CAMPAIGNS: Category PR - Fashion show is totally off the wall

Client: The Wallpaper Council (Chicago)

Client: The Wallpaper Council (Chicago)

Client: The Wallpaper Council (Chicago)

PR Team: Amster-Young Public Relations (New York)

Campaign: ’Wallpaper Walks the Catwalk’

Time Frame: Spring 1999 to spring 2000

Budget: dollars 145,000 (estimate takes into account agency’s monthly

fee from client, spokesperson’s annual contract with client and

out-of-pocket and production costs)

When people think wallpaper, they usually think Grandma’s garish floral

prints. But that’s unfair, says Frank Sterling, president of The

Wallpaper Council, a trade group. ’Wallpaper is much more like art than

it was 10 years ago. Wallpaper designers go to Europe for shows and

inspiration much like fashion designers.’

The council decided it was time to get the word out. For the last couple

years, to drum up publicity for the council, Amster-Young Public

Relations has coordinated a luncheon at New York’s Carlyle Hotel. The

lunches were successful in bringing in trade and consumer-decorating

magazines. But to really spread the word about how wallpaper had morphed

into a hip, chic creature, the agency decided television coverage was a



’We wanted to shake things up,’ says president Karen Amster-Young.

Doing so meant bringing together the worlds of fashion and interior


Instead of a luncheon, Amster-Young PR decided to do an ’off-the-wall’

fashion show at trendy New York night club EXIT.

The idea behind ’Wallpaper Walks the Catwalk’ was to have major clothes

creators - including Nicole Miller, Geoffrey Beene and Josie Natori -

showcase designs that would take creative cues from wallpaper



Amster-Young PR approached top designers, some of whom had home lines

and would perhaps be interested in enhancing their relationships with

the interior design community. It courted other designers as well. ’We

were surprised by the way the fashion industry adopted us,’ says

Amster-Young. ’We weren’t sure if the big names would be interested, but

they immediately saw the connection and wanted to participate. They felt

a kinship.’

The agency sent letters and wallpaper samples to stir the clothes

artists’ imaginations. Amster-Young PR had worked with the Wilhelmina

agency before and it tapped that relationship to obtain models, who,

unlike the designers, were paid for their work.

The night of the show, March 14, Wilhelmina models sauntered down the

catwalk while pictures of the wallpaper that inspired their outfits were

projected on the wall. Attendees bid on the clothes, with proceeds to

benefit a design student. The co-hosts, models and designers took

advantage of opportunities to deliver the key message point: the

guidelines used in fashion also apply to wallpaper.

The media received press kits with materials, including information

about the council, biographies of the designers and a press release

about the unique partnership between the fashion and wall coverings


A video news release of the event, complete with quotes and sound bites

from party guests, was later sent to the press.


The event was attended by 150 people, including more than 45 print

journalists from publications like The New York Times, Cosmo Girl!,

Design Times and House Beautiful. A handful of broadcasters, some

fashion designers and council members also attended.

Coverage included segments on CNN Headline News, New York 1, Fox News

Live, as well as in local markets in Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle,

Raleigh and Scranton, PA. Given that much of the print media were

monthlies, results haven’t yet been tallied. The auction raised dollars


While it’s too soon to see any bottom line impact on sales of wallpaper,

the buzz was good, and the goal of capturing broadcast publicity was



Already, Amster-Young PR is hard at work coming up with yet another way

to showcase wallpaper in a most unexpected way.

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