Not many people could say they’ve met Cate Blanchett or Beyoncé, but brushing shoulders with celebrities is all in a day’s work for Curtin alumna Stephanie Epiro, who is living the dream of many modern journalists as Gucci’s social media manager in Milan.
Epiro graduated from Curtin in 1997 with a Bachelor of Journalism, and has worked in London, Italy and Australia as a communications and marketing consultant and freelance writer for Women’s Wear Daily, Vogue Living, Elle Canada, Dsquared2 and the Four Seasons Hotel.
It was through her contacts as a reporter for Women’s Wear Daily that Epiro knew the then director of Gucci’s social media department, and convinced her to take her on board in 2014.
“I have always had an obsessive interest in fashion,” says Epiro. “I was a teenager during the supermodel phenomenon of the nineties; I interviewed Linda Evangelista once and I was so star struck. I often find myself in the showroom at Gucci marvelling at the craftsmanship of the bags and touching the gowns.”
The day after Epiro started working at Gucci, the brand underwent a massive transformation following the appointment of new creative director, Alessandro Michele. Epiro says it was a challenging yet rewarding time as Gucci’s communications channels went “dark”, and all content was stripped back to establish a new vision for the brand.
“We weren’t doing events, there was no collection to promote … in the beginning it was really tough to understand in what direction we were going,” says Epiro.
“This was simultaneously a highlight, because we created an entirely new voice for Gucci social media which remains pivotal in communicating to the world the new Gucci,” Epiro says. “It’s fun being a part of that, especially since it’s the brand everyone is talking about in fashion right now.”
Gucci has over 26 million followers across its social media channels, and Epiro works with a team that organises and schedules each digital campaign including those in China and Japan. She is also responsible for conceiving stories for the Agenda section of Gucci’s website, while collaborating with other in-house departments to configure product launches and plan upcoming shows.
Epiro also had to overcome cultural differences working in Milan, including language barriers, work hours and engaging with the Italian people, but her strong connections at Gucci have helped her to develop professionally and personally.
“I think there’s a lot to be said for sitting and listening to mentors, to people who you respect in your workspace. There are a few brilliant minds at Gucci who I seek out to have a chat with and share ideas, even if we work in diverse departments and countries.”
Epiro has seen the media scene change dramatically in the last three to five years as new digital marketing platforms like Instagram have eclipsed traditional media, such as print advertisements, in popularity and costs. Brands like Gucci are able to connect to their customers much more quickly and intimately than ever before.
“Through social media you can merchandise a product to a client that goes beyond the image of a bag,” says Epiro. “Sure, there’s the bag in the latest campaign, but there it is dangling from the arm of a Chinese rock star, or captured backstage at the fashion show, or reimagined by a little-known online artist in a dreamy video.”
Today’s journalists, says Epiro, need to be the “full package”, and stresses the importance of having marketing skills and digital knowledge.
“In fashion or any product based industry, it’s one thing to know how to write about it, you also have to understand how to promote it,” she says.
“You can write and that’s a skill that people can’t learn so you’re already ahead. Now go out and parlay your other interests into extra skills applicable to the sector you want to work in: it could be programming or designing or analytics. You will have a superior toolkit of knowledge. In the corporate landscape, writers stand out as they are also usually ideas people.”
Epiro attributes her tenaciousness, curiosity and short attention span to being able to succeed in an industry well-known for being competitive and cutthroat – “It forces me to come up with ideas constantly,” she says.
“Stephanie is utterly unlike the catty, lazy prototype of the ‘fashion journalist,’” says Mary Lisa Gavenas, a former colleague of Epiro’s.
“She is extremely proactive in pursuing information. Stephanie scores stories that no one else can get because she has unlimited energy and her enthusiasm wins over reluctant subjects every time.”
Epiro would like to go back to university to study marketing, and tries to return home to Australia once a year.
“I miss the authenticity of the people, the sharp light and the smells like eucalyptus and the air near the river; everything has a different look to it in Australia.”