I recently met with Sandy Blye, founder and president of Blye Media relations, a PR agency with a focus on fashion and luxury lifestyle. As former head of the Fur Information Council of America during the animal rights movement, and currently the organization’s agency rep, Blye was able to touch upon the historical events and social trends that have influenced the fur industry and, in effect, her PR strategies.
In the late 80’s and throughout the 90’s, Blye’s crisis communications strategy was to respond to growing criticism of the industry by claiming fur was only a small part of the complaints from animal rights’ activists. She called the time a “PR nightmare,” but noted that about a year into the thick of it, the council was able to leverage high profile support.
“It was an educational process,” she said.
Blye explained that today’s green movement is not hurting the current state of the fur industry, in part because post-9-11, activists, including organizations like PETA, became more fixated on humanitarian issues. She also noted that synthetic fur, once touted as a responsible alternative, pollutes the environment. So that’s out [in more ways than one].
She said that despite a decrease in the industry’s size, partially due to high rents on 7th [fashion] avenue, there are many more designers using fur in casual, funky ways. At the agency, Blye is currently focusing PR efforts on positive pitches and promotions, including the message that fur is no longer “your grandmother’s mink coat.”