Downtown Q&A: Celine Kaplan and Amy Focazio

by | Jun 22, 2021 | Beauty, Business, Featured, Featured, Power Women

Meet the fierce duo taking the NYC public relations world by storm. Celine Kaplan is a PR pioneer and founder of her own luxury boutique agency, CKPR. By her side is her managing partner, Amy Focazio; a maven in her own right. Focazio has over 20 years of public relations experience, 16 years at Estee Lauder, and 12 at M.A.C. Cosmetics.

CKPR has had to evolve with the times, modernizing and rebranding to better suit today’s climate. For instance, they partner with influencers, an important facet of the public relations world. The agency’s current clients include Ladurée, Orveda, Clinique La Prairie, and Le Bon Marche Rive Gauche, to name a few (no biggie). 

These two close friends and business partners might have different approaches to business. However, get a glimpse of their synergy, and you might find that these two great minds think alike.

Meet Celine

Downtown: What brought you to the US?
Celine Kaplan: As A French woman – it was a love story of course… then I fell in love with NY…

DT: How did you get started in your industry?
CK: I started in the art world arriving in NY — then realized I needed to pay bills and worked at AIR FRANCE for the Terminal One project in public relations- that is when I realized the power of the press.

My passion was beauty and fashion so I was able to start working for Bourjois and Eres (part of the Chanel Company Limited). [This] lead me to open my own boutique agency with Eres, Laduree, and The Webster…to name a few.

DT: What is the most difficult thing to accomplish in public relations when you have a new client?
CK: TRUST. PR is a long-term investment and clients need to know that you will absolutely do what is right for the brand but it takes time… Even if it is saying NO to certain opportunities.

DT: Do you find it more difficult to get products covered in print than online?
CK: Print for sure… the print publications have a limited amount of pages, that’s all.

DT: Do most brands prefer online advertising?
CK: Brands LOVE both and always want it all. Our clients are luxury so print is still major.

DT: What industry is most prominent for the brands that you work with at your agency?
CK: At the moment, beauty and lifestyle. Fashion post-COVID has been more challenging.

DT: What is it like to work with a partner? Furthermore, what strength differentiates you from your partner, and vice versa?
CK: It’s the best tool and weapon…to ideate, to share, to negotiate… Amy and I have been friends for over 20 years. We have the same taste and understanding for luxury but very different strengths.

Amy is Type A so everything needs to be perfect. She comes from a corporate background and is methodical, strategic, laser-focused on the details, a natural leader…. and she has a wicked sense of humor! I will let her answer about my strengths.

DT: What do you look for in new clients?
CK: I always say if I already bought your product I can do a good job… I guess it’s called Sex appeal.

DT: Who inspires you most?
CK: Women in general – collectively… wives, mothers, lovers, businesswomen all at once. It’s impressive.

DT: What do you hope to achieve by this interview with Downtown Magazine?
CK: World fame and recognition… kidding. New business leads would be great of course.

DT: What is your favorite place in Lower Manhattan?
CK: Laduree, The RealReal, Bode, the Frankie Shop, The Brant Foundation, The Swiss Institute, The Whitney… not in that order.

DT: Where do you go to relax in NYC? Downtown?
CK: Well, I am lucky enough to have one of my close friends who is a chef founder, and owner of Left Bank and rotisserie chicken Poulet Sans Tete in the West Village… and it is my home away from home.

Biking, running, walking near the Hudson is always calming and relaxing. [As for] Uptown, I love The Mandarin Hotel spa and The MET.

Photo by Stephane Baunach

Meet Amy

Downtown: How did you get started in your industry?
Amy Focazio: I have always loved fashion and beauty. When I was 13 I had a pipedream and wanted to be a model…. I’m 5’4 mind you. Let’s just say that didn’t work out! Right out of college my sister kicked off her career in Fashion Public Relations. As soon as I was handed my diploma I beelined it for NYC and interned at her PR agency. The rest is history.

DT: Where did you go to university?
AF: Ithaca college. I grew up in New Canaan and love nature. Ithaca is beautiful, but the winters are brutal.

DT: What is the most difficult thing to accomplish in public relations when you have a new client?
AF: We have launched a lot of new brands and it takes time to build awareness. Managing expectations is the first thing that comes to mind, but when the brand finally takes off there’s nothing more satisfying for us. It’s the best feeling. Also, PR really needs to be a long-term relationship, not a one-off.

DT: Do you find it more difficult to get products covered in print than online?
AF: Yes, but having longstanding relationships with the press certainly helps.

DT: Do most brands prefer online?
AF: That would be a yes. For luxury brands, seeing their product in the glossy pages of a magazine is still important.

DT: What industry is most prominent for the brands that you work with at your agency?
AF: So many… Beauty, Fashion, Home, Hospitality, Travel.

DT: What is it like to work with a partner? Furthermore, what strength differentiates you from your partner, and vice versa?
AF: Celine and I are polar opposites. Her head is in the sky. She’s very creative and impulsive, imaginative, a master networker. Organization is not her strength but it all gets done… Her sense of humor is through the roof. We laugh all day long.

DT: What do you look for in new clients?
AF: Celine and I share the same philosophy…. We have to love the brand, [and] want to buy it. We can’t promote a brand to the press and consumers if we don’t believe in it. It’s also important that they are cognizant [of] the issues we face today. It’s important to consumers that brands are responsible.

DT: Who inspires you most?
AF: People that are not afraid to speak out about important issues. Who use their voice for the greater good. It’s beyond inspiring.

DT: What do hope to achieve by this interview with Downtown Magazine?
AF: Fame, fortune, and glory…. All joking aside, I love Downtown Magazine and I’m excited that we’re doing this. Of course, new business opportunities would be great.

DT: What is your favorite place in Lower Manhattan?
AF: Of course Ladurée. I’m a vegetarian and the vegan eggs and croissants are to die for. My husband is French and Lucien always makes him happy. The Warm Store in Nolita and New Museum is always a go-to for me.

DT: Where do you go to relax in NYC? Downtown?
AF: I lived in Tribeca for a long time and my sanctuary was going to the Hudson River. I love to be near water… it’s calming. As Celine and I have been friends for 20 years we share a lot of the same friends. Our friend who is the owner and chef of Left Bank restaurant in the West Village is like family. We go regularly … it has a great vibe. ★

For more Downtown Q&A, click here.