ldner #200: rosie davies
The London Fashion Agency is the UK’s first PR agency dedicated to independent brands, and after being founded in 2013 it’s grown into a team of six (seven if you include dog/company chairman Milo). This week’s LDNER is the lady behind the LFA, meet Rosie Davies…
Where do you live in London and what do you like about the area?
I live in Catford. Ah, Catford. Well, we have a massive fibreglass cat on top of our shopping centre – how can you beat that? After being in Brixton for so long we were worried about moving to the unknown but I love the arty vibe in our borough. Hither Green and New Cross have some amazing markets and shops and the green space in South East is some of the best in London. I love it!
What inspired you to start the London Fashion Agency?
In the summer of 2011 I took an internship with a small knitwear brand in South London called Lowie. Bronwyn, the design director, asked on my first day what I was passionate about, thinking I was going to say something related to the textile degree I had done. I said business. She asked if I had ever done PR – I didn’t have a clue what it was but she put a pile of magazines in front of me and asked me to call them up and ask if they wanted product to borrow for their features. I didn’t know if what I was doing was right but a few weeks later Lowie started to appear in print and online magazines. I fell in love with PR and the difference it made to a small independent brand!
I persuaded Bronwyn to pay me 1 day per week to do PR. She was my first client and is still our client today. She started to recommend me to her designer friends and I starting doing PR for them too. I kept hearing the same things; PR with an agency is too expensive, PR is so secretive etc. I knew I could make a difference. I was getting great coverage for brands at the fraction of the cost because I didn’t have a central London office or flashy press days. I knew I could scale what I was doing as a freelance to an agency that was dedicated to offering independent brands affordable and effective PR. The London Fashion Agency (LFA) was born – the name was just pure luck! 6 years later and we’ve gained over 600 pieces of magazine coverage and are now a team of 6 based in a studio in Brixton staying true to our honest and affordable approach to PR.
You’ve self-funded the agency – why was it so important for you to do it that way rather than with investors?
To be completely honest, I didn’t have a clue about funding or investment and not the slightest idea of how to go about it. The whole idea of taking investment terrified me so I didn’t even consider the option. When I started the agency, I worked other jobs on the side to stay afloat. I grew the agency so organically that any profit I made I put back into the business until I could afford a freelancer 1 day per week to help. That grew to 3 days per week, then 5 days, and then the team doubled and doubled again. I still put every penny back into the agency and our new subscription business PR Dispatch. I also wanted to keep costs affordable for the brands we worked with so having to repay loans or investors would have meant our margins were squeezed therefore higher prices for our clients.
What’s been your biggest success story to date?
When I first started LFA and I decided that we were going to offer two things. The first was affordable PR retainers, where we contact the press on behalf of the brand. The second was to educate brands on the process of PR and how to do their own with our help and guidance. Many said both couldn’t be done but especially the latter. As I started as someone not knowing anything about PR or anyone at fashion magazines I knew that with the right product and great branding it was possible for brands to get themselves on to the pages of Stylist! I started by speaking about PR everywhere I could and to anyone that would listen. I knew that the more people understood the process, the more they would be open to the idea of contacting a magazine about their product. We then produced a PR guide and lots of free online content that educated brands further.
When we launched our subscription business (PR Dispatch) in September 2016 I was confident that brands could ‘DIY’ their PR but it was a few weeks in when I realised to what extent. One of our subscribers sent us an email letting us know that she had been featured in Stylist’s ‘The Style List’ and thanked us for making it possible. I remember thinking out of all the awards and recognition we had received, that piece of coverage she had secured under our guidance was the best.
Where do you see the agency in the next five years?
I would love for LFA to be the go-to agency for independent fashion, lifestyle and homeware brands wanting affordable PR. We are super selective on the brands that we work with on our product placement retainer and we have a list of independent brands that we would love to work with, so it would be a dream come true to be working with them as well as the amazing brands we work with now. Our other business, PR Dispatch, is a different kettle of fish. I would love thousands of small brands based in the UK and beyond to be subscribed and having real success when contacting magazines about their products.
Describe your perfect day in London.
Wake up to the sun shining. A tasty brunch somewhere local and independent. I love Arlo and Moe in Hither Green – they do amazing ‘Sexy Toast’ and are dog friendly. I’d then walk to Greenwich with my dog Milo and along the Thames – I grew up near the sea so love spending time by the river. I totally recommend Greenwich Sunday Market which is a mix of food and products. There are some amazing independent designer makers and the food is so great. We usually go really early to avoid the crowds. If we’re having an evening in Catford we go to La Pizzeria Italiana. Honestly, it’s the best Italian restaurant I’ve ever been to and you would never think it! It’s hidden away under a concrete staircase that leads to a council block on the Catford South Circular road, but once inside it’s warm, the walls are painted in Italian murals with quirky objects hanging from them and the food is so fresh and authentic. It’s a family run business (lots of very funny and fiery Italian arguments!) and has such loyal customers. People have been going there for over 20 years. A real hidden gem!