The year of 2006 was interesting and remarkable for Bulgarian fashion. Along with the inevitable dynamic processes, related mainly to the decline of some names of artists and companies and the rise of others, some specific trends of restructuring, regrouping and rationalization of the creative process and forms of participation in designing clothes and accessories, as well as in the fashion business and production of clothing and textile in general were observed. Economists and statisticians would use numbers and concrete data to provide arguments about their claims that production and export of clothing and textile marked a progress and a certain growth and would most probably view in a greater detail the investment climate in this sector in Bulgaria - now and in future. Our task, however, is related to penetration in the "behaviour" of designers and fashion houses and especially, to their way of communication with society, with their consumers, and, on the whole, with the general audience. What is it all about?

Doubtless, there are promising symptoms, related to the bigger fastidiousness regarding the working out of advertising and PR materials, the organizing and carrying out photo sessions, as well as the implementation of various attractive marketing forms. A positive fact is the observed (although in individual cases) bigger care for the creation and maintenance of an adequate image in the public space, either on their own or with the assistance of specialists consultants, or by hiring professional agencies and press-offices. A good sign for the rudiments of a new communication and media policy is the fact that a number of designers who have come in the focus of electronic or printed mass media, participate in shows and programmes or express themselves on the pages of magazines and newspapers in a far more responsible, competent and representative way than several years ago. Although with difficulty and slowly, an increasing part of the designers of fashion collections are becoming aware of the great role of the personal culture, knowledge and competence in media appearance - a role, contributing to increasing the readability and understandability of their messages to connoisseurs and buyers, actual or potential customers. Especially impressive are those who manage to talk conceptionally and to present their ideas in an intelligent and very erudite and argumentative way, to view fashion and its products not only as business but as art as well and an extremely effective form of self-expression.

The honest and thorough look in the way the designer circles communicate with and through the media, however, shows that there are contradicting trends. On the one hand, there are symptoms and signs of a "new communication order" and "successful media strategy" in the fashion design, but they seem to be rather loose and they are often displaced by the still raging crisis of publicity in the contemporary Bulgarian fashion. Which are the dimensions of this crisis? They are many and different, however, we shall point out four essential dissonances, which actually sound as a crisis:

  • The first dissonance ensues from the drastic incompatibility between the way of making advertisement or establishing public relations of our own fashion subjects - Bulgarian manufacturers and designers of clothes and representatives of foreign brands and importers of clothing, cosmetic products, perfumes, accessories, decorations, etc. Doubtless, the representations of famous foreign brands offer a much more qualitative, professional and uncompromising system of public communications (often by means of ready advertising and PR products), which has been tested and yields good results. Our manufacturers of clothing are lagging behind as a way of thinking and as a concrete communication technology, and as a range and system of investments in mass communications and publicity.
  • The second dissonance concerns the attitude of designers and companies to life style and fashion journalists, including the media themselves, programmes, columns and shows. Still, many of the manufacturers, businessmen, entrepreneurs, designers of fashion and fashion goods do not distinguish clearly between a journalist writing about fashion and an advertising agent or intermediary. For them, there is no difference between advertisement and PR, and probably, due to this reason, they unfortunately believe that everything could be bought, including praises, media comfort and positive responses on behalf of the journalists, who are "showered with attention". And the professional and correct reporters, commentators and editors need one and only thing: trustworthy information, photos (possibly of high quality and original) and invitations for the fashion events - shows, presentations, performances, etc., offered to them on time.
  • The third dissonance, which speaks about a crisis of publicity in the fashion sector in Bulgaria, corresponds to the damage of excessive self-confidence, reaching to a self-oblivion of some designers, tradesmen and manufacturers, which blurs their true ideas about the level of the fashion goods and services produced and offered by them. They are often more interested in what is written and spoken about them rather than something more important: whether and to what extent the product created and manufactured by their fashion houses, boutiques and companies is actually fashionable and functional, competitive and fresh, i.e. the role of media expression is exaggerated in an unjustified way at the expense of a more self-criticizing and demanding scrutinizing in their own work.
  • The forth dissonance is rather tied-up with weaknesses in the preparation of own communication strategy. By their own efforts or by means of experts and consultants in public relations, image-making and advertising, the Bulgarian fashion space subjects should have clear goals, methods and tools to achieve quality, significant publicity. Currently, chaotic, spontaneous and impulsive work has been carried out in many of the cases. We would not like to also dwell on a rather unpleasant moment, speaking about bad professional ethics and lack of loyalty in the cases, when a "black PR" is organized and carried out, when journalists are persuaded to slander and throw mud over a competitor or downgrade and hide the competitor's achievements, prizes, successes.

Not only beginning designers and entrepreneurs, making their first steps and needing public recognition require media policy and public relations. Launching in society through media is also as important for the already known brands, personalities and products. The PR of the already popular corporations or separate eminent fashion artists is even more necessary, as the achieved popularity is extremely expensive capital, wealth and riches, which should first be protected and not spilled out or destroyed. The way to protect high reputation and good name is one of the basic tasks of this type of media policy. Another, not less important obligation is every piece of new information about the fashion house, company or designer to be managed intelligently and professionally. This type of public relations is not only of supporting and reminding nature. Analyzing the concrete status of the organization or individual, which have been launched in public space, as well as of the public opinion itself, their PR will assess whether to maintain specific attitudes in society regarding them or to change the focus on values in another, more topical and more significant direction.

We should be aware that success (including the one in fashion circles) is a relative value. The fashion designer or company could hardly succeed in the sphere of professional expression without leading an adequate information and media policy. The success could also be achieved without the intervention of experts in publicity and communications, public relations and image-making, but then the company or the individual have to take care by themselves for their image, for their public manifestations, for the information and communication strategies regarding public opinion. Something like that is possible, when charismatic and especially influential persons are concerned. However, they could also (disregarding their intuitive and most often improvised PR) drop a brick either because of high self-confidence or excessive unceremoniousness with audience, or because of ignorance or lack of information on a given topic, which have awakened public interest.

A good PR specialist in fashion and fashion design should combine the capabilities of a journalist with quick reactions, a scientist - analyst, a perfect actor and a talented stage director. The ability to communicate, the balance and originality in thinking add to the portrait of the specialist in the sphere of fashion PR. It is very important the good image-maket to be a high-quality shadow instead, as there are some cases in Bulgaria, when he raises much more media noise about himself rather than about his client. We will remind here a Chinese saying, which was also a favourite of Roland Barthes: "The darkest place is always beneath the lamp". However, we should not forget that the PR is the one, who usually switches on the lamp. Regarding the assessment about the PR specialist, we will quote three US professors Newsome, Turk and Crackberg, who say that a PR-man is as good as the reputation he has earned. They offer one standard for his assessment only - the ethics of his behaviour.

Lubomir Stoykov


1. Introduction
2. Fashion and humanism
3. Golden needle 2005
4. Fashion mercury 2006
5. New generation of designers
6. The europian union ordeal

The Almanac of Bulgarian
Fashion 2006 supports
Nationwide Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign
under the aegis of the First Lady Zorka Purvanova

Copyright © 2007 Lubomir Stoykov

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