Girl Friday: Janessa Anderson, Fashion Publicist
Photography by: Brianna Daley
You may recognize Janessa Anderson from her ongoing contributions to our style section, sharing monthly Trend Report picks to keep you looking chic every day and in the workplace. In her daily life, she manages the women’s collection for Tommy Hilfiger, overseeing their press placements nationwide. Janessa’s job description intrigued me as an indicator of what many professional jobs look like these days: a mix of creativity, technology and business. Newsstands and webpages often bombard us with the glamorous sides of fashion and entertainment, but we rarely get a peek behind the curtain at the creative professionals who make the magic happen. Janessa was kind enough to lift the curtain so we could get a glimpse at the flip-side of fashion.
Did you always know you were going to work in fashion?
Fashion was always something I felt strongly about. As a child there were times I would refuse to put on clothes I didn’t want to wear, and would then cry naked in protest until I could chose my own outfit. I was very critical. I once told my friend that yellow and white didn’t match; I would hold pieces of the same color fabric next to each other to verify the exact shades. If they were off, they were never, ever, worn together. I was, and still am, obsessed with shoes and shopped with my mom every chance I got, mostly because she wanted my input on what looked good on her and I told her–the truth!
But my dream, ever since I can remember, was to study at SAB [School of American Ballet] to be a Principle Dancer with NYCB [New York City Ballet]. I studied ballet for much of my life and naturally assumed that would end up being my career. Although devastating when that dream died it was a no brainer to go to fashion school to get the other ball rolling. One thing led to a thousand different things. That’s the short version.
Your specialization is Fashion Public Relations. What does a ‘day in the life’ look like for you?
Well, no two days are really ever the same. I am not a morning person, so getting out of bed is really the first hurdle. Most days my man’s got the coffee ready which helps soften that blow. I typically wake up to a plethora of emails from my international counterparts, which I quickly scan for potential calamities, then shower, get dressed, and fight my way to the office. More coffee. Read WWD [Women’s Wear Daily, a fashion trade publication].
Then I make sure pieces of the collection get to/come back from whichever publications were/will be shooting. I filter through incoming samples requests, provide media credit information, and update rolling documents and ongoing reports.
Twice a year, I am glued to Style.com for a month watching all the new season’s collections walk from New York, London, Milan and Paris. Luckily, I am responsible for the global trend report, so it’s actually considered work.
We always seem to have a few extra initiatives, store openings, trunk shows, capsule collections or collaborations in the works which require copious amounts of pitching and follow up, always in two rounds: long and short lead, so part of my day is spent on heavy outreach.
Then depending on the day of the week, I’ll either have a small women’s team meeting [with the Tommy Hilfiger Women’s Collection Team] with my manager and assistant, or an all-encompassing PR catch up/strategy/brainstorm session with the [Tommy Hilfiger’s] men’s team and our head of PR, or a larger department meeting with our Corporate Communications team, Marketing team and SVP, ensuring we’re all on the same page for the Americas and Canada. We also fit in regular conference calls with the global team which are happening weekly now as fashion week is fast-approaching. If I’m lucky, I’m out around 6pm and am either headed out to industry events, editor dinners, drinks with friends, The Drunken Horse for Sancerre and cheese with my co-worker Allie, or home for dinner with my darling boys: Chris [my boyfriend] and Charlie [my dog]. Then bed. Wake up. Repeat.
What excites you about fashion today?
Everything. Particularly in this moment I am counting down the seconds until the Isabelle Marant for H&M and Philip Lim for Target collection debut. I’m like a little kid who still believes in Santa, waiting for Christmas. Hurry up already!
Twice a year, I am glued to Style.com for a month watching all the new season’s collections walk from New York, London, Milan and Paris. Luckily I am responsible for the global trend report, so it’s actually considered work. Due to the fact that we don’t show [Tommy Hilfiger’s] pre-fall line or have couture collections, I watch most of those at home.
The House of Balenciaga has had my heart for what feels like a lifetime. Every report I had to do in school [at FIDM] was either on Cristobal himself or Nicolas Ghesquiere. It has been quite a love affair, so you can imagine the overwhelming excitement when news broke of my favorite designer, Alexander Wang, being appointed Creative Director of the House [of Balenciaga]. I could barely sleep the night before his debut collection for the brand in Paris during the FW13 shows and am dying to see what will walk for Spring 14 this September. I set calendar reminders and watch in real time. Call me obsessed–I don’t mind!
