The indie fashion PR component to top fashion PR blog PR Couture, Show Me The Pretty features 5-question interviews with hand-selected indie fashion labels. PR Couture shares the pretty and then turns it back to the designers to ask questions and get advice and feedback about their own fashion PR strategy from a variety of industry experts. Sound like fun? Email info[at]prcouture.com for more information.
Sara Seumae was a mom on a mission – how to introduce organic clothing into her family without going over budget? After scouting Seattle for quality, affordable organic fashion and finding it lacking, the answer quickly became – create it yourself. After a year of research and despite no fashion design experience, Sara introduced SPUN, her collection of flattering must-have basics in February, 2008. Now in it’s second season, each SPUN piece is made in the United States using high quality 100% Certified Organic Cotton dyed using environmentally safe low–impact fiber reactive dyeing processes. Recently, Sara teamed up with fellow Seattle indie fashion brand Revival Ink (provides eco-friendly apparel printing by hand) for a limited edition run.
Sara was lovely enough to send some of her line over to PR Couture to enjoy, and each piece has become quickly integrated (I’m actually wearing the Beater Tank in Tibetan Blue as I type this) into my late summer wardrobe. I love the fit and quality of the pieces as well as the price point – tanks, tops, cardigans and dresses range between $25 – $100. Follow Sara on Twitter @choosespun
Your clothes are clearly cut with fit in mind – what was the process like for determining just how to make everything so gosh darn flattering?
As a mother of 2, my body is just not what it used to be. With every single piece I design or ultimately make, I consider how it will look on my own body. I realize that not every woman wearing SPUN has had a child, but most of women like to wear flattering clothing. So I try to design wearable pieces that you can wear to dinner and not worry about how it will look around your tummy if you have a big meal. I also utilize my mom and sister for their advice. Sort of like taking them into the dressing room with me, I put on a sample and see what their feedback is. This process has been very helpful in determining which designs actually make it to the stores.
What was the moment when you looked around and thought “this could really work!”
I would be lying if I said that receiving press and getting the attention of my favorite blogs and magazines doesn’t make my heart beat like crazy. It really does. But last year, I was doing a show and this woman stopped by my booth rather quickly just to tell me that she loves her SPUN tank tops. It happened so fast and was so completely unexpected, but I still get excited thinking about it. I remember that right after she left, I stopped and looked at the line that was forming in front of my sales table and thought to myself that perhaps I could do this.
If you could get your clothes into the hands of 3 people in the world, who would they be and why?
I don’t ever plan on designing anything red carpet worthy. Just seeing someone like Gwyneth Paltrow wearing one of my tops while walking around SOHO with her children, would be sheer perfection. Gwyneth is someone who has a relaxed style and appreciates organic clothing. I seem to gravitate towards other mothers, especially those who juggle work and their responsibilities at home. So I would probably say a young mother like myself who puts her family’s needs first but likes to shop for quality classic pieces, would be my second choice. Lastly, my maternal grandmother who passed away about 15 years ago. I didn’t really have the opportunity to get to know her, but from what my mother tells me, she loved fashion and enjoyed dressing up. She was the kind of woman who picked out a special outfit just to go to the grocery store and was seldom seen in the same outfit more than once….she wore the same pieces but never the same way twice. She absolutely loved Chanel and owned hundreds of vintage pieces. I think it would be an honor to go back in time, when she was in her twenties and thirties, and see how she could wear my pieces.
Was it difficult to source organic cotton? How are you able to keep your pricing so reasonable? What do you think about stores like Wal-Mart selling organic cotton for $10?
