Fashion Industry Insiders: Courtney Blackman, Director at FARBLACK Ltd
By Carlene Thomas Bailey

For our new WGSN series we’re interviewing industry powerhouses to get their reflections on the magic of fashion and the changing state of the industry.

May 23, 2016
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It’s an exciting week this week at WGSN HQ, as we gear up for the Futures Summit and Awards show – with an incredible roster of fashion industry experts joining us to discuss the trends that will change the fashion industry over the next 15 years.

Ahead of the Summit we’ve caught up with our speakers to ask them how they climbed the ladder and got their incredibly impressive job titles, how the industry has changed and what the fashion industry of the future will look like.

Courtney Blackman by Christopher Dadey

First up, meet Courtney:

Q: Hi Courtney, you are currently the Director of FarBlack, a fashion PR and publishing company. What’s been your fashion journey?

A: It’s been a super interesting journey to this role, to be honest. Working as the PR & Marketing Director of a London-based brand with an on-schedule show in Paris, was my first foray into fashion, about 12-years-ago.

After a few seasons there, I started my own PR firm in London: Forward PR, then The Industry–a networking group for fashion professionals that meets at Condé Nast, which I sold last year (but I’m still an adviser), and nearly two years ago, acquired Candid Magazine, a luxury menswear magazine.

THE-INDUSTRY panel

THE-INDUSTRY: Courtney leads a fashion panel with guests model David Gandy and Fashion editor Hilary Alexander

FARBLACK was/is the parent company to all, along with a portfolio in Canada including a historic opera house and a contemporary art gallery. As a director at FARBLACK, I have my eyes on everything, but I am the current Editor-in-Chief of Candid, and heavily involved with Forward PR, which is primarily managed by FARBLACK Vice President, Laura McCluskey.

Q: What do you love about the fashion industry?

The visual splendour and constant change – creativity paves the way for so much possibility. It’s amazing to see what’s formulated in people’s minds and then interpreted as clothing, mirroring a designer’s inspirations and societal trends, translating into era-identifying time capsules for years to come.

‘It’s pretty fascinating and literally like being a part of visual history’.

And some of the most wonderful people that I know work in fashion.

How do you feel the UK fashion industry is doing at the moment?

It’s excellent to see UK brands on the global stage, like Burberry, which is a powerhouse on multiple levels, and to see brands like Erdem, Mary Katrantzou, Temperley, Julian Macdonald and Roksanda displacing some of the big Italian, French and American brands on the red carpet. It would be great to see more British brands develop into household names, as there are so many incredible British designers, but it seems difficult for many to get past ‘cult status.’

Who are the stand-out designers you love?

Electronic Sheep.AW16

Electronic Sheep- AW16 collection

Melissa Obika AW16

Melissa Obika AW16 collection

J.W.Anderson, Mary Katrantzou, Electronic Sheep, Christopher Kane, Kenzo, Agi & Sam, Sophia Webster, Flora Miranda, Saint Laurent, Mother of Pearl, Noe Bernacelli, SIBLING, Alex Mullins, Katie Eary, Melissa Obika, Carven, Alex S. Yu and Bora Aksu – I could go on and on. It’s a mix of women’s and men’s, for me personally and for the job (Candid Magazine).

What do you love about how digital and social media has transformed fashion?

Everything.

‘It provides a level of transparency, which helps the industry reflect back on itself and evolve.’

Digital and social media have transformed life and from the fashion lens, it’s been very exciting to be ‘involved’ in every aspect of looking at fabric swatches to the last few seconds before a show starts via a designer or brand’s social media. We are social organisms and social media has added enhanced layers of depth into fashion experiences – both for those working in the industry and for consumers, which I think is great.

Looking forward and looking back: Was there one monumental fashion show that you witnessed in your long-standing career that really blew you mind?

Alexander McQueen’s Spring/Summer 2001, Voss show was an epic piece of catwalk art and the nude model revelation at the finale really plunged you into the darker side of McQueen’s creative brain. I also really loved Chanel’s Autumn/Winter 2014 Supermarket show.

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Chanel A/W14

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I just thought it was hilarious, contemporary, ironic and fun. It made me feel really happy.

And currently, what are some of the cool retail strategies that are exciting you right now? 

I still think online shopping is the best thing to have ever happened. Another retail experience that stands out is on a recent trip to Vancouver for Vancouver Fashion Week – a store called Secret Location has strategically placed cameras just outside the fitting rooms in a large mirror area, so you can easily see all angles of your body in a potential purchase. It also has a social media photo box, where you can take a full-body selfie and share it instantly. It’s a top-tier luxury concept store, fully embracing the power social media.

WGSN Futures, London: Interested in finding out about WGSN Futures, and getting your hands on the last remaining tickets? Head here.


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