You think it is hard getting into the top shows? Think again; it is all who you know not what you do. I met a well known fashion writer this week at the Perry Ellis show who covers the shows and syndicates her column in over 30 newspapers across the US. She cannot get invites to many of the top shows and parties going on this week. At the same time the close relatives of the publisher of a major New York fashion publication are given tickets not only for themselves but their friends to attend all of the top shows and parties.
Much of the problem lies in how the fashion pr firms and in-house agencies decide who gets what. Let's be honest and say that it is not too difficult to put together an A-list of top editors, retailers, celebrities, and other VIPs' who everyone wants at their show. Everybody knows who these people are and you need little more than a mailing list to reach them. However once you go beyond the A-List of people who everybody wants the criteria varies widely as to who else gets a ticket. In many cases tickets are used by designers as a way of cementing relationships, payback for services rendered, past friendships or given out by the publicist to their band of fellow travelers, relatives, or just plain good friends who he or she thinks makes a "good mix" at the client's event. Each pr firm has a particular group of fashionable or pretty people it can call upon to fill up the room. Hence the expression "rent a crowd".
Of course designers are free to decide who they want or do not want at their shows - after all it is their show. However many designers give a degree of latitude to a pr firm they hire to handle the front of the house - the press and others who will be send invitations. Most of the abuse comes from certain pr firms who play favorites. Once a given publication or individual is never invited by one of these firms to any event being handled by them, they are blacklisted. It makes little difference what their status in the industry is, or that they are invited to every other top show or event, once you are out - you are out. Again, it is not that the designer does not want you, it is the pr firm that is pulling the strings to keep you out. How many times has it happened that once a client changes pr firms all of a sudden you are again included on the guest list?
For lookonline.com we have been blacklisted by Nadine Johnson and more recently Pierre Rougier of PR Consulting. Their behavior toward us has been arrogant and at times bordering on the abusive. No matter what the event, large or small, important or not we not only do not get in, our faxes and e-mails are routinely ignored. It is their way of keeping us in our place by not responding. They are telling us we are not important enough to even warrant a reply much less a courteous one.
Of course the flip side of the situation is once publicists deny access they have no additional leverage. Once a publication or individual complains about being denied access the usual thing you hear from others is basically "that's just sour grapes". Of course the others who say that are usually on the invite lists themselves. The only way around the problem is to go straight to the client. Avoid the pr firm entirely as they are not necessarily working in the client's best interest. Start sending letters to the CEO of the company, advertising director, or head of in-house publicity. explaining the situation and how their best interests are not being served. Believe me it works. The one thing publicists do not want is bad pr about them going to the client. If you are persistent, you can get a change of heart, if not of the mind, of the publicist and get yourself back on their press list.
Finally the point is not everyone is or should expect to be invited to every event. However, consideration should be based on merit not hubris. A fair shake is a reasonable expectation.