My sympathies are with fashion PRs who have been clearly struggling about what the hell they’re supposed to communicate as the Covid-19 continues to hit Britain.
With consumer demand down, physical stores closing their doors, their brands are struggling and they need press attention more than ever. But is anyone interested in writing about fashion? Is it appropriate or frivoulous and unthinking? Do publications still want fashion content
Well, I’m still being commissioned to write about fashion. I’ve just filed a piece on Glastonbury style – even though the magazine knows that is unlikely to happen this year.
And I’m writing about house shoes and slippers for How To Spend It, where the tone and subject is now more about luxury as comfort.
I did a quick call round yesterday to check the current mood on the fashion desks. They ranged from cheery to grave. While one national newspaper has removed its weekly fashion pages to make way for a more general features section geared towards reassurance and raising spirits, The Times is “business as usual”, according to Fashion Editor, Harriet Walker.“Especially with fashion - so our editors have told us - because people need cheering up!” she says. Similarly, The Mail is also producing lots of “upbeat content” that includes fashion and beauty.
“We definitely still want to keep our readers informed and also give them a bit of hope, humour and distraction,” said Hannah Marriott, The Guardian’s Fashion Editor. So it’s more or less business as usual at the moment, although we are adjusting and calibrating as the situation changes.”
Karen Dacre at The Evening Standard strikes a graver note. As the newspaper of the capital, where Coronavirus is currently hitting hardest, focus has had to shift dramatically. “Not just from going out to staying in, but on a taste level too,” she says. “During a time of extreme crisis, and for as long as The Standard can continue to print, our purpose needs to be offering genuinely helpful advice to readers,” she says. “The paper will be packed with things that are more practical than ever before. There’s a sense that escapism is still needed so there will be lightness too, but we will have to pay very close attention to what feels appropriate - that will change as the situation does. Fashion-wise, we currently think our readers will still like to shop, but they will be looking to websites instead of stores. They are less likely to be focused on big trends but on feel-good items, comforting fabrics and purchases that can support small businesses during these awful times.”
I think much can be learnt from Dacre’s words. Erring on the side of practicality, being sensitive and considerate in tone and message, but also striking a tone of optimism and a sense of values, would greatly benefit all brands and the people who speak for them.
Good luck out there!