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Media Interview: Former Fashion & Beauty Editor/Publicist Turned Full-time Blogger Dara Fleischer, Founder of FashionJunkie.com

fashionjunkie1.jpgLooking for advice on best way to pitch and develop relationships with fashion bloggers from an industry expert who has walked both sides of the line? Want tips for promoting your own fashion blog, on and off the net? Getting bored with your regular shopping blog haunts and looking to learn about the latest trends, sample sales, and maybe a little personal shopping while you're at it? Then you are sure enjoy this insightful and inspiring Q&A with Dara Fleischer, Founder & Editor of FashionJunkie.com

FashionJunkie.com is the brainchild of Dara Fleischer, a seasoned shopping editor and television correspondent who honed her skills as Fashion and Beauty Editor at LOULOU (Canada’s premier shopping magazine), Merchandising Editor at InStyle and is currently iVillage.com’s Shopping Expert. Recognizing fashionistas’ insatiable appetite for of-the-moment fashion and beauty buzz, Dara spawned FashionJunkie as an online soapbox for sharing her views and news on all things stylish.

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PR: What inspired you to create FashionJunkie? What kinds of stories/products do you cover?

DF: In a nutshell, FashionJunkie.com (FJ) is an online community for “serial shoppers.” First and foremost, it’s a fashion and beauty email newsletter and daily blog (“Re-Tales”), clueing you in on what to buy and where to buy it… before it’s passé. FJ is also a personal shopping service, providing tailor-made private and group shopping tours of New York City.

A self-confessed shopaholic, I initially created FJ merely as a fun and frivolous diversion while pursuing a career in fashion and beauty publishing. I soon realized I was filling a void for the fashion challenged from across the globe. Within weeks of launching the site back in ‘96, I was inundated with emails requesting my advice for every conceivable quandary from where to find discontinued lip-gloss to ‘uplifting’ lingerie. After a series of high-profile jobs in PR and editorial, I inevitably followed my true calling by turning my passion for fashion into a full-time business informing would-be fashionistas about the latest trends, hottest shops and chaperoning clients on guided NYC shopping safaris. Have a fashion emergency or in need of some retail therapy? Drop me a line at contact[at]fashionjunkie.com

PR: What information is included in the newsletter that isn’t on your blog?

DF: The “FashionJunkie Fix” email newsletter offers subscribers of-the-moment fashion and beauty buzz and special perks, from sample sale listings to exclusive discounts from the hottest boutiques, delivered straight to their inbox every week. The email newsletters are permanently archived on the site, so you needn’t worry about missing out.

The “Re-Tales” Blog is where I “come clean” about my latest addictions and obsessions (lately, shoes and handbags). Readers tune-in for daily confessions of a shopaholic, from must-have fashion and beauty finds, “behind the seams” runway reports, celebrity dish, exclusive designer interviews and other insider bytes.

PR: As a blogger who updates daily, where do find/seek out inspiration?

DF: When I’m not glued to my computer screen, I’m pounding the streets of New York in search of the hottest boutiques, so I inevitably get inspiration from observing New Yorkers in their natural habitat as well as the shops.

As an avid traveler (I also write international shopping guides), I get a lot of ideas when I’m abroad. I also religiously read fashion magazines, newspapers, trade publications and websites.

PR: How do you promote FashionJunkie?

DF: I constantly form partnerships with other fashion blogs (e.g, Glam.com), lifestyle websites (I’m currently iVillage.com’s resident Shopping Expert and manage the Steals & Deals blog) and e-tailers (advertising sponsorships are key).

I attend my fair share of industry events and am a participating member of several trade and women’s entrepreneurial organizations such as Fashion Group International and Ladies Who Launch.

As the face of FJ, I’ve also found it very helpful to host in-store events for retailers such as Té Casan (the popular SoHo-based footwear haven) and Bulga (an haute handbag company). This has enabled me to interact directly with FJ subscribers and learn more about their needs, while continuing to position myself as a shopping expert.

As a former fashion and beauty publicist, I also understand the power of the press. That said, several of my recent media plugs - from The Wall Street Journal to ABC NewsRadio, have happened due to sheer luck!

PR: What are some of the key differences between writing a fashion blog and working as a print editor?

DF: As a print editor, I often felt frustrated by the long lead times (print publications are always three months ahead). For example, if I became aware of a hot new store opening in May, it would be old news by the time the publication went to print in August. With a blog such as FashionJunkie.com, everything’s in real-time so my readers never miss out.

Writing a blog is much more labor intensive than print, but in a good way. Deadlines are daily (even hourly), so you have to keep on plugging away to earn your readers’ respect. If you neglect the site for more than a day, you’ll lose credibility and traffic. I also enjoy interacting with my readers via the blog (comments are key!) – something you can’t do with print.

PR: Should bloggers be treated with the same amount of journalistic respect and given the same access as print editors? Why/Why not?

