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A week in the life of a fashion PR

14th January 2019
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Kylie Hearne is the owner of Stardust Boutique, one of the UK’s biggest independent prom and eveningwear brands. In addition to managing the retail side of her own brand, she also looks after all of its Public Relations single-handedly.  

She has partnered with The National Student to celebrate the release of Lionsgate’s A Simple Favour which is available for digital download on 14th January, and available to buy on DVD, Blu-ray and 4K UHD on 21 st January 2019. In the film, the stunning Emily Nelson (Blake Lively) is a highly successful Director of PR for a luxury fashion brand. After watching the film, Hearne realised that Emily’s job bares many similarities to her own. Here is a week in the life of Kylie Hearne, as she offers aspiring fashion retailers and fashion PRs an insight into what it takes to be on top – and stay on top.

 

Image Courtesy of Lionsgate

How I got started…

I studied Classical Civilisation at Swansea University and went into fashion retail after graduating. I found that the degree helped me develop a range of transferable skills, which helped me launch my own business.  

I had always loved fashion and I approached the Princes Trust, who put me on a three-day enterprise course. Through my work with the Princes Trust, I ended up dressing celebrities for red carpet events, award shows and movie premieres. I was also shortlisted for an award at The Princes Trust awards which was hosted by Ant and Dec – and I got to meet Helen Mirren!

Kylie (center) pictured with Helen Mirren. Image courtesy of Kylie Hearne

There's lots of travelling...

No two days are ever the same in fashion, but I found many similarities between my recent experience at Atlanta’s biggest trunk show and Emily Nelson’s highly stressful working day as a Director of PR for a luxury Fashion brand.

We go to Atlanta for five days every year. During this time, the biggest international brands will showcase their new designs on their own runways. Most of the time, our presence in Atlanta is as much about projecting a positive business image, as it is about buying stock, and I feel that this is something Emily Nelson would really relate to. After all, her job is to create a smokescreen and ensure customers see only what she wants them to see.

In Atlanta, I worked around the clock for all of the five days that I was there. During the day I attended my designers' shows, and at night I met with my designers for drinks and continued to work on my business. Whether it was buying stock, taking reservations for the new stock, updating my social media, sharing updates with my customer base, sending out marketing emails, improving my SEO, uploading YouTube content or writing meta descriptions for Google, – I had to be on it, because lots of other boutiques were also there, buying the same dresses, for the same market… and I wanted to get in there first.

Fashion isn't always glamourous...

Long hours are not unusual in fashion, but when you’re working for 16-18 hours a day to make sure that your brand is seen above all of your competitors, it can be pretty tiring, and you have little time for socialising. You have to make decisions and prioritise accordingly. And that goes for when I’m at home in Wales – sometimes I have to prioritise a deal over friends, long hours over social gatherings, and so on.

This is definitely something touched upon in A Simple Favour. In the film, Emily isn’t able to be present at her son’s school activities, and she’s rarely able to do the school run because her job simply doesn’t allow it. This sacrifice is something which bothers her – but given that her husband is a stay-at-home dad, it’s a sacrifice she has to make, and it’s something I really relate to. Like Emily, I have bills to pay and food to put on the table. Sometimes, in fashion, you have to be 20 strides ahead to be seen. It’s a sink or swim business with little time for sentiment.

Reputation is everything...

During the evenings in Atlanta, Designers meet up with all of their stockists and if you haven’t carefully managed your relationship with your designer, it can get pretty tense! Sometimes, if you don’t agree to buy 200 pieces, a designer might threaten to sell to your competitor. Situations like this are stressful when they arise and can directly impact your business and your public image.

If you are known for stocking a well-known designer, and you’re then cut off because you refuse to buy more stock, measures must be taken, and it is integral that a resolution is made to smooth your relationship with your supplier, but also to ensure that they know who is boss. In A Simple Favour, we see Emily fiercely stand up to her boss – much to the surprise of her friend Stephanie (Anna Kendrick). But Emily is totally right; you cannot afford to be a wallflower when your business and the reputation of your business is at stake. How you project yourself says a lot about your business – so be like Emily: Fireless, astute and confident to boot!

Image Courtesy of Lionsgate

Sometimes, situations can escalate. On my first night in Atlanta, a minor disagreement over drinks with a supplier ended up with him threatening to leave me negative comments across my social media. In that situation, all I could think about was protecting my brand.

