Kuki de Salvertes: Creativity always pays off

Kuki de Salvertes is one of the founders of TOTEM FASHION agency that deals with promotion of designers and opening up new talents.

It is not Kuki de Salvertes’s first visit to Moscow and to Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia. He does not only work together with the organizers of the largest Eastern-European fashion week but also searches for new designers and clients of his agency. Offices of TOTEM FASHION operate in Paris and London and have been successfully working on the fashion market since mid-90s. Many designers who now live in the blaze of publicity are grateful to TOTEM agency and personally to Kuki de Salvertes for their ongoing career. Among the clients of the agency are participants of the legendary Antwerp Six, beginning fashion designers and accomplished brands including Jeremy Scott, Raf Simons, Veronique Branquinho, A.F. Vandevorst, Haider Ackermann. In his interview to Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia Magazine Kuki shares how the new-comer in fashion business can attract attention of the professional.

Does a young designer today have more chances to reach the success than 20 years ago when you founded ТOTEM?

Over the past 20 years, the fashion industry has experienced considerable change. Big fashion groups have integrated prestigious designers into their studios, to generate greater publicity in magazines. In the same way, mass market brands such as H&M are working hard to strengthen their brand image and creativity. In turn, they have become exciting brands with extensive coverage in the advertising landscape.

This means that independent creators are being allocated between these two types of monopolies, so today it is far more difficult for such young designers to break into this industry and to become recognized as they would have been 20 years ago.

I cannot be sure if Raf Simons entered the scene in 2015, whether he would have experienced the same immediate success which he did in 1995. It would probably be longer and much more complicated.  

How do you do it? How do you open up the new talents when they are still studying? What is your secret?

There is no secret, but merely a question of curiosity. I have my way of working which consists of researching and investigation of what is new. This has always been my way of working.

I discovered Bernhard Willhelm in his second year at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp. Today in 2015, I turn to Richard Quinn who is currently a student at Central Saint Martins School. Their styles are different, and despite the 20-year interval, both designers have similarly provoked a visual and emotional shock in me. 

Who of the present-day young designers you find the most perspective one?

It is clear that a boy like Richard Quinn who is only 21 has an extremely strong and promising future. Of all that is difficult to predict, what is for certain is that he will leave a trace in the history of fashion.

Your work with designers, what is it about? How do you help their promotion?

It is without question that the foundation of my work lies in the promotion and opening up my network of journalists and contacts, which has evolved over the years. After more than 30 years in the fashion trade, it is clear that I am able to give to certain designers of such talent not only the advice in strategy but also in style. For example to highlight a theme, extend certain volumes, or to lend focus to certain ideas over others.

What new technologies and what digital fields do you find the most efficient in promoting the brand in fashion industry?

In my opinion, digital kills fashion. It has become a kind of virtual trash where you find everything. Everything is excessive, where everyone gives himself great importance without competence, where great fashion objects appear vulgar and where the extremely mediocre can appear to be great on screen. I have no interest in this. I am not a technology whiz. I am someone who loves clothes, its materials ,and speaking to people. The laptop does not have its place in my life, nor in my way of living and working.

Thanks to TOTEM many designers and brands became famous and popular. How was your brightest and most remarkable client?

Without a doubt, the most remarkable story which has given me the greatest memories, both strong and also negative is Jeremy Scott. I was instantly fascinated by the energy of this young American in Paris who worked in frightful conditions, without any money, without the access to beautiful materials, but who managed through a vision that was his own, imposed a style that at the time revolutionized fashion. And above all, it was Jeremy who introduced me to Isabella Blow, whom over those years, was a sort of alter ego for me,  we were on the same wavelength, same passion, same way of living. Our relationship was genius and for this I owe him a hundred percent of my gratitude.

I find his work at Moschino today fantastic, a brand I am very familiar with, where I started my career when I was 21 years old. He has renewed the codes of the house, making them more glamorous and fun at the same time, refreshed, different! For all of these reasons I attribute my best memories to Jeremy.

Taking into account your significant experience what strategy would you advise to talented new-comers who make their first steps in the world of fashion? Is it possible to excite such expert as you are? If possible, how?

Looking at the number of brands today, if a new designer hopes to become recognized, then there is only one possibility. That is, to be different, to not be boring, to be extremely creative. And above all, to be courageous because it may take time. But ultimately, creativity pays off.