While we’ve become used to hearing from high-end fashion labels across all different kinds of digital platforms, luxury brands weren’t always so web-savvy. That all changed when in 2009, OscarPRGirl aka Erika Bearman (ODLR's Senior Vice President of Communications) launched her handle on to the twitter-scene. Representing the young, fashion obsessed New Yorker, Erika’s tweets immediately began to generate a loyal following and brought the old school brand bang smack into the 21st century. Now four years on, her success has inspired many imitators, but there still remains only one OscarPRGirl. We caught up with ODLR’s flaxen-haired beauty for lunch in Oscar de la Renta’s treasure trove store on Mount Street, and talked John Galliano, the re-incarnation of OscarPRGirl and the pros and cons of being the face of a brand.
Erika Bearman (left) with Grazia's Katherine Ormerod (right), Our Super-Chic Lunch Table
Grazia: Why did you start OscarPRGirl?
Erika Bearman: I started OscarPRGirl in 2009 and initially it was because we realised that all the fashion bloggers were hanging out on Twitter - that was their watering hole. That’s where they were posting their content and interacting and talking about fashion. There were conversations going on about ODLR and I just remember thinking that it’s time for us to be involved and help direct that conversation. It wasn’t realistic to have Oscar tweeting – although he’s become quite savvy since and loves his iPad - so we needed to come up with a different concept. The very direct idea came from my boss Alex Bolen [CEO of ODLR]. He said, “You're young, you love fashion, live in New York, work closely with Oscar and travel with him. Why not keep it very authentic and it can be your voice?” And that’s how it started.
Grazia: Did you expect to have such a huge response?
Erika Bearman: I never expected that I would put so much of myself into it. But that’s a function of how these platforms have evolved. I never thought I would write about my life – or upload a photograph of myself. But I did it once and my followers went crazy. I think people like seeing pictures of me because I’m not a model, I'm not in ad campaign - it’s a way of seeing Oscar’s clothes in their natural habitat.
Erika working ODLR on the red carpet
Grazia: What do you think OscarPRGirl has contributed to the ODLR brand?
Erika Bearman: Oscar’s been designing clothes for 50 years and has an incredible reputation - everyone knows his work. But the one thing that's tricky is that the brand can be quite intimidating. When I started working there, I was 27 years old I would never have walked into an Oscar de la Renta shop. But there are so many different products available now – from jewellery for under £200 - that actually I could have afforded.
Look, Oscar’s collections are like the most glamorous things on the planet - it represents the best possible life. Why wouldn’t you want to be on a yacht in Oscar de la Renta?! So I think about how you generate aspiration and what makes you decide when you’re young, ‘I’m gonna have a bag from Hermes as soon as I can afford it.’ It’s the same sort of thing we are doing here. I want every one of my followers to say when, ‘I get married I’m gonna wear an Oscar.’
Grazia: Do you think there is a conflict between being a ‘serious’ fashion label and the more whimsical nature of social media?
Erika Bearman: Fashion shouldn’t be too serious… We don’t take ourselves too seriously – designers now have to take down that glass wall and let people in. Our opinion has always been that if you can’t show people what you are really doing, then perhaps what you are doing isn’t so fantastic.
Grazia: As the personification of a fashion label, do you always live the ‘Oscar Life’?
Erika Bearman: Nearly every day I’m wearing Oscar de la Renta for sure, but for me it’s always about personal style. I might be wearing an embroidered ODLR skit and a t-shirt from Topshop, for example. I don’t think that women dress head-to-toe in one designer anymore. We wear things that we love, so I don’t think you can live and dress like an ‘idea’ or a 'brand' - you have to be yourself. Sometimes Oscar will look at me and maybe he’s a little bit surprised about what I’m wearing, but he always loves it.
Shoes & Jewels in the Oscar de la Renta store on Mount Street
Grazia: Are there any drawbacks to be being such a public face?
Erika Bearman: I definitely have some stalkers. It’s got to the point where people stop me on the street in New York. But I would never complain – you have to take the good and the bad – that might be that someone is tweeting me to help find a shoe that is, like, 4 years old and long gone, or it could be someone saying, 'I’m obsessed with you and love yor style and I’ve just seen you walking down 42nd Street'. You have to take the rough with the smooth.
There was huge controversy when I dyed my hair, for example. There were huge fights breaking out between my followers! I was reading all the comments and even though I'm a confident person it’s hard to read all these people saying how they don’t like my hair. But then the super fans will always be chiming in to defend me. It’s insane!
Beautiful jewels and be-jewlled dresses at Oscar de la Renta on Mount Street
Grazia: Last New York Fashion Week, John Galliano’s collaboration with ODLR caused a media furore – what was OscarPRGirl’s role in navigating those waters?
Erika Bearman: Listen first of all, it’s highly informative to be able to read what people are saying about things going on at your fashion house. I can’t imagine not having access to those reactions and that feedback. I knew exactly what people were thinking about John spending three weeks with Oscar - becasue I was able to read that for myself. The people that were in support of it AND against it. I was able to see it in the most authentic way – that makes me better at my job and makes us all more informed.
Grazia: As you are the founding OscarPRGirl will you ever be able leave your job?!
Erika Bearman: Well, look I actually have an OscarPRGirl tattoo - so she’s definitely with me for life. It’s an incredibly exciting time to be working at the brand, I definitely don’t have any plans to leave and I’m very attached to Oscar personally. But we all know nothing lasts for ever. Alex and I have a joke that we’re gonna think of it like James Bond. One day there’s a new Bond and some people will prefer the original Bond, while others will move on to the new Bond!