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February 19, 2021

Talking To Tastemakers: Winning PR For Your Fashion Business

By: Peter Gregory

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For cash-strapped fashion startups who can’t afford to advertise, PR offers the chance to put your brand in front of thousands of potential customers. Free press exposure doesn’t come cheap, though! You need a powerful newsworthy story worth sharing, and a strategy for winning over fashion-savvy journalists. 

In this guide we’ll show you how your fashion business can get free PR! We’ll explain the different types of press you can approach with your news story, and we’ll show you what fashion journalists are looking for. We’ll also give you some valuable tips on how to create a great PR campaign for your fashion brand! 

Where Can You Send A Press Release?

The best PR campaigns start with a suite of press releases (news stories about your business) and a ‘target list’ of publications that you want your story to appear in.

Depending on the story you’ve got and the audience you’re trying to reach, there are 4 main types of publication that you can send a press release to: national, local, consumer and trade. Here are a few examples of the kinds of publications that fit under each heading:

National Press: 

A national press campaign can grow your sales if you sell direct through your own website, but it can also help you to win over buyers in large fashion retailers. If you’re getting talked about in the press, fashion buyers know that you’ve already got a lot of brand awareness out there, and that the burden of marketing your products won’t fall squarely on their shoulders. 

National press puts your brand in front of a lot of people, but not all of these people are going to be interested in buying your product. Even so, it’s worth doing if you can. Broadsheet or tabloid newspapers all usually have a style and culture section (especially on the weekend) — try to approach the editors of those sections.

Local Press:

If your press release story has a local focus, then your best bet is probably going to be your local paper. Coverage in local press is a great way to win goodwill close to home. If you’re still a very small business selling in small volumes, it’s the perfect place to start your PR campaign.

Good examples of local press releases are stories of business growth (if you’re going on a recruitment drive or moving offices, for instance), charity support (if you’ve made a donation or organised something in the local community) and tie-ins to sports clubs, schools or other local institutions. 

Consumer Magazines:

Press coverage in just about any specialist-interest fashion magazine will serve your business well! The people who buy fashion magazines are style-savvy consumers looking out for the next hot thing on the market — they’re the consumers that most of us want to sell to!  

The kinds of PR stories that you pitch to a consumer magazine tend to focus more on the product itself, as opposed to your business or brand. Think long and hard about what’s going to excite the wearer and write about that.

Trade Press:

In almost every industry (including fashion), there are specialist trade magazines that cater for people working in that industry, and fashion is no exception.

Anybody who reads the trade press is looking for tips and tricks to help them improve their own brands — they’ve also probably been exposed to a lot of conventional ‘fashion PR’ already. Focus your press release on the commercial side of things; innovations in materials technology, industry commentary and new hires are perfect topics for fashion trade PR.

What do the fashion press want to know about?

It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in — journalists want to know about newsworthy things. This may sound vague, but ‘newsworthy’ has actually been very clearly defined. For something to be newsworthy, it must possess at least one of the following qualities: 

  • Timeliness: It should be relevant to what’s going on in the world right now.
  • Proximity: it should be relevant to the people who the journalist writes for.
  • Conflict/Controversy: it can take one side in an argument or make a contentious point that gets people thinking and stokes their emotions
  • Human Interest: it should inspire people in some way or at least give them information that makes it easy to relate to your brand
  • Relevance: If you can teach someone something new or if your product improves people’s day-to-day lives, this may be worth a press release.

The American TV station PBS give a really good summary of newsworthiness on their website.

The journalist you’re approaching probably receives hundreds of press releases every week — they’re not interested in flattery or charm — they want a great story. Stick to the facts and let the content of your press release do the talking! 

Don’t underestimate the power of a really good image, too. Sub-editors (the people who actually put the words on the page of a magazine) are always on the lookout for a visually compelling image that they can pair with the text, so don’t send a press release without at least one fantastic image … and be ready to send a high-res version at short notice! 

How to reach out to fashion reporters:

If the thought of reaching out to a journalist makes you squirm, just remember that reporters want to  know about the latest news. They want you to approach them with good stories — that’s why they make their social media handles and email addresses available to the general public. 

The first step is to find out the name of the journalist you want to talk to. Buy a copy of the magazine or paper you’re trying to get coverage in, and make a note of the journalist’s name. Most journalists will include a social media link or email address somewhere in the magazine — it might be on the front or back pages, or it might be on their website. 

Next, make sure your press release is ready before you approach your journalist. If a fashion reporter is working to a tight print deadline, they’ll need everything from you in the space of a few hours. You won’t have time to rewrite or finish your press release as soon as you’ve made contact. We’ve got some tips on how to structure a press release in the next section. 

When approaching a fashion journalist or editor with a press release, email is best. According to a recent industry report from Muckrack, a whopping 93% of journalists prefer to be approached over email.

