As I walk into the Liverpool Fashion Week exhibition I see Amanda immediately. Her presence is magnetic. She’s mingling with Petronella, the creator of the brand Tyamika that featured in a show just the night before. They are beside the Tyamika stall, which is awash with bright colours and printed clothing. Amanda tries on one of the designs, a striking fascinator, and jokes how she can wear it on the school run. Jokes aside the image that arises of Amanda on the school run, while donning a fascinator, seems to sum her up perfectly. Amanda is both a mother and a career woman and refuses to comprise one for the other. Both aspects of her life are balanced as flawlessly as the fascinator resting on her head.
When asked how many children she has she quickly replies; ‘I have six and they come everywhere with me, I run my business with my kids and if people don’t like it I just say well don’t do business with me then. You know we’re in the 21st century you don’t need to hide your kids away from people; you don’t need to say I’m going to put off having kids and do my career’.
Moss’s uncompromising mantra on the work-life balance has earned her great respect in the media industry. Now the turn has come for the fashion industry to be dominated by this straight talking businesswoman and changed for the better.
She buys the fascinator, clearly a personal admirer of her designer’s work. ‘This is why I never make any profit from Liverpool Fashion Week,’ she laughs. Amanda appears to be at the top of her game, yet I can’t help but wonder why she has continued Liverpool Fashion Week if it isn’t a commercial success? I had a lot of questions and quickly came to realise Amanda’s mission goes much further than seeking a profit.
So Amanda how do you visualise the future and what do you hope to achieve?
‘Well I’ve just set up Amanda Moss PR and I want to be the biggest fashion PR agency in the UK. So when fledging designers are coming out of making their first collection and they don’t know where to go to get it out there they can come to me. I will get them in Vogue, I’ll get them in Grazia magazine, I’ll get them on the catwalk and put them in front of buyers and the media. So basically I’ll mentor them on how to move their business forward. That’s what I’ve been doing over the last few years but now I need to take it to a new level. I will promote them and market them for a fee, I have twenty-five years experience and that’s got to count for something.’
Count for something is an understatement, Moss’s industry knowledge has made her a female powerhouse, running her own monthly magazine Lifestyles while transforming Liverpool into a fashion hot spot. Moss’s conviction and steely determination born from twenty-five years in the media industry makes her new role, as the director of Amanda Moss PR, an ideal fit. I ask her how she got into the fashion industry and to where she is now.
‘Well it’s all through Lifestyles magazine, that’s been my baby and six years ago a stylist from London came up and wanted to do a shoot with me and then said, “I want to do a fashion show can we call it Lifestyle Fashion Show and do it over a few days?,” but he wanted creative control over it. I saw what he was doing and just thought I could do it better but I didn’t really think about doing anything, I just thought I’ll do this and that to change it. Then after the show people contacted the magazine to say is Lifestyles doing another fashion show? That’s when I set up Liverpool Fashion Week because I thought there’s a demand for it and it’s just grown and grown every year, obviously because people do love it.’
Do you still consider yourself a journalist too?
‘When people say what do you do? I always say I’m a journalist I just happen to do events. I am more of an editor though, but I don’t work day to day on the magazine because I am more. I consider myself a journalist but I am events and fashion, well that’s what I seem to be. I have a very close-knit team who work for me and put the magazine together with me.’
As a journalist you will have already worked with PR companies and therefore must already know the industry quite well…
‘Exactly, I’ve worked for local newspapers, national newspapers and I’ve worked for national magazines. I’ve got my own magazine so I still work with PR companies and I have the contacts for Fashion Week. I don’t think there’s anybody more qualified in the UK to actually move somebodies business forward, especially being a small business myself and having started from scratch with absolutely nothing, not a bean to rub together, no one knew my name, no one knew who I was. In fact I was new to Liverpool nobody knew me in Liverpool I just came up for a job. I got a job on Hollyoaks as a postproduction manager.’
So you’ve worked in TV as well?
‘Yes I worked in TV for fifteen years in production and postproduction, so I’ve done script writing as well. All I’ve ever done in my life is work for the media. Which is why I know there’s nobody better qualified to do PR then me.’
So what made you decide to have a fashion week in Liverpool, did you have your business in mind?
