The Do’s and Don’ts of Fashion PR During NYFW
So it’s here again! New York Fashion Week (or NYFW as we like to say) kicked off yesterday. It is always a fun time of year and there are great events and parties happening all over NYC. I look forward to it (for the most part). As a publicist, it is a time you both loathe and love. At the beginning of the year it means Valentines Day, so you are working instead of celebrating with your loved one. And in September, the shows start just after Labor Day, which signals that summer is over. The great thing about NYFW is that you get to reconnect with friends, colleagues and editors you haven’t seen in a while, get to look at beautiful clothes and attend some fun parties. The bad thing about NYFW, are the long hours (you typically work on Labor day) and the demanding editors and stylists that want to know in which row they have been seated and next to whom.
- DO prepare yourself for the long and unsociable hours. Yes, you will be receiving emails at all hours, yes people will rsvp the morning of the show, or better yet, just show up! Take a deep breath and just deal with every situation as it arises. Prepare for the unexpected.
- DO dress accordingly. Typically, fashion publicists wear head-to-toe black. I myself like a little color, but the key is to look professional and presentable while on site. Remember, you are a brand ambassador for the client and you are working in “fashion”, so make sure you actually look as though you do.
- DO hire people who are there to actually WORK. Many interns and assistants think it’s a good opportunity to get dressed up, tweet and upload Instagram pics. No! Your main priority is to work, which means seating the press, checking people in and making sure the press knows where they should be.
- DO smile even when an attendee is being rude or gets upset with you. To work in PR in general, can be stressful, but when it comes to NYFW, people are short, stressed and tired from traveling around from show to show and not being able to eat. You need a thick skin to work in PR and NYFW is when it will be put to the test! Always be polite and professional and do not take it personally. If you are going to take it personally, PR is not the job for you anyway.
- DO befriend the front-of-house PR team if you are overseeing backstage beauty media. If you are brought in as part of the hair and makeup sponsorship team, make sure you build a good rapport with the designer’s publicist(s). Ensure you send the backstage media lists in a timely manner, so they know which members of the beauty media will be in attendance. The goal is to get press on the designers in anyway possible, whether it be through the clothes, hair or makeup, so make sure you do what you need to do and work with them as a team.
- DON’T draw attention to yourself. As a publicist, it is not about YOU, it is about your client. The best publicists are seen and not heard. When looking at backstage photographs, you will always see a good publicist lurking in the background. Ensure you get the job done and are close by to handle anything that comes up. No drama or diva antics backstage, it is your client’s time to shine.
- DON’T expect to eat! You will be working long hours, running around from venue to venue (depending on how many shows you are overseeing), so eating is something you will do little of. The bonus of this is weight loss. I always find that I end up skinnier at the end of NYFW, which I do quite enjoy!
- DON’T forget that even though the show is over, as a publicist, it is not over for you! Post-show, make sure you get the rush images from the show and collection notes sent out to the appropriate media. This is probably one of the most important jobs for a publicist to complete, so make sure you do it!
- DON’T assume. If you don’t know a person by face or name when working the door, or can’t answer a question, say so. This is not the time to act like you know it all. Make sure you are at the top of your game and if you don’t know the answer to a question, ask someone more senior to step in. Remember, it’s not about you, it’s about the press in attendance and your client – the designer.
- DON’T complain. As Emily’s character in the movie The Devil Wears Prada says: “A million girls would kill for this job” – and that applies to Fashion PR too! PR is a popular profession, and yes it isn’t all fun and can be stressful, but NYFW (for the most part) is the fun and most glamorous part of the job. Suck it up, do the work and make the most of it. I keep a box of backstage passes, programs etc as memorabilia from all the shows I have worked on in Paris, London, Milan and New York. One day when I am old and gray, I can look at them all and say, I did that!
Jenelle Hamilton is an experienced publicist with 10 years of industry experience specializing in lifestyle PR, as well as social media. Her career has taken her to London, Milan, Paris and now New York City where she is based. Jenelle has worked with HRH The Princess Anne at one of her official charities in the UK and has had the opportunity to work on global accounts such as: Juicy Couture, Nike, Marni, multi-Oscar nominated and Emmy-winning fashion designer Bob Mackie, Iron Chef America Judge and celebrity chef Candice Kumai, skincare brand Truth Art Beauty and luxury brand Tom Ford beauty. Connect with Jenelle on Twitter!