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Seven Months to Sunrise (AKA: a Fashion PR Book and a Baby!)

So...yeah, it's been a while. Seven month plus or minus. Sorry about that. But, there has been progress! I birthed a baby (born Jan. 15, 2016) and completed that little PR 101 book I've been blabbing about (hitting Amazon in May). And, I'm finally emerging from my little time warp hole.

The baby's amazing. The book is pretty good, if I do say so myself. It's chock full of super valuable information for Fashion PR wannabes and newbies. I would have loved a resource like it when I started out. I also think the info within would be relevant to brand owners and marketing managers working to understand what it is exactly publicists do...or what they should be doing.It basically covers everything from how to get your foot in the door to how to deal once you're in.

A second edition could probably use a more extensive table of contents for those looking to easily flip to the exact page of specific information, but it's short (140-some pages) and if favorite pages are dog-eared, it should work well regardless.

Anyhow, I'm back and will be posting new info soon. Check-out the book!

 

 

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Tips for Managing PR and Marketing Project Deadlines and Turnaround Times

PR Deadlines

Turnaround times. If you thought college deadlines were rough, you're in for a whole new world when you get into PR and marketing.

Whether or not your agency charges rush fees, just know that everything is going to be rushed. Like, crazy rushed. To the point you'll continually be reviewing the finished product for  typos and errors, shocked at how few, if any, there are.

Whether it's a look book, ad, fashion show, or blogger campaign, there will be aspects of it that are hair-raising and stressful. No matter how much you prepare and pre-plan, there are so many pieces and parts, other players, and people you are relying on for approvals, product, content, or creative, it's tough to pull everything together in an extremely structured, organized way.

When I first got into the game, the agency I worked for was very event focused. We were producing fashion shows, marketing campaigns, shock-tactic guerrilla campaigns, working with reality T.V. shows, and the like. I just thought the agency was full of  big idea people; coming up with grand schemes and barely pulling them off by the skin of their teeth. It was actually one of the reasons I left that agency. It was too stressful for me. I hated constantly planning events, trying to be incredibly controlled and on-top of everything, only to find the success of everything teetering on one celebrity, a photographer, or an alcohol vendor at the last minute.

However, as I grew in my career and worked at a few more agencies, I came to discover it was just the nature of the industry. That first agency had actually been great. They were big idea people and they were pulling it off. The stress factor and pulling things together at the last minute comes into play in every facet of the game. So, from my retrospective glance, it was better to be going big. (Might as well have something real to be stressing over, plus the payoff was so much better.)

My advice is this: Yes! Pre-plan. Prepare. Get everything as pulled together as you possibly can. Create a spreadsheet of deadlines and checklists. If it's a photo shoot for a look book, secure the location, get the necessary permits, secure the photographer, secure the models (put a hold on back-up models), secure hair and make up, secure the stylist, put together the call sheet, purchase all of the non-perishable snack and drink, book the catering, discuss the game plan with your internal team. Assign roles and make sure everyone knows what they're responsible for, especially the go-fer who will be the person running to Target for anything missed or forgotten. Finalize details with the external team. Is the stylist bringing a steamer? Or do you need to account for that? Confirm with the photographer when you need final images. Confirm with the graphic designer when you'll need the first draft of the look book for review. Confirm with the printing company when and where you'll need the look book shipped. Et cetera, etc.

You will go through all of this and the stylist will forget the steamer (no problem, you have a go-fer), the hair person will forget their color hair chalk (ditto), the model will look pudgy and not fit the samples quite right (the stylist can handle this), and the photographer will take an extra day or two to get the edited images to the graphic designer - pushing everything back - and requiring the printing company to have to send the finished product directly to your hotel in Vegas, where you will have to pick it up and personally deliver to the client's trade show booth just hours before the show starts.

The thing is - had you not preplanned, you wouldn't have made it at all. All of the hiccups along the way would have been terrible set backs. But, since you did prepare, and you anticipated hiccups, you were ready to roll with it.

That's the last key thing: Be prepared to roll with it! People make mistakes. An amazing stylist can forget to bring their steamer. It happens. It never helps a stressful situation to snap at someone - especially because you are (1) representing your client and (2) probably want to work with that person again. Prepare for crap to hit that fan and have alternative solutions for everything you possibly can. If someone truly drops the ball (like calls in sick), find a replacement as quick as you can and just don't work with them again. It is what it is, and while, yes, it will get stressful, there is no need to get nasty. It doesn't help anything. An overworked graphic designer is going to much more likely to burn the midnight oil to finish your look book if you treat them with empathy, respect, and a Starbucks gift card, than a frazzled demand to finish it.

Come up with big ideas, plot out a great way to execute them, plan for hiccups, and stay sharp, but cool. C'est tout.

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Fashion PR: The BIG Picture

Fashion PR Big Picture

Now, if you’ve read through some of my posts, you've gotten an idea of what to expect day-in and day-out in PR (if you still want more, in the book I'm going into exhaustive detail about the ins and outs).

