It is hard to imagine the world of fashion without creative PR. It is an integral part of the machinery. After 9/11, for instance, Anna Wintour, Vogue’s notoraious editor-in-chief, spearheaded a PR campaign to get people shopping again.
Celebrity status also plays a role. High-street fashion brands live off a good PR strategy banging their drum, such as dressing Girls Aloud in the latest mode or getting Rio Ferdinand to wear the newest jeans. So for a fashion-themed issue of onoffice, it seems only fit to visit one of the most famed and celebrated fashion PR companies in London, Exposure, to take a peek at the extension of its already super-stylish office complex. In fact, “complex” isn’t really a suitable description because we are actually talking about a “street”.
When entrepreneur and Exposure founder Raoul Shah moved into Little Portland Street, he allegedly said that one day, he would like to take over the whole road. This ambition is moving ever closer, as Exposure now occupies fifth properties on the street. “It’s Exposure street,” jokes Ashley Jagdeo, account manager for Maharashi and other men’s fashion brands, who is guiding me through the office maze.
With two stores at ground level and one four-floor building, it is refreshing to see that staff have plenty of space, rather than the usual imprisonment of central London offices, where more and more people are squashed into an ever-smaller space. “All the rooms are so lofty and give you space to breath,” says Jagdeo. This might explain why everyone in the space was so breezy and friendly. To be honest, I did develop a bit of office envy and found that this workplace, for once, really reflects and possibly even explains the agency’s creativity.
The additional office that I am here to see was designed by Exposure’s in-house design team, a cross-disciplinary mix of graphic, interior and product designers headed by architect Simon Shaw. The Exposure design studio links to Jump Studio and that shared imaginative approach to design is evident on entering the new space. A huge bird’s nest structure sits by the reception and functions as a meeting pod. “Our thoughts were to replicate that feeling when you sit under a willow tree and get goose bumps,” explains Shaw. “It is such a privilege to design your own office space.” Although the fitting-out budget was tight, Shaw says fruitful brainstorming sessions and a clear vision made the project fun. Aside from the meeting pod, all the workstations are custom made from recycled materials. “It was a case of designing the desk around how the materials could be manufactured,” he says. The warm wooden surfaces radiate a horticultural feel that is supported by numerous green plants, fed by infusion from nutrition bags.
The details, down to the smell and the wooden boxing off of the ugly air- con unit, make the office a contemporary organic space that expresses the youth culture of the company. The artwork behind the reception desk and throughout Exposure’s five buildings has a particularly striking impact. From original Warhols to prints from its own campaigns, the pieces scream “fashion”. There is even a staff member employed specifically to ensure a frequent rotation.
“Raoul Shah is an avid art collector and likes to share the works with staff,” says Jagdeo. Shah evidently believes that a well-styled office with the air of a pop-culture museum will keep staff happy and, more importantly, productive by keeping those creative juices flowing.
Each floor in the main building has an installation of deconstructed campaign elements and collectors’ items on shelves or as partitioning to echo the mosaic of creative powers. One floor even sports a colourful and cultural mix of desks, from ornamental Moroccan tables to antique desks and flea-market finds.
But the most interesting rooms are undoubtedly the directors’ offices, which are the pure definition of a personalised space. That belonging to joint chief executive Tim Bourne resembles the premises of a dealer in vintage goods somewhere on the Pimlico Road. A classic wardrobe painted with subtle graphics running over from the wall, Japanese toys and excessive whiskey bottles are among the many details that you would need a good hour rummaging through, like a visitor to a charity shop, just to discover.
Away from the main building, the design studio features a foosball table that is almost obligatory in creative agencies nowadays. The fourth space is the office of Exposure’s Beauty Seen arm, which deals exclusively with the PR for luxury cosmetic brands such as Cowshed and Eve Lom. A salon-esque feel is achieved through the boudoir-style interiors, a black leather sofa and soft lighting from a luxury chandelier.
The fifth and final space is an off-the street promo room, which is entirely redesigned every three months on average to promote a client’s new product. The current occupant is Coca-Cola’s vitaminwater, and Shaw’s team used the brand’s colours to create a pharmacy look, with passers-by encouraged to pop in to try the new product for free. “It is great to have such a mix of projects – the possibility to develop original designs and free yourself from the long time span of architectural projects,” says Shaw “But essentially, what we do is deliver a brand experience – visually and spatially. That’s what Exposure is about.”