Lights, Camera, Action: Backstage at Fashion Week

After having covered the American Legacy Foundation for a previous news story, I was (much to my delight) granted a media pass to attend...

After having covered the American Legacy Foundation for a previous news story, I was (much to my delight) granted a media pass to attend the Tracy Reese show for Fashion Week (American Legacy is one of Tracy Reese's corporate sponsors).

I expected the backstage to be a complete madhouse, but found the models calm and ready to go. Tracey Beeker from the ALF and I sat front row (right near the stage entrance) and witnessed photographers and videocamera men scoping out celebrities and hounding them once located (Star Jones, Mya, Nigel, the hunky photographer from America's Next Top Model, and Tim Gunn from Project Runway were among those being photographed left, right, front, and back).

I wrote about Fashion Week for my Fact File this week and met Adnan Abbasi, whom I had spoken with regarding fashion and PR. Though Adnan was busy executing part of the show, I had the privilege of meeting him in person. And since I was unable to include everything he shared with me for my Fact File in print, I'm including our conversation right here:

Adnan Abbasi, Account Director, FACTORY PR

PRWeek: How difficult or competitive is it for a designer to be featured at Fashion Week?

Abassi: It depends. It can be relatively difficult for a new-comer, but at the same time it can be very easy for a new-comer. For an established designer it’s pretty easy. If you’re showing on site, you have a real advantage over other designers who are not showing on site-- unless you are a very established designer who hasn’t been showing on site.

PRWeek: What kind of steps do you have to take to promote a new-comer’s brand?

Abassi: There’s something really exciting, especially over the past few years, about new, young designers. There’s been a real influx of them into the NY fashion scene. One of the ways we promote them through a PR perspective is talking about the designer’s background and where they came from. Lots of publications (newspapers, especially) like to preview and inform their readers about new designers because nobody else really knows about them, and not many people have heard about them. So it is exciting news. Women’s Wear Daily does their line-up every season for the newest designers and any time I work on a show with a brand that is showing for the first time, I always like to get them in there. The press and the media are really receptive to young, brand new designers showing for the first time--especially if they have a hook or something really exciting, like a designer who is moving from the LA to the NY market.

PRWeek: Why do you think that PR professionals that don’t necessarily deal with the fashion industry should still be interested in Fashion Week?

Abassi: Because it is a very exciting PR opportunity, and it is really a PR exercise putting together a fashion show from beginning to end. You have to find out what the news is about that season. Even if it’s a designer who has been around for a long time, and at certain points, you think that it gets kind of redundant to talk about the same designer making a different collection. But creating a story around that season is really, really important, as it creating the invitations. The collateral we use to send out to entice the media to come to the event, the story we create to entice them to come and the press release that we develop about the collection and the designer beforehand are all important. Doing the invitations is part of the whole PR aspect of producing the event. A lot of PR people are on one side or the other; you’re either pitching and trying to get stories in the media, or you’re on the event side. This is the perfect collaboration of the two and I think that’s really important for PR. Actually putting the event together and the logistics preceding are really important, because politics ties in. Thinking about where people are going to sit is in a way, kind of a science. It’s just like seating a private dinner at the White House or anything like that. There’s sort of a method to it. One of the most important and enriching things is that this is an opportunity more than any other time of the year to be in contact with all the media, and all different kinds of media—the international press, the national press, trade publications, magazines, newspapers, TV, Internet, radio, and now even bloggers are getting involved and all requesting to come to the shows. So you have access to so much more media this time of year than any other time of year. And I use this as a tool to help me build my press list for the season. So that’s a really important aspect. And of course the after show coverage.

PRWeek: How about for corporations, are there sponsorship opportunities?

Abassi: Smaller and newer designers, or designers who don’t really take advantage of sponsorship, end up paying for everything themselves. With Tracy Reese, for example, we started out that way. Our budget for the fashion show was at a certain level, but slowly as the years went on, we gained more and more sponsorship. Either we sought it out or they sought us out because of the reputation of the brand. This season alone, we have the American Legacy who is a huge sponsor for Tracy Reese—they’re part of a campaign with Tracy to help women stop smoking—so there’s a political or personal aspect to it. Sally Hansen nail polish is a big sponsor, Vogue and Moet are big sponsors. And this season, Mercedes-Benz, the official title sponsor, has selected Tracy Reese to be the featured designer for this season, which is a huge honor for her. The sponsorship comes in forms of monetary amounts—they’ll give us money to include them in some way like giving them seats to the show. In Mercedes-Benz’s case, they covered the cost of the whole venue. In other brands’ cases, they’ll give us products for the gift bags. So sponsorship can come in many forms and it’s a really important part of the shows now. Even if it’s not money, getting things donated will help designers cut costs, and especially for young, new designers and growing designers, that’s important.

Thanks, Adnan for sharing this insight with us, and the Legacy Foundation for this really cool experience. I have to say, Tracy Reese's collection was simply beautiful--as is Tracy herself (and very down-to-earth). I got to go backstage and shake hands with her. Now that's something worth bragging to my friends about!

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