Let’s take a quick step back to look at the big picture of Fashion PR. Really, that’s more of what it’s all about, anyway. There are so many random things that are going to drop on your plate beyond the daily grind. Plus, things change. Constantly. By the time I post this, LA could be the new couture fashion capital of the world. Editors could be leaving 1WTC in droves to go west. Probably not, but it could happen. So, like I’ve mentioned before, you must have a passion for fashion. Even before you’re a Fashion PR Account Executive, you should be following people in the industry on social media, reading WWD, the Apparel News, Refinery 29, et cetera, etc.

Beyond having the ability to get press coverage, as a fashion publicist you will be expected to be in-the-know of basically everything. Clients and randoms alike will expect you to know what the best venues are for photoshoots, parties, fashion shows, presentations, and previews. You’ll be assumed to be up on all the trade shows, brands, and designers in every category. You will also be assumed to know the newest restaurants and bars, the next it-girls and boys, best d.j.’s to have for every type of event, party photographers, fashion photographers, where to get product shots, and which model or brand ambassador to use for each and every project.

If you have the passion I keep talking about, it’s no biggie. It’ll be natural to stay up on it all.

As you grow in the industry you’ll make friends, gain connections, and have a network of people to pull from. So, even if you’re not quite sure where the best place for a gallery opening in Detroit is, you’ll know who to contact. It’s these relationships, the one’s with editors, the one’s with stylists, the one’s with tastemakers, the one’s with other publicists, and more, that people will pay you for. Don’t take them lightly.

The other reason people will pay you is two-fold: how you look and act. Okay, okay. I know that sounds superficial. And, of course, you won’t experience any superficiality in the world of fashion. But, brands, agencies, and companies will choose you over other publicists because you fit an image they want to portray. Beyond acting as liaison for their brand, you will often times be on the front lines representing their brand and it will be important to them that you fit their image.

Remember how I said something important to consider when working for a brand is liking the apparel? Well, conversely, brands will be looking at you and considering whether they want to see you in their apparel. Ouch. Right? Not all clients will be this way. There are corporate, gray suit men, who will treat you like a peon and hire you based on a whim. But, most brands seeking PR representation will want you to in some way embody their brand. Embodying a brand is based on what you look like and how you act.

You can use this to your advantage in some cases. If there is an in-house PR job you really want, or if you’re going to meet with a potential new client as part of an agency, it makes sense to dress the part. Present yourself in a way that shows you are already a member of their tribe. Regardless, it’s important to remember, you are just as much a brand ambassador and spokesperson for your clients as the bloggers, tastemakers, and models you seek out on their behalf.

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How to Get Started in Fashion PR

Just like all fashion bloggers must have a knack for depicting tablescapes of peonies and macarons, Junior Fashion PR account executives must embody a few inherent qualities to really succeed at the game. They gotta have that "spark."

Job requirements are fairly loose and depend on the agency. A communications degree is desirable and quite often compulsory. However, someone with a good connection and a lot of tenacity could find a way into an agency without a degree. The most important aspect to starting out is your ability to cultivate the attributes required for success in the field.

You must be:

  • Tenacious. And, I don’t mean just persistent, but you’ve got to be downright obstinate. If a client wants to be featured in Glamour or Women’s Wear Daily; an editor saying “no” can’t stop you. You find a creative way, or risk losing the client. And, at the same time, you need to be tactful, because you don’t want to burn a bridge at the publication either.
  • Urgent. A sense of urgency! If your Account Director says they need line sheets sent to an editor, a report compiled for a meeting, or contact info for a new T.V. show, they mean NOW. Not after lunch, not tomorrow, not after you finish your daily duty of browsing the blogs for client placements; but immediately, and with a smile.
  • Resourceful. Whether it’s finding a way to get an exotic petting zoo set-up at a trade show that doesn’t allow animals or getting that editor who has already said “no” to take a second look, you have to be your own version of MacGyver. PR is not a profession of no-men. It’s a place where you say, “Of course we can do that,” and then find a way to make magic happen.
  • Flexible. Right in line with the sense of urgency, PR requires that you be a good juggler. You must have the ability to reprioritize on a moments notice. And, you have to inherently understand what should be bumped to the top of the list.
  • Stylish. It’s Fashion PR, further explanation seems to be unnecessary. But, just in case: whether you’re working at 1WTC or an industrial warehouse space in Downtown L.A., it’s no place for PINK loungewear or anything that would pass for apparel during finals week in college. You have to be passionate about looking good, all the time.

Entering the world of fashion PR, you’ll most likely be hired on as a Junior Account Executive. This position is not always, but most likely, part time and seldom offers benefits. The pay is low. Like, pathetically low. Expect to hear a lot about the other perks of the job, such as free clothes, client dinners, and VIP access to events. However, even more likely, a Junior AE will be brought into a paid position through an internship. Yes, even to get a low-paying, part time position in this industry, it’s a good idea to work for free; at least for a couple of months.

It’s not the worst thing though. Like I’ve said before, agencies differ from one another. While they all have relatively the same end goal, the tactics and energy with how they get there, vary a lot. Internships are incredibly valuable, not only to get your foot in the door, but to make sure you’re at the right door. It’s a lot easier to step away from an internship after a couple of months than it is a job. The industry may seem big at first, but it’s not. You will see people again. At trade shows, events, and the like. So, even if an agency is totally not your cup of tea, and the boss is terrible, and you would rather eat you favorite boots than ever take a full-time position there; kindly thank them for the opportunity and hightail it to your next internship.

