How to get publicity

Kathleen forwarded this email to me wondering if I had any advice for the designer. Since this type of thinking is more common than I would care to admit, I felt compelled to address it.

I am having a fashion show of my handwoven accessories next month. I have woven 42 pieces since Jan. 1, 2006 and done about a doz. beaded necklaces. I called people at Vogue, W and InStyle for the correct contact information and sent off my media kits to each. They were good about phone calls until I actually sent the media kits. No one even acknowledged with a form post card receiving my materials. Waiting for some acknowledgement I envisioned them laughingly throwing my precious media kits in the garbage without so much as taking them out of the envelopes. Ok so I didn’t get New York at least someone at the Pittsburgh Post Gazette had confirmed I would be getting coverage from them. But today got an email saying that the person they were sending had other plans and that they were sorry to miss it but well “you understand”. What I understand is that what I am left with in the way of coverage amounts to the equivalent of a mention in the church bulletin!

Now that I have vented, and I apologize for that… I want to see what I can do to loose the invisibility and have someone see me. No one knows me, so no one is interested in looking at my work. Did everyone start with the recognition of Anna Wintour or has everyone at one point needed someone to give them a chance? Where does one find that person? Someone to say ‘Hey have you seen X’s work” she is good! My town is so far off the fashion radar that Target is the elite place to shop. How can I get someone to help me make the correct contacts? Anything you can suggest would be deeply appreciated.

The competition to get press coverage in top tier magazines like Vogue, W and InStyle is incredibly fierce. Not only that, they tend to work with designers who have a track record. There is always this fantasy that a top tier magazine’s angelic fairy will descend from the heavens and tap an unknown designer from Middle America and put him/her on the map, but that fantasy is better left to Hollywood movies and “reality” television shows. It rarely, rarely happens. And when it does, the designer is usually connected in some way and/or has a powerhouse publicist behind the scenes orchestrating things.

As designers, we have to face the reality that for most of us, there will be no shortcuts, no fast lanes, to success. The road is difficult and frustrating and if it’s any better for you, count your blessings. Having said that, I want to address different points one at a time.

They were good about phone calls until I actually sent the media kits. No one even acknowledged with a form post card receiving my materials.

They don’t have time to. I suppose each magazine would need a full time staff of elves to acknowledge requests of all media kits, look books, line sheets and unsolicited samples. If we did have elf labor in this country, I suppose they could. But assistants need to be paid real wages and it would cost an incredible amount of money to hire people to do such. Magazine offices are literally swamped with such info. Even if you send a form postcard, an editorial assistant might spend all day opening, reviewing, sorting and filing media kits, asking for acknowledgment can easily mean extra hours of someone’s time. It’s not standard, and even though you want it, even though you need the acknowledgment, chances are that you won’t get it.

Furthermore, to expect a NY magazine to send someone to “a town far off the fashion radar” to cover an event, is far fetched. Let me give you a tip, even with events that are covered, fashion magazines usually get their pictures from a wire service, they don’t necessarily send a photographer to cover the event. Had you managed to have the fashion show, pay a photographer to cover the event, and sent pictures to the magazines, it would still be far fetched, but then it would be more likely.

If I were you, I would try to get as much local press as possible. Try to get local newspapers and publications to mention the fashion show to get better attendance. I would hire, or barter with, a photographer to take pictures of the show, and send those to local publications (along with a press kit) with the hopes that maybe it would fit in with a story they were running, or maybe they would be interested in doing a special piece on a local designer. In other words, crawl before you walk, walk before you run. If you’re hand-making 42 pieces since January, you aren’t even ready for the type of potential attention that editorial coverage from a publication like that could attract.

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    Publicity for novices

    On Kathleen’s blog, Fashion-incubator, Miracle Wanzo deals with the complaints of a novice maker: I am having a fashion show of my handwoven accessories next month. I have woven 42 pieces since Jan. 1, 2006 and done about a doz….

  2. Marguerite says:

    this is a very good reality check. there are local events even in a very small town. i live in a very, VERY rural area and even we have a local bookstore/gallery which hosts artists in jurried shows, a place to start.

  3. Karren says:

    This is very close to what I do, I make hand-made pleated shibori scarves and shawls and I live in a village of 5000. Where you live does not limit where you sell. Please see more extensive comments on my blog

  4. Jill says:

    I used to do PR for a company and know it’s very difficult to get any magazine or television show to cover your event. The company I worked for had 4 stores and wasn’t a major brand in the industry, even with 4 stores we couldn’t get any major media coverage. If we wanted to fork over the $$ we could get any type of media coverage we wanted. If you have some money to spend you may be able to get your work covered in a smaller magazine. I have seen the Canadian magazine LouLou advertise smaller companies that sell similar items to what you are creating. Again I’m sure it still cost the person some money to do that. Think of how many different magazines there are in your local store, look for new magazines that are just getting started. We have many indie magazines in Toronto that will do articles on local artists and designers as well. Start small and then work your way up to going after those larger magazines. If the town you are living in is preventing you from moving to the next level consider doing a show or two in a larger city, you will get a lot more exposure this way.

