This month, as the ready-to-wear cycle drew to a close, two men began to seem ubiquitous, popping up Zelig-like near catwalks everywhere from New York to London, Milan and Paris. Most people had no idea who they were but what they do affects most of us.
It is unlikely you will have heard of Jens Grede and Erik Torstensson but they are responsible for signing up Natalie Portman as the face of Dior, Ewan McGregor for Belstaff; they conceived Mr Porter, the menswear arm of Net-a-Porter; created digital platforms for Balenciaga and Tory Burch; masterminded ad campaigns for Calvin Klein and Kurt Geiger; and helped make Erdem and Mary Katrantzou global fashion businesses. And that barely scratches the surface.
Under the umbrella of the Saturday Group, Grede and Torstensson run a collective of 12 companies, employing more than 200 people in Milan, New York, Paris, Los Angeles and their head office in east London. Across the whole group, they have 140 clients.
The two 34-year-old Swedes, who began their careers as art directors at Wallpaper magazine, describe their privately owned company as simply a fashion marketing group but it is much more than that. Since it was launched in 2003 as a basic creative agency, the group has acquired on average one or two companies a year, extending its tentacles throughout the fashion world.
For example, when accessories brand Kurt Geiger approached Saturday 10 years ago, it was just for the duo’s advertising offering. Since then the group’s remit has expanded to include product launches, including Kurt Geiger’s ‘Fashionistas’ range and ‘Everything but the Dress’ accessories line. Now the group consists of Wednesday, a digital agency, Saturday, an advertising agency, and ITB, which offers talent negotiation and brand creation.
Last year Saturday began working with Calvin Klein on a small commission to promote a new bra, the Push Positive, via a digital project. It created a 32-second film in which the brand’s ambassador, Lara Stone, dances to Salt-N-Pepa’s 1990s hip-hop track “Push It” while wearing almost nothing but the bra (naturally). A girl dancing in lingerie is hardly a new idea but, supported only by a few billboards and a Facebook app, the film became the most viewed Calvin Klein ad ever, with 30m YouTube hits.
Pointedly, this multi-channel approach is beginning to influence the way other fashion companies do business. Last summer, PR and production powerhouse KCD, which looks after international brands such as Marc Jacobs, Chloé and Alexander Wang, announced a strategic partnership with Spring, a studio complex and creative agency that has Louis Vuitton and Versace as clients; together the two will collaborate on the opening of a new 120,000 sq ft space in New York this year.
Still, when asked to compare their business to others in the industry, Grede and Torstensson offer only sports and media giant IMG as an example. It’s revealing: IMG operates in more than 30 countries in the world as the biggest producer and distributor of sporting events, with more than 1,000 sport stars on its books – and own the majority of the events in which its clients play. It gives new meaning to the idea of “super-model”.