Holly Garber founded premium fashion and lifestyle communications agency Golightly in 2004 in her early twenties, hitting the ground running. Innately forward-thinking, Holly is recognised as a strong brand builder of established labels and a champion of fostering emerging labels.
What is your formal background?
I have a bachelor of Economics (Social Sciences) and prior to Golightly worked at sass & bide for just less than two years as their PR Assistant.
Describe your role as managing director.
My role balances leading my team, client facing interaction and guiding the overall direction of the business. I spend most of my time in dialogue – either with a client, member of my team or with the media or other external contacts. I really enjoy talking and thinking about the best way to approach things and how to get to the desired outcome so I’m always happy when doing this.
What inspired you to establish your own business so young?
When I was growing up I always wanted to have my own business and work for myself, it suits me. I worked for my father from the age of 12 in the school holidays and then the moment I was legal I started working in cafes and retail. My father has always had his own businesses and my mother was a publicist for many years, so in starting Golightly I always felt I had someone I could call on for guidance with the financial side of the business and the PR side of the business.
What have you learnt through owning your own business for over ten years?
I’ve learnt to love what I do. When I started out I ran on adrenalin and there was a lot of parts of having Golightly that I didn’t really like but I now enjoy nearly everything. This change has come through self-development focused on making me a calmer person. Everything is easier if you aren’t stressed out of your mind and over-whelmed like I was for many years. Also becoming a mother has made me a nicer person so that helped too!
What is your best piece of professional advice?
Don’t make assumptions, always ask questions – different sides of the same coin.
Do you have a mentor?
No, but I do make a practice of looking for inspirational people to read about and I’m always interested in other people’s stories. I find formal education a challenging format but I get a lot from self-directed learning.
You have a storied history in developing young talent such as Dion Lee, Tome, Lover, Camilla and Marc. Is the process instinctive?
To a certain extent yes. I love to work on balancing what a brand needs with what the person behind the brand wants. There is always a challenge and tension in this process but seeing someone develop alongside their brand is such a joy.
What has been the most memorable or rewarding project in your career to date?
In 2005 I started the business and six weeks later I did six shows at Australian Fashion Week having never done a show before. That was a rollercoaster but an amazing experience.
Last year Dion Lee presented his Resort 2018 collection on the forecourt of the Sydney Opera House. This felt like a really meaningful moment for the brand. Dion was the first designer to ever show at the Sydney Opera House back in 2010 so to present in this same location, nine years later with a significant global following and growth – it felt incredibly iconic. I loved being part of it.
How has the Australian communications landscape changed since 2005?
In too many ways to cover off succinctly! Overall though the aim hasn’t changed, brands want visibility and positioning, but the methods have undergone serious shifts and developments and the pace of change is constant. I think it’s exciting and enjoy the challenge. If everything had stayed the same I wouldn’t still be doing this.
As a mother of two little ones, how do you balance the business with family time?
My children are now 2 and 4 so I find this much easier than I did when either of them were under one. Both my husband and I run our own businesses so we have a high level of flexibility and can split the hard moments like unexpected illness between. We also have help from our family and a nanny. Generally though it comes down to keeping my commitments at a manageable level. If I do that across the business and my personal life then I find it easier to find a rhythm that works.
You have a considered and minimal style approach. What is your go-to uniform?
In summer, a longer dress and flat sandals and in winter tailored trousers with a crew neck knit. I aim for comfort and simplicity.
Can you talk to us about ‘people’, the new arm of the business?
People is a new service that has happened very organically for us, specifically working with people of influence who have a strong skill set. We work with a varied group from Pilates instructor Kirsten King, to florist and set stylist Christelle Scifo to artist Vicki Lee and businesswoman Pip Edwards as well as others. We are taking what we do for brands and applying it to individuals to help connect them with brands and create great work.
What is next?
I have a good feeling about the next 12 months – I think it’s going to be a time for enormous growth and change for my business, my team and me and that feels like a great place to be.
You can follow Golightly @golightly_pr and Holly on Instagram @hollygarbs