What does it take to make it in the cutthroat business of fashion PR? Holly Garber, founder of Golightly PR, Australia’s most high profile and successful communications agency, talks Step Up through start-ups, strategy and securing a name on the New York Fashion Week schedule.
A day in the life of Holly Garber is… Pretty enjoyable most of the time! It starts and ends with my daughter Violet and in the middle I'm at work getting through as much as possible as efficiently as possible. I work four days a week so I have to be focused when I'm there. PR is inherently stressful but over the past few years I've worked on changing my mindset so that I'm better equipped to deal with the busy, stressful times and don't find them as intense. As the business got older, and I got older, I decided that I simply didn't want to feel so wound up all the time. I stopped drinking coffee (I was drinking three a day - too much), stopped drinking as much alcohol and most importantly, I learnt to meditate. The meditation was great, it helped shift my perspective and focus to become a little more balanced and quite simply, it made me feel happy. Now I really try to make sure that I look after myself; I also have regular Myofascial Release massages, which relax contracted muscles and improve blood and lymphatic circulation. I’m a nicer, more productive person when I’m in good shape.
Is PR a strategy game? Simply put, yes. One of my favourite things about what I do is working closely with a brand in order for them to develop their business. For that reason I only like to work with brands that I feel I understand, both in terms of the product and the people behind the name. We took on Dion Lee, now one of Australia's biggest fashion names, before he’d even staged his first catwalk show. That took place in a park in 2009. Six years later, and Dion is showing at New York Fashion Week. It has been thrilling to be part of that progression.
What is on your desk today? Very little, I try to keep my work contained to my MacBook Air, iPhone and notebook. Being tidy helps to make me feel organized and keeps my head clear.
Work life balance, is it the holy grail? Having my own business allows for flexibility in how I spend my time and also means I can structure my business to fit in with how I wish to live my life. Having my daughter has really crystallized that for me. My boyfriend and I try to make sure that we keep our lives manageable and that we allow for lots of time spent together enjoying our family life.
Being the boss, how would you describe your client-side role? I see my role as being very consultative. I'm strong in my opinions and I have a very clear point of view on what I think is right for a brand. Having said that, I'm open to being convinced otherwise if someone is able to argue me round. Plus, the fashion game is always moving and changing so I have to be flexible. I like to ask a lot of questions, really understand what the person or the brand is trying to achieve and if I agree then we'll put together a strategy to achieve those goals or if I don't agree that their objectives are right for the brand then I'll open a discussion around that. As an agency, I see our role as both a challenger and a supporter of brands. I'm not a Yes person, that doesn't help anyone. But I'm also here to support these people and help them succeed, so it's not about being a total dream-crusher either. Golightly PR done a lot of work that I'm proud of; if I had to pull out three highlights I'd say launching ASOS in Australia in 2011, Dion Lee's first show at the Sydney Opera House and Lover's ten year anniversary show. Each was significant game-changer moments for my company and myself personally.