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Tips on How to Find PR Contact Information

Probably the number one bit of advice I have for folks interested in Fashion PR is you must be tenacious. Not just a hard worker. Not just driven. Not just into fashion. Not just well-connected. You have to be willing to do everything you can, within reason (as you always want to be honest, kind, and moral - the industry is small and any bridge you burn or hand you bite will come back to haunt you) to achieve great things for your clients.

If your client has specific goals of getting on Jennifer Lawrence or being in Vogue or getting a feature in Fast Co., you must feel the sense of urgency to make that happen.

It's not about sending off one email to an editor or publicist you've found in a random database.It's about grit and ingenuity to find a workaround - a way in. Getting a great placement is typically the result of some completely backdoor method - very seldom through a key editor or stylist; especially with a first hit.

The key editors and stylists tend to have their contacts - the brands and publicists they work with on a regular basis. You'll be that point person to a variety of editors, publicists, and stylists. But, guaranteed, you won't have the connections for the one sacred cow your client is pining for. And, your job or the client could be teetering on whether or not you can make it happen. For real. And, even if not for real, this is how you should view it.

Okay - so the client wants to get their new "it" dress on J-Law. You can't seem to get to her publicist or stylist...what to do? Who's her trainer? Does she pal around with someone who's stylist you do know? Will she be attending an event you'll be at too? Can you track down where she lives? Can you hand deliver a package to the building's super?

I've gotten product to celebs through friends, trainers, messenger deliveries to superintendents (*funny story about this one actually, if you're interested), parents of celebs, and so-on. When you're watching E! News, The Tonight Show, Entertainment Tonight, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, keep your brain on. It's research. Pay attention to who the "expert" sources are. Who are they interviewing about the latest pregnant celeb's baby shower? Birthday party, etc. Google is an amazing resource - track down their studio phone number, an email, anything - offer them some goodies first. Once you've established a relationship - see if they might be willing to give some gift bags to their top clients. Most of the time they'll be happy to - if it's decent stuff. It will provide them with a little gift for their clients - and you're getting the product in their hands. Win-win.

If you don't pay for a fancy database, editorial and wardrobe contact info is still easy to find.

Editors: While they don't tend to post their contact info (sometimes they do - so don't go crazy researching until you double-check that their email/phone isn't public), Ad Sales Reps contact info is always public. For print, there is always a masthead for both. Get the editor's name you want to contact - then take a look at the Ad Sales Rep page. See how they format their email addresses. The majority of the time, the editors will be formatting their addresses the same way. Voila.

Wardrobe/TV Stylists: This is a funny process - and expect some attitude - but it works most of the time as well. Find the main network phone number for the network the show is on that you want to get product on (sorry, that sentence seems convoluted). Say it's NBC or ABC - call their main phone line (again, Google is your friend). Ask for the show you want to contact. They'll either patch you through or give you a number. Call that number. When they pick up - ask for wardrobe like you know what you're doing. When they pick up - say you would like to send line sheets for consideration for their closet. Let them know the product will be free (ideally your client will see the value in gifting...if they don't, ugh. Tell them they'll lose out on opportunities). They'll give you an email address to send to - and since the product will be free - they will most definitely find some stuff that will work. They'll love you. See you're easy to work with, and suddenly you're a resource.

Okay, so sometimes, for stations like HBO, there isn't a mainline to call. Watch the end credits - find the costume designer's name - see if they have a website. These people are professionals and typically do have a site with contact info.

KEY - don't abuse the contact info. Reach out to them with relevant information and applicable product. Don't waste their time. Remember, even though you may have gone to a lot of work to track them down, your email or phone call is unsolicited and potentially unwanted. Tell them what you've got - and they'll let you know if they're interested.

Anyhow, those are the tips and tricks that have worked for me. Other methods - again tenacity. There are always other avenues to your end goals. Your job as a publicist is to be really creative as to how to get your client's product and information where it needs to go.

* Okay, my funny story, if you're interested.

About 10 years ago, when I was first starting out, A-Rod had just joined the Yankees and moved to a new luxury apartment complex. It was big news. So, to welcome him, I sent a care package from the men's underwear line I was representing at the time. I sent it via bike messenger to his new apartment building. Soon after, I received a phone call from the front desk security saying that the package was a security threat and we needed to send someone to pick up the package. Bummer.

We got the bag back and "happened" to mention to a NY gossip columnist that A-Rod's  undies were so hot they were a security threat. The news went viral - well, as viral as it could in 2005, and ended up in all the NY celeb gossip columns and morning radio shows.

See. Be creative.

 

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Tips for Choosing the Right PR Company

A former client contacted me recently to pick my brain about what agencies he should look at for celebrity seeding. It got me thinking about the many agencies out there. While coffee dates can be fun, an endless search for the perfect fit is not.

There are few things that drive sales faster than an item showing up on a style star celebrity like Amal Clooney or a fashion blogger like Cupcakes & Cashmere. And, if that’s the goal, it’s mandatory you go with an agency that might be able to get product on A-list trendsetters.

