Just before London Fashion Week, I was able to grab a quick chat with the dynamic duo who make up Slingshot, Zoe Lem and Sam Magee. An agency that is best described as next generation PR, bridging the gap between the creative and the commercial. The two spoke to me about what they do, the state of the fashion industry and being women in a male dominated industry.
Why do you think It’s important to have an agency like Slingshot, and why is it so unique? We describe ourselves as an innovation, strategy and communications agency, using the tools of branding, marketing, PR, digital and content creation to help businesses to establish, elevate and accelerate their brand. What makes our agency different is our approach; we combine the creative and commercial with a disruptive mindset to find the magic or sweet spot where the stories are heard, positioning a brand within a gap in the market, giving them a stronger competitive edge.
We love to find an angle and apply creativity to more traditional ways of working, so our presentations are dynamic, our talks and panel discussions are interactive and like to challenge, our events are designed and executed to create impact on many levels. We are campaign driven and work on creative fashion showcases and events for clients as well as curating our own events.
Slingshot Speaks was a series of panel discussions and networking events that covered topics like What is a Brand? and How to Create Awareness? in conjunction with Citizen M hotels. More recently at London Fashion Week 2019, we hosted under the Super Super Super platform, panel discussions to the public and industry, asking big questions around sustainability, diversity, the future of the industry and guidance on branding, social media for creatives so that they gained knowledge as well as experience.
We collaborated with diverse and experienced creatives like photographer Diana Gomez and milliner, Victoria Grant, branding expert and designer Andrew Ibi. We combined art and fashion by facilitating Luc Waring live painting and pop artist, Marty Thornton exhibiting his art and showcasing his, “ Fake as Fuck” handbag collection. The art gallery and experience was curated by artist Trinity Tristan.
What are your background(s)?
Zoe Lem and Sam Magee co-founders of Slingshot, both have been fashion stylists working for big brands, celebrities and international publications like Vogue Italia, Marie Claire, ES Magazine, The Sunday Times, brands such as Dunhill, L’Oreal, Porsche, Wrangler, Wella, and celebrities such as Rita Ora, Robbie Williams, Georgia May Jagger. We have both setup and developed our own brands, and setup concept stores and between us have worked as designers, brand and business development ambassadors, PR, buyers, content creators, marketing and have known each other for over 20 years. We came together when we realised our combined strengths and points of difference and understood the benefit of being stronger together. We are dynamic, agile, creative and always strategic. We continuously look for opportunities and ask good questions.. We make things happen!
What are your thoughts on the current state of the Fashion Industry? The industry is in transition. Most of it is broken as our cultural and environmental needs are changing. The internet has meant we don’t need to go to shops though we still crave human affirmation and interaction, we don’t necessarily buy in seasons with climate change, there’s too much choice, we don’t actually need anymore clothes in this world. The increase in influence from social media on buying has meant that we are overwhelmed by options and are no longer only guided by magazines or trends. So when the need changes, the industry has to evolve to meet these needs, which hasn’t happened yet. This is challenging for new brands or emerging designers but within every challenging period brings opportunity if you can be smart, innovative, agile and creative. It is a very interesting time, one in which brands have to be more mindful and conscious of external factors and customer options and demand more than ever. It is no longer enough to create a collection of lovely garments and blindly take them to market, brands are able to get closer to their audience and consumer than ever before, and the smart brands that will last are those that ask questions, listen to their customers and evolve.
What can you offer young up and coming designers? As a young designer or brand you are very often working alone or with a small team taking on many of the job roles that within a bigger business would have departments and teams to execute. You have to be a jack of all trades and a master of all, it can be tough and it can be lonely. You may be an outstanding creative, but not quite as proficient at business, sales or promotion. Having been in that position ourselves we understand the challenges, the potential downfalls and the areas of support that are needed to support, strengthen a small to medium business. What we offer are services that can help to support designers, brands with direction, guidance in branding, marketing, PR, business, consistency, customer, promotion and any of the areas in between with mentoring, PR incubation, talks, workshops, online courses and events.
One of the most cost effective ways to support an up and coming creative is with mentoring whether on Skype or face to face. We are able to support designers to help themselves, guiding through each stage, giving homework, encouraging and teaching them to be able to do the work and run their business themselves. Breaking the areas down so that it is not overwhelming, maintaining focus and creating consistency. We have also developed a PR incubator programme to specifically support emerging brands that do not have the funds for full PR services yet but need the help in elevating and creating awareness for their brand. A sliding scale fee that is part sponsored by ourselves to make it manageable and build sustainable brands that can last.
