PR 101: I am enough

Just like a business, we personally rely on our reputation so we should all know a bit about PR.  The other week I saw movement maker and musician, Charlie Dark talk about his life through the theme of encouragement. The plus one of a friend, I had no idea what I was walking into when I pulled-up a pew in the charming chapel at The House of St. Barnabas, a not-for-profit members’ club in London.  Here is some of the wisdom I walked away with intertwined with stories from that week.  I hope it helps your understanding of PR and why we should all be PRing not only others, but ourselves.

My professional reputation had me addressing a room full of women in business on the power of PR.  In the name of encouraging women through mentorship, of course I was game, and armed with a decade of experience in PR to talk about. Less seasoned in running my own business, the journey for Reclaimed Woman has just begun, so I felt like an imposter advising women on their businesses when I too am a beginner.  Charlie Dark had his audience introducing themselves to the person next to them by paying them a compliment.  Charlie explained that as children, we lap up encouragement but as puberty hits we’re more ready to reject compliments.  PR and positive talk have the power to influence perception. Talking myself back into being comfortable at beginner phase, open to encouragement, helped both me and the audience recognise our abilities and limitations to move forward for the future.

A few days later, the future kicks in, and I am in a café feeling momentarily flat.  An older man (about 70) with a face as youthful as my new business joins the queue and asks me: “Are you a happy bunny?”  At that moment, I wasn’t, but with his genuine smile and my answer that I was, I suddenly was.  His question was his PR, you never get a second chance at a first impression and his charisma totally transformed my mood.

Charlie Dark started and finished his talk with the importance of finding your champions, people that will not necessarily always give you or tell you what you want to hear, but that will encourage you.  Growing-up in a part of London where people on his street didn’t make it much further than their neighbourhood, all Charlie wanted was a bike so he could explore a bit further. Instead of the bike-shaped present he hoped to see one birthday morning, his mum presented two gifts.  The first was a box of pins and the second was a globe.  She told him to close his eyes and put a pin in the globe, for wherever it landed, she would take him.  The pin landed on the boot and kicked Charlie and his champion to Rome.

I just lost one of my champions to cancer.  My friend Charmaine was a talented costume designer with confidence that she shared with everyone that crossed her path.  Dressing actors and models, she saw the insecurities that don’t come through on screen and found admirable self-believe.

Build your champions in the media by believing in yourself and what you are pitching.  Every morning, Charlie Dark wakes up to a wall of street art in his garden with these encouraging words.  Repeat after me: “I am enough.”

©Photograph  of me wearing a trench by independent designer Naya Rea courtesy of All Women Should Own – a new project with my friend and champion Roxanne Chen.   To be continued…

Defining sustainable fashion with Stella McCartney’s Dessert Island Discs

Aside from the fact I love a bit of Radio 4’s Dessert Island Discs (where presenter Kirsty Young asks famous guests to pick eight records to take if they were to be stranded on a dessert island), Stella McCartney’s Dessert Island Discs seemed a good excuse to define sustainable fashion in eight dresses.  

 The local dress

It’s not always the case that made on your doorstep is more ethical, but shopping in local boutiques makes it easier to enquire about the designers and makers.

Stella McCartney  –  “I’ve also thought it takes a lot to buy something made well, that is mindful in design and manufacture. You have to make those decisions based on who you are and have them bring something else to your life, make your life better, but not make your life not your life.”  

 

 The ethical dress

Eco-friendly designers and eco-collections support fair wages and working conditions, use eco-friendly fabrics and are mindful of animal rights, energy, water use and toxic pesticides.  Look for certifications like Fairtrade and GOTS  aka Global Organic Textile Standard and self-enforced codes, which you will find on the brand’s website.  They will be easy to find if they advocate transparency.

Stella’s Winter 2017 campaign explores waste & overconsumption

 

 The charity shop dress

A great way to shop guilt free.  I’ve been shopping in charity shops since I was a teenager when my mum did a stint volunteering at an alzheimer’s charity shop, so it comes naturally to me.  They are often the most local option for clothes and occupy what could otherwise be empty shops on your high street.  Most of us are guilty of buying something we never get around to wearing.  What’s one woman’s afterthought is another’s treasure, and these untouched gems regularly end up in charity shops.  Dresses with the tags still on, designer  and homemade dresses, I’ve discovered them all in charity shops.