Negative comments would have wrecked my image and destroyed how my business is perceived by customers and potential customers. In the end, I worked to resolve the disagreement diplomatically and our relationship has improved over the course of the five days. I made sure I was at all of his shows, front row, and I was the first to congratulate him on his new range. It’s not nice, but it has to be done. Situations like these are what Emily Nelson would be dealing with on a regular basis as a Director of PR for a luxury fashion brand. There is always a crisis, and it’s important to apprehend it and thwart it at the first hurdle because reputation is everything.

Customers come first…

I pride myself for going out of my way for my customers. On the day I flew back from Atlanta, I was at the airport when I received a call from a talent handler at ITV who desperately needed a dress for a well-known presenter for an award show. Afraid that it wouldn’t arrive in time through a courier, I agreed to collect the dress from my shop in Swansea and deliver it by hand to the venue in London. I had already travelled for half a day and ended up travelling for an extra eight hours to ensure the dress arrived on time.

I sacrifice a lot for my customers, but I do it because I care about my brand, and about having a positive image. And almost-impossible scenarios like that wouldn’t be unusual in Emily Nelson’s line of work. In luxury fashion PR, she would be heading up gifting and lending luxury items for the use of high-profile singers and actors at awards shows. Sometimes, there really is no other way to get an item to a celebrity in time – unless you take it by hand.

Although Emily might not be running around the city herself – she would most definitely be making sure the intern does it. Why? Because you don’t want somebody to get photographed in somebody else’s dress when they could have been photographed in yours. It’s all about maximising the opportunity for good press for the brand.

Although it’s difficult, a career in fashion can be very rewarding…

Fashion can be hard, and it can sometimes be lonely – see the bit in the film where Emily’s colleagues fail to realise her being missing – but it does have its rewards, and those rewards are plentiful. Last year in Atlanta, I was able to see and buy some of the most incredible dresses I’ll ever lay my eyes on, and I’m pleased to be able to make my customer's dreams come true when I bring them home. And I also get a lot of freebies! Handbags, jewellery, shoes and one-off pieces which I keep for myself in a well-stocked dressing room at home. The scene in A Simple Favour where Stephanie marvels at Emily’s stunning clothing collection before trying on a beautiful slinky gown reminds me of all the times when I have left a friend unaccompanied in my dressing room!

And although the hours are long, it offers a lot of opportunities to be creative. Since starting my business, I have gone on to design my own lines, which have been worn by the likes of Doris Day and Kelly Osbourne. There is scope for so much growth and diversification if you know how to run a business and PR it successfully. It is so rewarding when you bring home a dress from Atlanta that a customer has seen on your social media, they arrive to try it on, and their face light up… that feeling makes it all worth it. It makes up for all the hours of travelling… and before you know it, it’s time for Atlanta 2019!

Image Courtesy of Kylie Hearne

First things first: Get your degree. These days, the skills you learn on a degree course are more important than the subject, and I found that my studies helped me to learn how to prioritise tasks, think critically and logically, and manage my time effectively, which was really useful when I started my business. Also, it’s about being dedicated – and you definitely learn that on a degree course.

Secondly, do not be afraid to dream about what you want. Rome wasn’t built in a day but if you have a clear vision about what you want to do, make a plan with achievable goals to help you get there. Want to be a fashion retailer? Check out graduate schemes with major retailers. Want to go into fashion PR? Check out which fashion PR agencies are hiring. It’s important to note that there are more opportunities in London because that’s where most of the glitz and the glamour is – but there are some great agencies all around the country which could provide a stepping stone for you. Want to work in-house? Check out which department stores are hiring for their comms team and apply.

It’s really important in fashion retail and fashion PR to stay ahead of the game. For example, keep up to date with what the fashion press writing and who they’re writing about, and make sure you know what’s hot, and what’s not. Who are the influencers setting Instagram on fire? Do you think that the fashion press still holds all the cards or has the balance tipped to favour influencers? It’s important to have a point of view because you’ll be expected to know your industry to some extent.

Finally, make it count and don’t be shy when it comes to putting in the legwork. Be passionate, work hard and party harder!

A Simple Favour is available on digital download from 14th January and on DVD, Blu-ray™ and 4K UHD from 21st January.

Lead Image - Courtesy of Lionsgate




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