Tuesday, December 18, 2012

BORIS PROVOST: Exclusive Interview

By Eva Fydrych

Photo courtesy of WHO'S NEXT

Last month, Fashion Studio Magazine attended Paris-Singapore: The Fresh Take On Fashion & Home Design Trends conference in Singapore and had an opportunity to interview Mr Boris Provost, Head of Communications & International Development at WSN.

For almost 10 years, Boris has orchestrated and stimulated WSN’s communications (WHO’S NEXT / PRET-A-PORTER PARIS, PREMIERE CLASSE, PARIS SUR MODE, THE BOX & ATMOSPHERE’S) promoting their image on an international scale. After supervising two editions of WHO’S NEXT in Dubai, Boris is now in charge of the WSN fashion trade shows’ international reach, especially through the management of the communications tools, websites, marketing strategy, partnerships, and PRs.

In an exclusive interview for Fashion Studio Magazine, Boris talks about the beginning of his career, the fashion industry in France and Singapore, and his favourite travel destinations.

Boris Provost

Occupation: Head of Communications & International Development at WSN
City: Paris

Boris Provost (© D.R.)

FASHION STUDIO: Let's go back to the very beginning of your career. How did you get interested in fashion and why did you leave the industry at one point?

BORIS: In the beginning, I wanted to work in the movie industry. I graduated in Business Strategies and Communications, but I needed a change, I wanted to be a fashion stylist in the cinema. So I started working for a PR agency specializing in movies. My aim was to meet film directors and other people involved in the movie industry.

After a while, this PR company specializing in film promotion created a new department dedicated to fashion and they told me: "OK Boris, you are really talented in the fashion field. Do you want to manage this new part of the company?" And you know, I was really young at that time. So I said: "Yes, of course, forget the cinema, go to the fashion department and promote young designers." That's how everything started.

Later on, I changed the agency twice. I joined the big advertising agency McCann group. I was in charge of their PR department in Paris. I worked for international brands such as Nespresso, Mobil Oil, Lego. But I didn't work for fashion brands. I wasn't happy to be honest with you, I felt like something was missing.

Six months later, I saw my boss from WHO'S NEXT at one of the cocktail parties. He was looking for an International Communication Director and I just asked: "Where do I sign?". And that was how I came back to fashion.

Urbanwear exhibition MR. BROWN at WHO'S NEXT Paris (Courtesy of IheartBerlin.de)

FASHION STUDIO: How do you select the designers who participate in WHO'S NEXT trade fair?

BORIS: First of all, we travel all over the world to find new designers, to bring creativity and new energy to Paris in order to keep this powerful platform. 

Secondly, we need to select the brands that are a mix between creativity and business. For sure we need to bring some new trends to the market to keep the leading position in the trends sector. But that's not the only important thing. The selected brands have to be really clever, serious, well-organized regarding the business plan, the delivery, the manufacturer, the good price of the product, they need to have experience in exporting the goods and well positioning in terms of brand communication etc.

So what we are looking for is a mix between creativity, your business plan and your communication positioning.

Pop-Up Vintage Market at WHO'S NEXT Paris (Courtesy of IheartBerlin.de)

FASHION STUDIO: How WHO'S NEXT Paris compares to other European trade shows such as Pure London and Bread & Butter in Berlin?

BORIS: Pure is a national trade fair and it attracts only UK buyers. Brad & Butter is a major trade fair for urban labels, but they are more focused on the Northern European market. WHO'S NEXT is feminine ready-to-wear trade show and we are a truly international platform. We are not really the competitors, every fair is different and attracts its own exhibitors.

FASHION STUDIO: Why "fun factor" is so important for WHO'S NEXT?

BORIS: It has been important for twenty years, from the very beginning of the company. We always attract artists from different disciplines and we organize parties every night. We have been doing it for the last twenty years, so it's nothing new. All the trade shows organize parties now, but it was our idea in the first place.

Photo courtesy of IheartBerlin.de

FASHION STUDIO: What do you consider the biggest achievement in your career so far?

BORIS: Launching the event in Dubai. I was managing the show for the first time. We had an opportunity to set up a trade fair, it was a development project for the company. 

