If you ever wondered how you ever came to salivate over an item of clothing, you have people like the vivacious women behind bpmw*** to thank. Edina Sultanik, Minya Quirk, and Deirdre Maloney spearhead the branding consultancy’s operations based out of New York City and help creative minds make sense of the consumer market. Since coming together, the marketing mavens have launched a trade show and a blog that zeros in on the latest trends. The women have been busy, but they took time out recently to chat with Format about their work, friendship, and the cult of celebrity.

“We try to have in intuitive feel for bigger cultural shifts plus read everything, stay on top of art and design, literature, global current events, the digital realm, whatever the kids are into.”

Format: Can you define what bpmw*** does?
Edina Sultanik: BPMW is a full service-branding consultancy that helps designers reach their desired consumer base. We operate a sales showroom, offer full service communications and PR services, event planning, retail and design consultation, we also run a blog called www.wearethemarket.com and produce trade shows like Capsule for progressive men’s wear collections and Compass, a footwear show.

Minya Quirk: We primarily service the men’s wear market. We love the overall attitude and momentum of it. It’s very different than women’s fashion. We’ve collectively been working in this market for a long time and we’re lucky to work with a lot of old friends, which makes it fun.

Format: How long have you been around for?
ES: We’ll be celebrating five years soon!

MQ: Might call for some sort of blowout.

Format: How did it all begin? Were you all friends first?
ES: Minya & I worked together at Sportswear International. We met Deirdre while we were in the planning stages and the rest is history.

MQ: Edina was my editor and we always clicked. We both knew Deirdre through the industry but not well. We’re glad we met her though because she’s the only one with any capacity for numbers! We’ve been three musketeering ever since.
Deirdre Maloney: I was a men’s buyer at Bloomingdale’s when I met Minya and Edina. I always had an entrepreneurial spirit so our partnership made sense to my ambitions.

Format: BPMW’s principals are all women. How does this united female front transfer into the world of brand consultancy?
MQ: I think it’s either underestimated and dismissed, or intimidating. Maybe both. Maybe one, then the other. But let me refrain from going all feminist manifesto…

Deirdre Maloney: People think because we are women we must fight. Actually that’s not the case at all. I think we bring an even keel, unbiased perspective to the men’s wear market. We won’t force our particular style down the throats of brands.

MQ: We can lend a critical eye but an objective one.

ES: We check our egos at the door and I think that’s an advantage for our getting along, for communicating a brand’s message, consulting on design and servicing brands in general.

DM: We’re also incredibly hard working.

Format: Does it inform the projects you take on or are offered?
ES: Maybe what we’re offered. Who knows… I’d like to think we’re respected in the field and trusted. In terms of what we take on, no not really.

Format: Has the female intuition ever played a role in the business plan or a specific project?
MQ: I guess female intuition’s all we have. We think big and we try to keep up.

DM: Sometimes it’s a battle of wanting to do too much, going beyond a ‘plan’ – maybe our more abstract thinking is feminine?

Format: Staying on top of the latest trends is crucial in your line of work. How do you do it?
ES: Constant travel and research and via a network of friends in cool places who keep us informed of what’s new and next.

MQ: Vacuum cleaner minds! We try to have in intuitive feel for bigger cultural shifts plus read everything, stay on top of art and design, literature, global current events, the digital realm, whatever the kids are into.

DM: When you have worked in a field for a long time, sometimes you can anticipate trends or market momentum, sometimes not.

Format: Branding is also a big part of your work at BPMW. How do you keep ideas fresh?
MQ: Female intuition?

Format: How do you get an idea of what a company is all about?
MQ: When we meet with a company, we want to make sure they have a sense of integrity in the product they make or the service they offer. It’s important to any brand of any size that they have an ideology that they are faithful to.

DM: When brands try to be what they are essentially not, we are wary of them.

Format: What’s your favorite part of your job? In what do you find the greatest satisfaction?
MQ: My favorite part is being lucky to work with friends and people whom I have known for a long time and cooperatively making things happen. I feel very lucky in that sense, that my work is really centered around a group of people, a community that I love and respect.

DM: My favorite part is feeling in control of my future and building a company that I think is a great place to work and a great place to be!

ES: I love the industry, I always have. I love that with our shows and with our messages and brand assortment, we are truly shaping and changing it. That’s exciting to me.

Format: On your company website, you mention the importance of product placement. In the last 10 years or less, have you noticed a change in the way audiences consume ‘celebrity?’
MQ: We are not tremendous admirers of celebrities over here (we’re all New Yorkers so we have that ingrained sense of being inherently better than Hollywood anyway, sorry!) though we do have a true understanding of how they can work to build brands. It’s just not really easy thing to ‘buy’ from a client perspective, so it’s not an approach we sell.

DM: I think if we’re sick of celebs, the rest of the world will be too, soon. I hope.

ES: I think consumer demand for celebrity is definitely down.

MQ: With the economy in shambles and the polar ice caps melting, obsessing over Lindsay Lohan’s leggings and so-and-so’s handbag feels a little incongruous.

Format: With the rise of celeb magazines and paparazzi agencies like TMZ, stars are influencing consumers in a different way than they have before. Their daily lives have become as much of a spectacle as their big screen personas, if not more. Whatever celebrities are wearing, carrying and driving become hot commodities. How has this changed what you do, if at all?
MQ: Male celebrities don’t have the same effect on male consumers. Guys don’t care what jeans Brad Pitt wears. Celebrities can certainly boost a men’s wear brand in some markets – Jay-Z, Kanye and Pharrell set trends and move style direction for the youth culture that responds to them and the Japanese consumer is really highly influenced by the interests and tastes of their culture makers – almost to a fanatical degree, but a men’s wear brand focused solely on a celebrity-driven approach is going to have a tough time of it. Yes, celebs are under the microscope but for men’s wear it’s much more of an overall picture that influences the male shopper, I think.

ES: Men think about what they consume differently than women. We haven’t unlocked all the secrets but we know that right now, they like a genuine or relatable history that they can associate with and buy into.

Format: Given the current state of the economy, how has the consumer landscape changed?
MQ: The consumer right now wants value and to be able to feel good about their purchase. They want to know the product is made well and they want more evergreen pieces that rise above trend. A beautiful sweater that’s going to last is an easier buy than a trend-driven woven with bells and whistles that feels frivolous.

ES: Hence the return of the manly man and American heritage brands.

DM: Backlash to the metrosexual trend of five years ago.

MQ: A good thing.

More info: bpmw***

Maria Cootauco

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