With stints at Maison Martin Margiela, Topshop, and Stella McCartney under her belt, publicist Julia Melbourne has the kind of professional background every fashion flack would envy. After working her way up the ladder, she launched her own VIP, communications, and events consultancy firm, Iris Public Relations Los Angeles. The West Coast-based veteran is using her international experience to bring a European sensibility and unique perspective to her clients. She tells The Daily about her impressive rise and what she brings to the table.
What’s your personal background?
I was born in London and grew up in Bath. We lived in Brazil for a few years; which was an amazing and colorful experience as a child! Then London for the last fifteen years before moving to Los Angeles almost three years ago.
What were you doing before you got into fashion?
I was always obsessed with magazines growing up: Self Service, Purple, Vogue, iD, Dazed, AnOther. I knew I wanted to work in the industry but wasn’t sure how that to make that happen. I didn’t really know anyone who had ever done that to ask them for advice, and resources weren’t as readily available as they are now. So, when I was studying French at university I applied to all the main fashion houses in Paris and was fortunate to be offered year-long internships at Chanel and Margiela. It was a very tough choice but I went to Maison Martin Margiela and still feel very fortunate for that opportunity. The team was so small, so I was able to get really involved and was given a lot of trust at a very young age. I am still in touch with people that I worked with! It was amazing to be part of such a humble team. I will forever be grateful to Roxane Danset for giving me my first job.
What was your experience like at Margiela?
It was a really special time as the company was still so small; more like a family. I feel very lucky to have worked with him and his team and to have experienced the company in that moment. I worked on all of the lines including the beautiful artisanal pieces. The archive was incredible.
You have a very impressive background.
Thank you! After Paris, I moved to London and worked at Agent Provocateur with Serena Rees—a brand with such authentic identity which most brands now try to recreate. We created some short films with Mike Figgis and Kate Moss, which were some of the first of that kind. I then worked at Topshop in the press office right at the start of the Kate Moss Topshop collection launch. I worked on the incredible launch parties and dinners to celebrate the collaboration, some notable moments include Grace Jones and Bryan Ferry performing to intimate audiences! I worked there for four years building their VIP relations team—celebrity dressing, shows, and events. We launched in the USA, hosted guests wearing bespoke looks to the Met Gala, and launched New Gen designer collaborations for Christopher Kane, Preen, and Mary Katrantzou. It was an exciting time.
What made you decide to go off on your own?
As well as working in-house with Stella McCartney for two years, I worked at agencies with clients including Tabitha Simmons, Alice Temperley, and Mulberry. Following this, there wasn’t really a role in London that made sense; by that point I had worked in all areas—PR, events, VIP, and digital—and there wasn’t a position that encompassed all of these. I realized that there was an opportunity to work in a new way and saw this as good time to start consulting to work in a dynamic way with brands and designers directly with an in-house approach.
Who have you worked with?
Since setting up the company in London four years before moving to the States, we have provided PR, VIP, event, and consultancy services to a number of brands and designers including Alexander McQueen, Byredo, Paul Smith, Pringle of Scotland, Rosetta Getty, Chylak Accessories, Maison Michel, and Barrie Knitwear (both part of Chanel Métiers d’Art), Ralph & Russo, Huishan Zhang, ReDone, and Ancient Greek Sandals. I have also brought my relationships from the luxury fashion and entertainment worlds to move organically into lifestyle, working with hotels and extended-stay properties to help position them to international audiences through editorial, VIP ambassadors, brand partnerships, events, and cultural programming—essentially storytelling to build their brands. I have also worked with Villa Carlotta in Hollywood since it opened.
What differentiates you?
Iris is a creative consultancy for international RTW, lifestyle, and luxury brands; providing services across the U.S. and European markets. I work with clients in a bespoke, nimble way; offering a 360 approach with the ever-changing industry and landscape. Since moving to the States I’ve really understood how much clients want a ‘European sensibility’ and perspective on things. I think a lot of clients feel they have someone they can trust to help them with their vision and to bring new ideas and opportunities to them. I work with international brands on strategy, identifying ambassadors and creating content, red carpet dressing and events. This could be anything from press days or intimate dinners to a Couture show, through to complete creative redirection, rebranding, or launching something entirely from scratch. It has been very organic, but over the years I have been advising a lot of brands on creative direction, their identity, and strategy in a longer-term sense, far beyond the scope of traditional PR. I really love this and am excited to be doing more of it. It’s so fulfilling to build authentic stories and ambassadors.
Why did you decide to move to Los Angeles? What’s the difference between working on the West Coast and Europe?
I fell in love with the lifestyle. Although I live in L.A., I work closely with NYC and Europe, which means I am constantly juggling different time zones. I was craving a change after fifteen years in London and I love how much of life is lived outside in California! The sun shining every day gives you such a different perspective and makes you excited to start the day. I’ve been spending more time back in NYC—for Frieze and for shoots, it is such an exciting time now things are reopening. The energy is amazing and it’s going to be such a fun year. I am really excited about this next chapter. We have some wonderful projects and events coming up on both coasts!
L.A’s cred as a fashion capital has grown over the years. What’s the fashion community like?
L.A. is a really special place and there is an incredible creative community from all over the world here now. A lot of New Yorkers moved here in the past few years and that has really accelerated in the last year. As well as the fashion industry, there has been so much change in recent years with the addition of Frieze and other art fairs. I love the creative space and energy here. It is so unique.
Definitely the cover shoot for a client with Natalie Portman for Harper’s Bazaar, and a private Chanel event!
What’s your professional motto?
Work hard and be nice to people! I’m friends with so many old colleagues and people that started as interns on my team in previous jobs! It’s so lovely to stay in touch with everyone and collaborate together on incredible projects.