‘Well one promoted the other, Lifestyles promoted the Fashion Week and the Fashion Week promoted the magazine, and the two grew together and benefitted from each other. The catwalks, and the fashion has been amazing, they’ve been equally if not better than what I’ve seen at New York Fashion Week. In fact our photographer who also photographed New York Fashion Week said that our collections, totally surpassed those at New York. I’ve had PR companies come up from London, saying we’re better than London Fashion Week, but you know nine months prep goes into these fashion shows they’re not thrown together. Every designer who applies is researched and checked.’
How do you find new designers and new talent?
‘They find me, they come to the website. In the North West there’s no one else really high profile for fashion.’
Our conversation is interrupted as one of her younger daughters skips over and looks up at her mother with adoration. It is only then I discover that her children are here with her today. I consider whether Amanda’s maternal instinct and understanding merges into her work. Did she have her daughters and readers in mind when she made the decision not to include skeletal models in her catwalks, as well as banning the models she did use from sunbed sessions?
‘Yes absolutely, because I had a model agency for a couple of years and people were coming to me and saying I want to do Fashion Week I weigh eight stone but I’ll get down to six and a half and I was like I don’t want you to get down to six and a half! I think as a mother you have to take responsibility, I don’t want kids coming into my business willing to starve themselves in the name of fashion. I think it’s completely irresponsible to put people under that pressure. There are some very slim people going to modelling agencies and being told to loose a stone, I think it’s criminal to do that to somebody. It also then creates body confidence issues because people may think, oh I’ve got a great figure or a flat stomach and then they go to an agency and are told they need to loose a stone and then what you thought was good is going to crush you. I think it’s totally immoral, I think it should be illegal, I really do.’
Amanda’s voice is influential and has enabled her to re-write the fashion rulebook on her terms, something many have welcomed. She has used her found platform to give unrealistic beauty standards a much needed overhaul. Dubbed Liverpool’s answer to Anna Wintour, though far more approachable, her mission is to combat the inaccessibility of fashion. So what does fashion mean to her?
‘My ethos for Liverpool Fashion Week that makes it different from the rest of the UK is that fashion is for everybody. People say to me why don’t you only invite the cream of the fashion world and I don’t like that I want to make fashion shows accessible to the mass market. I want to make them commercially accessible so anybody can go to a fashion show, like they would go to the cinema or they would go to the theatre and they expect to see something they may not normally see but it gives them ideas, so they think wow I could actually wear that and wow is that really out there? In Liverpool especially people will use a fashion designer far more than the rest of the country, just to get an outfit for a party or a special occasion, whereas the rest of the country wouldn’t necessarily do that. Girls as young as eighteen will commission designers to make something for them. It’s about giving people that choice; you can do it on a budget, you don’t have to sit on a waiting list for six months to wear something. Whatever your budget there’s something out there for you.’
What do you think is the value in having regional fashion shows?
‘I think the London shows are just ass-licking the top designers. There’s no originality it’s just schmoosing and ass-licking the fashion houses like Dolce and Gabbana, Beckham and Stella. Fantastic names wonderful designers but why aren’t they coming up here and seeing what raw talent there is? There’s people sat at home night after night sewing, stapling, designing and fabric printing until the early hours of the morning and are coming out with these fantastic collections and the talent is just awesome. The shows we had on last night for new talent night were just the best shows we’ve had in years. People come from all over the world; somebody flew in today from Ireland just to come for the day.’
Do you think it’s important to have Liverpool Fashion Week as a springboard for new designers?
‘Liverpool has gone on to launch people’s careers. There’s somebody in the headlines quite a lot at the moment called Jenna Barnes at Raine & Bea Lingerie. She’s designed for Beckham and has always said Liverpool Fashion Week launched her career five years ago. People have a lot of respect for Liverpool Fashion Week, the right people come to the shows and it’s industry recognised. It’s not just a show for the sake of putting on a fashion show, I’m not in the business to entertain people, I’m a business woman and I want to launch careers which will then further my career.’
What would your advice be to a designer starting out in the industry?
‘Book a catwalk show with me! You’ve got to get yourself out there!’
Amanda has mastered the technique of both nurturing and empowering those around her in equal measure, a heady tonic that breads success. If breaking into the fashion industry is all about who you know then I strongly recommend you introduce yourself to world of Amanda Moss…