How to get a job as a fashion PR
From what to study to how to land that all-important work placement, start planning your career path to communications executive.
Fashion PR is one of the most coveted avenues to working in the fashion industry – not only does it give one unprecedented access to designers and the industry at large, but it also helps shape the fashion landscape. Here we detail how to get a job as a fashion PR.
“The role of the communications executive [fashion PR] was to try and persuade the media to feature the brand or product that they were promoting,” explains Dana Gers, global marketing and communications director at Net-A-Porter. That was in the days when the traditional media were controlling and moderating what information made it into the hands of the consumer, she notes, but today the channels for communicating with consumers are broader than ever. And thanks to Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, oh, and the meteoric rise of the influencer there are more ways – and outlets – than ever to promote a brand or product. On top of that “consumers are a lot more sophisticated, a lot more knowledgeable, [and have] a lot more choices”, says Melvin Chua, who has led the PR efforts of brands such as Giorgio Armani, Burberry and Louis Vuitton in China. What hasn’t changed though is the nature of the role, the insider experience and the importance of liaising between designers and the press. Here’s how to land your first role as a fashion publicist – and then get ahead in the industry.
What should I study to become a fashion PR?
“I’m a big believer in a liberal arts education, just studying things that you like and are passionate about and interested in,” says Gers, who studied at Cornell University before embarking on a career in communications which included stints at Jimmy Choo, Ferragamo and Baccarat. It’s a point Chua, who attended Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, agrees with, but he wouldn’t advise others to go to business college because whatever you learn can’t keep up with the fast pace of change in the world right now. “I suggest you do an English or art history major, which will teach you to decipher information, problem solve, and write and speak well,” he continues. “Those skills will always be in demand.” As such, there are no specific universities or schools to aim for. “I’ve met a lot of people and they all have different CVs. I think it’s more a question of someone’s interest in fashion and their open-mindedness and ability to work hard,” says Alexis Arnault, managing director of communications agency KCD’s Paris office.
Do I need work experience? How do I get it?
“That’s what really helps you get a job,” explains Carla Filmer, global communications director at Manolo Blahnik, who believes it’s ideal to do work experience while you’re still studying. For getting that all-important first shot, check for opportunities online but also use your network. “Mine your personal contacts because that’s the best way in,” says Gers, who explains that she knew nobody in the industry but met someone at a party who worked in PR who agreed to put her CV forward for their executive training programme. She also recommends using LinkedIn, adding that she recently replied to an unsolicited message from a student because “she came in in a very personal way”.
What are employers looking for in a new hire?
“When we look for someone new, we want that person to have an ability to grow and to have a certain personality,” explains Arnault. “Someone who’s good and efficient, but also somebody who is open to the fashion industry, who is open to creativity and who’s got that respect for creativity.” For Chua it’s also about the skills someone new can bring to the table. “Of course, it’s important what they’ve done, what they achieved at school, but that’s just to show that they have the discipline,” he explains. “In the end what I’m looking for is communication skills.” This is not just verbal, but written, too. “Good copy always gets you – that’s the power of words,” Chua says.
Where does retail fit into fashion PR?
Choosing to work for a fashion retailer can offer you the best of all worlds, as you can often work across multiple brands but the end goal is unified. “Everything we do is designed in service to our end consumer, but it’s also about understanding what’s driving the business,” says Gers of her marketing and communications strategy at Net-A-Porter. “We’ll surface product trends and stories because there’s an overwhelming interest from the consumer and because we know there’s a big business opportunity there.”
How do I build a network?
Having a solid network at your disposal is important in any industry, but integral in communications. The best advice is to start young. “When you’re younger you have more freedom to network than you do when you have more responsibilities,” says Filmer, who adds that while “you’re able to network via social media, having a genuine relationship with someone, which is based on trust, is arguably more important”. It takes time to build those deeper relationships, says Arnault. “They’re based on a genuine approach, and also the concept of kindness and respect,” he explains. “The old days of being arrogant because you work in the luxury business are long gone.” This should be a regular commitment advises Gers, who suggest “making time in your life for relationship building and networking every week”.