Marie de Foucaud, Founder and CEO of Elovation Consulting, describes how the Saudi Fashion Commission is making a huge impact on local communities. Marie highlights her experience connecting with upcoming talent and political leaders for the Saudi 100 Brands project. Marie also shares what communicators need to know before working with international brands.
DOUG: What is the Saudi Fashion Commission?
MARIE: So, as you know and as you know, most of most of us know, Saudi Arabia is looking for diversifying its economy. It used to be only focused on oil, and now there’s a will to develop new industries from scratch. And fashion is one. So, they’ve decided to have the Ministry of Culture of Saudi Arabia develop a fashion commission led by a great team. And this fashion commission is in charge of developing this new industry, which is the fashion industry in the country.
DOUG: How is the Saudi Fashion Commission looking to expand the global fashion industry?
MARIE: So, the Saudi Fashion Commission is developing programs and the aim of these programs is to support the development, business, development locally and internationally of brands, local brands who have been identified as being potential interesting contributors to this Saudi fashion industry. So, I am lucky, together with my partners, to have been appointed and to have been identified and appointed to develop one of their main programs, which is called Saudi 100 Brands, which is probably the most, you know, their most famous program. And this program is about, you know, developing for these 100 selected brands, local brands, some specific customized programs with mentorships, with masterclasses, with opportunities to participate to international events. And again, this is all made to educate these leaders of these brands, these entrepreneurs, most of them being women, and to drive together with them some growth and to, at the end of the day, put the Saudi fashion industry on the map.
DOUG: Obviously, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that many of the business ventures of Saudi Arabia, a number of them, are viewed with suspicion and question in the United States. So how are you navigating public relations for the Saudi 100 brands?
MARIE: That’s a very interesting question. So first of all, I would say that Saudi Arabia is interesting everyone now. Like there’s a momentum about the country. I feel it very much because I’ve been in the country for the past eight years. I’ve worked in different contexts on different projects related to Saudi Arabia for, again, now eight years. The people like me who believe, you know, can be legitimate to have an opinion because they’ve been witnessing the evolution of the country can, you know, I think and most of most of us, I do think share the same opinion that these evolutions are going into a very positive way, even if everything’s not perfect. So, coming back to your question, clearly, first of all, again, I feel legitimate because I really deeply know the country and not only the country, but really like the people of the country. So, any time, you know, get into some people who do criticize, I’m super happy to discuss with them and to give them like very concrete examples of people’s life changes for the past few years and I get into very concrete again, examples to explain the way I do think they should think about Saudi Arabia these days.
DOUG: What advice would you give other communicators who are looking to work with international organizations?
MARIE: Of course, you know, the first very, very basic advice is do make sure to very well know the countries you’re getting involved with yourself very well. So, you know, and beyond educating yourself about the history and about the geopolitics and reading media and reading books, do make sure you go to the country yourself, these countries yourself, and do again, meet with real people and have a local very local experience and understanding. So that would be, you know, my first immediate recommendation. The second one would be, if you are lucky then to have been able to educate yourself, do try to contribute to educate others. So, if you’re working on PR, for instance, you, the community of people you’re trying to reach, whether they are journalists or, you know, other kind of influencers. If you can do take these peoples and do offer these people the chance to discover as well themselves the country, organizing trips and getting them into, you know, some out of the box and not most obvious visits. But again, do make them meet with real people because at the end of the day, we know that everything is it’s all about people. And from my experience coming back to Saudi Arabia, whenever I could offer to some people to visit the country, clearly this is where I’ve been the most efficient in having these people change the way they look at the country. And then, you know, overall, I would say that there’s a state of mind to have to be working with international organizations. And I’m afraid this state of mind is not that that, you know, that easy to find and not that many people do have it. But to me, the state of state of mind is to be, to think win-win. So, whenever you work with international organizations, and that’s actually true with other kind of organization, but I think it’s particularly true with international organizations. First of all, before thinking about what are you going to get from these missions, you know, whether it is financially or whether it is about your experience, you should first think and have as a priority what you have to offer to them. And again, coming back to the example of Saudi Arabia, like my clients at the fashion commission, are extremely educated people, extremely smart, super, super subtle. And they do feel immediately whenever they have someone in front of them who’s just, they’re interested in, you know, the budgets, for instance. And I think one of the one of the reasons why the mission, my partners and I do have with the fashion commission, Saudi fashion Commission, is related to the fact that we are very passionate about working for them and we are very much willing to contribute to build up the success of these local specific talents in Saudi. So again, you know, get into this state of mind, which is win-win.
DOUG: Do you have any final thoughts? I mean, it must be just such an interesting, challenging project to be in the high fashion space.
MARIE: So, whatever your mission is, do make it a passion because I think not only will it make a huge change in your daily work and life, but also definitely have a huge impact on the relationships you will develop with your clients. And at the end of the day, how successful you will be.
DOUG: That sounds really fascinating. Thanks so much for spending time with us. We appreciate it.