Sourcing organic cotton fabric is getting easier everyday. Unfortunately, this isn’t saying much. As with anything else, it’s all about supply and demand. The more consumers choose organics over conventional, the more incentive for everyone involved. I work mainly with solid colors at the moment and I find that this is more cost effective. I also try to keep costs down as much as possible by keeping most of SPUN in my home. Manufacturing is done in California but everything else is in my dining room, living room, bedroom and garage. My husband isn’t happy about losing his gym space in the garage, but I don’t have to pay warehouse fees so that’s a plus! I honestly don’t mind that stores such as Wal-Mart and Target are offering organic clothing for discount prices. It’s actually nice of them to introduce organics to a wider audience, especially those I wouldn’t be able to reach. I don’t feel that I am losing a customer just because those big box stores are offering a cheaper organic t-shirt. I believe that the SPUN customer is different. She values the fact that SPUN is made in the US and wants to promote a small indie designer. I have gone to great lengths to gain certification for my clothing and can verify that it’s made sweatshop free and helps the local economy. If they can ever say the same, then I would be worried.
I love the story you tell on your web site about being a born entrepreneur – how has having this mindset helped (or hindered) you along the way with SPUN?
I’m glad to hear that you love my SPUN Story. It is exactly what happened and how SPUN was born and I wanted to be sure that it was shared with others. I am very fortunate to have my parents as mentors in my life. I seem to go to them with all sorts of questions pertaining to SPUN. Even if it’s just to hear them confirm what I already feel is the best decision. Having my father the entrepreneur, to look up to has been an asset. I grew up working in the family business and even though I wasn’t happy about this when I was young, I find myself tapping into some of that experience and the lessons that came with it. I have the drive to succeed and know that I can make SPUN into a successful brand. My only downfall is that I’m not as patient as I need to be. I look at my father’s success and sometimes forget that it has taken him 20 years to get there!
Fashion PR Tips*
I have been active on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter for over a year now. I have also made connections and built relationships with the fashion blogger community since I started SPUN. What advice would you give as far as traditional media goes? How can I successfully market SPUN to the print world? Is there an effective way to take SPUN digital success offline and feature it to those who still like the glossy pages of a fashion magazine?
PR Couture Says:
Luckily, many mainstream media publications are also on Facebook and Twitter. Start where you are comfortable and begin engaging with a few of the fashion publications that are on Twitter. Watch for ones that actually engage with their followers and begin to closely the content these accounts share. The goal here is to jump in whenever you have a point of view, related experience or ideas you think they might appreciate. Send a few RT’s their way as well. Catch their attention by being engaged with the account and let them find out more about you! In terms of traditional media outreach, it works similarly to blogging, except you need to keep in mind that fashion editors are working at least three months ahead – so now is not the time for a Back to School pitch! Most fashion editors appreciate a short, well-written pitch, via email, that tells them how you see your clothing fitting in with upcoming stories. Offer a press kit or line sheet, but rely on your web site photography to really sell the SPUN lifestyle. As an indie designer, having e-commerce on your site will really help here, editors want to be able to tell their readers where they can buy products they feature.
Aside from hiring professional PR representation, who will undoubtedly offer you the best transition into print exposure, try exploring these online contacts you’ve built up; many bloggers double as freelance writers, and will have employment or connections with a print publication. Going to a journalist direct can go a long way over generically pitching to a print magazine as a whole, so do your research to identify whose work can be found in print and use the relationship you’ve created with them to approach with your best ideas. Sarah-Jane Adams, Fashion editor,www.sarahjaneadams.com
If you want to take your DIY PR offline, start local. First, send a press release and some product samples to local glossy magazines for features and follow up at least a week later. The number one rule of making media listen is follow up, follow up, follow up. Once you secure local glossies, move on to national by sending press releases and samples to editors, you may not ever get your product back, but it’s worth it because an editor just may fall in love and feature you.
Lastly, make sure that you are visible in the large online publications, not just fashion bloggers. Though they are great to get the buzz started and keep it going, being featured on style.com, Fab Sugar, or Daily Candy can lead to magazine editorials. One client of mine was feature in Daily Candy and People Style Watch called them a month later. – Tierra M Wilson, “The Fashion Techie” www.tierramwilson.com
As an indie designer, I find myself wearing lots of different hats during a typical day. I’m fortunate to have the assistance of friends and family once in awhile but for the most part, I am on my own. The biggest problem with this is trying to find balance between being a business owner and a mother/wife/sister/friend, etc. How can I draw lines and make boundaries between the need to nurse a growing business and keeping myself and my family from going insane?
