I’m a little bit biased about today’s Stripe Talk, but rightfully so as it’s not every day you get to interview one of your best friends in the world. Meet Alex Dickerson, the founder of Le Brain. Le Brain is a full service PR/influencer/events strategy firm. They represent a million of my fave brands… Lulu Frost, Holst + Lee, Valentine Lingerie, Samantha Wills, nOir, Rue Gembon.. her roster just keeps growing. Basically, she’s a PR badass… (and an amazing person to boot.) Alex and I only met a few years ago via a friend of mine at BaubleBar, but we became fast friends, bonding over our favorite things: food, travel, jewelry, beauty products, movies… boys, etc. When you get to your thirties, those “up for anything” friends are few and far between… she’s my go-to travel buddy and partner in crime.
I could go on and on about how amazing she is, but I’ll let her interview speak for itself! If you work in PR or dream of working in PR, this one is for you!
Grace: Tell me a little bit about how you got your start in the PR industry and came to run your own firm!
Alex: I pretty much fell into PR…the truth is, when I first started, I had no idea what it was. I had moved to NYC after my college graduation with stars in my eyes and the dream of working in fashion somehow – I knew I wasn’t a designer by any means, but I was obsessed with magazines and writing and communications. A good friend was interning at an Italian fashion brand and when I moved up, she told me that their PR firm needed an intern during Fashion Week. I figured I would intern there and meet as many people as I could – little did I know I was being thrown into one of the biggest fashion happenings in the world! I loved every single moment of it. From there that firm hired me after my internship, and it has been a match made in heaven ever since – I’ve never looked back!
From there I worked at a few agencies of different size and little by little specialized what types of clients I worked with and grew my network. After many years working for others, I realized I wanted to do it on my own and decide what clients and projects I wanted to take on, so I went out on my own back in 2008. Every day has been an adventure since then.
Grace: What was the inspiration behind the name of your company, Le Brain?
Alex: It all started in a little brainstorming session (here come the puns) about who we were and what made me and my team stand out in the industry…there are all kinds of different PR firms, each successful and unique in their own right. Some firms are known for their uber fashionable girls, some are known for their high society connections – for me, I felt like people always came to work with me because of the strategies my team and I would employ. We really pride ourselves on being thoughtful and tailoring our approaches to each client and each media relationship we have. The word that came to mind to sum that up was “brains” as people came to us for just that. And from there I became obsessed with that word – I would walk around NYC saying it over and over under my breath, likely looking like a total psycho. I thought about naming it The Brain Factory, but that was too long and sounds like a toy company, and I went through probably 25 different combos of names with Brain in it. I wanted it to feel chic and sophisticated yet irreverent and like we are in on the joke (because we very much are) – so as my French boyfriend and I were on a road-trip and I was staining him for the hundredth time about what the company should be called, he just said, in his very thick accent, “Why don’t you call it Le Brain…it is French and everyone thinks anything French is chic.” As much as he was being sarcastic, it really stuck and from there, Le Brain was born!
Grace: Walk me through your typical day!
Alex: Every day in PR is a little different, much depends on what the season is – if it is Fashion Week or a market launch time we are very heavily event focused. But otherwise, my day goes a little like this:
- Wake up around 7:30am and watch The Today Show (obsessed with Willie Geist, which for those that know, reveals that I lay in bed watching The Today Show for a looooong time, as he doesn’t come on until the 9 o’clock hour)
- Get to the office around 10/10:30 and have a team meeting and touch base with my girls to talk about what’s coming up that day
- Respond to emails…so much emailing goes on, and I like to have as much personal contact with people as possible
- 11:30am – start bothering my employees about what to eat for lunch. It is a running joke that I cannot make it until noon to start fishing around for who wants to order something with me
- Write press releases or create more graphic-oriented trend pitches for various clients – I am so lucky to work with the best graphic designer ever, Ilysia Design, who creates these gorgeous pitches and templates for me
- 1:00pm – really start pressuring people about the lunch order. At this point my palms are sweating it is getting so late to eat
- Have a conference call or two with clients or new business prospects
- In the afternoon I like to write and update strategies for our clients and try to get the bigger picture of what is happening with our company, with their businesses, with the market overall and how that all ties together
- Leave work around 7pm, pretend I am going to the gym but find an excuse not to, and usually meet an editor for a drink or dinner somewhere. A huge part of my job is entertaining, which I absolutely love!
Grace: You’ve taught me about so many amazing products (hello, Chanel Boy.) Tell me a little more about your beauty routine… what are your favorite products?
