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KCD Names Rachna Shah New Chief, Opens Next Chapter

The fashion PR powerhouse has promoted the agency veteran to global CEO as president Julie Mannion becomes chairman of the board, opening a new era for the firm.
Rachna Shah, the new CEO of KCD
Rachna Shah, the new CEO of KCD (Sansho Scott/BFA.com )
BoF PROFESSIONAL

For the first time in almost 30 years, KCD has a new top executive.

The powerhouse fashion public relations firm, which works with a who’s who of major fashion brands, from sector giant Louis Vuitton to white-hot Miu Miu, has promoted KCD veteran Rachna Shah to global chief executive, as Julie Mannion, who has led the agency since 1994, relinquishes her current role to become chairman of the board.

Shah’s promotion opens a third chapter in the history of KCD.

The agency — one of the first public relations firms to specialise in fashion when it was launched in 1984 — was run by founders Kezia Keeble, John Duka and Paul Cavaco until the early 1990s, when Mannion and her late co-president Ed Filipowski took the reins. Under their tenure, KCD expanded to both new geographies — it currently operates in New York, Paris, London and Los Angeles — as well as new disciplines, including the company’s fashion services arm, which works with brands to bring a collection to life through campaigns and on the runway. It also expanded beyond strictly fashion, into beauty and the wider lifestyle sphere, with clients like Netflix and L’Oréal.

Shah, who most recently ran KCD’s media relations group as partner and managing director, aims to further integrate the firm’s global operations, which span media relations, creative services, fashion services, digital marketing, guest experience and VIP services, across offices in New York, Paris, London and Los Angeles.

“My vision is really about expanding on the multidisciplinary approach that we already have. We can gather all of our worlds together,” she said. “I grew up around all the disciplines, that’s why I can now step into this role with a real confidence.”

Shah joined KCD in 1997 under Filipowski’s wing soon after graduating from New York University, and went on to work with major brands from Gucci to Valentino, and help deliver key events like the CFDA Awards and the Met Gala at a time when the stakes were rising for a fast-growing fashion sector reshaped by globalisation and new technology.

In December 2010, she spearheaded the creation of KCD’s digital division, making it one of the first fashion PR firms to build social media, influencer and other digital marketing capabilities.

Now, she’s taking on the top job amid a fashion PR landscape being reshaped as boutique upstarts trade on a more social media-savvy approach and bigger players such as Karla Otto owner The Independents and The Lede Company bulk up their offerings through acquisitions, putting pressure on those caught in the middle.

London PR firm ScienceMagic, formerly known as The Communications Store, which worked with clients such as Versace and Canada Goose, entered into administration in October, while Paris-based publicist Michèle Montagne shuttered her namesake firm last month.

M&A isn’t a top priority at KCD, though Shah said “never say never.”

“We’re investing in us,” she continued. “We’re really focused on pulling all these different disciplines to the forefront and utilising the fact that these aren’t new agencies coming together, this is not a new structure; we’re already a well-oiled machine.”

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