(Issue 16) Fashion Feature: Moira Niu, Founder and Director of Crescent Agency

By Anisha Patil and Gergana Georgieva

Not your typical agency; Crescent PR is a leading fashion PR agency in central London, specializing in multi-brand communication and marketing. Having worked with several international and local clients, Crescent continues to expand its client base. The team at Crescent works with both emerging and established designers and brands, to provide the necessary support, network, brand awareness and effective PR for their journey to success. 

Crescent was founded by Moira Niu, after nearly a decade of working in the media and fashion industry. Moira encouraged her passion for media and fashion by working initially as a TV producer and later as the social media manager for Harper’s Bazaar. Through her various roles, Moira has been able to establish a strong network in both Asia, the EU and North America. She holds two master’s degrees in Media and Creative Enterprise from Nanjing School of Arts and Birmingham University. She has continued to work closely with the British Fashion Council and London Fashion Week to uplift her clients and inspire emerging designers. 

A recent addition to Crescent, Gigi Georgieva has joined the agency in October 2021 after graduating from Oxford Brookes University with her bachelors degree in Media Communications and Culture. Gigi’s unique background within fashion stems from her experience and knowledge gained through growing up surrounded by the luxury fashion industry. With her international experiences working in PR and fashion for both publications such as MUD Magazine and fashion brands such as D2LINE & Chopova Lowena, Gigi’s knowledge and network allow her a unique perspective within Crescent. 

Moira Niu and Gigi Georgieva (left to right)

Read below about Moria Niu’s professional and personal experiences, and the lessons she’s learned along the way.

MM: You are originally from Beijing and moved to London in 2016 for school. Tell me about how that move changed your life professionally and personally.

Initially, I came to the UK for my second masters’ degree. The UK master’s program I was in was a participating program with the university I went to in China for my other masters’ degree, and the original program was designed so that you spend your first year in China, second year in the UK, and your third year in China. You receive 2 degrees and the credits and scores are transferable. When I came here (the UK), I quite liked my lifestyle. When I was about to graduate in the UK, I decided to apply for a graduate’s entrepreneur visa, which allows you to run your own business in the UK. But of course, to gain this visa, you need to submit a business plan and everything and if your business plan gets recognized by the government and home office, then they can endorse you and your school will also be able to endorse you. So I got my visa and I started to run the company, and I have always wanted to be a link between the east and the west, especially in fashion. Before I came to the UK, I worked for Harper’s Bazaar China for around half a year, which changed my perspective a lot towards fashion.

The impact this had changed me, professionally in the sense that I definitely grew up faster than if I had come back to live in China or if I had come back to China to work as an employee or as a company. I managed to gain a lot of perspective from things I had to solve [living in the UK], versus if I was just employed by some other people that I didn’t need to worry about. And, personally, I feel that I’m living the best life that I could right now because nobody tells me what I should do. The social expectation doesn’t really affect me because my family isn’t living here. But if I’m in China, then you know, as Asian female, in Asian community, you have this expectation from your family that you need to get married, you know, right after graduating, but you can’t have a boyfriend before you graduate. Very twisted. And then you have to have kids before 30 because if you’re 30 years old, and still single or married, you’re seen as unsuccessful or something being wrong with you. Although that was a very ancient opinion, it’s still affected my generation. I believe the parents who were born in 1980, or even my age nowadays, will be more flexible. But in my generation, I still have that moral standard and judgment there. By living in the UK, I can fully focus on the things I love, the people I want to be around, and I can refuse to talk to the people that I hate or I don’t like. You really have the freedom to to build up your own circle. That’s the personal effect from this move.

MM: How did you transition out of journalism and into fashion? Tell me about what drew you to fashion as an industry as opposed to journalism?

So I remember when I was 12 or 13 years old and I had Chinese yuan that was equivalent to around 20 pounds to buy breakfast and lunch. There was a magazine booth beside my school and, back in the day, we had Cosmopolitan China and Elle China, and I just used the money I had to buy copies of them. When I was a teenager, I was considered a little bit bigger than my peers, but because of that, I couldn’t really find clothes to wear because you’d go to a shopping mall and everyone is a small or medium, you would rarely get large sizes, you know? And so I found myself diving into this amuse of fashion magazines thinking, “Oh my god, these are clothes.” Although I couldn’t wear them, I could still look at the fashion, so that was a very early interest of mine. I decided to learn journalism because I really loved literature, history, and Chinese and English writing and language because I was really interested and was doing quite well in those courses.