Alex: Chanel Boy is a real game changer. You’ve taught me a thing or two yourself, Benefit Gimme Brow. My beauty routine is really basic. My overall theory is that beauty starts with great skin, so I try to prep and pamper that as much as possible. I exfoliate or do a mask a few times a week, and my big splurge treatment is La Prairie White Caviar Illuminating Cream and Serum. I swear by Clarins Beauty Flash Balm under my foundation on those extra puffy mornings. From there the regime is Armani Foundation, Bobbi Brown bronzer, YSL liquid liner, bareMinerals eye shadow and Chanel lipstick. Finish it all off with LOTS of Dior mascara and call it a day. Mascara is my desert island item…if I was stranded and could take one thing, that would be it.
Grace: Let’s pretend that you are traveling for the next month and can only take along three beauty products… what would they be?
Alex: Oh well I sort of read your mind and started answering that already. Mascara, clearly a front-runner. Sunscreen, as I’m all about protecting my skin, and bronzer (since I’m so busy protecting I’m not getting tan and let’s be honest, we all look a little better with a tan)
Grace: You lived abroad in Barcelona for business school. How would you say that impacted your personal style?
Alex: This is an amazing question and one I have never fully thought of until now. But I know the answer immediately – I would say that Europeans are far less trend-driven than Americans are. Now you all may be thinking of tragic overseas fashion victims dressed from head-to-toe in Desigual, but that is the exception, not the rule. They are really good at buying high quality classics that pair well together. People tend to have a more minimal closet – they focus on a few key colors and staples and build around that with a great bag, shoe and scarf. This definitely impacted me as I shopped while living abroad…might justify my current day uniform of black pants, a neutral colored sweater and a fur vest. Every. Single. Day.
Grace: What’s your favorite place you’ve traveled?
Alex: Barcelona will always lead the pack on my favorite travel destination, but somehow that doesn’t seem to count because I lived there for 2 years. So for a shorter-term answer, Tulum is my favorite spot. Such a relaxed atmosphere, great food, gorgeous weather, unexpected fashion moments here and there, and if you go with a fantastic friend (which I did, wink wink), you’ll have the time of your life. And you can pick up some Coqui Coqui Orange Blossom while there – #winning.
Grace: And where are you dying to go next?
Alex: I’m going to have to with Bali. I’ve had too many friends go and have drooled over their photos. Time for me to experience it!
Grace: You represent some incredible jewelry brands. What have you learned about accessorizing during your time in PR?
Alex: Never ever throw any accessories away. They take up very little space in a closet and will always come back in style. I really like to mix and match expensive and inexpensive brands – I would rarely wear only one designer. I love a long statement necklace paired with a shorter more personal piece, and rings galore! Sometimes I think people hold back when it comes to accessories and I don’t think you should ever do that…wear a big earring with a necklace, who cares? It helps that I wear a lot of basic clothes with that philosophy, otherwise I could come off looking like a gypsy. Not that it would stop me.
Grace: Back to personal style… who are your favorite designers?
Alex: My closet is comprised of mostly Helmut Lang, J.Crew, Rag & Bone, and Uniqlo. For shoes, my favorites are always Miu Miu and Prada. I wish I was answering this with “my closet is comprised of YSL, Marni and The Row” but we aren’t quite there yet…
Grace: And what trends are you most excited about for Spring?
Alex: I love the structure I have seen on the runways – trench coats, bigger bold patterns, modern military. And I’m seeing lots of leather, which I love in any temperature (remind me of that on a 90 degree New York day and I’ll deny it to your face). And despite my dedication to basics, I will definitely try the updated 70s look that is coming down the pipeline. Anything to channel my inner Stevie Nicks!
Grace: What are your favorite places (to eat + shop) in the city?
Alex: There’s nothing better than a good Barneys and Bergdorf kind of afternoon…with a delicious shrimp salad from Fred’s. But if you know me, that answer is probably weird, as it is very uptown, and I’m the opposite. I love grabbing a bite at Café Mogador, Yama Sushi in Gramercy is a total gem (hi spicy mayo), and Roberta’s in Bushwick. I like to shop at specialty stores, as that is where you can really get something unique – Sucre in the West Village and The Styleliner truck always have the best jewelry and accessories. And I’ll admit it, I love the Club Monaco on 5th and 21st.
Grace: If you weren’t running Le Brain, what would you be doing?
Alex: I have absolutely no idea – maybe my other dream job would be a travel writer. But one of the luxurious ones, not one that goes to the weird night markets and eats insects to “feel like a local.” I’ll feel like a local at the beach with a coconut, thank you very much.
Grace: What would you say is your biggest accomplishment, professionally?
Alex: Getting my MBA at IESE in Barcelona will be one of my biggest and most favorite accomplishments for the rest of my life. I got to live internationally, learn to speak excellent Spanish, meet the coolest new friends who live all around the world, and more than anything, teach my brain to approach business, strategy and problems in a whole new way. That education and experience is something I use constantly and I think it gives me a strong competitive edge for my clients and my business. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything in the world!
A huge, huge thanks to Alex for participating. Check out previous Stripe Talk features here!