Designers face tough task getting placed in robust September issues

PR executives say it is getting more difficult for companies to get coverage in fashion magazines' popular September issues because of their growing cachet and interest in a wide range of brands.

PR executives say it is getting more difficult for companies to get coverage in fashion magazines' popular September issues because of their growing cachet and interest in a wide range of brands.

Fashion bibles like Elle and Vogue are no longer just for extremely high-end fashion apparel brands, says Nancy Lowman LaBadie, EVP at Marina Maher Communications. The “high to low” trend, in which a designer might pair a jacket worth thousands of dollars with a $25 skirt, has broadened the range of products fashion publications are willing to feature.

“Compared to six years ago, there is no longer a disdain for [more affordable] products,” says LaBadie. “The high to low trend is now very acceptable, because it is about the intelligence of women and their own ability to shape their look, style, and who they are. It is almost a badge of just being a smart woman.”

That trend extends beyond apparel and into the entire beauty category, LaBadie adds. It has created opportunities for client Procter & Gamble, for which Marina Maher handles PR for 10 beauty brands. To promote P&G beauty products, Marina Maher will share exclusive content with fashion editors, such as the unique science behind a new product or a celebrity endorsement.

LaBadie says it is also important to show how mainstream products are on the cutting edge of fashion.  

“A lot of hair color emanates from the fashion catwalks, for example, so we'd show editors how [P&G hair-coloring brands] are on trend with the right color palette,” says LaBadie.

Devon Branam, VP of public relations fashion line Velvet by Graham & Spencer, says the economy has pushed fashion publications to be willing to spotlight brands that are high quality but also affordable. That has helped a brand like Velvet, which Branam says has seen a sales spike as a result of the press in these issues.

“September issues have the highest circulation, which means you can really maximize your exposure with editorial placements,” says Branam. “Also, consumers use September issues as a trend resource, and this can influence spending habits and increase sales.”  

September fashion issues have flourished despite a changed media world that includes social media sites like Pinterest, where users can “pin” images. Vogue ran a 916-page, Lady Gaga-covered September issue this year, including 658 advertising pages, while the September issue of Elle, with Katy Perry on the cover, came in at a robust 604 pages. Glamour debuted its first fall fashion issue in September with Victoria Beckham out front. Even fashion publications that started online are getting into print. Style.com, for instance, published a fall 2012 Style.com/Print issue, only its second print edition.

Emily Shapoff, VP of fashion at Alison Brod Public Relations, explains that “these magazines represent a celebration of fashion that requires a more permanent outlet – print, rather than digital.”

“The thick magazines we've come accustomed to seeing don't suggest trends, they establish them and inspire people, making them live much longer than their one-month in-store time – on bookshelves, coffee tables, and nightstands everywhere,” she says.

September fashion issues are still the primary way for emerging designers to make a name for themselves, says Molly Leis, president of MRL Communications. She says The September Issue, the documentary that chronicled Anna Wintour and her staff's race to finish the 2007 fall-fashion issue of Vogue, has added to the allure of coverage.

“When I talk to young designers, they always say, ‘If we can get in the September issue, we'll know we've made it,'” says Leis. “The September issue represents hope and success for a lot of fashion brands.”

Still, those designers have a tough task getting editors' and reporters' attention. Leis says it is not enough for a brand to be new; it has to be able to communicate a compelling reason why it should be featured.

“The trick for emerging brands is to develop preliminary exposure at a local level or with key influencers and then leverage that to get national coverage,” she says. For instance, reality TV has been a vehicle for some new designers to get initial attention.

“You really need a hook when you're talking to fashion editors,” says Leis.

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