National Boss Day is October 16th, and it’s the perfect moment to highlight female bosses. But how about a #girlboss who made a career change from courtroom to catwalk? Lori Riviere runs one of the top fashion PR agencies out of her Manhattan office managing PR for major fashion and accessories labels, including becoming one of the few agencies that manages shows for the official on-site shows at New York Fashion Week. As the owner of an award winning fashion PR agency with offices in New York, Miami and Los Angeles, people are often surprised to find out that Lori Riviere used to be a civil litigation attorney. She proves that you really can make a career change. I sat down with Lori and asked her a few questions about her challenging career path change.
When did you decide that you were going to leave the practice of law?
I knew immediately when I began to practice law that it wasn’t the right career for me. I didn’t fit in with other lawyers and was more excited about planning my outfit for the day than the court appearances I had scheduled. The fashion industry was where I wanted to be, but I didn’t really know where to start, so I started a fashion blog as a creative outlet. This was back before fashion blogging became what it is today and before social media came into play. Back then, you wrote about the outfits you purchased from your favorite retailers and took selfies in your hallway mirror of your outfit of the day. There weren’t many of us out there and the whole blogging thing was really just in its infancy stages. Blogging itself wasn’t really a career path, but I thought it might give me ideas or open a few doors, and I found that it did.
How did you make the transition from law to fashion PR?
I had volunteered with fashion week, worked for an event planner and put together marketing plans as a freelancer for companies to make extra cash. After college, I worked as a marketing consultant for a consumer products company for a year before law school, so I had some background in PR, marketing and event production, but I had no contacts in fashion. I had been practicing law for about 4 years, so my resume didn’t put me in a position for someone to offer me the type of job I knew I was capable of doing. Using my blogging platform, I began to freelance and take on small projects to begin to fill my resume and form connections. I worked with local boutiques and big brands alike. I started hosting events and eventually began putting events together for brands from soup to nuts, including PR, and did all of this while still working full time as in house counsel for an insurance company, so I worked 16–18 hour days. Originally, the goal was to get my resume strong enough to go work for a fashion PR agency, but eventually I realized that my work ethic outmatched most and if I really wanted success, I would need to do my own thing. I tried to negotiate a part time work situation with my legal job, but they didn’t bite and so I started my agency with my laptop on my coffee table in my living room.
How did you grow your agency into what it is today with offices in Miami, New York and Los Angeles?
I knew when I started the agency that other agencies would look better on paper than me, so I would compete by working harder and creating an agency that could provide answers and services for anything a fashion brand would need from producing a lookbook to working with bloggers. That meant working 18 hour days and working weekends and used any extra time I had to learn more about emerging practices like blogging and celebrity seeding or researching to find the absolute best contacts and not solely relying on the database subscription serves that all PR agencies use. I was really blessed fairly early on to meet Nicole Doswell. She is my most senior team member and basically runs the business with me, and I see her as a partner in the business and try to ensure her compensation reflects that. As we grow, I focus my energy on finding really good people who are hard workers, genuinely care about the work and operate with honesty and integrity. I am also committed to having them share in the success of the business in terms of compensation, and I truly believe that is what sets us apart and will help us continue to grow. The energy you send out comes back ten fold, so I focus on doing amazing work and creating an awesome work environment. I find that with that everything sort of falls into place.
What advice do you have for someone looking to make a career change?
I think a career change is possible for anyone, but you have to be ready to put in the work emotionally, physically and financially to make it happen. I think emotionally, you need to prepare yourself for rejection and people not believing in you. Often, women who look to make a career change are overachievers who are used to being sought after and at the top of their field, but when you enter a whole new industry you find yourself having to prove yourself in a way you never had to before and that can be hard. I am thankful that my mom really taught me about the whole idea of positive thinking and sending out good energy because I find it to really propel me forward and make things happen that I absolutely never thought possible. You also need to be prepared to work longer hours and harder than you might have had to before. I was not in a financial position to just quit my job and pursue my passion in the beginning, so I basically worked two full time jobs until I could afford to focus solely on my fashion PR business and form my agency. No one is going to hand you your dream, you have to work for it, but I think if you are willing to work hard and send out positive energy, you really can do anything.