Emma van Haandel
Written by Saul Taylor
Van Haandel is the founder and managing director of EVH, Australia’s leading full-service luxury communications agency. Based in Sydney with a team of 20, she is the visionary force behind the business, guiding creativity, innovation and strategy, and a respected thought-leader in the fields of design, fashion, hospitality and retail.
How did you get started in communications?
Originally from Melbourne, I founded EVH in 2008 following several years working in Melbourne and London in hospitality, events and fashion marketing.
EVH originally launched as a fashion agency for Australian retailers, brands and designers. Quick success in these areas led to the progression of a luxury division with early clients including Louis Vuitton, Max Mara and Chanel. In 2013, a newly launched lifestyle division won clients such as Aesop, Moët Hennessy and Lexus, who all remain clients today. In 2018, with the business constantly evolving, we made the strategic move to meet the ever-growing demand for wellbeing and fitness, and started a wellness division. Our first project was to launch the global phenomenon Barry’s into the Australian market.
What makes Australia a good place to launch a comms business?
Australia has been, and continues to be, a key development market for luxury and premium brands. It’s a unique market, and often a testing ground for larger markets due to our hybrid of cultures and attitudes.
I wouldn’t say it is an easy location to open a business for global brands. Far from it. We have opposite seasons, a fluctuating currency and we’re one of the highest-taxed nations in the world. We have high labour costs, stringent government regulations, and the time differences between the continents can be a challenge. We put a lot of time in to make it work.
What’s a typical day for you?
Every day is different and that is why, after more than 15 years, I still love what I do. I try to wake early and do a 6am class (Pilates at One Hot, or Barry’s if I have the energy), then home in time for the pre-school-run madness. After dropping my two children at school I arrive at work by 9am.
There is no typical work day for me – there can be WIPs with my team, client meetings, site visits, team training sessions to foster creativity and innovation, team culture activities, charity work, a business trip, or simply catching up on emails (which takes up far too much of my time). Typically, I’m home for family dinner and then jump back online once the children go to bed.
From fashion and luxury to travel and lifestyle, your client list is a diverse and impressive one – what are the differences (and similarities) between working in these sectors?
EVH operates three distinct but integrated divisions: Fashion (since 2008) and Luxury (since 2012), Travel and Lifestyle (since 2013) and Wellness (launched in 2018). No matter the client, the EVH team act as brand guardians first and foremost. We approach all of our work strategically, use our business acumen, discernment and attention to detail. However, now more than ever, everything has an ROI. Our goal for all clients is to do meaningful work that delivers commercially.
Can you give us an example of an event or comms campaign you worked on, and why it worked so well?
We recently completed a pro-bono campaign for the Sydney Children’s Hospital. Why it worked? Because of the collective of driven, connected and generous individuals that made up the committee. The passion and eagerness of all the people involved was extraordinary, and for me and my team at EVH, it is extremely rewarding to contribute to the future of children’s health, which is investing in the future itself.
How important are the digital and social elements of what you do?
We integrate everything — paid, owned and earned media — into our work. We work solo, or we collaborate with specialists and other agencies depending on the brief.
If we are talking about an event, you cannot forget the guest experience. The last thing you want is an event that looks good on social but lacks any vibe for the people in the room.
All your current fantastic clients aside, what other brand(s) would you love to work with and why?
In all honesty, our clients are all dream clients! No matter what the sector, if there is professional chemistry, mutual respect and the timing is right, that is a dream client.
How has the industry changed since you started out?
I used to use a fax machine! Need I say more?
And what do you think it’ll look like 20 years from now?
Amid the never-ending distractions of modern-day living, our ability to understand things in detail is being challenged. Brands will continue to look to agencies for creativity, innovation and human connection strategies. Coming from an in-house role myself you can feel quite insular, but at an agency, there are shared ideas, insights, collaboration, experience and expertise. Future communication strategies will be driven by fresh attitudes and ethics, aiming for deeper engagement with consumers rather than measuring success with likes and dollar values.Back