Change is afoot at KCD ahead of the new year. The agency—acknowledged as the pioneer for the modern fashion and luxury public relations and production firm—opened its doors in 1984. Julie Mannion, who will relinquish her role at KCD, helped shape and form the global agency since she began working with two of the founders, fashion stylists Kezia Keeble and Paul Cavaco, in 1981.
In the newly created role as global CEO, Rachna Shah—whose title was partner, managing director PR and digital at KCD—will oversee the various divisions such as media relations, creative, fashion services, digital, guest experience, and VIP services in all locations, New York, Paris, London and Los Angeles, effective December 11, 2023.
Mannion—known for her visible role at fashion shows ‘calling’ the models runway walks from the DJ and tech booth to ensure a steady cadence on the catwalk—co-led KCD since 1994, first with the late Ed Filipowski and Shah since 2020. She passes on duties to Shah and recent appointees EVP global creative group, Adrien Giraux, and managing director global creative group, Gretchen Vater. The pair have been working closely with Mannion since being appointed in October on building new business and international growth opportunities beyond fashion but not limited to experiential and music-centric productions.
Throughout Mannion’s career, she held close working relationships with Calvin Klein, Daniel Lee, Donatella Versace, Gianni Versace, Helmut Lang, John Galliano, Karl Lagerfeld, Marc Jacobs, Narciso Rodriguez, Nicolas Ghesquiere, Ralph Lauren, Stuart Vevers, Tommy Hilfiger, Tory Burch and Vera Wang, as well as the creatives who support their runway, event and advertising visions such as set designers, artists and other vendors. Her production prowess was also displayed at industry fundraising events such as Seventh on Sale and CFDA Awards.
Mannion’s legacy beyond her standardizing a show calling system includes developing and nurturing KCD’s fashion services group, which helps brands build and manage creative teams for shows and campaigns and overseeing the collection and instrumental back-of-house processes for clients globally. Mannion will continue as chairman of the board and provide expertise, acting as a special advisor on select projects.
“To have the ability to work in a field you are passionate about is a privilege. It has been my honor to learn, evolve, and grow alongside the incredible teams and clients, current and past, who have helped shape and define KCD for the past 43 years. I started with the visionary partners and mentors Kezia Keeble, Paul Cavaco, and John Duka. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to grow the Agency with the dynamic partnership of the fearless Ed Filipowski,” Mannion said.
Shah, originally from New Jersey, joined KCD right after graduating from NYU with a BA in journalism and French literature in 1997. She began as an assistant publicist working on brands such as Victoria’s Secret and Avon Cosmetics. Within a year, she worked under Ed Filipowski, who, along with Mannion, were her career mentors. Shah—whose welcoming and assuring presence at fashion show entry points served as a source of comfort for guests navigating the hectic world of fashion weeks—ascended through the ranks at KCD until, in 2017, she was made partner, running the agency alongside Ed Filipowski until he died in 2020 due to complications from an operation according to the New York Times.
Highly skilled in communications, marketing, and guest experience, Shah is also adept at managing clients ranging from luxury to contemporary designer brands, leading vertical retail brands, as well as key fashion and cultural organizations, thus already overseeing many of the companies’ verticals and divisions such as the first-ever beauty verticals added to the roster in June of 2023. Beauty clients include Tom Ford Beauty, Rabanne, Galenic, Lancôme and Victoria’s Secret. Her new role as global CEO adds oversight of the creative group formerly led by Mannion to her existing responsibilities.
“Passion, creativity, and an uncompromising commitment to our employees and clients is at the core of KCD’s values and what has fueled me throughout my career. With the support of our incredible teams, I am beyond honored to lead the Agency’s next evolution and to uphold the momentum and standards set by its founders and leaders,” said Shah in a statement.
Shah is not alone in making KCD her work home and family (she is also a mother to two girls).
Partners Renee Barletta, partner, media relations; Nan Richards, partner, managing director KCD London; Alexis Arnault, partner, media relations KCD Paris; Marty Griffeth, partner, global finance director; and Billy Marroletti, partner, general counsel; have been at the agency 24, 13, 20, 26 and 8 years, respectively; that alone a feat in today’s musical chairs career paths. Other longtime senior staff include Lauren Paris as SVP guest experience for 15 years and Dale Westgarth as SVP media relations, KCD London for ten years. Even office manager Yvette McGregor, whose sultry yet professional voice greets callers on the main reception phone line, has been a KCD mainstay for over 23 years.
The loyal family environment stems from the agency’s origins, where husband and wife Paul Cavaco and Kezia Keeble formed the agency with former New York Times fashion journalist John Duka. The agency helped launch some of the biggest names of fashion in the era, such as Stephen Sprouse, Vivienne Tam, and Anna Sui, and claims many of today’s biggest brands as current and former clients, such as Versace, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, Helmut Lang, Alexander McQueen, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Chanel, and Yohji Yamamoto.
Cavaco and Keeble divorced in 1985, and then she married Duka, who died of AIDS in 1989. Keeble succumbed to breast cancer in 1990 after a five-year battle. Cavaco sold the agency to Mannion, Filipowski, and Robert Meola (who died of AIDS in 1999) when he left to join the late Liz Tilberis for the relaunch of Harper’s Bazaar under her tenure. He later served as creative director at Allure magazine.
By 1991, the agency had rebranded as KCD and opened its location in the burgeoning Meatpacking District in 1998. It’s been stationed near Hudson Yards since 2020. KCD was the first American-based agency to open a European office in 2000 with its Paris location.
In 2012, KCD London opened with KCD Los Angeles, following in 2016, thus expanding its more than 40 years of expertise in PR, production, digital, creative, fashion services, and more across the globe.
Copyright © 2023 FashionNetwork.com All rights reserved.