Everyone thinks the fashion industry is so glamorous. Let us peek behind the curtain. Walk me through what Fashion Week looks like from your vantage point.
HA! They’re all wrong! Fashion is glamorous; however working in the industry is a completely different story. Everything is now, now, NOW and everyone needed what they just asked you for yesterday. We are no strangers to über early mornings, super late nights, all day meetings, running across the city, over-nighting collections around the world, selling our souls for features and everything else in between. Did I forget anything? Oh yeah, did I mention I LOVE it?
Fashion week is actually more like fashion month and I am in the depths. The PR teams usually start planning about six weeks [before fashion week] and each day gets busier and longer than the one before. Because we show [the TH Women’s Collection] in New York, we are the hosts for the global team. We start by gathering all of the internal [guest] lists from our licensees, executives, board members, Tommy personals, VIPs, friends of the brand, retailers and press from all markets; everything is filtered and managed through our team. These change every day and we are updating [the guest list] to the minute we open doors at the venue. So much more goes into a show than anyone outside of the industry can even fathom. We’re responsible for seating the show (an incredibly political process),
We are no strangers to über early mornings, super late nights, all day meetings, running across the city, over-nighting collections around the world, selling our souls for features and everything else in between.
confirming RSVPs, declining requests, collating invites, invitation delivery, (which is all done by messenger), venue set up, front of house check-in and backstage media check-in. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but the process is incredibly tedious and needs to be handled with the utmost attention to detail. If not, the consequences to the brand via guest experience can be detrimental.
What happens after the show is almost more hectic than the planning and execution of it. It’s an ‘all hands on deck’ photo editing, recapping, look book making, press monitoring, reporting s*#%! storm that lasts for about a week and a half, with insanely early call times, we practically have hot [off the press] newspapers. As stressed out and sleep-deprived as I might be, the second the lights go up [on our fashion show] I take a deep breath. I can see the faces of our guests smile when the looks walk out, and it makes it all worthwhile. This is why I do what I do.
One wouldn’t think it, but your industry now relies on a lot of high-tech tools like Fashion GPS to get things done. How has your life changed with the advent of these new tools and how is the fashion industry being shaped by new technology?
Technology is a huge part of the fashion industry.
I live and breathe Fashion GPS (a web-based platform that enables both internal and external communication) on a daily basis! From the inside, it’s my collection bible, global database, event curator, fashion week machine, pitching aid, press hit reporting genius and much, much more! From the outside, the system enables a third party to create a profile, see events they are invited too, RSVP digitally, create special calendars, and change their personal information which updates [Fashion GPS] in real-time. Every major brand and public relations agency utilizes this technology on a regular basis; it has become the industry norm. I rely on Fashion GPS so heavily that, honestly, I’m not sure I know how to do my job without it.
We also use DMR (Digital Media Research) which evaluates the value of our editorial credits. We can compare ourselves against our competitors, in any category, immediately, or during customized time frames. Basically, every time our product is featured in print, this technology finds it and tells us [what the ad is] worth based on the size [our product occupies] on the page and ad rate for that particular issue of the publication. If we advertise in an issue we are featured in, it essentially calculates the ROI [rate of return] of our company’s advertising dollars which is what we call our Ad vs. Edit [or Advertising vs. Editorial] report. On the agency side, it’s [calculating] a value of so called “free press” for your client. We receive weekly reports, but can log into the system at any time to pull any needed information.
With the world going digital and the eruption of bloggers over the past handful of years, there’s another unique tool that was introduced recently called Fohr card, which is a fashion blog directory making the editorial and brand relationship tighter. Bloggers register and (once approved) utilize this platform to present all their [blog and social media] follower counts across various social media outlets in real time and are also ranked by Forh card in all categories. On the brand side, we obtain a membership then search for specific bloggers based on their specialization, create lists within the system, receive updates and contact information. It’s a system that saves us (what would normally take) endless hours of research to do.
I can’t wait to see want they do next!
You have had a number of influential mentors from Kelly Cutrone to Rachna Shah. What have you learned from working with women in your industry?
