Media Analysis: Talk the talk for catwalk coverage

With London Fashion Week approaching next month, Sarah Robertson finds fashion PROs have a language to learn and a scene in which to be seen if they are to achieve coverage in the aspirational women's glossies.

In just over a month the streets of South Kensington will be swamped with fashionistas sporting the kind of designer gear that most would need a second mortgage to buy.

London Fashion Week, run twice-yearly by the British Fashion Council, is the pinnacle of the industry's calendar. The second of this year's events will open on 18 September, setting the fashion agenda for the following six months.

Sairey Stemp, market and merchandising editor at Elle, describes this period as critical for fashion PROs, as its journalists - and those at other glossies such as Vogue, Harpers & Queen and Tatler - all want to know which designers will be exhibiting (and where) far in advance so they can plan how to access as many events as possible.

Publicists are seen to have just a marginal influence on coverage of the shows themselves in the glossy monthlies, which tends to be led by spectacular photography. PROs' main function is to assess this coverage and identify similarities in their own clients' collections with which to target journalists for subsequent editions.

Fast-moving world

It is a quick-moving and inevitably bitchy world in which PROs and journalists bid to outdo each other with comment on who is not just up with trends, but ahead of them.

The top-end magazines such as Vogue, covering high couture, are perceived by many to be less receptive than other titles to most PRO approaches.

Mid-range titles such as Elle - typically younger and funkier - are more proactive and are seen to offer greater scope for working with publicists.

Harpers & Queen caters for sophisticated tastes, Marie Claire is issues-led and Vanity Fair, apart from a handful of pages, is produced in the US, offering few opportunities for London PROs.

Lindley Baptiste, joint MD at fashion specialist Kudos, says: 'The most important thing about dealing with the glossies is being able to talk their language. Their raisons d'etre are top-end celebrities and power brands - everything is "of the moment".'

Baptiste warns that PROs will receive short shrift from top fashion journalists if their publicity pitch is inappropriate, saying: 'They will chew you up and spit you out.'

PRecise PR chief executive Adam Rutherford recommends third-party endorsement to smooth a path to coverage, such as using a celebrity photographer, stylist or hairdresser for a shoot.

Product placement, meanwhile, is a well-worn route to coverage, with celebrities keen to don products for high-profile events, often leading to a mention in the party pages.

That ol' razzle dazzle

Alternatively, simply inviting the right journalists to your event will be effective. Tatler contributing editor Gerry DeVeaux says: 'If PROs invite me to an event to bring it razzle and dazzle - and I have a good time - then it is likely I will write about it.'

With both top and mid-end titles, the key to success is who you know, says Coalition. Total Communication MD Ashley Mann, who represents hotel heiress Paris Hilton's brand The Hollywood Prescription. He advises: 'It is about making sure you have a relationship with the editors. But fashion assistants are equally important and are frequently overlooked by PROs.'

Elle's Stemp admits: 'We couldn't do our jobs without PROs and vice versa.

The aspirational market is very competitive - if we do a shoot we will need samples. But there may only be one collection in the world, so the PRO is important in deciding which magazine to send the collection to.'

InStyle junior fashion editor Jess Wood warns, though: 'So many PROs fail to deliver the basics and it is exhausting having to chase them.'

DeVeaux, too, flags up that for the latest insight to exclusive, elite brands, it is often journalists who are hounding publicists and not the other way round. Little rest for fashion PROs, then, as next month's fiesta looms.

WOMEN'S GLOSSIES: THE PICK OF THE BUNCH MARIE CLAIRE (IPC MEDIA) Editor: Marie O'Riordan Fashion director: Jayne Pickering Tel: 020 7261 5000 ABC: 384,500 VOGUE (CONDE NAST) Editor: Alexander Shulman Fashion directors: Lucinda Chambers and Kate Phelan Tel: 020 7499 9080 ABC: 206,800 (Dec 2004) ELLE (HACHETTE FILIPACCHI) Editor: Lorraine Candy Fashion director: Anne-Marie Curtis Tel: 020 7150 7000 ABC: 202,000 IN STYLE (IPC MEDIA) Editor: Louise Chunn Fashion director: Tamasin Doe Tel: 020 7261 5000 ABC: 191,000 TATLER (CONDE NAST) Editor: Geordie Greig Fashion director: Isabella Blow Tel: 020 7499 9080 ABC: 86,000

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