Mark of respect

With 20 years’ experience in the fashion industry, Mark McGuire is no stranger to changing fortunes. He tells Lucy Higgins how his various ventures in the fashion world have brought him to the creative hub of Berlin

Feature

Thursday, 7 April, 2011 by Lucy Higgins

  • Watches on display in the Street Fashion section of the Bread & Butter trade show
  • Mark McGuire
  • Bread & Butter trade show
  • George Gina & Lucy at Style Society

In his younger days, Mark McGuire longed to be a punk. Not because of the attitude, the ethics, or the rebellion involved – for him, it was all about the fashion. ‘Then I wanted to become a dandy for the same reason,’ he says. ‘I was always keen on fashion, even as a child, but as I got older I didn’t know what I actually wanted to do for a living. I knew I didn’t want to be a designer or open a shop, but I wanted to work in fashion in some way.’

Mark’s involvement in the fashion industry began with his first job, at a specialist shoe shop in Düsseldorf. But he didn’t settle there. ‘My father was in the Army, so we moved around a lot when I was a child,’ he explains. The different cultures he encountered as he grew up influenced his view of the fashion industry when he started out on his career path.

In search of something he had yet to define, McGuire moved to Berlin in 1995. It was a time when Berlin barely registered on the fashion map and it certainly wasn’t recognised as a place to do business, but McGuire took a risk and started his own agency. ‘As well as fashion, I knew I liked to travel, I liked magazines, I liked networking,’ says McGuire. ‘So I started b:sides, an agency that worked like a network. We advised and oversaw international fashion and lifestyle projects; we handled PR for fashion brands, designers and even a beer brand that wanted to tap into the notion of “urban Berlin”.’ It was a risk that paid off, because the company continued until 2008.

However, McGuire, who is known for his hard work and hectic schedule, wasn’t content with just running a networking agency. Along with b:sides, he also worked for five years as marketing director at Bread & Butter, the internationally renowned trade show for contemporary clothing. ‘It was an exciting time,’ he says. ‘Berlin was changing and no one was sure where the city was going. They weren’t really prepared for it to be what it is now – one of Europe’s fashion capitals.’

It hasn’t all been smooth sailing. After leaving Bread & Butter, McGuire started up a new trade-show concept in Düsseldorf that didn’t work out as well as expected. ‘It was a good experience, though,’ he says, showing no regret. ‘But by 2008, I found myself heading down a rocky road. I wasn’t sure what I was doing; I felt like I’d missed out on building my own brand. I considered leaving Berlin.’

Luckily, it was then that he was approached by Saydou Bangoura, a fellow fashion insider with whom he was already acquainted. Bangoura revealed that he was starting a new fashion venture and asked McGuire if he would get involved – and so TribaSpace was born. TribaSpace, described as a ‘one-point source for everything related to fashion’, is a social business network for the fashion industry. The website, tribaspace.com, boasts a constantly updated calendar of worldwide fashion events, including international fashion weeks, press days, showroom openings and launches. It allows users to upload images and press releases and to network with other TribaSpace members.

‘It’s a service that would have made my job a lot easier when I had agencies,’ says McGuire, who recognised the business potential of Bangoura’s idea immediately. ‘It focuses on communication with clients, and the entire process of staying up-to-date, promoting your brand, getting noticed and staying in touch is simplified and centralised.’

Now, as director of sales and communication, McGuire thrives on the idea of offering something that people in the fashion industry can use on a daily basis. ‘With TribaSpace, we’re offering support and communication to brands throughout the year – not just for three days, which tends to be the case at trade shows.’

He believes it’s the perfect timing for TribaSpace to have launched, too. Berlin had its cultural heyday way back in the 1920s, and international business didn’t really even focus on the city before 2000. However, with increasing visitor numbers and Bread & Butter’s move to Berlin from Barcelona in 2002, its creative potential, low cost of living and, most importantly, potential for business began to take effect. ‘There was a huge turnover in retail,’ says McGuire. ‘And, as the years have passed, Berlin has become a creative hub.’ TribaSpace is already proving successful, so it seems he’s got the timing right.

Is McGuire, who has worked all over the world, finally settled in Berlin? ‘There are lots of inspiring people and places here and it’s an exciting time,’ he says. ‘It’s my home now and the feeling in my heart is that I will stay. But wherever I am, I know the one place I will never leave – the fashion world. It’s my favourite place to work.’ 

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