Cruel intentions

While navigating the River Island press day it was hard not to notice a number of signs dotted about the merchandise proudly proclaiming ‘All the items you see at this press day will go into River Island stores’. Well, that goes without saying, right? Not necessarily. A common whinge from magazine readers is that clothes are featured in shoots but then impossible to find in the stores. So here’s the deal. The stores have one big presentation where they show the entire new collection to all the press. That can be newspapers, weeklies, websites, glossies. There’s no discrimination when it comes to the high street, Vogue and That’s Life get to see exactly the same clothes. When it comes to ‘calling in’ the samples for shoots, the press office or PR agency only has so much control over what gets used when. Quite often an item won’t get used for the issue it was intended for and the fashion editor will hang onto it for a future issue. By the time that issue comes out, the item has been in-store and gone. And the poor reader can’t get hold of it. This could be remedied with stricter PRs and more reader-friendly fashion editors but sometimes one faces a dilemma. If I really want to use a piece and I know it won’t be in store by the time the magazine comes out, I have to make a decision. Should I be the consumer champion and substitute something else, something less show-stopping but more likely to be available in the shops? Or should I use my beloved piece, get praised for the shoot and let the readers go without? You see the dilemma?

But sometimes the retailer is at fault. On occasion, an item will be made up in a sample, shown to the press and used in shoots. And only at the last minute will a problem be detected and the decision be made not to produce it. Even though it’s already been featured in Vogue, Marie Claire and Elle. And maybe even papped on Alexa Chung! This is bad enough, but just about excusable if it’s a production issue. But, naming no names, there are stores who are notorious for making press samples with no intention of putting the piece into production. One well-known high street store is renowned for showing a spectacular evening gown as its ‘key piece for the season’ while openly admitting to fashion editors that the piece won’t be produced. And do we care? Not enough. At the end of the day, our pages look good, the brand gets its coverage and the consumer is told ‘oh that dress was only made in a limited number and they’ve all sold out’.

Times are changing with the popularity of ‘in store this week’ pages. This trend was initiated by Grazia and copied by Glamour and Look. So magazines have to be much stricter about what they feature. It’s cruel enough to shoot an item that’s never going to be sold but to specifically send readers on a wild goose chase on a given date is beyond mean. Hence the clampdown on ‘just for press’ pieces and River Island’s statement.

Pics: River Island spring-summer 08