What No One Tells You About Working in Fashion PR
Working in fashion PR can often seem like a glamorous affair—you get to attend some of the coolest parties, meet major celebrities and designers, and work closely with really awesome brands. But the reality is that you’re working through it all, which means that there’s more going on than meets the eye, and much of it is stressful.
Can anyone forget how a certain Heidi Montag aspired to PR domination on The Hills, only to find that instead of attending all the killer parties, she’d be guarding the doors instead? Well, that’s only the beginning. Though there can be some great perks and lots of PR people truly enjoy their jobs, it’s simply not an easy gig. To find out what really goes on beneath the always-fun façade, we asked two ladies with extensive fashion PR experience to weigh in. Due to the sensitive nature of their comments, they both requested anonymity.
Scroll down to find out what they revealed!
“The biggest misconception about working in fashion PR is that it’s a breeze or in any way glamorous. Everything that has a hint of glamour is constructed for the enjoyment of others, so you don’t usually get the chance to relax and enjoy it! Oh, and boozy lunches? They do happen, but we’re not the ones drinking.”
“You always have to project an air of professionalism, and even if a meeting is deemed a casual drink or dinner, there are always other objectives at play. It’s kind of like working in a boutique or something: You’re polite and nice to people because of the end game. It’s not all phony, though—sometimes you do genuinely form close bonds with editors and buyers. We often make the best of friends because we’re on opposite sides of the same coin.”
“I think in many jobs you can get away with having an ‘off’ or quiet day, but not in PR—you are expected to be chipper and ready to go 24/7.”
“I always hated feeling like you had to treat people differently because of some sort of hierarchy—and in PR, there certainly is one. I didn’t like that respect became something that was entirely interchangeable. It felt like a modern version of a caste or class system, and it was really unpleasant.”
“It’s the worst when you’re a junior and perhaps aren’t as assertive. You’re often treated as entirely unimportant or irrelevant when you’re conducting appointments in the showroom, simply because you’re there to help.”
“Working fashion events is kind of like being a tween at a party for grown-ups. You have to be on your best behavior—so don’t even think about touching the Champagne. It’s a strange juxtaposition: The more pleasurable the environment is for guests, the more you’ll have to facilitate (i.e., work, not play). You have to be able to interact whilst keeping on top of objectives and administrative things like, ‘Oh god we’re running out of Veuve. What to do?’”
“Although fashion week seems great on the outside, the first time I planned a show at Bryant Park, I worked 20 days in a row and ended up having a major anxiety attack that took me to the hospital.”
“When I worked for a smaller brand for a few years, I went from working with a press office of 15 people and support from a large headquarters to working all by myself. The job ended up involving marketing and advertising, which is a different scope for sure, and not necessarily what someone in PR is expecting to do.”
“I did everything from assisting with simple showroom appointments and larger showroom events, throwing in-store and off-site events, producing runway shows, hosting celebrity gifting ‘suites,’ and more. It was a lot to juggle at once.”
“My hours while working in PR were the most intense I’ve ever experienced, which is why it’s so frustrating to have people perceive the job as drinking and Ab-Fab-ing it up all day. The days of the Adina Monsoon-style of PR are long gone and now it really is a very considered, formulaic process that is driven by quantifiable results. It’s only gotten harder with the digital landscape and social media.”
“At times it definitely took a toll. Working late nights and sometimes weekends definitely exhausted me and I’m sure I was not much fun to be around. With one job, I was so stressed in the beginning that I gained a lot of weight, which people at company joked was like the ‘freshman 15’ for anyone starting out there. I was working my ass off, traveling a ton and feeling awful. Having to schmooze when you’re that overwhelmed is tough.”
“I think a lot of people expect the job to be purely social and fabulous. I have met a lot of PR people who are in fact looking for their own press and forget to focus on the designer or company. There are a lot of photo opportunities out there, but if you don’t focus on the behind-the-scenes stuff, it will be difficult to actually excel at your job.”
“There have been many calls from socialites late at night asking us to deliver the items they requested simply because they did not have time to pick them up. This is usually once messenger services are closed for the night, so we end up having to deliver it ourselves.”
“Gifting is kind of out of control these days, and it doesn’t always pay off. It used to be an occasionally sweet bonus or a ‘thank you for your support,’ but now, entire budgets are put aside for it. One time, we paid a very famous blogger to fly first class to attend a specific event abroad, and once she got there, she declined to attend due to a phone call.”
“We would regularly send out very nice garments for photo shoots and celebrity events, only to have them returned with various bodily fluids on them. You’d think people had never heard of dry cleaners.”
Are you surprised by any of these revelations? Let us know in the comments, and shop some of our favorite books on the industry, below!