Ouarda Coussay of Totem Fashion London

We hooked up with Ouarda, a fashion pr agent, formerly at Totem Fashion Paris, now the director of the London office. We are going to chat about her youth, passions, breakthrough, and who we really should keep an eye on.

The View: Who is Ouarda?

Ouarda: I was born and raised in Nice, France, probably the most beautiful place on earth. As a child, I wanted to be a singer-dancer but I then realised, very quickly that my lack of talent in singing and dancing would be an issue. This is why I ended up studying communication / marketing. At the time I was young and restless, I didn’t really know which field I would like to be in so I had several internships, and my last one was in a Fashion Press Office. To be honest, I didn’t know a lot about Fashion, but fortunately I had an amazing mentor, Yoni, who taught me everything I had to know. Learning about the history of brands, designers, techniques, collections, and the inspirations behind them all became a real passion. I am a very curious person by nature and so the more I learnt, the more I wanted to learn.

The View: Can you tell us about your career?

Ouarda: I started working in PR at a French press office called Poulain & Proust in Paris when I was 22. I have been very lucky to work with a great team for interesting clients, from mass market sportswear brands such as Rip Curl, to edgy young designers like Vincent Schoepfer. It was an wonderful experience to have all those very different clients with completely different needs and press targets. After four years I thought it was time for me to learn something else, somewhere else. I then met Kuki de Salvertes, Totem’s founder. An incredibly inspiring person because of his background and his impressive knowledge of fashion. This was a new challenge for me as I was now working with international press and high fashion brands. Totem has an amazing history with the designers and brands it has launched, and a very strong image. A year and a half ago, Kuki offered me the opportunity to open this branch in London and I immediately took it.

The View: Comparing the industry in the past and present, what are the differences and how does this influence your work?

Ouarda: More than the industry itself, it’s the press that has completely changed. With the emergence of online magazines, blogs and social networking, we no longer work the way we used to five years ago. Today, online editors are as important as editors from printed publications. Digital is touching more people and at some point we needed to adapt ourselves as quick as the press was mutating. The recession changed a lot of things also. The budgets are not the same, still we needed to find the best alternatives for our clients. Communication and PR are fascinating because they are always re-inventing themselves. It’s a perpetual challenge and that’s very exciting.

The View: In your vision, what would the future look like for fashion?

Ouarda: Fashion is always very surprising. While some fashion weeks tend to be less creative, some others are incredibly inspiring like the Copenhagen Fashion Week. I think that this global standardisation we see in the New York and Paris Fashion weeks will push some other countries to be more inventive and to show off more interesting young designers.

The View: Can you share a bit about spotting talents, and representing them?

Ouarda: I would say the best way to spot talent is by looking at the graduate shows of fashion schools. But of course, you still meet interesting designers in trades and sales showroom. Representing a young talent, you really need to be close to them and their needs. They don’t really know about press, so you need to explain the way you come to your choices. You also have to do the best you can to attract editors and stylists and convince them to take a look at the collection. I find it very rewarding to see the development of these young aspiring individuals come into their own.

The View: What made you decide to move to London?

Ouarda: When Kuki de Salvertes asked me if I wanted to go to London, I just said ” Yes. Sure”, so two months later, here I was, with four suitcases full of pyjamas and no shoes ( I am quite bad at packing ). It was a very spontaneous decision. I loved London at first sight. The people, the energy and the city. I didn’t hesitate and I will never regret it.

The View: Brands that we really should keep an eye on?

I would say Nicomede Talavera (menswear designer). He is incredibly talented and his collections are everything I love in menswear. Also Marques Almeida, they brought something fresh and new in womenswear. Steven Tai, I could wear everything from his collections! His techniques and the way he uses the fabrics are amazing. And Avoc, a very clever French duo who is doing both menswear and womenswear collections. They have a very strong image and I love their minimalist approach of fashion. My crush of the moment is Sadie Williams. I discovered her work very recently and I totally fell in love with her collections.

The View: Who should we really interview next?

I would recommend you to interview the designer Alexis Reyna. He is a real complete artist. His vision of fashion is unique and he has a lot to say, to express.

The View: Thank you Ouarda for this interview and sharing your story and insights.

Totem Fashion website