However, it’s also important that they have the contacts and follow-through to leverage the celeb-connection and disseminate the hits through sites like Who What Wear and magazines like Star and People StyleWatch. Because, really, if the public doesn't know what brand the celeb is wearing or where to get it; they really aren't going to do the legwork to figure it out - they'll just buy something similar.

My point is that boutique agencies tend to specialize. Some focus on celebrity seeding, some are great at event production, others are focused on getting editorial placements. Most agencies can do everything – but, depending on the brand's real focus, it's important to pick an agency that excels at the piece that’s most important to you and your brand; because if you’re looking to get clothing on Rhianna, but just keep getting great product shots in Glamour and Cosmo, you and your agency will both get frustrated at the feedback.

Many agencies will claim to do it all – and their portfolio will tend to support their claim. The best thing to do to get a real taste of their expertise is to review their website, check-out the latest placements – is it all celeb? Is it all online? Is it all business stories? Is it all lifestyle magazines? If they don’t have an up-to-date site; ask to see all of their placements for the past two months (it should be easy to compile – if they say this is a hassle you probably want to keep looking anyhow). Their latest hits are a good testing gauge for what sort of placements to expect.

 

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How to Find a Brand Voice

The Voice! Not unlike the T.V. show, finding a voice that speaks to a variety of people in an authentic, connective way - that makes them feel something real (nostalgia, passion, a sense of discovery, etc.) - is a cornerstone to effective marketing. Finding a voice for a brand or service is crazy important, but shouldn’t be painful or overly challenging.

Ultimately you want to convey who you are, what you’re about, and what you want people to gain from what you’re offering in a very organic way. If you are engrained in Orange County surf culture and launching a brand new line of organic, all-natural sunscreen, the “voice” is going to come pretty easily. Casual, laid-back, laced with surf terms, but professional and to the point. The fact that surf lingo might make it’s way into the content on the website, in social media, or even on the brand’s packaging will most definitely feel real, not contrived, because it will be language that the team uses everyday, because it is their lifestyle. So, that’s an easy one, right?

It gets a bit more challenging when you’re a major clothing manufacturer producing a number of fast-fashion collections and selling to big box retailers. Just because you have a floral print kimono in your collection, doesn’t mean you can market yourself with the voice of a gypset, boho traveler and have your audience, the consumer, actually buy into the image you’re selling. Sure you make clothes that girls at Coachella will wear - but will they remember you? Will they feel a connection with your brand? Or will they shrug and say, “I’m not sure what brand it is, I just liked the flowers,” when someone compliments them?

In today’s world of ephemeral Snapchats, downloadable mixed tapes, Santee Alley apparel, and food truck gourmet, things move fast. Unless you make a lasting impression and connect with consumers on a deeper level, you’re vanishing just like the rest of it. Brands like Nasty Gal, Tyler the Creator’s Golf Wang, 5.11 Tactical, Oakley, or the iconic Stussy have such intrinsic voices - fans of the brands believe what they sell is something they want. Even things they may have not given a second look under different circumstances or from another vendor, they will feel a connection with and have an interest in because they identify with the brand - and like a cool older brother, sister, or best friend, these brands connect with their customers on a personal level. The brand speaks to who they are, it is representative of how they would like to portray themselves to society - and that is all accomplished through consistent brand messaging - having the voice to back up the product or service.

So, back to the major manufacturer who’s just received their latest kimono shipment in from China. Just like Urban Outfitters, Converse, or J. Crew, it’s imperative for this brand to understand the product enough to hire a team that has the capability to embody the lifestyle of their 18- to 30-year-old female target. From creative direction for photo shoots to brand ambassadors, the team should be an eclectic mix of gypset, boho-loving 20-something girls (or at least appear to be) - and the VOICE of the brand better speak to the lifestyle as well. Referencing weekend getaways in Joshua Tree, matcha lattes, daydreaming of Tulum, what they love about living in Downtown L.A., or what their most excited about for their summer vacation in Portugal, the voice needs to sound like it’s from that girl. From the “About Us” to the latest Instagram post - it should be her talking.

And, ultimately, from my experience, it’s about coming up with that one person. Who is it that embodies the brand? Is it a fictional, composite character? Or is it one of the people who works for the company? I always like to write out a list as though I am about to develop a character for a novel: Where do they live? What do they drink when they get up in the morning? If it’s coffee - what kind? Are they a snob about it - or cool with instant? What do they listen to? NPR or Beyonce? Both? Where do they shop? Where do they travel? What do they drive? A Prius or a rehabbed 80s Bronco? Past times? Hobbies? Kids? Home or apartment? A loft? How is the house decorated? How do they spend their weekends? Anything and everything. As you break it down - the person begins to emerge in your mind and it is easier to figure out what they would be interested in and how they would talk about it.

Having a definitive “ideal” in your mind, helps to figure-out what to weed out of superfluous content. For example, is our boho girl going to want to know that the brand was founded by a 60-something business man, based in New York, who spends most of his time in China, and shops for his suits at Saks? Probably not - it would more than likely be a turnoff. So, having a clear cut character helps in a way censor yourself - and give a clear guide to what you want to say and what you don’t.

This is a long entry. I'll leave it at this. Find a voice through breaking down your ideal consumer, then be authentic or fake it 'til you make it.

