The insular, hierarchical world of fashion PR comes with its own set of problems just like any other industry, no matter how frivolous or surface-level it may seem to outsiders. Despite its old-school connotations of catty, clipboard-wielding divas and champagne-fueled parties, the less glamorous picture for many of those who work in it is a reality of grueling hours, thankless people and power imbalances.
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So when an anonymous Instagram account called Miss PR Piggy emerged last fall, many users in the fashion PR and media world were quickly drawn to its memes on niche industry dilemmas. Its lighthearted, witty candor on serious work issues not only provides an outlet to vent for its anonymous creator — a publicist with years of in-house, agency and consulting experience— but also acts as a space for the fashion community to relate to each other in solidarity.
Miss PR Piggy's comic relief on industry drama has attracted a following from some of the top people in the business, including editors (Laura Brown, Nikki Ogunnaike), designers (Chloe Gosselin, GCDS' Guiliano Calza), publicists (Hermes VP Michael Carl) and journalists (Vanessa Friedman).
"I can only speak for myself, but my meme account is one way I cope with work stress," the creator says about how working in fashion PR can affect one's mental health. "I think being in a constant people please-y headspace can take a toll on a person."
Since its debut, Piggy has poked fun at some of the industry's biggest headaches, from fashion show seating assignments to unrealistic client expectations to editor pet peeves. PAPER caught up with the creator behind the account to talk about its origins, crazy PR stories and what you don't often get to see behind the scenes.
How did the idea for starting this account come about?
I've been writing my whole life. I used to be a big Twitter person and eventually started a Finsta account on Instagram a few years ago. It's a totally different feeling — you can be your weirdest self without your boss following you. I started posting memes I had made there and my friends thought they were really funny. Everyone was encouraging me to start my own meme account. Around that same time, I was feeling like the narratives around the fashion industry were due for an update. Visible PR voices are somewhat rare and it felt like the right time to impart another perspective. All of this together was the impetus for @miss_pr_piggy.
"Visible PR voices are somewhat rare and it felt like the right time to impart another perspective."
What are some of the most common misconceptions about working in fashion PR?
The first that come to mind are it being a frivolous job run by ditzy people who always have an XL Starbucks coffee in hand, are dreaming up ridiculous ideas for impossible events, and speak in vocal fry. (I'm specifically thinking about Nick Kroll's "Publizity" parody.) It's never been that caricature for me. You have to be pretty savvy to work in PR. Communicating well goes without saying, but I think emotional intelligence, tact and the ability to strategize well are all important to the job. You have to read a room well and juggle the nuance of every situation well because every interaction with the press counts towards the work you do later.
What are the realities publicists have to deal with when it comes to client expectations?
Managing client expectations can be a doozy. The client or brand you work for, whether you're in-house or not, will always expect 10 times more in press results from every opportunity than what you know is reasonable or even feasible. Clients and designers have skin in the game. Many times their brand is their life's work, their baby, so you have to be mindful of that and how that can affect their perspective on what kind of results their brand deserves. Over-promising and under-delivering is the worst feeling, so being upfront and honest with your clients about what you project the results to look like is important.
"I think the industry was experiencing a huge problem with excess."
What are some of the biggest underlying issues with the current fashion editorial/PR system?
I think the industry was experiencing a huge problem with excess, generally speaking. It has been impossible to streamline the excess given the constant need for newness that underscores the fashion world. We've reached so far beyond the traditional fashion calendar. The number of launches, events, press trips, and activations to create more moments and news makes the fashion industry's year perpetually overbooked. I am a huge Marie Kondo follower and she says you need to discard before you can organize.
Systemic racism is still deeply ingrained in fashion across all sectors. What are some things you have observed that show we still have a long way to go?
I found the recent CFDA nominations disappointing. As an industry, we need to dig deeper, change expired formulas and do better. There are barriers to entry for creative roles in fashion, whether it is racial or pedigree. We need to uproot how we discover talent, and provide mentorship and tangible resources in order to turn the page and rebuild.
"We need to uproot how we discover talent, and provide mentorship and tangible resources in order to turn the page."
Are there any moments you recall from working in the field that have rubbed you the wrong way?
I once had a client ask me if I wanted a glass of wine after serving a few editors who I brought to a small gathering. I said "OK!" and she then told me to pour it myself in front of them. That was her way of letting me know she would serve the editors but not PR, even in a casual and friendly setting. It was a weird power play that I won't forget.
How have things like editor-publicist dynamics and client expectations evolved since you first started?
At least in fashion, PR people have to absorb the mindset that the media is "up here" and we're "down there," constantly. I think this is starting to shift slightly nowadays. We also have to deal with certain clients who think our media relationships immediately transfer onto them once the introduction is made, but it doesn't work like that. PR has to stay in the equation to manage. It's why we're paid for our expertise and the facilitation of tapping into our network that we have built over many years. Editors also know this protocol, so when clients go rogue and start DM-ing them or trying to get personal with them and forge a relationship leaving us in the dust, it's usually awkward and doesn't reflect well on them in the end.
"PR people have to absorb the mindset that the media is 'up here' and we're 'down there,' constantly."
What are some ways the system can improve and do better for PRs and fashion media alike?
As time has progressed, the relationship between fashion media and PR has become much more mutually beneficial than it ever was. I think we need to recognize that and give each other more opportunities to communicate our day-to-day challenges together for a more understanding dynamic that is more progressive and of the times. I feel fortunate to have a close network of both PR and editor friends to bounce ideas off of. I find when PR and media are on the same page, brands are more willing to rein in their expectations and everyone is better satisfied.
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