• Wed, Mar 31 2010

Fashion 101: So, What Do Fashion Publicists Do?

Image via WENN

I am obsessed with Kell on Earth. This week marks the season finally of what I consider to be one of the best shows on Bravo, and I’m a little bummed. The draw I feel to the show is a strange one. Most of the characters are total bitches. The sunken-eyed underlings work long hours under crazy of pressure and endure endless verbal abuse. Yet I continue to be impressed and fascinated with Kelly Cutrone and respect what she had done with her business.

My fascination with this show really has opened my eyes to the reality of a business I never knew much about: Fashion PR. It’s an industry I really did not know a lot about. What exactly do people in Fashion PR do? Could it really be as crazy as the ladies and gents at People’s Revolution make it seem? Is it fun? So I decided to interview Lindsey Green, Director of Communications for Jill Stuart, to help me clear some of this stuff up.

What exactly does a fashion publicist do all day?

I’m the Director of Communications which is PR but also covers more. Basically all operations regarding name, the brand, press, image, magazine credits, you name it- all goes through me. It’s my job to make sure our company’s image is presented in the best way possible. Fashion is a big world and it can be hard to control. You do spend time putting out fires, but mostly I spend my days focusing on gaining exposure for our line, whether is communicating with editors and seeing what styles they need for upcoming shoots, talking to celeb stylists and coordinating which looks would be great for their clients, setting up photo shoots and interviews and generally handling all business Jill Stuart related.

How did you get into this line of work? Is there any way to train for it, or is it mostly on-the-job learning stuff?

I got into fashion pretty randomly. I didn’t go to fashion school or have aspirations to be in the fashion world. I have a very business-oriented mind and I came here after working in restaurants and hotels and doing a little film. I was always very interested in style and fashion personally and decided to take the leap and I took an internship at Jill Stuart during fashion week a few years ago. It was one of the toughest weeks of my life coming in three days before a show knowing zero about the industry, but it was the best thing I’ve ever done. It was like getting a four year degree in four and a half days. I was brought on as an assistant where I assisted the former Director of Communications for a while and then took over the position when she moved on. It was all on the job training. Jill was there every step of the way to guide me as well, which has made all the difference. We’re a great team. I think the only way to train for this kind of position or to find out if it’s for you is to just jump in and fearlessly do it. I think on the job training and internships are the best tools for learning the fashion business. You can’t be taught any of this in a classroom.

Is your job a glamorous one? Do you have to go out to parties and mingle for work? Is that fun, or is work always work?

There are certainly glamorous aspects to any fashion job but it’s not the kind of glamour people perceive when they see movies or watch reality TV. It’s tough, hard work with long hours, lots of details and responsibilities. Going out to events is often a part of my job. Sometimes it’s really exciting as there’s so many great things going on in the fashion world, but obviously some nights you’ve been working all day and it can be tough to then go out. I find the experience really fun and I feel really fortunate to be able to be a part of it. Who’s going to complain about free cocktails and mingling with interesting people? I’m not.

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in a career change to PR?

I would recommend that they try to get a little bit of on the job experience if possible. Maybe an internship during fashion week. Fashion week is the best time to test your ability to handle the pressure, the hours and all the many details that come with the job. It’s fast paced and you have to keep up. If you can cut it during fashion week, you can survive in the industry.

Can you explain the different types of fashion PR?

There are a few different types. What I do is called “In House PR” meaning I just work in house for one brand. I love this because it gives me the ability to really connect with our line and have a relationship with editors, stylists, our design team etc as the face of the brand. They can all come to me and they know me. I’ve been with Jill for over two years and we’re like a family. I absolutely love it. Working in house also means you take care of many day to day things and also have a lot more business thrown your way than just PR. Fashion is, after all, a business and being inside a house you gain that exposure in huge levels. Then there’s Agency PR. We work with a fantastic Agency, Alison Brod PR. They rep lots of different brands, yet somehow manage to make us feel like we’re their only client, which is the trick to running a good agency operation. Alison is never out of reach to me, we talk almost daily, I also have constant communication with her VP of fashion. Agency PR gives you the very face paced experience of working with LOTS of difference brands. There’s more pitching stories, more events to work and set up and plan for, lots of clients to juggle and different personalities to navigate. ABPR helps me handle almost all the details of our show such as our invites, seating chart (that’s a big one, and I love them for it!) making sure the celebrities coming have everything they need, they set up backstage interviews and requests for me to approve. We still over see everything, but they are there to make sure it goes exactly to our liking. I think to be great in Fashion PR it’s vital to have some experience working at both an Agency and In house. For someone just starting out an agency job can be ideal. You get so much exposure and you learn quickly, because you have to.

Do you feel pressure to dress well to for your job?

For important meetings and events, of course I want to look great. I was a fan of Jill Stuart clothing before I came here, so I wear our line constantly. However day to day in the office, I’m a pretty casual gal. You’ll find me most days in a plaid button down and jeans and during the college football season, you’ll see in my Florida Gators T-shirt every Friday. Go Gators!

What are some of the perks of working in your business?

It’s a lot of fun working in fashion. It’s one of the few businesses that’s 100 percent business and also 100 percent creative, which makes it very special. Obviously I love being able to get clothes, I wear our brand literally all the time, and being that I love the designs, that’s my favorite perk! Also, being able to go to events, meet people, make connections. It’s just an all around great industry to be a part of.

Is there money to be made in this line of work?

There can be, but like any job not at first. For those of us on the PR and business side, if you’re good at what you do, the possibility to be paid well is pretty high. It definitely takes time. Starting salaries in fashion, like most creative industries are low and you have to pay your dues, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel if you work hard and put yourself in a position to succeed.

If someone wants to be a fashion designer, is it helpful at all for them to her their start working in PR?

I personally don’t think so. I think if you want to be a designer, be a designer. Take a design internship or wait for the right opportunity. For designers it’s vital they know how PR works so if you can be a part of a company where you can closely observe PR, small companies such as Jill are perfect for this, that’s ideal. PR is great to make connections if you’re a designer, but I find those who really want to design and have that creative mind aren’t happy for long before they are longing to be a part of the design team. So if you’re a designer, stick with it and really fight to get into the design department.

Have you seen the Bravo show Kell on Earth? Do you think it accurately portrays the industry? Do you like it? Is everyone really as stressed out as the employees of People’s Revolution? Is it really that miserable? (I’m obsessed with this show and really curious about other people’s take on it.)

Um yes and I LOVE IT! First off, Kelly Cutrone is one of the best in industry and with good reason. She trusts her employees with immense responsibilities because she’s kept her firm small and intimate, which for clients is ideal, this is why people flock to that firm for representation. Is it that miserable during fashion week…it can be, but at the same time you still enjoy it, if you can’t enjoy it even in the stressful times, then it’s not the right industry for you. I love watching the show because even though my situation at Jill is very different, I can still relate to it. Obviously on reality TV the drama is going to be played up and the stress is going to be played up, but fashion is a high stress industry and if you can’t handle that pressure then you’re not going to succeed. This, as I like to say, is a world for the tough.

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