Corporate PR Manager Hillary’s Diary of #NMTeslaTalks
March 4, 2016
After two months of preparation, Corporate PR Manager Hillary Stonger spent New York Fashion Week coordinating and promoting our YouTube series #NMTeslaTalks, in which Fashion Director Ken Downing interviewed his closest friends of the fashion flock in the backseat of Tesla’s soon-to-be-released Model X. Negative temperatures, followed by snow and then rain, made for a wild few days – so she is thankful to have been behind the camera! But all was made calm by the bright white, futuristic Model X with its summoning ability, extra-large user interface, roomy backseat and front-to-back sunroof. Follow along as she captures what it was like to organize and capture the quippy, insider series #NMTeslaTalks.
This diary should have started months ago when I began chatting with Ken’s assistant, Ileana, on a daily basis about his NYFW schedule. Although, show times and addresses listed in painstakingly organized spreadsheets are a terrific foundation, there is nothing like being in the midst of it all to create great content!
Good morning, New York City! I moved back to Dallas nine months ago, so moments after I snapped this shot I had a twinge of “why did I ever leave this place?” Then I remembered: no queso!
My hopes for #NMTeslaTalks were two-fold. I wanted to garner amazing press coverage—I wanted everyone to see what fun (and hysterical!) conversations Ken was having with some of the world’s most influential fashion insiders, all while driving in an SUV that perfectly blends performance, safety and utility. Two, I wanted it to go smoothly. Let’s try to imagine a scenario worse than being responsible for the Fashion Director of NM—who literally attends 80 plus shows during NYFW alone—to miss a show! That situation has been the subject of my recent nightmares.
After landing, I headed straight to the hotel and reviewed the day’s call sheet one final time before emailing it to our videographers. We were filming our first segment in just a few hours. There are so many moving parts and logistics, but between my phone, backup batteries, iPad, printout of the call sheet and Ken’s schedule, Alberto’s (Ken’s driver of 17 years!) phone number and Ken added to my “Favorites”, I was as set as I’d ever be.
Our first segment was with Suno designers, Max Osterweis and Erin Beatty. Sunday’s temperatures were insane – a wind chill of minus 4! We prepared their microphones inside a boutique across from the DVF show, so the moment Ken exited the show we could hop in the Model X and begin filming him en route to the next, Jenny Packham. Ken sent a quick text, “Leaving!” and we ventured into the frigid wind and began filming.
Erin mentioned in the segment that their office felt like Christmas morning when the new collection arrived. The sentiment resonated closely with me late, late Sunday night when our videographer, Ryan Balas, sent me the rough cut for the Suno episode. #NMTeslaTalks was coming to life, and I couldn’t wait to share the content!
It had warmed up, but the forecast called for snow. Rather than fight the slick, wet ground in heels, I grabbed my Adidas and an oversized knit and shearling coat. I enjoyed a slow breakfast at Sant Ambroeus (Crostino Milanese with an iced tea, please!) accompanied by another review of the day’s call sheet.
First up, designer Wes Gordon! We met him outside of the Lela Rose show, prepped him with the microphone and stayed warm inside the Model X as we waited for Ken. Kanye’s latest Twitter rant and a selfie session kept us entertained. Have you ever taken a selfie using professional lighting? Game changer!
This season, Wes and a crew of 16 people in over seven locations filmed his collection for an Instagram-exclusive launch. The romantic, fresh videos contributed heavily to the conversation of shifts in the fashion calendar and alternative ways to present collections. Ken, too, has been heavily influential in the industry’s conversation, and I was excited to see what kind of content would come from their chat.
As the Model X approached each show, I felt as though we were ushering the circus into town. We were a pack of three vehicles. Tesla graciously supported us with mechanics, corporate liaisons and detailers in a Model S and our videographer team followed with a sound tech, two additional shooters and enough Go Pro’s stuck on the doors to capture any desired street view. Along with the trail of cars behind the Model X, cameras flashed the moment it approached the show’s venue entrance. The falcon-wing doors were a showstopper and caught the attention of anyone in eyesight.
By the time we started filming Tina Craig that afternoon, the snow was falling heavily, and it made so many beautiful shots in her segment. Nothing like slow-motion shots of showgoers traipsing through the crazy weather!
We were halfway there—three segments down and three to go. I ended my night with my girlfriends at Santina in Meatpacking District sharing plates of cecina, pasta and guajillo chicken. Just what the doctor ordered after a long day.
