MEDIA ROUNDUP: Urban fashion flaunts trendy status

As urban fashion gains popularity, largely because of the entertainers designing the clothes, the industry is touting its popularity with young people to the media.

As urban fashion gains popularity, largely because of the entertainers designing the clothes, the industry is touting its popularity with young people to the media.

Less than two decades old, urban fashion has quickly grown into a broad-based category that combines the buying power of teens and 20-somethings with the cachet of music and other entertainment celebrities. It's a billion-dollar business with growth that shows little sign of subsiding. As Dana Valenzuela, founder of LA-based Velvet Communications, puts it, "When it's found in shopping malls nationwide, it's pretty much here to stay." While fashion is a crowded category, the fact that celebrities are intimately involved in many of the most successful lines greases the media relations wheel. From Sean John and Apple Bottoms to Rocawear and Wu Wear, many urban fashion companies are fronted by high-profile entertainers. "The whole recent revival of the celebrity line really started in urban fashion," says Samantha Slaven, founder of West Hollywood-based Samantha Slaven Publicity. "The fashion designs still have to be strong, but having a major name opens a lot of doors." Slaven cites her work last year with Nelly on the launch of his Apple Bottoms clothing line. "Nelly got on all the shows - whether it was Jay Leno, Jimmy Kimmel, or Sharon Osbourne - and he would talk about Apple Bottoms," she says. The rapper also held a six-city model search for the right woman to represent the brand, which ended up as a half-hour special on VH1. "Great names will attract fashion, entertainment, music, and business reporters," Valenzuela agrees. "Especially with newspapers - if they see a trend and there are big names attached to it they'll write about it in terms of music-inspired street wear." Catching the media's eye Caroline Rothwell, VP of marketing and PR at Von Dutch Originals, points out that even if you don't have a celebrity designing your line, you can still attract media interest as long as high-profile names are wearing your clothing. But Rothwell notes a lot of urban fashion companies have to walk a fine line when it comes to PR, talking to traditional fashion and business press about sales volumes and brand maturation while at the same time cultivating the right image with outlets that cater to fashion trendsetters. "We still target a lot of the 'trendzines,' that matter - Flaunt, Paper, Fader, Surface, Wallpaper," Rothwell says, adding that Von Dutch's signature trucker hats, T-shirts, and other branded clothing make it easy for even the most fashion-challenged reporter to appear trendy. "When you're logo driven, the media automatically see it and identify it, so they don't have to ask, 'What are you wearing?'" she points out. "It's right there." Tracy Nguyen, associate VP of lifestyle and entertainment at 5W Public Relations, says the media has picked up on the fact that, thanks to MTV and other outlets, urban fashion is now increasingly seen and worn by suburban and even rural teens and 20-somethings. "Urban fashion has changed so much; it's not just big, baggy clothes with logos all over it," Nguyen adds. "And everyone is writing about how hot hip-hop fashion has become and how it's now a $1 billion annual industry." Media outreach Valenzuela points out that urban fashion has benefited from the rise of both men's magazines like Maxim and FHM, as well as dedicated shopping titles like Cargo, though she adds that those outlets are also beneficial because urban fashion brands tend to be heavy advertisers. Ana Lydia Ochoa, SAE with Valencia, Perez, and Echeveste Public Relations, works with San Francisco-based retailer Mervyn's on its Hispanic media outreach, including the recent launch of an urban clothing line from boxer Oscar de la Hoya. Ochoa points out that because many Spanish-language outlets don't have the resources to aggressively cover trends in urban fashion, Mervyn's and its Hispanic spokeswoman offer a lot of complete story packages, including tips on matching the right styles to the right body types, to Hispanic magazines and TV outlets. Ochoa also notes that unlike general-interest urban fashion PR that is aimed directly at the 14- to 30-year-old demographic, "With the Hispanic media, you would target some of your PR at the mother, who is the main purchaser of these items for her kids. The mothers are the ones who have the power to buy these items, especially for their sons." Pitching... urban fashion
  • Leverage the celebrity angle whenever possible to generate interest in urban clothing lines well beyond fashion writers.
  • Push the affordability aspect, as well as the fact that these stories are aimed right at the 14- to 30-year-old demographic. Urban clothing might not be cheap, but it costs less than a lot of traditional lines.
  • Urban fashion has become a huge business story, as Kelwood's purchase of Phat Farm for $145 million can attest. As such, pitch finance, as well as the fashion angle.

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