However, after I interned at China Central Television, I realized TV is not a career for me because if you’re working in television, you’re basically working 24 hours a day. And also for journalism, you’re always speaking based on something as past events. It was very twisted and working in PR, if you wanted to speak on your own opinions, which could influence the press releases, you couldn’t. For example, companies may have been doing certain things well while also doing other negative things- like let’s say a company had great sales but also they have a very bad laboring supply chain- and you knew it, you still couldn’t you couldn’t really freely speak on that perspective based on the role you have.

After I worked for Harper’s Bazaar, I felt my skills actually could transform to fashion because when I first started at Harper’s Bazaar, I was writing for a social media channel like Weibo, WeChat, today’s Instagram management and stuff and I found that to be very interesting and because I wasn’t doing too bad, my editors back in the day would send me to different runway shows and to see the designers and meet with celebrities to do interviews. And then I realized “Oh, actually, this is actually a business other than just good looking things.” Furthermore, when I was in my UK graduate program, I was thinking that my journalism director background could support me on technical things but I also had interest and experience in PR and knew from working at Harper’s Bazaar that a lot of designers I was meeting always wanted to tell their story to the world and wanted to sell their clothes in America and in the UK. I felt that I hadn’t seen anyone in London who was doing this so I thought, “Let me see how this will work and that’s why I started naturally transforming from a journalist director TV person to a fashion professional.

MM: Why is fashion PR crucial, especially for Asian brands launching in the UK and US?

Okay, so I’m sure because if you’re Asian or have Asian heritage, then you know, Asians maximum everything they spend but in fashion in the Western market, it’s the opposite. The Western market intends to see what you have invested in to judge if you are reliable or not, but in Asia especially the Chinese market or Chinese clients, they want to see the investment returns quickly, they need to see returns coming back tomorrow. The mindset is a little bit different with the Western market- if you want to do a brand, normally you invest in three years and you see how it goes. You wouldn’t be expecting that your brand that’s only existed for two months will be really desired. That [scenario] doesn’t really exist in the Western market; for example, all the big luxury brands -Chanel Hermes, Dior- they’ve all existed for 400 years, and that says something. And for fashion PR linking the West and East, there is a pivot point- we understand how my clients, which are mainly from Asia, think about themselves and their expectations but we also understand the local Western market well enough so we can advise them on the reality of, you know, “Your thing is basically daydreaming, it’s not going to happen.”  They’ll find out that we probably are the only person and team that they can work with because other people won’t even, you know, carry on the meeting with them after they’ve seen this mindset because it’s just such a waste of time to the Western market mindset. So for us to educate both sides and let them understand each other, and introduce right, like-minded people (network and brands), I think we are probably still the only agency who’s specializing in this perspective in London.

MM: What are some of your future career goals for the agency?

So in the future, I hope, if everything runs smoothly, we would like to set up our office in Shanghai and New York so we can, you know, curate our network more locally and more in depth. And department wise, currently, we work with fashion brands but I can see the production side has already showed up. Last year from 2021, we did our first dinner production for one of our clients and in February this year, we did a show production. So we’re also PR, but also, producers. Gigi is like backstage management, which is outside of the PR skill, but we manage to, you know, finish and deliver. We’re going to have two shows this coming September. We’re a PR team but also a production team and so I can tell, in the future, the production side is definitely going to be one of the departments. Furthermore, we’d like to set up an influencer management agency under the Cresent Agency umbrella because I know how powerful that influence economy works in the Chinese market but because of language barriers and the channel barriers, sometimes, you know, if you are a Chinese local influencer to get a deal from a Western brand from the Western office branch, it’s very difficult so we want to build up these bridges to deliver the opportunity from the western side, and coming back to the Chinese society and work with Chinese local influencer so they don’t need to travel or do anything, they just have an agency presenting them.

MM: What impact do you personally hope to have throughout the work that you do?

Actually, I really thought about this earlier today, because I feel that’s such a good question. I feel the personal impact for me is more of understanding people because different people behave differently. Some people, because this is something I really realized, you could be a good friend privately, but it doesn’t mean you guys can work together. But you know, you can work together with somebody, but it doesn’t mean that you have to be 24 hours together all the time. Yeah, so that’s something very important to me. And also if you can work well with somebody, you guys will be friends, but if you guys are friendly, it doesn’t always mean you can’t work together very well- that was the biggest lesson learned. So that helped me to look into the talent that works at Crescent, you know, finding out who they are and giving them guidance to different perspectives to make sure that they’re doing the job or they’re doing the task that they really like so, in that case, they’re happy and we’re happy and they’re developing and we’re developing as an entire team. I think that’s something I learned rather than just, “come here and work regardless”; observing who they are, where their talents are, and delivering different perspectives.

MM: As an Asian woman in fashion, what are some obstacles you’ve had to face? What advice do you have for other minority women who are trying to break into the industry?

