A couple of weeks ago, something curious happened. The Mulberry Bryn Bag debuted on the brand’s website, and simultaneously, a bunch of fashion sites dubbed it the next big thing! The second coming of the Mulberry Alexa! The greatest thing since the Celine Luggage Tote! All that seems a bit…effusive, doesn’t it? Particularly for a bag that hasn’t been carried by any big international tastemakers that I can think of, other that normal Mulberry acolytes Alexa Chung and Keira Knightley.
Summer is a bit of a slow news period in fashion, of course, and sending out a well-timed press release with lots of photos and a very clear narrative about a new product is indeed a good way fill some of that empty summer space on fashion sites with your company’s pieces. (To be clear, that’s what any brand’s PR department is paid to do.) Does calling a bag an It Bag make it an It Bag, though? Is it a prophecy that can be made self-fulfilling, or is it just optimistic? Let’s take a look at how our handbag sausage is made.
Let’s look at the evidence: Vogue UK, the Telegraph, Lucky, StyleCaster and FabSugar, to name only a few, all posted about the Mulberry Bryn on July 9 or 10, all using basically the same photos. (Fashionista also posted about the bag on the 10th, but they should be credited with using the occasion to start a more far-reaching conversation about It Bags.) To me, that’s not only solid evidence of a pretty adept press department at Mulberry (Which, again, the brand is not to be blamed for. They’re simply doing their jobs. It’s up to editors to make decisions about what they publish.), but also that a press release was sent out with a storyline ready-made for writers looking for something to fill the summer doldrums. The language with which all those posts and articles discuss the bag is remarkably similar.
Objectively, is the Mulberry Bryn an It Bag? No. It’s a perfectly nice bag, and one that will surely make the brand plenty of money, but it doesn’t have that indescribable quality that the Alexa had before it that makes people immediately consult their bank accounts upon seeing it for sale. People waited out the arrival of the Alexa for months after seeing photos of namesake Alexa Chung carrying it, but I had heard not a peep from anyone about the Bryn before the press onslaught began. Marketing is important, but as we talked about last week, it can only take a bag so far. Customers have to meet the brand halfway.
On the one hand, posting about a new product with information from the brand makes sense; after all, the manufacturer is the best source of accurate news of when a bag will be available, how much it will cost and where it can be purchased. On the other hand, I get a little uneasy when a third-party news source borrows its opinion of a new piece from the brand. If we’re not here to evaluate this stuff as objectively as possible based on our industry experience and then disseminate that educated opinion to our readers, then what exactly are we doing? Fashion PR people are paid to influence the media conversation; we’re paid to make sure that they don’t do it all that effectively.
Does it bother you when fashion sites parrot press releases this way, or are you just interested in getting the info, no matter how it comes?