The edgy, snarly yet bombastic Mercedes Benz Fashion Week downed curtains for the season with a lot of pomp and show. With names that could send the aspiring fashion designers on a one way trip to mars (without booking for a return journey, of course), the MB Fashion week was simply spectacular, playful and a complete runway hit. A lot of excellent press went into making the show a total success. It's time for the PR agencies which made the show their own, to raise a toast for themselves!
After all, showcasing labels and lines is one thing, and managing the celebrities and press (read good press), is totally another. PR agencies are known to carry the show and designer labels on their shoulders ensuring everything apart from the runway runs smoothly and well organized.
Shoppers are focused on beefing up their fall wardrobe now that summer is wrapping up. But designers in New York already have turned their focus to spring 2014. Most obviously, as lights turn off on the runway and carpets are rolled up, and guest lists put away for next year with a deep sigh, Fashion PR agencies are closing out final press for their shows and solidifying buyer inquiries.
Anyone who has been around in the circuit for long enough to know the pulse won't be surprised to know agencies have already started on their strategizing exercise for the next season!
Hit it well, and it's a jackpot. Monique Tatum of Beautiful Planning Marketing & PR, who posted a success story with fantabulous PR management of designer Nina Skarra's show at last year's MBFW paints the excitement in hues of 'beautiful madness'. "It's an ongoing joke in the office that if only people knew that we work all around the year for a 15-minute show. It's madness. But, it's beautiful madness!" quips Monique.
It was the famous Cristóbal Balenciaga who made a rather late-life statement that fashion is a dog's life. The hours are brutal, and the competition is simply cruel. This perfectly applies to the Fashion PR agencies too, who are equally or more involved in taking the show out of runway, and tossing it well into the world. Seasoned with loads of good press, strategized publicity and with a bag of goodies thrown in, without a gasp!
It's no mean task. With names such as Oscar de la Renta, Victoria Beckham, Karlie Kloss, Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, Nina Skarra, Donna Karan, Anna Sui -- adding their flavor to the season which held scores of designers showcasing their cuts and concepts -- the show is sumptuous for fashionistas, but it can potentially cause the rupturing of veins for agencies which have been 'at it' for months before the show actually goes on the floor.
New York Fashion Week can look like an elaborate drawn out wedding ceremony. Attendees -- a mix of press, fashion editors, stylists, buyers and fashion directors all vying for a front row seat. By the time the lights go down and the models hobble out onstage, the audience is no longer all abuzz with pinning down on the concepts. They are critiquing, and the Fashion PR teams are exhaling for the first time in months. Managing people with celebrities included, is a big big task, especially if an agency wants to be 'in there' for good.
And for the Fashion PR industry there's nothing like NYFW, it is the epitome of Fashion PR success! It's like a pastry loaded with every sinful ingredient that can add a bit of bulge to cause love handles, tummy and hips. But hey; no pain, no gain!
For an agency, to create the right perception among designers is extremely critical. Getting the deal can be exhilarating. Fashion PR agencies often hand pick shows depending upon their focus on building their fashion client rosters -- from the range of RFPs they have received from designers who want them to manage their shows. In order to leverage on the expertise of agencies, designers too, need to engage with the agencies well in advance to ensure their show gets the crème of everything -- the best of celebrity presence, and of course, loads of focused press.
But, what can turn the whole exercise involving a lot of blood, sweat, reputation and expertise can be -- ruining it owing to the home team that's got no zest.
Imagine this. Your work has begun 90 days before the show is scheduled to go on stage. The most efficient Fashion PR team spends days and nights, forgetting all about work-life balance to develop invites, create the guest lists, discuss on how to manage the who's who and 'wannabe's and begin to warm up the press with bits on the season's flavor. It's a clean 9 am to 2 am job. No complaints, because the Fashion PR agencies love the ramps too!
Dreaded seating charts are done and then changed 15 times before being finalized. Celebrities adequately cajoled. Commitments made. Then it's time to get working on sending out the designers complimenting dresses for the ' celebrity appearances' to wear front row -- with direct instructions for getting them back too!
What the critiquing audience does not see (and you don't blame 'em) are the IMG meetings, the Lincoln Center walk throughs, coordinating exercises with front of house check in with back of the house production teams -- all of which add to the building up of stress, and pressure. Not to forget the excitement part!
Teams deployed by the Fashion PR agencies have to be most stable, balanced, and accurate. For, they carry the fruit of all this elaborate preparation on their shoulder. Hence, an efficient, well-coordinated team -- is the key. Because, the agencies that engage in prestigious fashion events such as MBFW, do so in addition to their regular assignments such as branding, products, and client meetings. Make no errors. Stress is shooting north all the time!
You don't want to lose out on the whole world that's watching your team check in 600 people within an hour and a half, seat them all calmly and according to the plan that has been already prepared. No snags, no glitches, and not even a murmur. That's the way it is expected to be. Everyone wants a part of fashion week. There are dime a dozen people who will walk up and try to get in even if they are not on the list. The big job of the volunteers on the team -- is to calmly deal with it, without as much causing a commotion that can be sensed by voice sensitive devices.
Hence, picking, choosing and building right combination of teams that you work with wisely right down to every single volunteer ensures your proximity to the success, at the show and afterwards too. It is also about tightly managing front of house check in. Frayed nerves are way too many. What's rather scarce is the presence of mind to deal with it. Make sure, your team has it, under all circumstances.
For, public memory isn't short when it comes to remembering moments of humiliation and embarrassment. It was in the last season at the Zac Posen show when PR professional Lynn Tesoro was slapped by a French magazine editor's daughter who apparently "stood in line too long" waiting for a seat. All minutes before Naomi Campbell graced the runway. Now, such scenes are a total no-no for PR agencies irrespective of the reason/situation.
Some of the most arguably successful agencies which have made a mark in the fashion circuit in NY include KCD, Paul Wilmot, LaForce+Stevens, Nadine Johsnon, Loving & Company, Linda Gaunt, HWPR and two seasons ago, Beautiful Planning Marketing & PR (BPMPR) emerged as a dark horse, which has sure left an indelible mark on fashion industry. The Nina Skarra's show that the agency managed where she presented her new line of eco friendly couture was a clean act. It created all the buzz, in the right places including the social media circuits!
Against the number of years that one has been in the industry, Beautiful Planning Marketing & PR is probably a newbie. But, Monique Tatum of BPMPR sure knows the ropes. Having managed Public Relations for Hot 97's Summer Jam 2013 20th Anniversary , an event that show an exhausting 50,000 spectators filling up the stadium with big names like Nicki Minaj, Mariah Carey, Chris Brown etc, was a mammoth exercise.
Ask her about how she made the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week PR cut so early in the industry, she is sure so shoot an enigmatic smile your way and say: "It's not about age or even the size of your team. It's a very small industry. Its about working extremely fast paced and getting real results across the board. Your name within the industry then spreads like referral wildfire. Anyone working in Fashion PR, that has ever truly worked a fashion week, has nightmares about it as it comes up. But after all of that tremendous hard work, blood sweat and tears, there is no feeling in the world like the one you get when the lights go down and that first model steps out on the runway. The first fashion week that I ever worked I will never forget a tear that started rolling right down my face at that moment. There was a sigh of relief and the amazing feeling of knowing.... we did it, we helped do this."