I am a beauty publicist and have been for years, so between my day job and the launch of BeautyComm Intensive, I talk about beauty PR pretty extensively. However, I did spend five years of my career working in fashion PR for one of the most iconic women’s wear designers in the world, Diane von Furstenberg. Since so many of you are interested in fashion PR specifically, this post is for all of you who want to know the ins and outs of being a fashion publicist.
When Diane hired me to oversee PR for her brand, I was nervous at first because I only had a beauty and consumer goods PR background – I did not know anything about fashion. I expressed this to Diane and she said, “PR is PR. If you can get press on lipsticks, you can get press on dresses.” It isn’t quite that black & white, but what she was trying to say is that the overall idea and strategy could be applied to PR for anything. So, when I describe what fashion PR is, you have to keep in mind what PR is in general, which is maintaining a public image for a business, organization, or high-profile person(s) – sometimes all of the above, which was the case with DVF.
As the Director of PR for DVF, I worked in-house and spent my days focusing on gaining exposure and increasing awareness about Diane and the fashion collections. This included communicating with editors and producers, working with stylists and market editors to pull collection samples, sending press clothing samples for shoots, working with celeb stylists to dress VIP client for events, setting up photo shoots and interviews for Diane, managing DVF press offices and/or agencies internationally, and planning events including our biggest event twice a year – New York Fashion Week. You would do the same type of work at a fashion PR agency, but for multiple brands.
My job in fashion PR opened so many doors for me, including one that led me to FIT to go back to school at night to learn about fashion as an art form. I learned about the history of fashion, design, fashion greats, etc. Having this knowledge helped me become a better fashion publicist. The truth is you cannot sell something without knowing it inside and out, and in order to be a convincing fashion publicist, I had to know as much about fashion as I could. Then I learned about fashion on the job, which is the best way to learn about the fashion business.
I think it is important to stress that as glamorous as it sounds to say you work in fashion PR, it is a lot of work. When you start out, it is a lot of grunt work, late hours, attending a lot of fashion events and parties, and schlepping samples from magazines to shoots to celebrities. If you have ever seen Devil Wears Prada, I assure you there is truth to how that movie portrays working in the fashion industry – the good and the bad. It is absolutely one of the greatest jobs I have ever had, but it was also one of the hardest.
But I want to be positive. There are also a lot of perks… You get to work with amazing designers, sometimes you get a clothing allowance or discount, meet incredible people, attend fun events and parties, most likely get to work with celebrities in some way, and get to exercise your creativity. The pay is little when you start out, but if you pay your dues and prove yourself, you can make a good living as you work your way up.
If you want to break into fashion PR, I really suggest working in fashion PR first. Intern at a fashion PR agency and try to make sure you get exposure to the work that goes on during Fashion Week, which will really test your ability to handle the pressure, the very long and late hours, and the fast-paced, unpredictable nature of the business. See if you can keep up and if you enjoy the experience. If you can survive Fashion Week, you can survive fashion PR.
A lot of shows portray fashion PR as an incredibly fast-paced, high-stress, intense job that is dominated by 99% percent young girls who are catty and bitchy and competitive and speak like a bunch of valley girls from the movie Clueless. (Beauty PR girls can get a bad rap too.) In some cases, that is the reality, but there are always exceptions. I have found that most people end up in fashion PR because they have this deep passion for fashion in general. In that case, Ralph Lauren said it best, “Fashion is not necessarily about labels. It’s not about brands. It’s about something else that comes from within you.” Now who doesn’t want to do PR for that?