Fashion PR was once a critical aspect of the fashion industry, which involved building and maintaining relationships between fashion brands, designers, and the media to promote and enhance brand image and reputation.
But the fashion media, and fashion model, is evolving, and consequently, fashion PR is changing.
Historically, fashion houses relied on press for coverage as their sole promotion, to push trends and new products. The press relied on designers and fashion week for stories—the two worked in tandem. Before the digital era, fashion enthusiasts would have to wait six calendar months to see the season’s latest trends in the print issue. Then, online versions of publications such as Vogue changed that (the first being Style.com). Coverage was almost instantaneous.
The “FROW” in the fashion industry traditionally refers to the front row of seats at a fashion show, which historically, was reserved for A-list celebrities, fashion editors, stylists and buyers—most notably, the iconic Anna Wintour, ‘the supers’: Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, and Hollywood superstars.
The concept of the FROW has changed drastically in recent years though
The increasing influence of digital media and social media is blindingly obvious at today’s shows, where influencers and content creators get the best seats in the house to connect high end fashion brands direct to consumers live, in real-time.
The role of fashion week is changing drastically too, as the fashion industry shifts towards an ever-more digital approach. Many fashion weeks are now digital-centric, featuring virtual presentations and runway shows, as well as live streams. Instagram and TikTok have become integral to marketing campaigns, enabling designers to reach a greater audience and increase their visibility. Additionally, fashion weeks often feature more diverse models, making it easier for all types of people to feel represented.
Technology is also being used to create more immersive experiences, such as augmented reality shows in the Metaverse, as seen by Dolce & Gabbana, and 3D printing to create new types of clothing. One of the first examples of a digital-centric show was in 2016, when Burberry’s then creative director, Christopher Bailey, piloted the ‘see-now-buy-now’ model which allowed Burberry lovers to purchase items online as they came down the runway, rather than waiting for the upcoming season’s drop.
In Coperni’s SS23 runway show, the FROW were treated to a truly immersive experience when a dress was designed and spray-painted by new technology live on supermodel, Bella Hadid. Jump to the AW23 season, Coperni had robotic dogs on the runway, helping the models change to their next look.
And it doesn’t stop there. There’s virtual try-ons, and Hermes bags as NFTs. It’s a lot to keep up with.
So, where does traditional PR come in?
While it’s true that digitalisation has disrupted the traditional model of fashion PR, it’s important to recognise that traditional PR still has a place in today’s fashion landscape. Social media allows brands to reach a larger audience, but it doesn’t necessarily provide the same level of credibility as traditional media outlets. Securing coverage in established publications like Vogue or Harper’s Bazaar can still have a significant impact on a brand’s reputation and sales.
In addition, traditional fashion PR can still play a valuable role in building relationships with key influencers and industry insiders. While social media has opened the fashion industry to be more inclusive, there are still gatekeepers who hold significant power and influence. Building relationships with these gatekeepers through traditional PR channels can be invaluable for brands looking to establish themselves in the industry.
It’s also worth noting that while social media can be a powerful tool for reaching a broad audience, traditional PR can provide the authority and expertise necessary to build lasting relationships with key stakeholders.
How can PR professionals keep up?
PR professionals need to be able to leverage social media, influencers, and other digital platforms to reach new audiences and build brand awareness. They also need to be knowledgeable about SEO, analytics, and other digital marketing tools to measure the success of their campaigns and make data-driven decisions.
Additionally, as consumers become more interested in sustainability and ethical practices, traditional fashion PR needs to reflect this by highlighting a brand’s commitment to these values. PR professionals need to be able to tell a brand’s story in a way that resonates with consumers who are increasingly concerned about the environmental and social impact of their purchases.
In today’s digital landscape, the role of fashion public relations professional has evolved significantly. Though the digital era has disrupted the traditional model of PR, it has not rendered it obsolete. Rather, the most successful fashion brands will be those that are able to leverage both traditional PR and digital tactics to create a comprehensive communications strategy that reaches a broad audience while also establishing credibility and building lasting relationships with key stakeholders.
PR professionals and brands need to adapt to new technologies, changing consumer behaviors, and the growing demand for sustainability and ethical practices. And, with all the new technological innovations, there’s ample opportunity for creative storytelling, with new stories and announcements to share daily—the fashion industry needs traditional PR tactics.