I would never be where I am today with out them, no question about it. My first “real” job was working in LA for Michael A.Baruch and he was the best/worst first boss anyone could ever have. I learned the most important lessons from him, which have made it possible for me to be who I am, doing what I’m doing. Michael taught me, through experience, that “business is business and personal is personal” and that to be successful, I needed to be strong and determined. If you think The Devil Wears Prada was rough, I’ll introduce you to Michael! And, no he won’t be upset by that. We remain dear friends and will be seeing each other very soon.
I felt so lucky to have been a part of People’s Revolution; it was my first real experience in a New York PR agency. I will always admire Kelly [Cutrone] for being who she is, and sticking to what she believes in. She’s an incredibly successful entrepreneur who plays by her own rules. I experienced my first New York Fashion Week as part of her team, which was a dream come true. Kelly is a tough woman, that might seem a certain way on television, but is quite compassionate and motherly with her employees. Kelly eventually introduced me to another woman who owned a PR agency, for whom I ended up working on my way to KCD [one of the leading fashion public relations agencies worldwide].
To work with KCD seemed like an unattainable dream of mine since I knew what fashion PR was. I probably sent my resumé to everyone in the company 100+ times before I ever got a response, so when I
Michael taught me, through experience, that business is business and personal is personal and that to be successful, I needed to be strong and determined.
got an opportunity to be a fashion week freelancer, I felt pretty legit. This experience was such a high, and to this day I credit Rachna [Shah] and her team so much for really teaching me the ins and outs of the industry. They [KCD] are one of the most powerful international PR agencies around and I am forever grateful to them for allowing me such a coveted opportunity. I was paired up with an exceptional man, Souri Kim, with whom I worked many shows, including two seasons of [Alexander] Wang. He taught me more than I could ever explain and I really credit him and Rachna for all the successes in my career. I ended up freelancing there on and off for a year and a half on various projects and events. It’s because of Rachna that I have my current position and am thrilled to see her every time she’s in my new office for a meeting. She feels like family.
How would you describe your style? What’s your favorite go-to outfit?
Worst question ever! I almost think this should be directed to a tertiary party as it’s hard to talk about,
I like to mix textures and pair chiffon with leather, wear boyfriend jeans with stilettos, or be really comfy in soft tees and Chucks. It all really depends on how I feel each day I wake up and what’s on the agenda.
[worse yet] define myself. I wish I was chic enough to say I look like I just walked off the page of an editorial Well story, [industry speak for the middle stories in magazines without words], but in reality, that’s just not the case. I wish I looked the way the models are styled in those stories on a daily basis. I like to mix textures and pair chiffon with leather, wear boyfriend jeans with stilettos, or be really comfy in soft tees and Chucks. It all really depends on how I feel each day I wake up and what’s on the agenda. I don’t like (or follow rules) and believe that’s just part of being individual.
What advice would you give to women in defining their own personal style?
Be comfortable in your clothes. You should be wearing your clothes, they shouldn’t be wearing you. (Yes, we can tell.) Fit is extremely important; a good tailor can be your best friend. Take risks and experiment if it feels good, not because you feel you have to. Confidence or the lack thereof, overpowers any article of clothing. Don’t take [fashion] too seriously.
What do you consider to be your hardest won or most treasured life lesson?
Nothing is easy. But I’ve learned a few thing along the beaten path.
I believe that each time you hear the word “no” you are that much closer to getting a “yes.” Anyone who really wants something won’t stop until they get it, no matter how hard or discouraging it might seem. It might take longer than you want or longer than you thought, but inevitably something will happen– your goal, or maybe something better, and [something] different than you had ever hoped for.
I believe that each time you hear the word “no” you are that much closer to getting a “yes.”
Networking is key. From my experience, who you know can get [you] in the door, but what you know will keep you there.
Your friends are the family you choose.
Finding the balance between work-life and personal-life is key. After all, it’s just clothes, we’re not curing cancer.
Do you have any advice for women who may want to follow in your footsteps?
Passion, love, and a true understating of the business side of the fashion industry is absolutely necessary. Believe in yourself and see above!
How do you see your future?
I don’t even know what I’m doing this weekend!
Girl Friday is a phrase more common to the 1940s and 50s, defined as “a female employee who has a wide range of duties,” and is most recognizable from the film His Girl Friday. Here at Move LifeStyle, we’re resurrecting its saucy vibe for the title of our last column of the week which profiles inspiring women in the workforce. If you like this series, click here for more Girl Friday Interviews.