Top Fashion Journalist Says the Hack/Flack Game Has Changed

“Whenever John Fairchild, the legendary god of Fairchild Publications, was asked for his own job description, his answer proved quick and succinct: ‘I’m a reporter.'”

It’s not like that anymore, though—at least not according to this WWD report on publicists behaving…differently.

Fashion journalist Bridget Foley writes that brands in her space have increased their efforts to actively control the narrative, becoming a little less human in the process.

Foley’s biggest irritation came from an encounter with a rep who insisted that a writerly icon take his seat (before being directed to do so) at an awards show rather than spend a minute speaking to another WWD reporter covering the event.

But she has several other key points:

  • Certain designers no longer want to be included in features with “miscellaneous celebrities”, even if those celebs happen to be named Lagerfeld and Lauren.
  • Reps try to manage the editorial direction of even the lightest pieces.
  • Some PRs now insist that brand execs will not comment about anything at press events, which are always understood to be “on the record.”
  • At a recent runway show, editors were invited backstage, but only so they could “congratulate” the designer. Questions were strictly forbidden.

Basically: designers, execs and PR were far more forthcoming and even friendly with reporters back in the day (meaning ten years ago) because they understood the need to balance push with pull. Now it’s almost all push all the time.

Of course it makes sense for reps to protect their clients, but “the silent treatment” is probably not the best way to endear them to the most prominent people who cover their industry.

It’s well worth a read for anyone on either side of the equation, and now we have to ask: has the relationship changed as completely as Foley claims?

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.