When trying to get in touch with a fashion designer, their PR is often a good place to start. Therefore it was a pleasant surprise when Rachael Fisher, an industry expert with over a decade of experience, offered to give us her exclusive insight into the fashion world. It’s often easy to forget that fashion is far more than just the clothes – it’s about creating, maintaining and running a business. From launching a new brand, to succeeding in an ever competitive industry, Rachael was more than happy to offer advice to those fashionistas hoping to follow in her (glamorously dressed) footsteps.
First things first, how did you get to where you are today, have you always been interested in fashion?
I originally studied jewellery design at university; after my studies I came to London and started interning for various fashion and design agencies. I've always had an interest in fashion especially the design and creative side of the business. I started interning at a PR agency and really enjoyed it. A few years later I ended up running the womenswear division but found it too corporate and that I wasn't really enthusiastic about the brands I was representing. I started freelancing on the side, working with friends who were new designers, or people who I knew had small brands. I found working with smaller more creative brands much more exciting and rewarding so this is how my agency was formed. I specialise in working with accessories and new designers, brands that I feel enthusiastic about and can really get involved with. I take an honest approach with all of my clients and would never work with a brand that I personally didn’t feel passionate about.
What qualifications or training did you need?
The only qualifications I have is my degree in jewellery design. This has helped me massively when I work with jewellery designers because I have an understanding of how the pieces are made, meaning I can tell if something is good quality and manufactured well. All other training was through internships, which I found invaluable. I would recommend anyone starting out in PR to consider interning you learn so much so quickly, PR can be quite fast paced so you learn to pick it up really quickly when you're thrown in at the deep end!
What led you into fashion PR?
I just found PR worked well for me personally – with fashion PR no day is the same, you get to be really creative but also business focused too. There's lots of variety in the job from art directing photoshoots to planning content strategies, so you can't really ever get bored!
In your experience, what are the main problems a designer experiences when launching their brand?
I would say without prior knowledge of how the fashion industry works, knowledge of timelines can be a problem – there is a very short period from when one season ends and another begins, so you have to be very organised. But also the knowledge of how to approach stores and press, having all the right tools to go with this such as a price list, look book and press releases, as well as having all your branding and packaging looking slick – it can be a lot to think about! Also planning for production costs, for instance if they get an order from a big store can they fulfil it and have they considered the costs and are they able to make it?
In your opinion, what skills do you need to survive in the fashion industry?
Well you have to be organised that's for sure! There's a bit of a myth that everyone in the fashion industry is a bit of a bitch, but I've hardly met anyone like this, so don't think it's all like ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ because it isn't! I guess you just need common sense, problem solving skills, determination and a creative yet business-focused mind.
You’ve worked in the fashion industry for a number of years, what are the key changes you have witnessed?
From a PR side of things, the industry has moved quite quickly to digital – a lot of magazines are now online and fashion bloggers are now huge. They're the new celebrities and are such an important part of PR and developing your brand nowadays. Things also seem to be getting faster paced with even more collections throughout the year. The consumer side of fashion has really developed at a rapid speed, but at the same time the sustainable side of the fashion industry has also picked up.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
A lot of the time I find myself explaining to brands that it takes time to nurture relationships with the media. When you are a new brand, be prepared to be patient and don't expect overnight success! I'm not saying this is impossible but its hard work to build up trust with new brands and the media, because there is a lot of competition out there. A lot of brands come to me with very high expectations – they want to be on the cover of Vogue in the first month of working together. I have to explain that it takes time to nurture these relationships and gain the trust of the press.
What is the most exciting part?
I enjoy it when a brand succeeds in terms of pursuing a stockist they aspired to get, or seeing an amazing piece of coverage in a magazine. It's also exciting when you've worked with a brand from a very early stage – to see them develop is always rewarding. A big part of my job is writing – pitches, press releases or copy, essentially PR's are story tellers so writing a brand story, which is always good fun.
What advice would you give to someone striving to forge a successful career in fashion?
It depends on the area, but if someone wanted advice on how to forge a successful career in fashion PR, I would suggest doing an internship and learning how the business works that way. It's such a good way to learn the ropes of the business quickly. Work hard always, be nice to people and learn as much as you can! Try to do something different as well, find a niche and go with it. I've always had an interest in jewellery, so my agency works with a lot of jewellery designers; this happened organically, but it's an area of design that I personally love so the enthusiasm shines through.
Which brands or designers most inspire you and why?
I have a passion for smaller designers with limited runs who know their production line and are sustainable as much as possible. These are the labels that are conscious of the future and against the 'fast fashion' of today’s consumerist lifestyle, but also not compromising on design. Also I'm a sucker for a brand with a great and interesting back story like heritage and lifestyle brands or anything with a compelling story behind it – labels such as; Penny Sage, Lily Kamper, Danielle Foster, Silken Favours, Reformation, & Ally Cappelino.
If Rachael has convinced you to turn your designs into a brand, why not get things started with a fashion design course? You never know where your creations might end up...