When I first published my series of posts about the reality behind Milan Fashion Week back in 2009, it prompted a huge response from my friends in the industry, including an email from an (ex) fashion PR that had me hooting with laughter — and wincing with recognition. It was so good, so spot-on, that I persuaded her to let me post it here. She agreed — if I promised never to reveal her identity.
So, here I presents for the second time, my Deep Throat publicist’s riposte to my fashion editor’s view of Milan Fashion Week:
Much as with Senior Editor jobs, the life of an upscale fashion label PR looks just faaaaabulous from the outside, parties, free stuff, behind-the scenes access, international jet setting, etc. But the Milan shows are more of an endurance trial for the average fashion flack than a hotly anticipated jaunt. There are a number of absolute certainties:
1. Your client will spend the absolute minimum on your presence in Milan, which means 5am flights (yup, that’s 4am check-in), strictly cattle class. Not only will you be in full body shock at the fact you had to get up at 3am and get dressed in the PR uniform of smart black clothes, but when you get to the airport, you will instantly run into around 25 other PRs, editors, models and maybe a sprinkling of your own clients. Etiquette demands hello-nodding and polite chit chat in the coffee line. It is 4.30am.
You will then purchase the following for the 1 hour plane trip: 4–6 heavy glossy magazines, 1L bottle water, industrial quantities gum. On boarding, you will go to sleep immediately and then have to schlep this stuff around for the rest of your trip. If you are spectacularly unlucky you may end up next to an editor of one of the magazines you are reading. You will then spend the following hour making enthusiastic noises about the contents of said magazine at the hypersensitive editor with a degree of diplomacy that would impress Kofi Annan. It is not yet 5am.
2. There will not be a car and driver waiting for you. On landing, you will negotiate a 1,000,000,000 person line for cabs, replete with a surprising number of snappily dressed Italian gents who will shoulder their way into the queue in front of you. Practice saying no politely. Milan is a company town and they probably work for your client, or the show producer or any of the three million other people who can make life hell for the unwary PR.
Surmount almost impossible odds and get a taxi. Your driver will be either super surly, or chatty. Practice saying ‘Guarda la strada!’ (‘keep your eyes on the road!’) to these second sort, who will be turning around in their seats to talk to you. This type will also probably try and ask you to go to a discothèque with them. It is now about 9.30am.
At this point your office will start emailing you to tell you about all the editors who are complaining that they do not have their invitations/do not like their seats. Use the trip into town to get busy with this or feel the near-biblical wrath of both your client and the editor at some not-too distant point. You will also now start cheerily emailing and texting your way through an enormous list of editors – just to check they are coming/have their tickets/know you are on their case. Some people might think this is stalking – really it’s more like preventative insurance against getting sacked the minute you meet your client and they start interrogating you about who is coming in a way that would have made Himmler proud
3. Off to your hotel? Ha haha hahahhahahaha. Don’t be silly, you need to go straight to headquarters for the international meeting of all the PRs from around the world. Arrive at your client, find them closeted with the other countries’ PRs. It is a fact that however you try to reduce times on your trip, you will always be the last one into this meeting. Put your suitcase in the corner and try to look professional and worth your fee. Remember to say noteworthy things about the important editors you have had texts from in the car from the airport, whilst kissing your clients hello.
4. You will then enter the Endless Meeting, during which you will simultaneously try to look interested at the numerous statistics about page space and comparisons with money spent on PR and money spent on ads that your client will be explaining, and deal with several million more emails and text messages about show tickets and seating plans. Do a bit more email and text stalking. All the other countries PRs will be doing this too, occasionally having to leave the room to deal with a particularly shouty fashion assistant (presumably standing next to their editor, whose seating allocation they will be calling to complain about but who is waaaay too grand to speak to the PR themselves).
PART TWO TOMORROW!