This London Fashion Week, British musician Skepta relaunched his fashion label, Mains, with a buzzy tennis-themed catwalk presentation where Stormzy, Louis Theroux and Naomi Campbell all sat front row. But the operator behind the show wasn’t a publicity giant; instead, the rapper chose a small, homegrown business founded by South London-native Daisy Hoppen.
With DH-PR, Hoppen has built an agency that has long represented key creatives from the London fashion scene — from Harris Reed and Simone Rocha to Molly Goddard and Rejina Pyo — and beyond, known for its personal touch with clients and garnering cachet beyond the realms of luxury fashion.
To be sure, the business is small. But it’s growing: since the pandemic, the company has doubled its revenue to hit the £1 million ($1.2 million) mark last year, and today employs 17 full-time staff members. Plus, DH-PR has always been profitable, even during the pandemic, Hoppen said — a rarity for a small PR business.
Hoppen is now navigating a market that is more competitive than ever. Within the fashion communications space, the largest firms continue to get bigger and bigger, among a quest to become full-service, global powerhouses. Karla Otto-owner The Independents, for example, has recently acquired a string of independent communications and events businesses, and raised $400 million in funding earlier this year to fuel ambitions to double in size by 2025. Others like The Lede Company and Together Group are also bolstering their portfolios through M&A.
That consolidation is only making it harder for the remaining independent agencies to compete. Although Hoppen is happy to stay small for the moment, saying that it allows her and her team to provide more personalised services to the clients she does work with, most of which don’t have the budgets to compete with luxury megabrands.
“If you have a really, really clear vision, and the right community and creative network around you, I think it’s just as important as a massive marketing spend,” Hoppen said.
Since the pandemic, she’s evolved DH-PR’s business model to prepare for its next chapter, developing new ways to work with clients while also opening up new revenue streams for the business.
After studying mediaeval European history at Leeds University, Hoppen landed a job working for small South London-based jewellery designer Sam Ubhi in the mid-aughts before spending nearly a decade at mainstay fashion PR agencies Purple and Karla Otto. But the pace of the shows began to take its toll, leaving her burnt out and wanting to make a change.
At the time, her father, who was in the photography business, was working on a Tim Walker exhibition and in search of a PR. So, in 2013, she decided to take the plunge and start her own agency, with that as her first gig. She quickly landed Dover Street Market as her second client, splitting her time between doing press for the retailer and the Michael Hoppen Gallery, where the exhibition was staged.
Dover Street Market still remains a client today, and DH-PR retainer clients like Hannah Weiland of Shrimps, Susie Cave of The Vampire’s Wife and Molly Goddard have worked with the agency since they first launched their brands. DH-PR’s client roster remains tightly curated, to ensure that the firm can service each client to the best of its ability and that there’s no cannibalisation within the portfolio, said Hoppen. She added she will not take on a competitor of a brand she works with, and will “politely turn down the majority of business that approaches us” as a result.
“We’re in a client service industry, so if you take on a brand, you have to be able to service it right,” she said. “It’s not hard to find creative people, especially in London, it’s not hard to launch a brand either. What’s really hard is to sustain a story around the brand.”
Danish label Ganni, which has worked with DH-PR for nine years, was drawn to Hoppen’s highly personal approach, said the brand’s creative director Ditte Reffstrup, a contrast to what larger agencies with huge client rosters could offer.
“At the time, we were mainly a Scandinavian-known brand but had intentions of building an international community. [But] we knew we didn’t want to get lost in the templates and generic approach of large agencies,” added Ganni co-founder Nicolaj Reffstrup.”I was very much about quality over quantity.”
During her days at Karla Otto, Hoppen worked with Céline, which was keen to engage with the art world at a time when many clothing brands operated squarely within the fashion sphere. Hoppen saw a real opportunity for her agency to focus on cross-pollination among creative industries, from fashion and art to music, food and interiors. It also helped to differentiate her Rolodex of contacts from other fashion PR agencies.
“I felt that fashion just felt so stuck in its own conversation,” said Hoppen. “I wanted to start having other relationships outside of that.”
Building differentiated but relevant communities around the brands she worked with was central to her approach. Homewares brand Tekla, which sells organic towels and bedding, started working with Hoppen and her team in 2018, before fashion’s pandemic-fuelled interiors obsession. DH-PR understood the brand’s ethos of leveraging culture to create product desirability, quickly working to foster connections between the bedding label and relevant members of the fashion, food and arts worlds, said managing director Kristoffer Windall Juhl.
Relationships with people like DJ Louise Chen or chef Frederik Bille Brahe helped the homeware brand tap into more niche networks, while also bolstering its positioning as elevated and design-led.
“[Hoppen and her team] are incredible at having a touch on sort of culture and community in a very meaningful way,” he said. “They immediately got that for Tekla, it was not important to be seen with the cool people, but more to have a relevant and diverse group of people around the brand.”
As the agency has matured, Hoppen has expanded the firm’s remit beyond her stable of long-term retainer clients to take on more “special projects,” where DH-PR offers short-term contracts where they support a client during a key moment or new launch. It’s an offering that’s been particularly appealing to bigger international brands like Prada and Jil Sander, which are able to reach new audiences by tapping into the eclectic network she’s amassed over the years, said Hoppen.
“They have phenomenal, strong in-house teams, but they want someone to bring an extra community to an event,” she said. “They want us to bring our point of view of what ‘fashion squads’ look like in London, not just the names that everyone’s seen before, but who are the next up-and-coming names.”
This move provided a new revenue stream for the company, accounting for about 10 percent of business, Hoppen said. Last year, the company produced the Serpentine art gallery’s annual summer party. It has also staged events for musicians like Florence & The Machine and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds.
Another new revenue stream for the firm is its talent management division, which counts interior designer and columnist Jermaine Gallacher and principal ballerina Francesca Hayward among its clients.
“Our job role, and our client service, is changing all the time … you can’t pigeonhole yourself, because you need to change with the times,” said Hoppen. “I just want us to be useful to people. I want to be small and personal and the best at what we do.”