 

 The vintage dress

The antithesis of fast fashion, true vintage appreciates value with time. Vintage is an overused term, too often used to describe pre-worn clothing from any era, but real vintage is at least 10, more likely 20 years old.  My personal favourite form of sustainable fashion, vintage shopping comes with an appreciation for an item’s unique journey.

Kirsty Young  –  “If you go out and about and see somebody wearing a jacket or a pair of trousers that you designed 10 years ago, do you think that’s a triumph then if she is still wearing them 10 years later?”

Stella McCartney  –  “Yes, Definitely…and actually it was funny, there was was somebody I saw in the street, only yesterday that had a bag of mine that was about 10 years old and she looked at me and I looked at her and I thought, this is awkward and I was really chuffed. For me it’s a real achievement.”

 

 The make do mended dress

We live in a disposable era. Cheap fashion discourages the need to develop basic mending skills.  I’ve read many articles telling people to save the planet by learning to make their own clothes.  If you have that skill, creative urge, and time, amazing.  If not, get to know a good tailor who cannot only extend the life of the clothes in your wardrobe by mending and altering them, but also help when you find one-of-a-kind wonders in charity shops or vintage shops that need tailoring to your size.

Stella McCartney  –  “I’m not interested in landfill, I’m interested in reuse and continuous design, I think staying power in every sense of the word is really important.”      

 

 The leased dress

Online rent-a-dress options have been growing, which is good news for party dresses that get worn once and then left for landfill.  Imagine – one dress provides multiple women with happiness! That’s now a sustainable business plan for sites like Chic by Choice, Dream Wardrobe and Girl Meets Dress.  I have yet to try it, but I suspect it will become increasingly popular as emerging brands like Laura Ironside (above) slow down the fashion cycle and lease their collections.

 

 The swapped dress

You’ve heard of the phrase, go shopping in your wardrobe?  Well, how about shopping in your friend’s wardrobe?  Obviously ask first.

 

 The Stella McCartney dress

Saving up for an expensive dress, even if it’s the dress of the season like this Spring 2011 Stella dress, is slow fashion because I’m still enjoying it today.  When you genuinely invest in clothes, you reduce the amount of clothes you need to shop for.

Stella McCartney  – “I definitely understand the idea of being yourself and not trying too hard through what you’re wearing.” 

Kirsty Young – “That seems like a contradiction to say not trying too hard from what you are wearing because surely buying expensive clothes is about trying hard.”

Stella – “No, I think you have to wear the clothes, not let the clothes wear you.  It’s really important for you to take control of your wardrobe.”

Listen to Stella McCartney’s Dessert Island Discs 

Shop Stella McCartney

©Photographs Reclaimed Woman and courtesy of Stella McCartney & Laura Ironside

3 PR tips you could pick-up from your UPS driver

Thankfully things have moved on since my first days in fashion PR as an intern aka glorified parcel deliverer, but whether you are looking to get into PR or making steps to PR your own brand, there are things you could learn from your UPS driver.

  Map your route to cover more ground with fewer stops

PR is the strategy for your story.  Map out the process and plan your interactions.  Your moves make the story you want people to tell about you and your brand.

Driving in reverse is discouraged

There will be times you find editorial or an opportunity where you or your brand didn’t make the edit or wasn’t even in the running.  Don’t email bomb or call with ideas fitting for a feature that has already been published. Acknowledge it, but don’t dwell on it because that editor or influencer has moved onto their next piece and so should you.

 They deliver some odd things

But you shouldn’t.  When pitching to press –  make it easy, make it engaging, try to put yourself in their position.  Is your product, launch, collaboration relevant for their style and content?  Or is there a unique angle that might work for them if it doesn’t immediately align with what they regularly do?  Avoid odd, but don’t shy away from surprising.

©Photograph Reclaimed Woman