  5. Gigi says:

    Karren’s way of thinking really makes the most sense here, IMO. If you have created only 42 items since January, would you really be able (or even want) to go into the type of large-scale production that coverage in a major publication may require? While I haven’t seen your creations, I would classify them as one-of-a-kind art accessories. Producing them in mass quantities would really detract from their beauty. Just my $.02.

  6. Amy D. says:

    The Daily Candy can be great about promoting new, small designers, and their daily email newsletters are targeted to a specific city.

  7. graham says:

    My first job out of college was –strangely for me– in high fashion PR. I hated it but it was interesting to see how the world works.

    Some thoughts:

    1) Publicity in magazines is bought. PR shops do the buying.

    2) About 90% of the features in major magazines is generated by the PR shops. 8% is friends of the editors. 2% is random stuff. But never in a major issue; like the fall shows issue.

    3) Media Kit? You mean samples right? You sent them 10 to 15 pieces for the editors and assistants, right? If they want the Media Kit, they’ll ask your PR shop for it. You will give them free stuff for a year or two in the hopes of getting one 1/8 page notice in the “new stuff” section, and if you then advertise a bunch, your PR shop will manage to get you a 1/4 page.

    There are many smaller ways to find notice before you try to get into the largest magazines in the world…

  8. Stylebites says:

    Glad to read this post here. Perfect advice, especially about needind broader production before you can advertise yourself. A friend of mine knows someone who has a fashion line in Brooklyn. It got called in for the new Keds ads, Mischa Barton ended up buying a lot of her stuff and now that it’s caught on she had to say no to one of the big guys (Barneys?) because she can’t supply enough pieces in time. Ouch…but she’s really happy still.

    From my perspective, I’d tell you to send the pieces to stylists working for mags you’d like to place your work in. Be realistic though. Try smaller titles. Anyhow, send the pieces to the wardrobe stylists as “gifts” and you’d be surprised where you’ll see them again. I always use something from home on a shoot. Every time. Sometimes it’s a belt from a line that’s still in the boutiques, sometimes it’s my great-gran’s vintage jewelry but it’s always something. If a stylist has your pieces at home (and likes them) she will be much more likely to think up great ways to add them to a shoot.

    Oh, and try to network with mags overseas. Once you have a website that accepts international orders any mag anywhere can mention you. …and it’s a lot easier to get mentioned in Polish or German Glamour magazine than it is to get in the UK edition.

  9. Stevie says:

    Hi there
    If you are in need of PR for a particular event or can’t afford PR on a regular monthly basis, you should check out PR firms on a project basis. Realize to get into print often is 3-5 months in advance and that you won’t see immediate results unless you are picked up by a weekly (and that means celebrity client) and there’s no guarantee they will mention your name either.

    The project basis is typically for 3-4 months and should be with a PR firm that handles fashion on a regular basis but not so many clients that you will be lost in the shuffle

    A good rule of thumb is to talk to some local (your area of the country) fashion writers/editors for both newspaper and online) and ask them who they work with and who they might recommend.
    As a person on the editorial side of the fence, I typically have 6 -10 top firms that I would recommend.. some are more flexible in price, others aren’t.. but you also need someone who gets your design aesthete..


  10. Jewels says:

    Those of us in the business know that this industry is highly competitive. We may have the greatest designs the world has yet to see, but if we don’t understand the actual business (and with this industry it really comes down to 95% business and 5% talent), we can’t reach out to the masses. Promotion and marketing is very important, but knowing how to do it wothout costing an arm and a leg, one must be creative.

    I had learned long time ago that one of the best things to do is network with fellow designers. Having originally come from So. California, I belonged (and still do) to several fashion groups, some large, some small. As a team, we would put on our own fashion shows, and because we were a group, everyone in the group had some sort of contact (either with a PR firm, newspaper, photographer, local TV station, et al.), that benefited everyone.

    One of the best things we did with our events is rather than make it all about us, we turned our fashion shows into charity events, raising money for a local charity (big plus for them) and by linking up with a group, we found that they passed on the info to their supporters, who in turn, would come out and support their cause. We got PR out of it, met buyers, consumers and the charity got much needed funds, so it was a win-win situation for all.

    Even if you live in a rural area, you can still do something of this nature; check out what local charities you have and suggest an event; I chaired several fashion shows and trunk shows for my own designs combined with my fellow designers, and because we were all cruelty-free (no leather, furs or animal by products in any of our designs), it was a no-brainer to hook up with local animal charities. We got the press that we wanted (people are incredibly willing to help homeless cats and dogs), made tons of contacts, and our local animal charity was able to make money and find homes for some of their orphan animals.

    Personally, I found that thinking out of the box always works best, and if you can do something for someone else (i.e. a charity) rather than looking at it as a sutuation all about you, everyone wins.

