good request email that's not embarrassing? Should I lie or be honest about myself? Does it need 50 paragraphs?
LP: I love passionate people because I used to be the same. You know what I was doing when I was young? Since I'm old now, almost dead.
In my village in France—there was no internet in the early 90s—the only time for me to see the latest fashion shows was on TV—for only three minutes after the news. I taped all of them on VHS tapes. I still have all of them. But I wanted to see the full show with the music and everything. So, I went to the payphone, because I didn't want my parents to know about this, and called the brands' phone numbers I found in the yellow pages. I asked them if I can get the videos. Of course, they all said no.
If someone comes to me with this passion, I will try to help them. I also want people to understand that I work for the brands, not the other way around. It's not my show. Otherwise I would love to invite my friends, cousins, and my mother. People have to understand that I'm not in full power everywhere.
BW: Ten years ago, no one would have had the opportunity to reach you directly.
LP: Today everybody sees everything, and we are at the heart of everything that matters—the communication. Brands now see their editorials before we do because they are tagged.
BW: With this job having become so all-encompassing, I'm assuming that your rates have also increased?
LP: Actually, no. Rates are the same. We are cheap if you compare it to hiring one person in-house to do your communication. I would say the one fee you pay for ten people who are available to you at an agency is close to hiring one person yourself. Sometimes it can be frustrating when we contribute to success and still have the same fee that we had ten years ago. We could all be richer in other industries, but we are here because want to be here.
BW: What would you advise to the brands who can't afford your rates to focus on?
LP: I would focus on organic growth. It sounds obvious, but the communication and the business have to go hand in hand. Imagine the number of clothes you have to sell to afford a show from 100,000 to 1,000,000. It's not the PR that costs the most. Sometimes a show makes you accelerate, however, you have to be smart about it. Nowadays, renting the spaces for the shows is a minimum of 30,000-50,000 a day. Then you have to rent it for two days to build the set the day before. And the next season comes around fast, so you have to be prepared to do it again in six months. If you don't follow the regularity, you disappear. The seasons will not stop.