In this edition of Design+, Amy Eaton RGD interviews Brendan Primeau (Prēmo, They/Him), Branding & Marketing Manager at Pride Toronto, about the role of design in the fashion industry, marketing for an event and pushing creative boundaries.
You started your career producing fashion shows. How did design fit into your life at the time?
I was introduced to the industry during the time intended for our internships and then worked as an assistant stylist, helping other stylists execute and trend research. It was really helpful understanding and playing with basic design fundamentals, mixing textures within an outfit or playing with scale and proportion for a silhouette. I eventually grew into more of a producer role, overseeing the show’s line-ups and keeping track of outfit details for each model. I love storytelling and highlighting the designer’s ideas within the line-up to have the viewer engage emotionally with the show. From backstage I was documenting everything and keeping things moving with InDesign page templates and interactive PDFs, basically using design program tools to create operational resources that helped with production efficiency.
Images: Nick Merzetti
Did you consider traditional design roles at the start of your career? What stopped you from making the switch?
I’m not one for traditional anything :) I went to graphic design school with a dream to run a funny t-shirt company and then took the internship at Toronto Fashion Week in our graduate year. Everything else has followed my intuition and desire to create memorable experiences for others. I could see myself doing something more traditional if it meant I could live remotely with a farm of rabbits and goats with extra time to grow my own veggies.
You’ve been in a broader marketing role for the last few years. How has this impacted your work?
I love finding and looking at trends and in the marketing role I’ve had to expand where and how I do research. From graphic trends to consumer trends to Tik Tok… the content people are making from home now sometimes exceeds professional production companies, alongside audiences preferring more authentic campaigning over produced advertisements.
How does the creative process differ when marketing a new event versus a recurring event? Does one typically require more promotion than the other?
There are differences for sure; I would say a new event requires more promotion as you don’t have an existing audience following. There’s building trust and anticipation for the event which can be quite challenging. For us these past few years learning to pivot marketing for virtual events compared to marketing in-person events was a fun experience. Being able to spend more time focusing on the accessibility of the event and the event’s design online was really interesting and I am excited to continue focusing on that accessibility change when we are back in person.
What can designers working in-house — often in hybrid roles — do to push creative boundaries?
The older I get in my career, the more I realize pushing creative boundaries is really just about celebrating authentic voices with confidence. Find individuals who haven't been celebrated in traditional advertising and media and let them tell their stories. If it makes someone uncomfortable now; it’s likely going to be a trend down the road. There is a fine balance in pushing boundaries and just being bold; which is why I say to celebrate the authentic voices you’re being inspired by rather than just reflecting or replicating their ideas.
What skills do you think are most important in these roles outside of design?
Staying organized. In hybrid roles and online lately — asset organization, production timelines and small details are most important and often overlooked. Streamlining how and where things are done in the digital world helps teams collaborate together and keeps everyone excited for the actual design work.
What has been the most rewarding part of your career so far?
I really love creating memorable experiences so anytime I see someone enjoying themselves at an event or show reminds me of why I do it. What stands out the most are some incredible fashion shows, the 2019 Pride Parade & Festival weekend and the last two years being able to transform the Festival online and increase the financial support we’ve given artists compared to in years past.
Images: Nick Merzetti
One last fun question, if you could only work with three artists for the rest of your career, who would you choose?
Alexandre de Betak: of Bureau Betak, a special events and production company for the luxury fashion houses. The attention to detail, extreme grandeur and constant storytelling is always inspiring.
House of Avalon: I’ve been following them online for many years because of their Queer events and overall vibe; they’ve recently blown up as their creative lead is the stylist to Lizzo and two members have recently competed (and won) drag race.
Any Pop Star: A dream of mine has always been to work on the creative team of a pop or performance icon. My top choice would probably be Miley Cyrus. That or open a grilled cheese restaurant. :)
Brendan has been using their creative skills to manage fashion shows, create marketing materials, produce events and develop authentic marketing strategies for the past 10 years. Their problem-solving skills are at their best when they are pushing boundaries at rapid speed. Currently, Primeau is the Branding and Marketing Manager for Pride Toronto.
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