We pride ourselves in generating awareness for particular angles and niches. We did the PR for the first Modest Fashion Show at London Fashion Week, Plus Size Fashion Week, shows at Graduate Fashion Week and secured coverage for our clients in Vogue, The Times, The Telegraph, Evening Standard, Forbes, Daily Mail, ITV, BBC and ITN.
How do you think the fashion industry is evolving? Especially in the UK?
The fashion industry needs to rapidly evolve and react to the changing economic, political and environmental issues surrounding it, the whole system does not work anymore from design, manufacturing to buying and the supply chain. Buying in season is an outdated idea and with e-commerce people are not geographically restricted to shopping on their local high streets, therefore, there’s more choice, convenience and consumers are able to command more keen pricing.
In the UK, Brexit has had an overall impact creating economic and social uncertainty which impacts consumer confidence and ultimately how people spend their money.
Designers, brands, buyers, retailers all need to evolve with the changing times and as yet a clear path has not emerged. As difficult a transition as this is, it does create opportunities and that is what we focus on.
Young designers and brands have to continue to evolve the artistry and creativity of their designs and products but offer the products in a commercial and accessible way to establish a sustainable business. One of the biggest assets of UK grown designers and creatives is their level of creativity and approach which is recognised internationally. As a whole industry we need to continue to support this from the grass roots upwards.
What are some of the conversations you think the Fashion industry needs to start having?
Having conversations is the starting point, if we don’t talk about the needs we cannot resolve them. As a whole the biggest conversation is how can the fashion industry create less environmental impact? Sustainability and climate change have to be the number one conversation for the high street, big designers right the way through to the emerging brands. It needs to start within education so that fashion students are mindful from the very start. There is a shift in consumerism and the appetite for preloved, vintage and reworked which is great but this is still in early stages. For new designers and brands there is much that can be achieved and taken into consideration, zero waste, fabric choices, dyes, processes but ultimately it is about creating a world that focuses on mindful fashion on all levels.
We need to look at how we support and focus on the creative industries as our current government does not support the value of the creative services on our national identity and economy. The creative industries are one of our biggest exports and is a big part of our DNA as a country that is known for its edge and creativity.
Who are some of your favourite emerging brands to watch and why?
Kyle Ho for menswear who has played with bespoke tailoring, styling and proportion that are all based on the strength of design, Toogood for genderless fashion and lifestyle products with great shapes, minimalist colours and a strong aesthetic and focus on quality of design and construction. Kiki Ito handbags which combine her Japanese aesthetic with industry experience working for big name brands, to produce luxurious but contemporary bags.
You’re both very strong women, running several companies. Do you feel like you’re in a man’s world still or are you seeing other women led companies around you?
Women have always been dominant in the fashion industry, but you are now seeing more female entrepreneurs or Boss ladies which is great. It can be tough, especially juggling work with a family life, especially as two working mums but if you need something done give it to a working mum that already has too much to do and they will get it done!
Men and women speak a different business language so we need to use our unique point of difference to our advantage. We like to support female entrepreneurs as often women can be tough on other women. For us the advantage is running our business with a heart centred but still ambitious, strategic and business minded approach. For us we draw on our strength to drive us, and our intuition to guide us. Staying strong and focused means that if we come across any challenges with being an all female team we can combat anything. Running your own business for anyone is a challenge but for us though we have encountered some cases of sexism in business the biggest tool we have is communication and staying strong as partners.
Lastly, what Is your absolute favourite thing about what you do?
Sam Magee – Being creative and working with inspiring people. When the magic comes together whether it is producing a great photo shoot for a client, designing a branding document or presentation or a longer project of developing a brand that requires more strategy, writing, graphics and collaboration and then being a part of the final product when it goes to market is really exhilarating and satisfying.
Zoe Lem – I collect people and moments, so for me that bringing together and connecting people and seeing opportunites is my biggest buzz. I am a visionary so I see the potential in a designer, an event, a moment, person or time and making things happen is what keeps be going. I have changed how I have worked from being a hands on stylist, designer to running an agency so now the creativity comes in supporting others, visualising and realising events and working with amazing creatives. Being able to support and inspire creatives and watching their journey is such a great feeling even when I had my shop I used to stock graduate collections and emerging designers it is the exciting bit.
We also are running a very cool giveaway with Slingshot, so click on this instagram post to enter.
Client product giveaway
www.copenhagen.design – Pantone Living products