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Lucien Pagès, BoF 500: ‘We Have to Invent the Future’

The economic impact of Covid-19 is going to be huge, but we need to preserve the richness of fashion, says the Paris-based PR guru.
Lucien Pagès, self-portrait, 24 March 2020
By
  • Lucien Pagès

From the BoF Community’ is a new format featuring unique perspectives from our community of fashion professionals around the world.

PARIS, France — Everything changed in one week. My priority was the staff, protecting them, the company and being there for our clients, because they need to communicate and receive advice on what's going on right now. And we need to prepare for the future.

As an agency, we were really in a growth phase. We recently invested in office space and people, because our business was growing a lot. And it’s strange because I was thinking to myself, “If I’d known this was going to happen, I wouldn’t have done that,” but I couldn’t have known. Everything is uncertain from one day to the next. We were planning things on Monday and by Tuesday they were obsolete, so it’s really difficult to have a long-term vision.

For guidance, I've called colleagues (other PR agents that I trust) and, right now, my clients and I are all in the same boat, so we exchange advice and tips such as how you should manage your company and maintain services. I have to say that everybody’s very friendly and warm — you really discover that people are actually nice and caring.

Of course, every client is different so there are different topics of discussion, but the big questions are about dates: they want to know if fashion week in June will be on, but we don’t know, so we are developing plans A, B and C. We’ve had to postpone events and work on alternate possibilities.

Some clients have asked us to put things on hold for months. I have to say, I’m lucky because I have some solid clients, but of course we have already lost a lot of money and there is insecurity about the near future. Today I can say that I have clients and business, but in one week it could be a disaster and I've lost all my clients.

But we have to adapt, we have to understand each other’s concerns. When everything is back to normal, we will have to do a lot for them. Brands will have to over-communicate. In fact, communication will be key to their future success.

People are looking for something beyond our current situation, something that feels a bit more substantial.

But in the present tense, everybody — designers, brands, stylists, PRs — might lose what they have built. It’s just heartbreaking. There are already a lot of brands I know that have success in the press but are struggling with their business. How do you survive this crisis when you were already just surviving? The crisis has created almost three dead seasons, one year and a half’s worth of money that’s going to struggle to come in.

There is going to be a lot of economic debt but we need to preserve the richness of fashion. I hear a lot of people saying the fashion industry will change in the long-term because of this, but I don’t like it when we say “we have to change the fashion industry” because it sounds like we were doing horrible things, and that was not the case, though maybe we were producing too much, doing too many events. But equally, the fashion industry is an industry, so it will work again as an industry. And humans can be very selfish.

We all mention how we will do things differently after this; how we will behave, how we will travel, how we will operate in a better way and not be obsessed with money because the fashion industry is a very profitable business. People were making millions and travelling to amazing destinations and suddenly everything is cancelled and they don’t have access to that privileged lifestyle — what do you do after that? We were living in a very privileged industry, a very privileged way of life, but now it’s done for a while.

I don’t know if it’s because they are afraid, but I do have the feeling that people are looking for something beyond our current situation, something that feels a bit more substantial. When you see images of Venice with clean canals, it makes you question everything.

This has never happened before. It’s not war, it's something else, so we don’t know exactly what will happen. But we have to invent the future. It’s our job.

As told to Rachel Deeley.

Lucien Pagès is the founder of his namesake PR and communications agency.

The views expressed in ‘From The Community’ notes are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Business of Fashion.

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