HEIDI RUGGIER ON MERGING FASHION, ART & PR
Heidi Ruggier is the President of Matte PR, a member of Ryerson’s School of Fashion Program Advisory Council and a mentor with Toronto Fashion Incubator. In this thought-provoking interview, she reflects on the key elements of her career path & shares her ideas and things that improve our lives.
Who did you want to be when you were a child and what sparked your interest in art?
Most honest answer? The first time I can remember aspiring to any career, it was watching Amanda Woodward from Melrose Place! I loved what she did. I loved her.
There were other things too. I almost went to chef school at one point. Then, there was the dream of being in the fashion industry. Or getting into politics and advocacy.
In the end, I found a passion for PR and connected my love for fashion, food, art and people into the career I have today. I am now a member of Ryerson’s School of Fashion Program Advisory Council and a mentor with Toronto Fashion Incubator. An honor and privilege on both accounts.
My interest in art was 100% a result of my parents. Growing up, they kept us busy with creating art, playing music, knitting, sewing and baking. We didn’t watch TV. The year that nearly every kid I knew went to Disneyland, my dad took us on a road trip through Italy, from top to bottom, finishing in Malta. Experiencing art and art-history, firsthand, that summer was a catalyst for my love of art, architecture and cities.
What are some of the choices you've made that made you who you are?
Follow your gut and your passion(s). And find mentors. Mentorship is truly the catalyst for everything. I was mentored by Nina Budman, a maven in the Canadian PR industry, who took an interest in truly teaching me. The decision to pursue this career was mine, but I was incredibly #blessed to find Nina as my mentor. She was a fervent patron of the arts and committed herself to teaching and inspiring so many. I continue to think about her and miss her daily. You can read fond memories of Nina here.
You support the arts through PR story-telling can you tell us how you came to this decision?
It was only natural to pursue PR within the categories I loved. Matte PR’s client list is eclectic and a reflection of the categories that make me tick. Art, design, fashion, food. Our clients all fit into these categories.
In terms of supporting the arts specifically, I absolutely love the strategic side of PR and exploring different angles to share clients’ stories with the audiences they seek out. From our work with BYDealers to pop artist Michelle Vella, we love being able to leverage the power of PR to shine a light on Canadian art and artists.
Through my work with Matte PR, I hope to continue working with creators who represent conscious, diverse and nuanced art. It’s important how we, as an industry, elevate artists and creators who put out positive and progressive works. I want to see an inclusive future where people within the art, design and fashion industries are representative and varied.
What are some other important causes or motives in your life beyond pr and fashion?
Food. Is. Everything. I was recently charmed by a fabulous onion. Not joking. Right now, I’m obsessed with Plan B Organics. They send me a CSA box of local food once a week and it’s always DOPE. The best thing? They have peppery arugula I have only ever tasted in Malta. I had seriously given up on finding it in Toronto! The Plan B Organics food is picked and packaged just days before it arrives.
What are your observations on how art and communication intersect?
Politics is inseparable from art. The most communicative works make statements about daily life, institutions and clearly speak truth to power. Sometimes this is literal and sometimes a new product can be an act of rebellion and a piece of art on its own. I’m really interested in the places where art and business intersect. The power of design is real and it has the capability to improve people’s lives quietly and dramatically.
With the constantly changing landscape of social media, what role do you think it plays in art and fashion today?
Touched on this earlier. Social media has brought democracy. Brands that would have never broken through to the public consciousness are thriving through building fanbases on social media. One that comes to mind is Gypsy Sport, which really started as a tumblr account. Now, it’s combining positive visions of LGBTQ and POC with commentary on mother nature and respecting our planet. Fashion is one of the world’s biggest polluters, and Gypsy Sport designer Rio Uribe is keeping this top of mind with its latest collection.
Local fashion's hero, Hayley Elsaesser, is another example of a brand making as statement and amplifying it through social. With every collection, she celebrates the diversity of her community – smashing notions of what size, shape, race, or gender a model should be. You go, girl.
What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be an investment of money, time, energy, etc.)”
I’m not just sticking to one.
Career: Interning. Getting coffee for people.
Wardrobe: Comme des Garcon shirt. And anything from FAWN Boutique.
Hair: Cuts by Sassoon Salon
Art: Work by Katheryn McNaughton (She painted a little chair for me)
Design: Olivetti Valentine Typewriter from Atomic Design
Name a person (or people), past or present, whom you admire?
Nina. Nina. Nina. My forever mentor. I think of her daily. ALSO, Yoko Ono. My favourite Beatle.
What do you recommend to the budding designers and artists in terms of their brand?
Cohesion. Voice. Inclusivity. Diversity. Sustainability. Bring that vibe.