PR Couture Says:
I try and give myself one day a week where I do nothing at all related to work, or PR Couture. Knowing I have that one day to look forward can sometimes help me stay focused during the week. I also plan trips away to visit people I love, having something to look forward to keeps me sane. That said, I have tremendous respect for women who have multiple or high-pressure careers and somehow manage to work in a relationship/family – I don’t know how I would manage a full-time job, PR Couture and a family. I think, though it sounds counter-intuitive, carving out a place in your day to just be you, alone, might help you feel more centered when the rush comes in.
Set hours of operation for your business and stick to them. When at home with the family, put your blackberry out of sight. Better yet, turn it off. Best thing I’ve ever learned and is true “It always gets done” and it does. Sometimes you will find yourself rewarded with a couple of hours of quite time, that’s when you tackle what you’ve been putting off. – Shannon Cavanagh-Estrada. Partner, Pitch! Press
This is something I grapple with on a daily basis. As a PR agency owner, I am almost always working- whether I’m at the office, out, or at home. It’s hard sometimes to draw that line between work and personal time. I found that when I worked from home (when I first started the business) it was particularly hard to draw the line between work and my personal life. It’s so hard to quit working when you can eat dinner at the computer and work into the night. (And there’s always something to work on…) I suggest, if possible, working from an office versus the home. If you need to work at home, I suggest having an office space that you can close the door on at night. I also suggest trying to avoid dealing with work emails or taking business calls after hours. I tell our clients upfront that I do not work on weekends, even though they might. I really believe that burning the candle at both ends is a sure way to burn out quickly. I think you’re like me- you started your business because you’re passionate about it. You don’t want to lose that passion. P.S. You might want to consider hiring an intern to help you with the day-to-day tasks. There are so many creative people in school, or who recently graduated, who would love the experience. (Even without pay!) Both parties have so much to gain. Melissa Davis, President, Ruby Press
There has been lots of discussion lately about free sample requests from bloggers. I find that even if I’m not being asked to send free product, some blogs are just not a good fit for my brand. Aside from just plain ignoring the email or phone call, what is the best way to decline a media request without making enemies? Is there a way to keep people happy but say no?
PR Couture says:
Thank you so much for your interest in SPUN, it means so much to me that you took the time to get in touch! I spent some time looking at your site, and while I love X about your content, I don’t feel like your site is a great fit for the SPUN brand. I will absolutely keep your contact information on file, as the line will no doubt continue to evolve. Please feel free to follow up with me as your site expands and let me know if there are any specific opportunities or stories you are working on that would be relevant to a small, organic clothing line.
Thank you again for your interest.
We receive requests every day from bloggers who want to review products from our clients. We carefully assess each blog and decide based on our criteria, whether or not it makes sense to have our client send them product. About 90% of the time we have no say “no”, and that’s always a tricky thing, but we have found that honesty has served us well. If we think that the blog is too new, or doesn’t have enough readers, for example, we’ll tell the blogger that we love the blog (if indeed we do) and that while we think it’s a good fit, we receive many review requests and that we have to decide which requests make the most sense for our client. And to check back with us as they grow…. We always courteous and we never, ever, let a request go unanswered. Melissa Davis, President, Ruby Press
