With a degree in PR, Advertising and Marketing from Madrid’s Ceu San Pablo University, Carmen Castiñeira has always been inspired by contemporary lifestyle, design and fashion. When Josep Font joined the Delpozo team as creative director and relaunched the brand in 2012, she embarked on her career in fashion there as the Communication Coordinator. Castiñeira then set her ambitions on the global fashion capital of New York City and has since been Tibi’s PR and Social Media Manager and is currently the Communications Manager at Derek Lam. FashionUnited recently chatted with Castiñeira on what she’s learned from almost a decade of experience in the world of fashion PR and digital marketing.
How has the PR industry changed, what would you say are “the new rules”?
It has changed wildly over the last years; the rise of digital technology (social media, online media outlets, influencer marketing) has played a major role in the PR industry’s evolution, opening up new opportunities.
The magazine editors and buyers still hold powerful influence, but the equation has expanded to include the voice of the average consumer which has become more empowered. Consumers today have immediate access to all of the information.
The rise of influencers has been overwhelming: front row seats are now reserved for them, not only for stylists, buyers or fashion editors. Companies are shifting their advertising budget from print magazines to digital marketing (paid search, paid social).
It’s the time of “see now, buy now.” Everybody has access to runway shows through Instagram Live and other streaming platforms, backstage moments are not private anymore.
Currently, you are the Communications Manager at Derek Lam. What does this role entail?
I am responsible for creating global communications strategies, overseeing the brand image and identity of the company as well as ensuring that all communications meet the standards and maintain the company’s integrity. A communications manager should build and develop relationships with appropriate key marketing and press partners.
Other important tasks include seeking brand-right opportunities for collaborations, events, product development and securing both editorial and VIP features. At the same time, I also manage the production of seasonal lookbook shoots and press presentations-serving as a key liaison between the brand and all third-party partners.
What does a typical workday look like as a Communications Manager?
My day-to-day involves developing the communication strategy, promoting and protecting our brand, Derek Lam's image. I work with the creative director and his team to develop company-wide messaging, editorial and VIP requests. Fashion months can be pretty hectic, especially when I’m preparing the presentation of the new collection.
Did you always want to have a career in fashion?
I’ve always been interested in fashion, but I loved advertising as well, so it took me longer to decide to take a job in fashion. I interned for different communication agencies and even at the international marketing department of an environmental company. Then, when Josep Font became the creative director of Delpozo in 2012-I knew there wasn’t a better place in Spain at that time to start my career in fashion.
What eventually led you to work in marketing and communications in fashion?
Even though I really liked my degree in advertising and I consider myself a creative person, I knew I wasn’t going to become a creative or art director. I just didn’t have what I needed for it. So I started to transition into PR and marketing, putting special attention in digital environments, new technologies and social media. I explored and read as much as I could about it, trying to understand what I liked and what I wanted to do. As fashion is something I really enjoy, I decided to combine both.
Can you tell us about your previous positions as the PR and Social Media Manager for Tibi in New York and as the Communication Coordinator at Delpozo in Spain. What were some highlights?
Highlights have included the opportunity to meet and work with very talented artists and creative people such as Isabelita Virtual, Tina Berning, Lea Colombo. From them, I learned a new way of connecting brands directly with consumers.
What are some pros and cons of working as a PR in the fashion industry?
Every job has its pros and cons. Luckily, I am really happy with the career path I chose. There are bad days of course, but the good ones win. Working in fashion PR has given me the opportunity of collaborating with editors and stylists I read about in fashion magazines when I was a teenager. It’s given me the chance to dress many women whom I’ve admired for years and to travel the world.
At the beginning of your career in Spain, you were also an editor and content creator. How has this work experience influenced you?
I truly believe you constantly need to educate yourself, renew your mind, constantly learn. Working as an editor and content creator gave me the opportunity to expand my mind outside the fashion industry and learn how other sides of the business work. Now I can apply and take from that experience when developing a new communication strategy.
What are the differences between working in fashion in Spain and the United States?
Madrid is far removed from the fashion capitals such as New York, Paris or London. There are fewer job opportunities, especially in luxury fashion. I believe that’s changing and the city keeps evolving. New York, on the other hand, is a window to the world – most of the companies have an office here. Editors, photographers, stylists are based here; there is a continuous movement in the industry.
What advice do you have for those who want to work in fashion?
At first glance, it may appear too hard. Look again, always look again. You will never know what you’re capable of if you never try. Those words helped me a lot when I first moved to New York City. It was difficult at the very beginning, but no doubt worth your very best shot.
Any tips for those who are just breaking into fashion PR?
When you are starting out, be a true participant: listen, ask questions, familiarize yourself with every fashion magazine, PR agency, editor, brand, digital influencer, designer, model, stylist, and photographer. Take advantage of any opportunity. Show an eagerness to take on new responsibilities and projects, be proactive. Intern and gain as much experience as you can; I would not be where I am today if I didn’t have those opportunities.
What are your must-have fashion items?
The real classics: a nice pair of jeans, black turtleneck, a good blazer and a special bag.