So, obviously, I think in fashion there are a lot of obstacles that we need to conquer regardless your race and gender and community you come from but if we talk about Asian women in fashion, I think I concur that, back in 2018 and early 2019, because I live in London and am based in London, I went to London Fashion Week. I met with a group of acquaintances, and we had met each other before at the previous Fashion Week, and they knew I’m PR but that particular time was when we started to know each other a bit better. We started to talk about our lives and where we live,  and when it was my turn, they were staring at me like, “Oh, so when you are flying back to China, are you going to Paris Fashion Week before you go back to Beijing?” They knew my name but they never asked the question of, “Do you live in London? Are you based in London?  What do you do?” They knew I’m PR, but they might have thought I’m Chinese PR. I was thinking about why they asked me that because surely they think I live in China, which in a deeper thought, I don’t seem to belong to this society, which is purely judged based on my facial features.

I think that’s one of the obstacles that gave me a bit of a limit on how people can recognize that I’m living in this city. I struggled a little bit but then I realized probably the best thing is time- time will tell, time is always a great tool. You just carry on with what you do and people will recognize you as time goes by. So that was the first obstacle of self-identity- how I mark myself, because if I don’t recognize myself, how can I make people recognize my client? And regarding advice, you know, we all have some current struggle, it’s always going to be here but it’s always going to pass and things like a visa or your identity is not something you can change, especially identity. You’ve just got to embrace it and accept it and work on it. Don’t give up.

MM: What are some lessons Crescent has taught you personally?

Life is a people’s game and you are judging people, but at the same time, you are judged. So again, have a thicker skin. Also, I have my own philosophy that I learned from Chinese culture, but I think it’s quite useful. It is, “if you doubt about somebody don’t work with them but if you’re working with them, don’t doubt about them.” I think that’s the encouraging environment at Crescent- like if you are making mistakes or you failed, you won’t get judged. It’s always like “okay, let’s do better next time.” You know it is not a personal attack; it’s always a loving, kind, encouraging, nurturing environment that I try to deliver. And I try to make sure people who are working with us also have the same mindset, because I think it is nice. Fashion already is quite brutal and people are already flaky, but I think if you have a nice team around you, you can conquer anything with a nasty outside environment.

MM: Where in London reminds you of home?

Okay, so there is a canal area called Little Venice. It’s very nice when you’re walking down with the boats and stuff. It reminds me of a little area beside the Forbidden City in Beijing- there’s always a canal and lazy river, you can eat with bars and restaurants around it. Although the architecture style is completely different, but I feel that the water and structures are also quite similar.

MM: What brands currently inspire you in fashion?

Yeah, so I have to say the two brands that we are currently working with. One of them is called RUE AGTHONIS and the other one is called REINE REN. They are a young, independent brand from China. The first brand we’ve worked with for three years now and they started to do shows in London during London Fashion Week. The other brand has existed for 10 years and has just started exploring the Western market. I can definitely name a lot of big brand who deliver great inspiration, but the reason why I feel this inspires me the most is not only because of the collection from the visuals, but also because I work with them on how they run their business. They share their concerns, worries, fears, but also the joy with me; we share a piece of great press release or a great publication together. I think that’s a good inspiration, not only on the client and supplier basis, but I feel we are working towards the same thing and that is very inspirational.

MM: Which women in fashion inspire you?

The founder of DVF. Diane Von Furstenberg. She has been working on her brand her entire life, and what really encourages me, is that DVF opened a little red book, which is one of the most powerful Chinese social media app nowadays. They opened that DVF official account and then she, very boldly, appointed her own CEO- a Chinese female. And actually, she also has a little red book and she posts a lot of behind the scenes, how she does meetings, etc. She’s very respectful to her and in the beginning, the Chinese woman was very doubtful of herself, but Diane expressed her full trust in her. I think it’s not only about America these days, it’s about the globe. You know, where the new powers come from, and DVF as a global brand, we need to embrace that point so when you think about it, it’s very contrasting. We’ll think about some famous Italian fashion house; it’s just so different, and because of that, I managed to know DVF a little bit more. I wouldn’t know who Diane is if that CEO never opened up a little red book account, so she is a window to open up to the new community.

MM: What advice would you give to your 25 year old self?

So my first advice to myself is to party less, because I think that would save a lot of time. Secondly, I’ll probably say to buy less and buy smarter. When I was 25, that’s when I was in China and I was about to go to the UK. That was a booming era of Topshop, Zara, etc; it was all fast fashion. But I think after age 25, which was around 2013 or 2014, everything started going downhill. If I’m looking back, I don’t have any of it still with me; but the brands that I bought more smarter, like Tory Burch or a piece of Burberry that I bought even when I was younger than 25, I still have them now. So I definitely would say invest into more sophisticated and longer lasting pieces.

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