Areas of the fashion industry have often been perceived as ‘trivial’ as it is commonly associated with simply ‘looking good’ and having no true moral objective. The Public Relations sector has been objectified to this for decades in the media. But is it a true reflection of its efforts as a profession?
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There Is a lack of study exploring the fashion sectors public relations efforts. The industry itself has been represented in various ways in mainstream media. A popular depiction of Fashion PR is through the 90’s sitcom ‘Absolutely Fabulous’. The narrative follows an obnoxious Fashion PR director, Edina Monsoon (played by Jenifer Saunders) as a champagne consuming narcissist who indulges in an expensive lifestyle with little compassion to anyone else around her, apart from her companion Patsy Stone (played by Joanna Lumley), a fashion magazine editor who is also represented in a similar fashion. As a result of Absolutely Fabulous, it has only contributed to the superficial representation of the sphere of fashion PR. In many ways it shows the industry in some truth in terms of its conventions that make it such an exhausting industry in terms of travel, events, competition, fashion shows and much more. The fashion industry is a billion-dollar industry and contributes to mass economic growth in both western and developing countries. Therefore, there is increased pressure on anyone in the industry in maintaining its competitiveness and growth. Although featuring a designer’s latest collection on a model in a Vogue cover shoot may seem like nothing. It could cost a PR agency thousands of pounds as featuring the latest jacket in Vogue would result in mass press coverage and high return for clients. Little things contribute to a much bigger picture in fashion PR as every detail matters in maintaining competitiveness.
However, some studies have found that Fashion PR is not solely associated with glamorous stereotypes. When a group of individuals were shown the functions of typical day in fashion PR It was far from its glamorous stereotype. In a paper by Kate Finch (2013) called “Parties, air-kissing and long boozy lunches? Public relations in the Australian fashion industry” research found that fashion PR Is actually hard work with a lot of administration, tedious and time-consuming duties to attend to. The majority of the fashion PR industry is female dominated and has contributed to the feminisation of public relations as a practice. As a result of its negative trivial perception it may be due an old-fashioned ideology of women making things ‘pretty and pink.’ But when the industry is understood by an external public this perception is changed and the industry is respected for its economical and creative value. This reflects the power of external reputation as the media has also reinforced and shaped the public’s understanding of fashion PR.
The entertainment sector holds some responsibility for the way in which the industry is represented. But how impressionable really is it? I asked an industry professional is she thought that the entertainment sector was responsible for the perception of fashion PR and she said ‘I defiantly believe people think we just sip champagne and go to fashion shows but that’s not the only thing we do…yes its glamorous sometimes but there are some not so glamorous parts to it. A lot of research, planning, long hours go into my role which is often not touched on in most films and TV shows representing fashion PR. It is a very competitive industry and a lot is expected from you at all times. It can be quite draining at times.’ From talking with an industry professional it is clear that the industry is not represented in its true light which has fundamentally led to a perception issue.
Often fashion PR is attached to a particular stereotype and too often that stereotype is often associated with that of Jenifer Saunders depiction of a woman in fashion PR, a superficial and obnoxious trope. Although not all practitioners working in fashion PR conform to this particular philosophy, the idea of a woman in a high authoritative position is rewarding as it shows a woman in a powerful publicity role rather than a more domestic role.
In conclusion, the practice’s image is shifted when publics are understanding of the conventions the profession holds, it simply does not only concern ‘Parties, air-kissing and long boozy lunches’ it is much more complex than that. Fashion PR’s creative focus drives innovation making It an extremely dynamic industry with no set function, every day can be different. With sustainability being a complex issue in the fashion industry fashion PR departments must work both ethically and strategically to maintain a strong brand image as handling sustainability has become a challenging task in the current climate as a result of pressure groups, activists and increased media coverage.