In Conversation with Julian Vogel

20th anniversary
type - in conversation
In Conversation
As part of The Future Laboratory’s 20th anniversary celebrations, Chris Sanderson catches up with fashion PR mogul Julian Vogel, CEO of ModusBPCM, to reflect on the changing worlds of fashion, the fashion runway and fashion communications…

Read an excerpt of the conversation below, or scroll down to watch the full Zoom video.

Chris Sanderson: I wanted to start by asking you how you think fashion commentary is being affected by the lockdown and the rise of the online runway show or collection launch. When everything is so remote and distant, can fashion editors readily formulate their ideas on the key looks and themes of a season?

Julian Vogel: One of the things I loved during the (autumn/winter 2020) couture shows was that Vanessa Friedman and Elizabeth Paton started doing an IGTV conversation: two people that I have absolute respect for – I really, really trust their opinion – they’re intelligent women talking about a topic that they have decades of experience in. I found that fascinating because they would be dissecting all the shows and pulling together their thoughts and opinions, and they’re not influenced by anyone because they’re not beholden to advertisers, they’re The New York Times. So, what I’d like is for each season, someone like that to watch it all for me and give me a potted opinion about the trends.

I think it’s going to be really interesting to see what happens. Fashion’s in such huge crisis at the moment and it’ll be interesting to see the creativity that comes out of it. We were talking about the last time we were in a recession and how much creativity came out of that period because of the restrictions and that sheer expression of frustration coming out. So it’ll be interesting to see what happens over the next couple of years.

CS: Speaking about that mood and being more future-facing than what’s going on with fashion per se, but specifically with fashion communication – what you and your team do on a daily basis – how do you think that’s going to continue to evolve or change? What are going to be the interesting shifts that you think we will all be part of?


Published by:

15 January 2021

Author: The Future Laboratory

Image: ModusBPCM


JV: What’s interesting for me is that we’ve really moved into other categories. So, yes, fashion is still really important, but we’ve branched out into hospitality and lifestyle. We’ve moved into beauty and we’ve been approached by property developers who want us to help them communicate. And what I find really fascinating is how fashion cuts across everything, from music to design to art. That’s always been my fascination, how we can use fashion in all of those different areas. I can see that continuing further and further, and one of the things in hospitality that’s been really interesting for me is we started looking at hotels as if they’re a magazine, a traditional magazine – like when we used to work together. So, I look at a hotel in the same way that you would look at the different sections of a magazine. You might have the food section or the beauty section; you’ve got a spa, the restaurants and all the activities that fit into excursions. But then you’ve got features, maybe a particular destination is all about diving or it’s about sustainability.

It’s been really interesting using all of that knowledge of the magazine world that we all inhabited for so long and that we all kind of lived and breathed, and seeing how that structure can work in other organisations. I think that as organisations are communicating directly more and more with their consumers they need more of their own content. Suddenly, the magazine or the newspaper format makes complete sense because they’re having to create all of their own content. They’re bringing in all of these experts to be in their resorts and all of that is helping to communicate their brands and their proposition to their customers.

CS: I think you’re right. Having that very highly editorialised, curated perspective and point of view, where there’s a real clear tone of voice and a personality, that is something we often feel is lacking. We walk through a space or into a brand and it just feels bland like there is no personality. Interestingly, we’re seeing the same thing happen with fashion; fashion brands are becoming more like magazines because they want to move into beauty – some did many decades ago – but now they are shifting into hospitality, into membership, into experience, and they’re suddenly taking that highly curated approach again that puts them across the platform of opportunity for the consumer, rather than just being fashion.

JV: For the past few years we’ve been saying to all of our clients when they told us they were opening a new store on Bond Street: ‘So, what are you doing apart from shelves and rails?’ And they looked at me as if to say: ‘Well, that’s not really your job.’ Like, you know, ‘that’s the retail department’s job and the merchandise job’, and I would ask them: ‘How are you going to get people to come into your shop because they can buy it all online? What’s the experience going to be?’ You knew the spend on the rents and the key money and the David Chipperfield concept were going to cost them millions and you knew that they were going to have to get that return on investment. Yet they wouldn’t think about how the spaces were going to be activated and what was going to bring people in… and they would do some window display and they might do a cocktail, but it was really infuriating that the CEO was going to be charged with achieving the return on investment on that building. And then you see people like Jonathan Anderson – the way he did the Loewe shop on Bond Street; how he activated and created this incredible community and this space that people were desperate to go to…

CS: I really liked his Show in a Box, a concept making these really tactile objects that were sent to people. There was this point of contact and something playful that you could get your hands around rather than just going online.

JV: That’s also what we were saying about extremes; that on one hand you can have Christian Louboutin doing an entire virtual world and putting all the press into the virtual world and then you can have Jonathan Anderson going in the opposite direction and basically doing a kind of dress, a paper cut, dress-up doll. It’s genius, and both of them are just as exciting.

CS: Tell me a bit about some of your highlights over the past 20 years. What are some of the things that, when you look back over the years, you think: ‘Well, did we really do that, did we make that happen?’ Or some of the disasters…

JV: When I think about the beginning and the 2000s, we were working with Benetton and we were doing all those Oliviero Toscani campaigns: we’d just done that campaign with the three hearts and I think it said ‘black, white, brown’, and I remember getting a call –because in those days, you know, pre-internet, our phone number was available. I got this call from a woman in Sunderland who had just woken up and opened her curtains, and in front of her house was this billboard and she was completely outraged. And it’s interesting; that image is so relevant now. Back then, Advertising Standards would ban them and people would demonstrate and campaign to have them taken down. So I think that feels like a really interesting journey from one perspective.

We’ve worked with Calvin Klein for the past 27 years so went through various regimes and it’s been extraordinary working with a brand that is one of the most recognisable in the world and seeing how the company kept itself relevant. So again, you know, provocative advertising…

Watch the full Zoom conversation between Chris Sanderson, co-founder, The Future Laboratory and Julian Vogel, CEO of ModusBPCM.