If a blog isn’t a good fit, then don’t provide product. A blogger requesting samples should know their audience. If you go to their site and it doesn’t fit, that tells me the blogger needs to do more homework, so tell them. As an indie designer, you don’t have the endless promotional/sample budgets. Simply let them know that while you are honored at the request, you are still growing and can’t oblige them right now. But please keep in contact for the future in case the opportunity arises. Who knows, they may change the direction of their content and they may be a viable and valuable outlets for you in the future. Never burn bridges. – Macala Wright, Founder, FashionablyMarketing.Me (@Macala)
Don’t be afraid to say “NO”. With such a wide variety of brands and sites out there, there is no reason why people should work together if they have anything less than a perfect fit. Forming a relationship with a blogger who is not a fit is a disservice to both the brand and the blogger. In this example, just like with anything else in life, honesty (and diplomacy) are the best policy. Take a minute to compliment the blogger, so that she / he doesn’t take your refusal as a personal affront. Thank them for their interest, then briefly explain what types of partnerships you would like to pursue, and briefly state your strategy and vision. Be brief, yet passionate. Tell them that if you come across a brand that’s a better fit for their blog, you will put them in touch (and do carry out your word if circumstances develop that way). Never say you’ll do something and not go through with it, even if you never intend to do business with this person. Your word is all you have, it’s your biggest asset and can be your biggest liability. This community is very tightly knit, so word of unethical behavior will come back to haunt you. If you form a good relationship, even if you don’t work together, this blogger will surely refer other bloggers that are a better fit, provided that you state your vision and strategy clearly and concisely. – Maria Ogneva, Community Manager, FashionablyMarketing.Me
Try putting together a generic blog kit with a couple of images, info, and standard q&a to provide to those you don’t want to spend time giving a full interview to… this way you maintain your relationship with the blogger, without expending time on the feature, and still receive the coverage. Don’t forget, it’s entirely up to you whether you use the piece within your press portfolio. Sarah-Jane Adams, Fashion editor, www.sarahjaneadams.com
A company’s website is just as important today as business cards used to be 10 years ago. Have you ever found yourself liking a brands pitch but being turned off after visiting their website? Are there any tips for things that are a must on a website? What do you absolutely cannot stand on a website?
PR Couture says:
It is always disappointing to go to a prospective client’s site and find that there just isn’t much to work with. For a fashion client, I want to be able to see the clothes, shop, learn more about the brand, and contact/connect with the brand (via email, social media etc), signing up for a newsletter and getting an instant discount on purchase is nice too! I want to be able to do this easily, without any load time or pop-ups or long flash intros. I tend to gravitate toward white backgrounds, because it lets the design and photography really pop, but that’s a personal preference! In terms of tips, don’t forget SEO, even the best site is useless if no one can find it! Make sure your images can be easily downloaded directly off your site, a digital press kit, specific sizing information, recent press, are all a nice touch. I think the most important investment you can make in terms of your web presence is a simple web site with amazing lifestyle photography.
This is a very big question, and not easily answered in a short paragraph, but I’ll do my best. A company’s website is it’s digital calling card. It has to be functional, it has to be easy to navigate, it has to have a proper balance of white space for it’s viewer’s eyes to rest. If you can’t find the information you need or there’s a ton of things happening simultaneously, the viewer is going to leave and not give it a second thought. If it’s an ecommerce site, the photo quality has to be up the best possible. Cross selling and recommended items are a must-have feature and will increases your average order side by at least 18%.
