After doing public relations for two of the most powerful names in fashion, Remi Barbier decided to open his own boutique PR firm, RBPR, and hasn’t looked back. The French-born flack tells us how he’s built his career, his proudest moments thus far, and why he’s sticking to the ‘quality over quantity’ formula when it comes to his clients.
How did you first get into the fashion industry?
What’s interesting is that I didn’t seek out a career in the fashion industry. I attended an international school called ISCPA Paris, where I completed a Masters in Communications and Journalism. While in Paris, I was fortunate enough to intern at Architectural Digest magazine with Marie Kalt, before landing a role at Karla Otto’s PR firm when it was managed by Alexander Werz. I’d never imagined that all of this would end up with me moving to New York, where I’d find my perfect match in PR. After a stint at Karla Otto’s firm, I became a publicist for the former editor in chief of Vogue Paris, Carine Roitfeld. As her PR, I worked for her magazine CR Fashion Book; curating events and assisting on projects with Harper’s Bazaar magazine where she served as global fashion director. In this role, I was exposed to the global fashion and beauty industries, from launching collaborations with Uniqlo to working on Carine’s fragrance. While working for Carine, I also juggled PR and events for Harper’s Bazaar, V Magazine, V Man, and worked alongside editor in chief and creative director Stephen Gan. It was such a fantastic experience securing and managing press for magazines, curating unforgettable events and dinner parties—including for the late Karl Lagerfeld—and meeting exceptional people who I still consider friends and family today. Throughout this period, I met many incredible people, like my friends at The Daily, and learned many life lessons.
What was the next move?
Six years into my career, Carine and Stephen suggested I open my own PR agency. Needless to say, I was freaked out by their suggestion. However, I decided to take a leap of faith, and I stand by this as one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I truly believe my career has been a serendipitous blend of hard work and opportunity, and I’m humbly grateful for all the experiences, mentors, and people I’ve met along the way.
What was it about PR that you knew was a good fit for you?
I’m a naturally independent person who thrives under pressure. I’m curious, but I also like to keep things modern and fun; therefore I’m constantly pushing myself to see things from a different perspective and consider new approaches.
Who are some of the brands and people you work with?
I founded RBPR in late 2018. Since then, we’ve been partnering with clients across different industries. We’ve worked with some of the world’s leading brands, including Samsung, Moncler, Burberry, Dior, Warner Music, Clarins, Google, Faena Hotel, Hearst Magazines, Saks Fifth Avenue, Winnie Harlow, and Maria Borges to name a few. Our portfolio is diverse: from fashion to lifestyle, interior design, beauty, wellness, and talent. We work with both new brands looking to test a market and develop globally, such as La Bouche Rouge Paris, and established tech and luxury brands looking to scale new products globally.
Every publicist brings a unique perspective to the job. What do you feel you bring?
I try to have a well-balanced life away from all the parties and the industry drama. I know this may be contrary to the “work 24/7” mentality, but I’ve learned through trial and error to create boundaries between work and home life. I encourage myself to enjoy a little self-care time and take moments to put my phone down and enjoy life. These boundaries have allowed me to be more compassionate and patient with my staff, clients, and those around me. Running my own business at 30-years-old has also given me the flexibility to dedicate time to some organizations I care about, including causes for climate change and anti-human trafficking. Last year, for example, I hosted an event at the United Nations with the Ambassador of Monaco and the journalist Celhia de Lavarenne, founder of Stop Trafficking of People. The event was joined by actress and singer Charlotte Gainsbourg, ambassadors from around the world, and some great activists. When I’m not on Zoom calls and working with clients, I spend time cooking, eating, and drinking good wine with loved ones or riding my horse in the country. I’m also a big believer in embracing new platforms—PR is continuously changing! There is no one path to get your clients where they need to be. Finding creative solutions that delight my clients is what makes this work fun. And if we’re able to do some good for the world in the process…even better! The old ways of doing business are no longer adequate in a post-pandemic world. We must constantly look for a better approach, from media placements to collaborations and partnerships.
What types of clients are a good fit for you?