I arrived in the Middle East for the first time. I didn't know anything about that region. I learned a lot how to organize a trade show in a completely different environment and bring French fashion to the Middle East. I was also responsible for arranging meetings between the local designers and the French designers. We organized one of the first runway lingerie shows in the Middle East. I was hiding from the Muslim police during the show, it was completely crazy! :)

I consider it my biggest achievement so far. It was an amazing adventure and a great learning experience as well.

WHO’S NEXT & PREMIERE CLASSE IN DUBAI, October 2010 (Courtesy of Triba Space)

FASHION STUDIO: What is your personal definition of fashion?

BORIS: Fashion is an art form for sure. But it is a very specific discipline where you have to learn from people and work with people. If you are a young designer, you are not able to develop everything on your own, you need to be helped and pushed by people, you need to be motivated by people.

So fashion is not only an art form in a traditional meaning of this world, but it is also the art of mixing the talents in order to be efficient and to be successful.

FASHION STUDIO: Who is your favourite menswear designer?

BORIS: I love the work of Opening Ceremony for KENZO. The two young designers did a really good job. I am also a big fan of Yves Saint Laurent.

Yves Saint Laurent Autumn/Winter 2012 (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

FASHION STUDIO: How do you see the collaboration between Paris and Singapore? What potential can you see in the Singaporean fashion market?

BORIS: It is an interesting thing. There are more then 100 designers in Singapore, but they are not really well-known. France is a place where the young designers can have a lot of opportunities but they have to be ready to come to Paris. One aspect of our job is to prepare them for the successful start on this big international platform; our mission is to help them and to accompany them. They need to be adapted to the European market.

Regarding the French brands coming to Singapore, it is quite complicated, because there are already so many international trade fairs here. French designers cannot do all fashion fairs around the world. Singapore is still a little market if you compare it to China, USA or Europe.

That's why we try to encourage the distributors from Singapore to come to Paris twice a year to discover the trends and to discover the new French designers.

Cédric Charlier Spring / Summer 2013 (Photo courtesy of Abaca)

FASHION STUDIO: How are the young designers supported in Paris?

BORIS: In France the designers get a lot of financial support, they can take part in many designing contests, and there are a lot of different organizations who support them. I know a lot of designers who get all the financial support they can, but they are not business orientated. And that's the biggest problem.

You have to help the designer in the beginning for sure, because it is difficult to start, you need to spend a lot of money to succeed, to show your collection and to promote your brand. But after the first three or four years if you are not able to run the business by yourself, you have to change something, you need to rethink your business plan.

And I am very strict on that. Because they are a lot of creative people who don't have a good business sense. And on the other hand, there are a lot of people out there who may be not very creative, but they are so well-organized, they know all the ways how to get the money and they are still there, they loose money, they do so-so, but they still continue because they get the support. That's not my way to see the business.

Beijing street style (Photos courtesy of Nels Frye / Stylites)

FASHION STUDIO: You travel around the world in search of new emerging talents. What would you say is the most inspiring city in terms of fashion (except Paris)?

BORIS: I was really impressed by Beijing last month. It has changed so much during the last 5 years. The city is so clean, the young people are very trendy. They opened a lot of new shops and there is a big district with contemporary artists and galleries - just amazing.

They also created a show called Chic Young Blood which is similar to the concept of Bread & Butter for young fashion. Everything is so dynamic. It was a really pleasant surprise for me. I never thought that Beijing has so much potential.

And I love New York. It is a great source of inspiration for me. When I'm a little bit down, I go to New York and I go back on track really quickly. New York people are so nice, they are smiling all the time, everything is "amazing". I think that's really cool.

FASHION STUDIO: Thank you for your time and for the interesting insight into the world of WHO'S NEXT. It was a pleasure talking to you!

WHO'S NEXT Paris (19-22 January 2013) www.whosnext.com


View more photos from Paris-Singapore: The Fresh Take On Fashion & Home Design Trends conference in Singapore:

All photo courtesy of UBIFRANCE Singapore

All photo courtesy of UBIFRANCE Singapore

* Special thank you to UBIFRANCE Singapore and Mr Boris Provost for making this interview possible.

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