You must also have an email subscription list for customers that you actively use (in a conscious way of course – not spam) to promote your store, what’s happening and anything that your customers want to know about. Email subscribers are return customers which means repeat sales. Let’s say your average order is $128.00. A loyal customer will order 4 – 5 times per year from your site. That means, one loyal customer spends $512 – 640 per year on your site. If your marketing efforts add 20 loyal customers per month, you’ve grown your sales $10,240 – 12,800 per month, $122,880 to 153,600 per year. That’s nothing to sneeze at. A great calling card site: lyellnyc.com and for ecommerce: toast.co.uk | nastygal.com | anthropologie.com | piperlime.com
YES!!! Some people come to me with the most amazing product and I cant wait to push them out into the media. Then I see their photos and website – and it comes to a halt! Most important in my eyes ( and i think it’s the same for editors) is having clear, unique, great photograpy. It’s can be an investment, but so worth it. Also, less is more. I know its cliché, but when it comes to a website, that’s the truth. Also the truth? no one wants to read the 4 paragraph inspiration behind the brand on the homepage. If they want it, they will ask for it at the right time. So, keep your copy short and sweet and be picky about your photographer, it will pay off! -Kate Sullivan, President, Kick PR
What a great question. I have personally turned down a pitch because of a website. I honestly don’t want people knowing I’m associated with it, and I don’t want consumers to see the websites until it’s up to par. This is such a serious issue that I’m offering my clients some new services which include website project management. I work hand in hand with the web designer and SEO guys to ensure the consumer is happy. The best advice I can give is to make sure the consumers thoughts are not forgotten, and to stay away from too much Flash. I hate it when a website has so much Flash that it takes forever to load and Google can’t pick up on important keywords because there is no relevant text. Balance the flashiness with some good old school html and it works. Also, your website is the most important part of your brand, make sure that budget wise you do it right the first time, because if you have to do it all over again, it can start to get pricey. Tierra M Wilson, “The Fashion Techie” www.tierramwilson.com
Yes! Yes! Yes! A branded website needs to be put in place before anything else. You get one chance at first impressions and nowadays that’s typically through a well branded website. Tips: have a professional create and execute it. No clip art ‘buy now’ buttons; no music. Images are professionally shot, clean and clear (even better if you can showcase in 360’). Accept all major credit cards, bite the bullet and pay the fees. No paypal only. You have to think big and look big to bring in the big bucks. – Shannon Cavanagh-Estrada. Partner, Pitch! Press
Indie designers are on a small budget and our livelihood depends on sales. There are lots of great websites out there that help us get our brand in front of shoppers. However, do you believe that designers should evaluate how many of these different avenues we take? Do you think it’s wise to sell our pieces on our own website, on Etsy, as well as sites such as Smashing Darling? Or do you find that stores will think twice about placing a wholesale order when they will end up having to compete with the designer? Are some indie designers actually hurting their sales by being everywhere?
I like the idea of focusing your e-commerce on your own site, but using sites like Etsy to sell one-offs, samples, or excess inventory. I don’t think indie designers are hurt by selling in multiple places, but the goal is to keep as much of those sales in your pocket as possible. Think of the online boutiques as mini branding sites where people can find you and see a sample of product, but focus your optimization and outreach to media around your own URL.
It depends on the goal of the clothing company. There are many lines that are distributed in many places. Free People is distributed through major retailers like Macy’s and its own website. True Religion, Ella Moss and Cosabella all have multiple distribution points through small, independent retailers and major retailers such as Nordstrom. I do not believe that selling directly through your website, an Etsy portal and Smashing Darling are conflicting. You are talking about three different audiences (markets). There is some crossover between who visits your website, Smashing Darling and Etsy, but I guarantee you, it’s not a large as you think. If your line isn’t available through one of these portals, you may be missing out on sales and expanding your client base. If your distribution outlets match your marketing strategy and support your brand’s message, then use everything you have at your disposal to grow your line. The only conflict I see arising is if you suddenly pick up a larger distribution contract with someone like Macy’s (which is happening because of their new focus on green lines) and all of the sudden you export or outsource production. You will have to make sure you’re still in accordance with the guidelines set forth by your other distribution outlets (e.g. Etsy is handmade goods). – Macala Wright, Founder, FashionablyMarketing.Me (@Macala)
You are in business to create a brand, not to necessarily please retailers. Though they are part of the equation when it comes to success, you need to put your brand first. We don’t think you can ‘hurt yourself by being everywhere’ but sell to retailers that reach your core customer. When you have a customer buying from your branded site, you have a better chance of making them a repeat customer, which is what every brand strives for. – Shannon Cavanagh-Estrada. Partner, Pitch! Press
PR Couture is committed to sharing a variety of voices and opinions related to PR on our site. While we may not always agree 100% with our advisory panel’s suggestions, we believe in the power of discussion and debate and recognize that there are many approaches to fashion PR and each one deserves it’s due. Please consider leaving a comment with your own thoughts to continue the conversation. Or to put it another way, The opinions contained in this article are those of practitioners quoted and may not reflect the opinions of PR Couture.