Written by: Shongedzayi Sakupwanya
The words ‘Ottawa’ and ‘high fashion’ seemed incongruous to me, so you can imagine my surprise when I came upon an ad listing for volunteers to work at Ottawa Fashion Week. Intrigued, I went in to interview for an event volunteer position at the trendy Ottawa Festivals office downtown. Two hours later, I walked out as a PR intern! I was beyond excited and told anyone who would listen to my story.
Moonlighting as a retail sales associate by day and a PR Intern by night, I was tasked with doing minor write-ups; from designer profiles to press releases in the weeks leading up to the event. This was a prime opportunity to sharpen my writing skills! During Fashion Week, working in tandem with the Publicity Coordinator and the other PR interns, I was responsible for coordinating arriving VIPS, members of the press, and photographers in the media pit. As a PR intern, your role is to serve as a liaison between your client—in this instance, the liaison was Ottawa Fashion Week and the outside world. If there was a ruffled feather that night, our jobs were to smooth it over; and in a room full of over 600 people ranging from socialites, local celebrities to foreign dignitaries, we were always kept on our toes. As the weekend progressed, I learned quickly that the public relations industry requires thick skin, creativity, and exceptional interpersonal skills. For instance, in what was my wildest moment at Fashion Week, I misplaced over 600 dollars worth of photography equipment belonging to a guest photographer. My thoughts were a) how do I stall him while I look for it b) what happens if I don’t find it and c) where can I hide? In the end, I kept a cool head, found it without him ever realizing it was missing and made a friend out of him.
As the weekend rolled to a close in my post mortem of the event, I realized that for me some of the best parts of Fashion Week other than the dazzling runway shows, the glitz, and the high energy was the avenue it presented to network with larger than life personalities from all corners of the working world. I also had the privilege of getting to work with some of Ottawa’s most creative and eclectic people. I will, without question, be returning for a second season of Ottawa Fashion come next year—eager for what will be one heck of a weekend! Do yourself a favour; sign on for the invaluable experience that is Ottawa Fashion Week.
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