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Thinking Fashion PR 101

Like I mentioned before, I may have an opportunity to teach a Fashion PR course. I am excited and have been thinking a lot about the curriculum, which will most likely serve as an outline for a book.

I have delayed on writing a Fashion PR 101 type book for a while. Ever since I completed my first novel and realized the time investment is manageable in small increments, a how-to book on Fashion PR was a natural fit. But, I've delayed simply because I'm sure some of the tactics or information will be debatable or quickly obsolete.

As far as my experience has shown, PR is, to put it nicely, an ever-evolving industry with much of what publicists do being based on the agency they are with and that agency's independent focus, passion, and willingness. To be blunt - it's sort of like the Wild West with great hair and manicured nails.

Some agencies focus on events and networking, befriending other publicists, agents, and celebrities, while others are focused on just product placement. Agencies can specialize in everything from celebrity seeding or social media and the digital world to event production or overall brand development and management. Additionally, there are a number of agencies now that are technically fashion showrooms - the places that work to get product to market, get sales, make the money, man. - but, they also offer PR and marketing, plus things like consulting, creative services, or event production as part of their repertoire. So, it's messy.

I've decided that even though some of the info could be particular to my experience, I doubt it's exclusive to my experience. Regardless, it worked for me - so maybe it'll work for someone else. So, I'm going to give it a whirl.

My number one bit of advice to any young'un looking to get into the industry is to do internships. Check-out a few different agencies to find what environment and focus fits your personality and talents. The first agency I worked for was really focused on events, big, buzz-worthy, press-drawing events. The hours were long and I found the pressure to make the events pay-off for the clients and sponsors overwhelmingly stressful. However, I found a great fit with another agency where the focus was more on getting great press placements through building real relationships and carefully targeting media with appropriate news - it was much more behind the scenes and much more up my alley.

So, yes, internships. Plus, most agencies are small and many hire from their pool of interns - so it's a good bet all-around.

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A Hard Day's Work...Or Something

If you’re happy following your passion, great. But, if you’re unhappy following your passion and doing it just because of inertia, then somebody needs to give you a little slap.
— Mike Rowe, Dirty Jobs

It's funny; well, sad really. I've been dealing with the same sense of disenchantment or unsatisfaction (what I like to borrow from Buddhism and call dukkha) since I entered the "real world." It's been going on long enough that what I used to refer to as my quarter-life crisis is now inching up on a mid-life crisis.

It's not for lack of trying - over the past 10 years I've lived in three different states, two different countries, held eight different jobs with three very different titles, launched a business, received a masters degree, written two novels, and published one, all while maintaining a high degree of dukkha.

I don't say all those things to brag, but to bring attention to the effort I've exerted pursuing what appeared to be worthwhile endeavors only to end up back at square one. Folks say to follow you passion and everything will work out. I think this has messed me up. I have a variety of interests - obv. And, no one single passion. Working to make things I like into a passion, or career, have in the end tainted the things I like and left me feeling pretty empty.

I should add - since I'm using the "empty" term: I've found and married someone I love and experienced a religious awakening and found a church. All of which should on some level offer fulfillment and they help...

It's just that career piece - that thing we have to do everyday to survive and that seems to have an ever-increasing value in today's society - that eludes me.

I'm wondering if it isn't just the type of work. I probably should have been a skilled tradesman or a cop. Something that kept me more active than sedentary and something that focused more on a learned skill than a natural talent. I think I should be putting in a hard day's work as opposed to sitting at a desk all day writing copy and answering emails.

But, enough about me - the thing that really got me thinking about this on a broader scale was Pinterest. Seeing the positive affirmation memes my peers are seeking out and repinning lead me to believe these feelings of..."is this it?" are not solely my own. It seems many people - those with varying degrees of observed success: homes, families, wealth, careers, et cetera, etc. are also seeking out something more.

When I started this post, I felt as though I might have reached an epiphany of sorts. But, now that I've walked through my thoughts -  I feel like I may have forgotten it. And, so it goes...

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From a #LiteraryMind Comes #FashionPR Tidbits

I was recently contacted by a photographer I used to work with a lot when I was in Fashion PR. She was hoping to work together for the shoot, me serving as shoot producer.

Even though it didn't work out, it was a flattering call to get. While there are a few aspects of fashion marketing and PR that I struggle with; producing photo shoots, most of the time for look books, was the most fun. From start to finish, coming up with a concept (the story you could say), casting models, booking the photographer, the stylist, location scouting, finalizing all of the permits and contracts, overseeing the shoot, and in some cases actually designing the look book, sending it to print, and receiving a lovely, tangible book that is a true representation of a brand's collection is an amazing feeling. A story in pictures, really. And, of course, I would always plug in great literary quotes where appropriate.

Anyhow, the call got my literary-minded brain back in fashion-mode. I have since been in conversations with a course developer at the continuing and professional education college at Long Beach State to potentially develop and teach a course in Fashion PR. Which I believe would be a really nice way to combine my mixed-bag of professional experience and personal passions. So, as we work to hash out a plan, I've begun by moving forward with drafting an outline for what could serve as the curriculum - as well as, hopefully, a how-to Fashion PR book.

