Today we put our apartment on the market. It’s a sunny little studio with the decor of a French cottage but a view of the Empire State building. We’re hoping for a fair price in this highly touted buyer’s market. I have been lining up open houses on the weekends to try and find our dream home. We are hoping to move up, promote ourselves to a bigger place. With a full-length fridge and ample closets. We have real estate brokers coming out of the woodwork, or in New York city, the exposed brick. My inbox is bulging with emails from strangers with names like Guy and Brook clamoring for my attention. They all seem to cross over, grubbing about in the Manhattan streets and holding up triumphantly the same spoils.
At the moment, I am hot property, the new buyer fresh to the market. Wait a minute, I think to myself, I’ve been in this position before. Just not with real estate. There’s another body of professionals that operate just like this: fashion agents. Also known as recruiters, consultants, executive project solvers, or, most alarmingly I think, head hunters. The Queen of Hearts yelling Off with her head! springs to mind.
When I arrived in NYC with my European design portfolio I was surprised how quickly I became hot property. Fashion agents seem to smell new design blood as soon as it’s cleared through customs.
They had the perfect position for me, they said, breathlessly on the other end of the phone. You must meet our client!
Looking for someone just like me: European background…solid experience…St Martin’s grad…creative and commercial eye…experience with managing a team…When can we set up a meeting?
I have just the property for you, fresh listing! he emails. You have to see it!
Perfect for two: Southern exposure…parquet floors…doorman building with roof deck …residential but within access of shops and restaurants…flexible coop board…When can you make it to a viewing?
There is a fashion agency on every block in midtown Manhattan. Sometimes several on different floors of the same high rise building. Each agent claims they have the exclusivity on a position (listing) and the next day you receive a call from 3 rival agencies about the same job. They court you aggressively, calling or emailing many times a day. You agree to the meeting. They don’t call or email anymore. Days of silence. Finally you are informed the position has been filled or taken off the market. DId it really sell or would I just not pass the board, I wonder.
I have only ever gotten one job through a fashion agent. The “property” looked great from the outside, situated halfway down a cobbled street in the Meatpacking District. My mind raced: I could have lunch every day in Chelsea Market, go browsing at Jeffrey, meet friends for after-work drinks on the roof of the Gansevoort. I signed the contract and the agent breezed out with her 10% commission. I popped my potted plant on the windowsill and a lump of plaster fell from the ceiling and rapped me on the head. I learned from a next-door neighbor, a renter (freelancer) that people had been fleeing like rats from the building and there’d been a revolving door of sad sacks who’d occupied my seat.
I have described fashion agents as a species of smalltime scavenger trawling the streets for tidbits to chew on. But not all of them are like this. One, the Barbara Corcoran of the bunch, is based in Paris and her name is Floriane de Saint-Pierre. With a name like that, you might think she’s either deadly serious, or a complete flake. Well, she’s deadly serious. I met her once when I thought I might move to Paris.
I consider who can capture the spirit of the brand with a holistic approach. When a designer feels the spirit of a brand and is also comprehensive with how people live today, then commercial success comes naturally. -Floriane de Saint-Pierre from The Business of Fashion.
Who can argue with that approach? That’s why she’s the best. Placing designers in the right companies is like matchmaking. She is highly selective about who she represents, and the pairings she creates, placing qualified designers in grand maisons like Louis Vuitton, Lanvin, Balenciaga, Burberry…historic landmarks with gilded interiors. She exudes French poise and power and an unsurpassable knowledge of fashion. Incidentally my literary agent reminds me of her. She is also polished and knowledgeable and happens to have lived for a long time in Paris.
But that’s another story…and another type of agent!
In the market for an Open House? Check out the scandalous happenings inside the international fashions houses at the centre of my novel. You can buy Silk for the Feed Dogs here.