The same report shows that these journalists like short emails, too (Nearly 60% of journalists prefer email pitches no longer than 200 words in length), so keep that first enquiry email short and to-the-point. Your enquiry email just needs to get the reporter to read your press release — you don’t have to squeeze the whole release into 200 words — so keep it interesting and brief. 

How To Write A Great Fashion Press Release:

So you know where you want to send your press release and who you want to send it to, and you know it needs to be newsworthy …but what should you actually put in your press release? It’s ultimately up to you what you write about, but the tips below should help you come up with a press release with a good chance of success:

  • Focus on your brand first. If you don’t have a clear, easy-to-express brand yet, then you should fix this before you start approaching fashion journalists. Tastemakers want fully-formed fashion brands that offer something unique — if you don’t have a clear brand promise yet, then you’ll make it much harder for yourself to win attention from people. We have a guide to branding & labelling in the fashion industry which is worth reading.
  • Structure your press release professionally. There’s a format that time-strapped journalists expect you to follow when submitting a press release. You need to put the most important information in the first few paragraphs, so that a time-strapped journalist can quickly copy-paste the raw material they need before going to print. The Guardian website has some good general advice on structuring a press release. Stylist magazine has some guidance for freelancers which is also worth a read.  
  • Do newsworthy things. It might sound obvious, but the best way to write an effective press release is to do something worth writing about.  Thinking of a cool activity or product event is much harder than just coming up with a catchy headline, but it’s much more valuable to your PR efforts in the long run. For instance, when Converse’s PR agency were charged with launching a new shoe, they invited 500 creatives to a warehouse and invited them to make a big loud mess (read the case study here!). The photos and footage generated at this event made for a far more interesting story than a simple ‘new shoe’ headline.  
  • Endorse a cause you believe in. If you can see something happening in the world that you really care about, don’t be afraid to associate yourself with it. Take a look at the website of the charity or global cause (if one exists), and find out how you can get involved. Try to think of a creative, headline-worthy way to offer your support and raise awareness. 
  • Use the calendar. Time your PR to match fashion events like London Fashion Week and big industry moments (Black Friday / Cyber Monday, for instance) are perfect examples. Timely PR has an urgency to it that most fashion journalists will find hard to ignore!
  • Make yourself available. You don’t just send in your press release and cross your fingers — you need to be ready to actually talk to a fashion reporter at short notice. Journalists may want a quote, an ad-hoc over-the-phone interview or even just a comment from you on another story they’re working on. Share your mobile and email, and reply quickly to any press requests.
  • Send out clothing samples. The fashion industry is a tactile industry that values quality. If a journalist can see your designs for themselves and literally feel your fabric under their thumb, it will make it easier for them to comment on your brand. Just the offer of sending out a sample inspires trust and shows that you have nothing to hide. 
  • Watch out for trends. Fashion trends, Viral TV shows, world affairs … it’s all fuel for the PR fire! If you can tie in your press release to something that’s happening in the world right now, it will be easier for fashion  journalists to take a chance on your press release. 
  • Use industry events. Attend the conferences and shows of others in the industry, and host your own if you can. Events are hard to deliver when we’re all on lockdown, but they’re by no means impossible. If you’ve got something interesting to talk about, then zoom conferences and online seminars can win the attention of fashion journalists and earn you some space in the papers!
  • Commission limited editions. If you can make a newsworthy product, then you should absolutely go for it! Limited-edition designs or flash sales with tight deadlines are a great way to catch the attention of tastemakers. 
  • Keep track of what works. Not every press release you send out is going to work — you need to be persistent and imaginative and learn what does and doesn’t work. In the early days of a PR campaign, you just need to count how many times your press releases were actually published, but over time you can develop a more nuanced approach. You can measure the space your PR won in ‘column inches’, and assign a monetary value to this space based on the advertising rates of the magazine. You can also look at traffic to your own website in the days following a press release’s publication. 

Digital PR works, too!

The world of ‘print’ (newspapers and magazines) is the simplest place to learn the principles of good fashion PR, but it’s not the only way to get your brand in front of consumers. Digital PR works, too. You can approach fashion bloggers and social media  influencers with your press release; just remember that the same ‘newsworthy’ rules apply. Your press release should be so exciting that an influencer can’t resist sharing it! 

Do you need a PR Agency?

You don’t need to hire a PR agency to win coverage in the press. A good PR agency is worth its weight in gold, and fashion PR is a specialist field (you can even get a degree in Fashion PR from the London College of Fashion). That doesn’t mean that you can’t do it yourself. 

In the early days of your business, when money is tight and you’re heavily involved in the day-to-day operations of your fashion label, you are your best PR person. Just remember that the story is what counts — make your press release as interesting as possible and the fashion journalists will soon be beating a path to your door!

Thanks for reading!


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