Over the next few weeks, just to keep it copacetic, I figured I'd post some how-to tips and anecdotes from my life as a fashion PR executive.

Here's tip #1:

Celebrities like their hand held.
Fashion editors do not.

This is sort of literal - but, mostly figurative.

From my experience, if you're working an event where there are a number of celebs - and should they be required to do anything - like, walk down a runway - they want you to help them, reassure them, support them, as much as you possibly can. If they must be led from Point A to Point B, you will need to hold their hand. No joke.

However, if you are meeting with fashion editors to, say, show them a new collection, they might shake your hand - maybe. You'll more likely get besos - little Euro-style air kisses. They aren't being rude, it's just a thing I've noticed. Talk to them about the collection, offer helpful facts, such as where the line is sold, what it retails for, which celebrities are wearing it, et cetera; but they don't need you to take too much of their time, they don't need you to literally walk them through the line - they know what they like. Just stay close by in case they need you to hold up a specific style, so they can take a picture for future reference. But, no hand holding.

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The Wayward Return Giveaway on Goodreads

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Wayward Return by A.K. Mathews

The Wayward Return

by A.K. Mathews

Giveaway ends December 31, 2014.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

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I Wrote A Book & People Are Awesome

To all those who have taken the leap of faith and bought the book, I hope it doesn’t waste your time.
— me

Like I said before, I have the toughest time maintaining a blog – which, I understand is odd of someone who writes for a living; but that’s just it, I write all day, every day. I guess the last thing I want to do is blog about my life as a writer – and really, as a reader why would you want to read about it? Anyhow, it’s been a year! Not sure where the time has gone; but there has been progress. Thank goodness.

The book that I mention in previous posts is done! Complete. Published. Hooray! And, this is what I can speak to that may be of interest: Publishing. Self-Publishing, at that. My book, “The Wayward Return” was started in March of 2013, completed in March of 2014 (almost a year to the day), and diligently shopped around to agents from March thru August. What a terrible process. Especially for someone who is an unapologetic homebody with absolutely no connections or motivation to network. I don’t blame the agents. I know from being in PR how much noise I was up against pitching editors for daily story ideas – I cannot imagine how much crap these agents have to wade through to find gems – and they’re dealing with a lot of material, not a nut graph. I understand why many of them would rely on referrals or focusing on surer bets with bloggers and social media personalities that have a dedicated following. Anyhow, while I received a few responses and eventual passes (which in and of itself was a feat!), I decided the process was not for me. I’d rather have the material out there available for people to read and get started on book two.

After some research, CreateSpace (Amazon’s self-publishing division) made the most sense for me. Formatting the interior was a piece of cake in Pages and using Adobe InDesign and my basic design experience I was able to layout my own cover. So for me the expense was minimal – just ordering a proof; making some edits, and then ordering another proof. Voila. A book. I don’t have high-expectations for sales. It’s a work of literary fiction. A simple, coming-of-age (or maybe more like a coming-to-Jesus) type story in 200 pages, but I’m proud of it.

I’ve had a few moments of panic. That is the one thing…there is something to be said when someone else publishes your book – you have a second-party endorsement of sorts. In this situation it’s just me saying I believe in me; and it’s nerve-wracking to put yourself out there like that. I have been completely humbled by all of my friends and family that have expressed interest and actually purchased the book. It really is A LOT to ask out of someone. To buy something that they are in turn going to have to invest a decent amount of time in. Time is VALUABLE!! And, I totally understand that. I am so grateful for the support. To all those who have taken the leap of faith and bought the book, I hope it doesn’t waste your time. Thank you. Thank you. Happy Thanksgiving, all.



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Happy Trails

Sometimes Wednesdays are exactly what the doctor ordered. The perfect amount of get to work! and you're almost done.

Anyhow, below is a little piece I threw together for an extra credit project in a writing workshop...I apparently love writing snip-its of time; rather than fully formed short stories, will have to fix that. 

Have you ever hiked the Camino de Santiago?  I haven't.  I would love to.  I would also love to hike the Grand Canyon and Appalachian Trail. Goals.

Best, 

A

Camino de Santiago (AKA Happy Trails) by Angie Mathews (Copyright 2012)

The dog was still following her.  It stunk.  But, the putrid scent was at least a reminder of sentient things.  She pulled the brim of her hat lower to shade her face from the looming threat of sunburn.  Her feet hurt.  The hiking boots she had diligently broken in over months of dress rehearsals felt suddenly stiff and new, rubbing the tender skin of her left heel into a blister for the second time.  Soon the friction would hit muscle, or tendon, whatever was below the layers of flesh on her heel. 

Picking up her pace, she pushed forward.  The dog trotted behind.  On the horizon, where the heat emanated from the earth and mixed with the blue, cloudless sky, she could see a small group of fellow pilgrims.  As she approached, she could hear them speaking German.  

“Hello,” she said as she passed.  

“Hello,” the group said in unison.  

She charged on, the dog in tow.  Not too far down the trail, she came upon another lone traveler.  “Hello,” she said and waved as she began to pass.

“Hey there,” he said.  “Haven’t seen many people today.”

As she slowed her pace, the rotten dog scent intensified.  “Neither have I,” she said.