DF: That depends on the blogger. Fortunately, I had the benefit of having worked as a fashion and beauty editor (both print and online) for leading publications and brands (Sephora.com), so it was perhaps easier for me to earn respect from publicists, designers and industry insiders. That said, it did take a while to re-build that trust and prove myself once I left my full-time job at LOULOU magazine. Building credibility as a blogger doesn’t exactly happen overnight!

To your point, it really does bother me that there’s so much stigma against full-time fashion/beauty bloggers. Initially, traditional media (i.e. print editors) had a negative attitude towards bloggers and felt that we lacked the “journalistic” credentials to cover major events such New York Fashion Week or attend product launches. Thankfully, this has started to change.

In my opinion, bloggers have the luxury of unbiased objectivity in their product reviews and recommendations, as they aren’t as beholden to the large media buyers who advertise in print publications.

And in case you were wondering, yes – FashionJunkie will be covering Fall/Winter 2008 Fashion Week!

PR: What has been your experience working with fashion PR, both with regard to working as an editor for InStyle and LouLou, and now as a blogger?

DF: Although I had dealt with U.S. publicists during my tenure at LOULOU, I still had to get the word out about FashionJunkie.com and earn their trust. Thankfully, my hard work is finally starting to pay off and the invites to events and product launches are streaming in. Plus, forging a relationship with iVillage.com has provided additional credibility.

PR: What are three mistakes many fashion PR’s make? How could they do better?

DF: Publicists should take more time to personalize their pitches. There’s nothing I hate more than a publicist who misspells my name or my business, doesn’t take the time to read about my business or doesn’t follow-up on a pitch. Editors/bloggers are very busy and we need to be hounded (in a nice way). Email is so abused… why not just pick up the phone and call? I also think a little face-to-face time is nice every now and then. Although I’m often chained to my desk, I’m a people person who enjoys meeting people for drinks/dinner when time permits. In fact, I have dinner plans with a publicist from Behrman PR tonight!

PR: There is tension among some fashion bloggers and PR agencies, predominantly as the result of denied access and irrelevant pitches. Where do you stand on this issue? How do you prefer to be pitched?

DF: A good publicist should always ask a blogger how they prefer to be pitched. Publicists should be more accepting of bloggers. In the end, it’s all about boosting your client’s business. All it takes is one hit on a highly-trafficked fashion/beauty blog to instantly improve business. In the online world, news travels fast!

One New York PR firm I personally enjoy working with is Pierce Mattie. They recently held a round table for bloggers at their New York headquarters to address this particular issue. It was so great to see them embrace the blogesphere. In fact, more and more PR companies (e.g., Lippe Taylor and Kaplow) have started to hire staff who’s sole responsibility is to deal with bloggers. Now that’s a smart move!

PR: What are three of your daily reads (can be blogs, websites, print...)

DF: The Wall Street Journal, WWD and iVillage.com

PR: Your Shopping Safaris sound fab – what advice do you give women looking to create a personal sense of style?

DF: I always tell my clients not to follow trends. It’s best to establish your own sense of style – one that works for your body type and budget. If you’re not comfortable with what you’re wearing on the outside, you won’t feel good on the inside.

PR: What are three trends on your radar (can be fashion, cultural, business...)

DF: Two words... Flash Sales. These are for-a-limited-time-only (less than 24 hours), online luxury sample-sale sites that are the biggest thing to happen to shopping since Al Gore “invented” the Internet. In fact, I just wrote about this trend on the FashionJunkie “Re-Tales” Blog. Read the post right here!

When it comes to on-land shopping, the biggest trend I’ve noticed (in New York and London) is ‘pop-up’ shops. These short-term retail stores (typically four months or less) create a sense of urgency for shoppers. For example, I just heard about the launch of Erin Snow’s soon-to-be-launched pop-up shop in East Hampton. Since the specialty sportswear shop will only be around from June through September, I have to stop by or I’ll miss out on all the merch.

Another major shopping trend I’ve come across is designer collaborations with major retailers such as The Gap (e.g. Pierre Hardy shoes) and Target (e.g. Loeffler Randall handbags). These retailers have commissioned both emerging and established artists to create limited-edition collections. My favorite such collaboration is the current Rogan Gregory line for Target - a fast-fashion eco-friendly collection, which debuted at Barney’s New York on May 9th, two weeks before hitting the racks at Target.

By the way, feel free to send your fashion/beauty pitches contact[at]fashionjunkie.com - I would love to hear from you!

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Meet Crosby Noricks

Hi. I'm Crosby, the founder of PR Couture and a fashion brand strategist. I care about supporting and celebrating fashion publicists as well as helping companies connect with their audiences in more meaningful ways. Recently, iMedia included me in their annual list of 25 Internet Marketing Leaders and Innovators, along with people from Starbucks, Twitter and Volkswagon, which I think is pretty neat. Like Elle Woods, I am a Gemini-vegetarian (that's about where the similarities end). Let's connect: Check out my full bio, Brand Elixer sessions or shoot me a note.