PR Advanced: Be The Change, Looking Back (Part 4)

In this series of guest posts, participants of PR Advanced: Be The Change will give their own perspective on a different part of the day. This fourth and final post is about the Of Rags Fashion Case Study Competition.

When I found out that PR Advanced: Be The Change was  featuring a fashion case study competition, I was more than just intrigued. I hope to one day become a PR professional in the fashion industry, so I couldn’t wait to see what PRSSA had in store for those of us interested in fashion PR. Upon entering room 206 of the Photonics Center during the first breakout session of the day, I was greeted by Liz Ricketts, fashion consultant to sustainable clothing upstart Of Rags. I sat down in my seat and sized up my competition–17 girls from a variety of different schools, all of them dressed to the nines.

Of Rags is a New York fashion brand based on the principles of fair trade. With a fusion of New York style and Ghanaian culture, it produces handmade clothing designed and sustainably produced in Ghana. The fashion house returns up to 40% of the profits from clothing sales to the Of Rags Foundation, a foundation that targets public health and education initiative in Ghana. Liz Ricketts was recently hired by Of Rags to reposition the company as a fashion-forward luxury brand. Ms. Ricketts charged us with the task of working in teams to craft a PR rebranding campaign in just 20 minutes.

With a piece of construction paper and a sharpie in hand, I swiveled my chair to meet my team. Four young ladies, three from the University of Rhode Island and one freshman from BU’s College of Communication, met my gaze and we immediately started brainstorming. The five of us bounced ideas off of each other, not afraid to criticize or improve upon each others suggestions. An elaborate ad campaign and an online competition were ideas that started off with steam but were quickly dismantled once we discussed each possibility in depth. And then it dawned on us; this is a fashion company, what better to way to represent a fashion company than with a fashion show.

One of the Rhode Island ladies suggested we target Greek life as an influential college segment, a suggestion we took on board and fleshed out. As our time limit neared its end, we wrote down the idea for our campaign on our poster board–a nationwide travelling fashion show that would hit college campuses. Time was called and we patiently awaited our turn to present our concept to Ms. Ricketts and fellow judge Maureen Flynn, a BU professor.

Each presentation was better than the next. After the presentations, Ms. Ricketts and Professor Flynn took notes and scored each team in private. Ideas ranged from a limited edition couture collection to a campaign aimed at mothers and their children based on Of Rags’ recently introduced children line. As the fourth and final group delivered its incredibly detailed campaign, I had a feeling they would win. Minutes later my suspicions were confirmed; the two judges delivered each team their critique and both seemed especially taken by the fourth group’s campaign. Soon afterward, they were declared the winners.

Despite my group’s loss, we weren’t fazed. We agreed that our campaign was strong, and that we had been given an invaluable experience. Amidst our strong academic training, it is rare to get to be given the opportunity to do hands on work on a campaign with others that share a passion for your field. The competition put us in an odd situation–working with four complete strangers on a revolutionary campaign with a 20 minute time cap. With an inspiring brand like Of Rags through which to channel our creativity and our academic backgrounds, we were able to put all of our training and experience to the test. Overall, the fashion case study competition was an exciting addition to the impressive lineup of speakers and activities that the PR Advanced conference presented.

Written by James C. Odum.

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