“Haven’t seen you at any of the pilgrim’s hostels.  How long you been hiking for?”

“15 days, but I’m in a hurry.”

“So you’re passing people.”

“I guess so.  I never see the same people twice.”

“Why in such a hurry?”

“Not sure.”  She smiled, grabbed her water bottle and took a sip.  The dog quivered into a seated position and looked at her.  She poured water into her palm and let the dog lap it out.  Turning in disgust, she wiped her hand on her shorts and squirted hand sanitizer between her palms, rubbing them together vigorously.  “Well, happy trails,” she added with a wave.

St. Anthony's Monastery, California Desert, 2011

St. Anthony's Monastery, California Desert, 2011

St. Anthony's Monastery, California Desert, 2011

St. Anthony's Monastery, California Desert, 2011

Jerome, AZ, 2011

Jerome, AZ, 2011

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Gray Little Gems

Happy Halloween! Just wrapped painting my sister's face to look like a skull - from far away it looks great. Ha ha.

Halloween 2013

Halloween 2013

 

Anyhow, staying in the vein of the macabre, I've got a super shot story below drafted in 2010. I don't know that it's even called a story, as much as the start of something; but I like the tone it sets as-is.

 

Gray Little Gems by Angie Mathews (copyright 2010)

The late afternoon dew dampens Barbara’s gray-laced brown curls. The wetness always seeps in as the sun sets, bringing the moss, ferns, earth and trees alive. She loves the scent of saturated forest floor, the sounds of brush crunching under her heavy hiking boots, and the glistening fern tips that graze the tops of her socks, under her long skirt, making a wet ring around her ankles. 

She loosely clutches her willow basket, already weighty with Morels and Chanterelles, with a plump and sturdy hand. Just a few more, she thinks, then she needs to go finish dinner before Bruce gets back from up north. He has been busy on their mountain acreage, pruning pine new growth. He will be hungry, exhausted, smelling of tree pitch and happy when he gets home. 

Noticing an old fallen log, she excitedly forages the ground surrounding the waterlogged wood and discovers a large cluster of Hen-of-the-Woods. What a prize, she thinks, as she brushes pine needles and wet, brown fall leaves from her hands and forearms onto her skirt. Collecting her treasures, she stands to head back to her car, but stops to remove bits of dirt and earth from her age-worn wedding ring with one of Bruce’s black bandanas she has taken for her own.  

Her strong, heavy, Irish legs carry her down the forest slope from her favorite hunting spot, just behind the liquor store where she parks. As she rounds the corner, by the outdoor ice freezer, her hand and arm begin to tingle slightly with a numbness of electricity, and then her chest bursts. She collapses to the ground, hitting the cement as her gray little gems bounce and scatter about.

 

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The Tea House - A Short Tale

How to begin a blog?  I've started and neglected five-ish since 2007. Everything from a blog on world produce markets to a short-lived (one post) style blog. None have felt quite right, nor worthy of my invested time writing, as I am a writer. I write copy in the form of press releases, newsletters, marketing collateral, and the like for work and in every waking moment I'm not working, I'm plugging away at my book - yes, that's right,  I fancy myself a novelist. (At least I will when I finish my novel - today, I hit page 85.)  

However, it's a bit of a conundrum these days - being a blogless writer. So, I give in. I succumb to the outside pressures of the powers that be: as a writer, one must blog. But, just like the clever/smart kid in school (no, not mister 4.5 who does nothing but study; the Ferris Buller - yeah, you know.), I'll be recycling. No need to reinvent the wheel. This blog will be a place where I revisit past pieces - some published, some not - and pair them with travel photos that I think capture a similar aesthetic.  

And, so it begins. Below you'll find a creepy little number, I drafted in October of 2010.  Never edited - just thrown together for a "Techniques in Writing" class. There are some GLARING issues with it, but like I mention above - I ain't got no time to be messing with  stuff that isn't work or the book. All that said, it's a good haunt style piece for Halloween. So, take a read. Would love to know if it creeps you out.

 

The Tea House by Angie Mathews (copyright 2010):

 Darren requested that Stacia meet him here. The Tea House. She has never been to this part of the city. It’s seedier than her neighborhood. Different. She suspects it’s the sunlight; possibly not as much, blocked by taller buildings, or maybe the streets run north and south. She glances into The Tea House. It looks nice enough. Empty, but 6 p.m. is an odd hour to be having tea.

A soft breeze brushes her arm and she’s suddenly cold. With no sign of Darren, she decides to go ahead and get a seat inside. As she enters, a small chime signals her arrival, but after a few moments and no greeting, she moves to seat herself. The space is unique, she thinks. She must walk down a small flight of stairs to enter the dining area. Flanked by what appear to be lava rocks, the walls are dark and rough; yet seem to be encapsulating heat from the two central fireplaces. The small rectangular room is warm in the same way a body is warm. Like sleeping with her cat, Lilly.

