Laura Weir talks to Caroline Gautier (left) and Linzi Boyd about how the communications and brand development agency brings labels back to life.
When did you start Surgery and why?
Linzi Boyd: We set up Surgery 12 years ago in London with no investors. I owned footwear brand Stride and had sold it to Stephen Palmer of CAT Footwear. I found while running the brand that there were no communications agencies that weren’t either run by ‘It girls’ or people up their own bums.
Caroline Gautier: I was working for G-Star as its first in-house PR in the UK when Linzi called me and said ‘You’re making a mistake working there’, and sent a car round to pick me up and kidnap me. I was ready for the next step at that point.
Tell me about the brand revival arm of Surgery?
LB: We plan and create a strategy that is needed to bring a brand back to life over a two or three-year period. One of our greatest achievements is helping to take Pringle from a golf brand to a market-leading brand.
At Gieves & Hawkes our remit was to entice a younger audience through [diffusion brand] Gieves. Our latest project is Ellesse and we are working on its global strategy, which is exciting.
What’s next on the agenda?
LB: We’re opening an office in New York, as if we’re not busy enough. We have a client in the US called Paige [the premium denim brand] and we’re moving into its office. It has space so it makes sense. We’re building up every division of the business, including our premium division, and we want to launch a sports division as well.
We have a few sports clients and we want to build on that expertise.
How has the market changed over the past 12 years?
LB: There are so many agencies, and now people realise the right communication can turn your brand around - before it was very airy fairy. In terms of retail, a lot of shops have closed. It’s businesses such as Urban Outfitters that have changed the retail landscape through creativity over the past few years.
What has been your career highlight? CG: We had this unusual knack of being able to befriend the mum’s of celebrities, so we used to befriend David Beckham’s mum and Robbie Williams’ mum [which helped with product placement]. Surgery came up with the creative concept for Pringle’s first catwalk show, which was a highlight.
What tips would you give to an independent retailer when it comes to DIY PR and branding?
LB: Look at your website and make sure if you sell a brand that a celebrity has worn you get pictures on the site.
Make sure new stock is at the forefront of your website.
CG: Utilise your window space and develop product collaborations. It’s all about news creation. Think about the youth coming through your store, it’s not about the traditional any more.
Which are your favourite indies?
LB: Contemporary womenswear store Labour of Love (right) on Upper Street in Islington, north London. It has a great mix of labels.
CG: I love premium womenswear and kidswear boutique Iris in Queens Park, north London (below). I love its product.
Where do you shop?
CG: We both love the Harvey Nichols Sale in Leeds as all the cool stuff is up for grabs. We both bought the same pair of Prada boots by accident recently.
Who are the biggest characters you’ve met in the industry?
LB: Designer Roland Mouret (pictured). He’s a big character and I used to borrow his dresses.
He lent me one on my 30th birthday.
CG: I had many influences from a style perspective, including Preen, Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen, and Katharine Hamnett for her dedication to the ethical cause and for what she has taught me.
Linzi Boyd and Caroline Gautier are creative director and managing director respectively of branding and communications agency Surgery