I’ve built RBPR to be a modern agency with an exclusive and highly curated list of clients. Each has an interesting story to share with the world. I never take on a client for the money or prestige. Those kinds of relationships invariably backfire. A good working relationship built on mutual respect and trust is a top priority for me.
You worked with Carine Roitfeld for many years. What did she teach you about the industry?
Initially, I met Carine when she was at Vogue Paris before moving to New York to establish CR Fashion Book. As a mentor, Carine taught me the value of building relationships and the power of loyalty and authentic friendships. She taught me to think big and never give up. Who said there’s no loyalty or lasting friendships in the fashion industry? I will never forget my first ever fashion shoot with Carine in Paris in 2014. We shot Bella Hadid and Paige Reifer for CR Fashion Book—both are still dear friends today.
You’ve been working in New York for many years, and now you are taking on global clients. Tell us about this expansion.
Gratefully, 2020 was a huge growth year for RBPR. We expanded into Europe, where I’ve taken on several new projects, mainly within the beauty and wellness industries. Everything came together organically and through referrals. My new European clients have allowed me to spend time in Paris and Burgundy and visit my 90-year-old grandparents. In 2021, I am looking forward to further expanding our client base in the U.S. and Europe.
The fashion industry has gone through quite a year. What do you think the biggest change will be moving forward?
Social justice needs to be a priority. Change begins when we acknowledge our past mistakes, hold each other accountable, and start to listen instead of pretending we have all the answers. I don’t have the answers! But I know fashion has a huge platform, and fashion can be used as a positive force for social justice if we dare to close our mouths for a moment and simply listen to the experiences of others. And let’s not forget about climate change. I recently partnered with Future Earth, founded by Stephanie Shepherd, to shine some light on their work. I think they are doing important work with their platform. We need more of this! COVID has affected the fashion industry, but I believe there is a silver lining. I think the pandemic has highlighted the need for us to rethink our choices. The fashion industry must take a hard look at its contribution to waste, non-eco-friendly habits, and environmentally damaging production methods. While fashion is steadily making progress, there’s still plenty of work to do. Some of the solutions are obvious – we can reduce the number of fashion shows, create smaller, curated collections, and reduce the sheer quantity of garments produced.
What has been your proudest moment as a publicist?
While there are many callout moments, I have to say that I am incredibly proud of how my clients navigated the pandemic! Let’s be honest, the pre-COVID world was all about star-studded, boozy, in-person events. For example, we organized the ‘Last Supper’ party at Miami Art Basel hosted by Lenny Kravitz and Dom Perignon with Faena. We also worked on press and VIPs for the Longines Global Champions Tour horse show on Governors Island, hosted by top riders Georgina Bloomberg and Jessica Springsteen in New York City. We did the Grammys Party presented by Warner Music with Dua Lipa and Cardi B, and kicked off NYFW with the Saks Fifth Avenue Anniversary party in New York and many more. Once the clock ticked over to 2020 and the COVID outbreak began, our priorities and brand collaborations transformed to meet the moment.
How did you pivot during the pandemic?
With the sustainable luxury cashmere brand LERET LERET, Lisa Pomerantz, and God’s Love We Deliver, we provided thousands of meals to the most vulnerable elderly New Yorkers and underserved communities with HIV/AIDS. The brand is currently partnering with Loveland Foundation to support and donate a percentage of sales to provide financial assistance to Black women and girls seeking mental health therapy in the United States. Meanwhile, AD100 interior designer Robert Stilin joined the God’s Love We Deliver effort and fed NYC’s most vulnerable by raising money around the launch of his new book. The Natural Diamond Council focused on Wildlife and Sustainability and hosted a panel conversation with young global leaders. The lifestyle e-boutique SENA Lifestyle Studio raised money for the Lotus House to support women, youth, and children experiencing homelessness. With the modern wellness hair brand Fable & Mane, we supported their customer’s mental health with virtual hair yoga events conducted via Zoom during people’s lunch hours. With wellness guru Juhi Singh, founder of the Juhi-Ash Center, All Hands and Hearts, and Petra Nemcova, we raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and delivered respirators, masks, and face shields for nurses and doctors. Every day I feel grateful to be working with a group of amazing clients who create valuable products and services and also do some good in this world!