Stacia takes a seat on a large floor pillows at a small coffee table next to one of the fireplace and touches the wall. Warm, just as she thought. She’s grateful, as she looks outside and the wind appears to be picking up, whipping around leaves and trash. Music would be the perfect complement to everything.  And, the moment she thinks it, there’s a soft strumming, the beginning of a song over the stereo system. Absolutely lovely, she thinks. The rock walls appear to be offering a sort of buffer from the outside city noises. Oh, wouldn’t it be amazing to have an intimate jazz concert here, she thinks. She looks to see if there are any flyers anywhere announcing such a thing, while also peaking to see if Darren has arrived yet. Nothing.

Continuing to glance around, she begins to wonder if The Tea House is even open. It has been a few minutes, and Stacia has not seen or heard anyone. 

“Hello, miss,” a voice comes from behind. Stacia turns to face a small, young girl with ringlets of blond long hair and shocking blue eyes. Not what I expected at a teahouse, Stacia thinks.

“Hi,” Stacia says. “Do you have a menu?”

“No, miss. We don’t have menus. We offer a small daily selection of teas paired with teacakes,” the girl says.

“Oh,” Stacia says. She is intrigued. She always appreciates specialization and businesses that feature quality over quantity and convenience. 

“What sort of tea do you like?” the girl asks.

“Well, I am meeting a friend. I should wait until he gets here to order,” Stacia says. 

“As you wish,” the girl says and walks toward the back of the dining area and disappears behind a black curtain. 

Stacia looks at her watch. 6:15. Darren is late. He is always late. She is irritated that he never calls or texts to let her know he is running behind. She finds it inconsiderate and thinks that it will be the ruin of their burgeoning relationship. But, he does have great taste, she concedes. He has picked out this place and it is one of the more interesting places she has been in the city. Stacia decides she will wait five more minutes and if he doesn’t show, she will go ahead and order without him. 

“Would you like to order without your friend,” the young girl asks a few minutes later.

“Yes. Yes, I would,” Stacia says. “What do you recommend?”

“The Yin De Hong black tea should suite you very well. It has soft hints of cocoa and a sweet finish. We pair this with our mocha teacake and cardamom spiced clotted cream.”

“Mmm. That sounds delicious. Heavenly, really. I’ll take it. Thank you,” Stacia says. 

The girl nods and returns through the black curtain. 

Stacia can’t believe her luck. She is beginning to hope that Darren won’t show at all. This teahouse is turning out to be the respite from the city she has been searching for. She wishes she had something to read and then remembers that she did put a novella in her bag this morning upon leaving her apartment. What luck. 

The young girl arrives carrying a black tray with a sturdy cast iron teapot, a red velvet potholder, a black teacup, and a caramel colored teacake the size of a large cookie, cut in half, set on a black porcelain plate, with a large dollop of a jade green colored cream. 

“Thank you,” she says. “It’s lovely.”

The girl nods and again returns through the black curtain.

Stacia pours herself a cup of tea using the velvet potholder and she loves the way it feels in her hand. Absolutely luxurious. She takes a bite of the teacake and savors the richness. Delicious, she thinks. Superb. After licking her lips and some stray cream from her fingers, she takes a sip of tea. Stacia is amazed when she can actually taste the natural hints of cocoa in the brew, and yes, she thinks, it does have a sweet finish. Impressive. 

Looking about the dining room again, it appears warmer, darker, even more intimate. If she didn’t know better she would say that the front room, from where she descended into the dining room has vanished. But, that would be impossible, she decides. It must be the light. The sun is setting and must be playing optical tricks. She takes another sip of tea and it is just as satisfying, sweet and hot as the first. Just delicious, she thinks. And, another bite of teacake.

“Mmm,” she allows herself to say out loud. She giggles at herself as she realizes she is doing a sort of seated dance on her floor pillow. Just delectable, she thinks. 

Stacia glances about the dining room again and notices that Darren is standing outside and looking in the window. She licks her finger and then raises her hand to wave at him. He puts his hands against the window to get a better look inside and Stacia waves at him again. It appears that he can’t see her. It must be the reflection of the setting sun, she decides. She pushes herself up off of the floor pillow and walks to the window straightening her skirt and waving for him to come on in. He continues to look in, but appears to not see her. He turns around to face the street and check his watch. Stacia, frustrated, decides to go out and bring him in. She turns to head to the front room, but the stairs, the front room, the front door have vanished. Impossible, she thinks. I must be turned around. 

She knocks on the window to get Darren’s attention, but he just continues to stare out towards the street, rubbing his hands together, appearing cold. She looks about for the staircase and is unable to locate the entrance. I must be losing my mind, she thinks. She laughs to herself and decides to ask the girl. She heads to the back of the dining room and searches for the black curtain, but all she can find is warm, black, lava rock. Beginning to get concerned she turns to walk back to the window, but the dining room is now enclosed completely with the lava rock. 

Stacia sits back down on her floor pillow and tries to find her cell phone to call Darren. Oh, but silly her, she forgot her phone on her center table when she remembered to bring her novella, she recalls. Looking about the dining room, she takes another sip of tea and wonders when the girl will return. What a warm and intimate space, she thinks. Just amazing, really. 

 

Madrid, Spain 2007 

Madrid, Spain 2007 

Madrid, Spain 2007

Madrid, Spain 2007

Madrid, Spain 2007

Madrid, Spain 2007

La Latina Neighborhood, Madrid, Spain 2007

La Latina Neighborhood, Madrid, Spain 2007

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