  11. Mike C says:

    Make sure that if someone out there happens to be looking for whatever it is that you sell that they can find you on the web.

    The more “niche” your product, the easier this is – but its something every designer looking for publicity should think about.

    Editors, stylists and producers use the web to find garments for their shoots. If they are looking for your type of piece, they will call you – but only if they can find you.

    We get calls all the time from mags needing clothing for a segment. NBC recently called and asked for a couple of outfits (which they, *faint* paid for). One of them is going to be worn on “Passions” (a daytime show) next month, and with a little luck, will be featured on the “stars wardrobe” page so that people who liked it on the star can find out who made it. (I’m told the scene is going to be “steamy.” Maybe I should start advertising under “steamy yoga clothes” on Google :) ).

  12. How to get publicity pt.2

    In response to How to get publicity, I received one comment from a PR person that is worth an entry itself. This was submitted by Holly Russel of Pilot Publicity because -as she says- that in reading the comments, visitors…

  13. Jeannie Boyle says:


    I came across your site and I have spent hours just reading and reading and soaking in all the information on this site. It really is a great site. I produce musical fashion shows for fundraising events. I have been in business for 10 years. I have represented many boutiques who featured thier clothing in my show. My clients loved to come back and shop after the show and I would sell on the spot or take orders. The biggest problem was not being able to fill orders because boutiques could only re-order certain items. So lately I have been trying to find a way to get a calaloge company because they seem to carry the garment much longer then a boutique. I also have thought I would like to order wholesale myself and start my own on line store so my clients could go home after the show and order from the my website. If anyone out there has any advice or knows of anyone who would be interested in featuring thier designs in my show, I would love to hear from you. I was very interested in becoming a member of this site and was disappointed to find out it is closed.

    Thank you for all the information that was provided on this site, it was very helpful.

    Jeannie Boyle
    Journey Productions

  14. Kathleen says:

    I was very interested in becoming a member of this site and was disappointed to find out it is closed.

    How do you figure it’s “closed”? What does that mean? Other than registering in the forum, there’s nothing to become a member of. The only thing you can subscribe to, is to have the posts delivered by email and both of those things are open.

  15. diana foskey says:

    My name is diana foskey,
    and my friend Linda whose attending IADT for Fashion Design and has graduated with her associates and going for her bachelor wants just tips on how to start a fashion magazine ,I know she would like to work with a fashion magazine company or anything in the fashion industry working under a designer or for a company to get started as soon as possible. She also wouldn’t mind having her clothes shown in a magazine Such as an article on her to promote herself as a new designer in the fashion industry. If there’s anyway you could have an article on her or even place her under any kind of internship or job position that would be aprecciated.Meeting with her would be fine. I could give her your email and address and have her email you back herself.
    But once again thank you for listening, I’ll have her get in contact with you soon.

  16. sahara says:

    Thank you Kathleen. As one who is a freelance editor at a MAJOR publication, you’ve hit it on the nose.

    One thing though. I suggest handweavers, jewelry makers, i.e. “artisans” should try to get into a boutique here. It is a small world. As shopaholics, we are always looking for a standout piece, and shops do help. Also, buy the magazine, and find out who writes what. If they are not an editor, and you fall into their taste level, email them. No, seriously.

    I’ve seen this work for a girl NO ONE heard of, and she makes one-of-kind-pieces, no less; but her things are in Maxfield (L.A.). The editors saw her picture and said you must be kidding, but the writer was important. And magazines DO need new stories. We were Chanel-ing everyone to death. Guess what? She’s in.

    In this celebrity worshipping, wealth worshipping, society, status may have dealt creativity a blow, but not a death one.

  17. John Trosko says:

    There may be only 500 publications (let’s say)… but there are probably 2000 journalists. That’s a lot of people to contact. Pick a few, or ask friends who they know, you’ll be surprised at who lives around the corner. Once you have someone, spend time developing a relationship with them. Stay in touch. Over time (and I mean a lot of time) you will probably get something. I did this indirectly and have been keeping in touch with a photographer/writer. Two years later, this person was promoted to an Editor. They just asked for my press kit the other day.

    It just takes time, or luck– and of course talent.

  18. Sandra says:

    When you are not Chanel or Marc Jacobs, you have to think small. I agree with the local boutiques, or small boutiques. Sell on consignment if you have to.
    Please don’t over look fashion bloggers. Some of these bloggers know people. My web store was mentioned in Italian Glamour because I registered my blog on an Italian blog network.

    Since you are an artisan, I highly recommend Tons of crafty business women talking about business!
    Good Luck!

  19. Maria Curcic says:

    I agree with you on many levels, I am a milliner and have been at it for 15 years, I suggest hitting up smaller boutiques that specialize in unique items,something more to your style.
    I would also suggest not giving up,but keep doing what you do, maybe collaborate with others for something fresh! People will come to you when the time is right :O
    Maria :)

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