Talk about getting my (early) morning off on the right foot. I woke up to a wonderful story in WWD about #NMTeslaTalks—it’s so special seeing your work in print! We had an 8:30 call time at Tory Burch to prep for our next episode. The forecast had completely ignored my request for sensible weather as the day called for heavy rain.
The entrance at Tory Burch was peppered with pink umbrellas as valet escorted attendees into Lincoln Center. Alberto and I stood in the entrance of P.J. Clarke’s across the street, watching street-style photographers run back and forth across Lincoln Center Plaza as best-dressed showgoers approached the entrance.
Later, a quick visit to Starbucks, and I had an incoming call from Ken letting me know the show was out and, given the downpour, asking if could we pull the car up directly in front of the exit. He had Harper’s Bazaar Editor in Chief, Glenda Bailey, in tow—my ultimate media girl-crush! In the moments following, Alberto pulled some of the most impressive moves on the road I’ve seen. I opted not to question their legality and instead thanked him for maneuvering through the construction-zoned street so quickly.
We slipped between two cars, pulled seamlessly under the awning and grabbing a pink Tory Burch umbrella propped against a bench, I ushered Ken and Glenda into the X. With that, a slew of street-style photographers started snapping away at the fashion power couple as they ducked under the falcon-wing doors.
Glenda is excessively complimentary of her readers, notoriously jovial and— captured perfectly in her segment—truly excited about the current state of fashion. The excitement in her voice when chatting about seeing natural hair, curves and diversity on the runway is so contagious!
After dropping Ken and Glenda off at Vera Wang, I had a few hours until our next segment. I worked closely all week with our incredible Social team to ensure videos were popping up on our YouTube channel, Instagram, Ken’s Instagram, etc. If it wasn’t for my Dropbox app and an excessive amount of phone storage, I’m not quite sure how we would have done it! Sure, my phone crashed a few times as I tried to text Ken 50MB videos, but we prevailed!
The torrential downpour continued, and next up was Prabal Gurung! He was so gracious to huddle with me in a doorway until the X arrived. Finally, there it was! The gleaming white, canopy glass and the futuristic headlights are hard to miss. I wondered, as we sat in the X drying off, if now would be the appropriate time to submit a personal order for Look 19 from his most recent collection. Better not, I decided, but maybe a text to our buying team.
The skies parted as Ken exited the Alice + Olivia presentation—blue skies and 55 degrees! I could handle that. Another break between segments, and I headed toward our next meeting spot, Fifth Avenue and 19th Street. Nothing like a quick bite at ABC Kitchen to rejuvenate me.
“Hi, we’re here for Rachel Zoe!” I said to a handsome receptionist. He met me with a blank stare and sirens started blaring in my head. He turned to the office, “Does anyone here know a Rachel Zoe?” he said. “Oh, oh…no,” I said. “If this was her office, you would know.” I said.
I quickly went to the emails between Rachel’s assistant and myself and realized I had switched two numbers and the correct address was two blocks up. Off we went! Thankfully, the elevator up to her sixth floor office and showroom space was slow, and I had time to catch my breath.
Rodger, Rachel’s husband, greeted me and we caught up for a few minutes as Rachel finished up. Bi-costal offices, a media company, collection, styling team—Rachel is a quintessential go-getter. On top of all that, she is refreshingly warm and friendly.
As we rode the elevator down to meet Ken, Rachel explained they were already outrageous Tesla fans and jokingly (or maybe, not!) hoped that this segment would bump them up on the list for the Model X. Here’s to hoping!
Ken and Rachel’s relationship is beyond entertaining. They greeted each other casually and immediately launched into hysterically sarcastic banter. Their charming repartee is captured perfectly in their segment and had me in complete stitches.
And just like that, we had wrapped the last segment! We dropped Ken and Rachel off at Oscar de la Renta and as a parting gift, the Model X chauffeured me up the street to my hotel.
In the days following, I obsessively stalked social media, reading people’s comments and gauging their interest. Stories began rolling out on FashionWeekDaily.com, PaperCity.com, HarpersBazaar.com, The Zoe Report and the San Francisco Chronicle.
Witnessing the candid conversations between Ken and fashion’s elite inside a car with an essence that captures the energy and magic of New York Fashion Week was a project I won’t soon forget. I have a hunch I’ll be talking Tesla for weeks to come!