Hello readers, I come today with a blunt post which expresses my opinions freely and implicitly. You may agree or disagree with me. Either way, ask anyone working in the fashion industry and I am sure they will be in agreement.
A designer is only as good as their last collection.
There. I said it. Harsh but true.
It doesn’t really matter what amazing things you have created in the past, the fashion industry is fast paced and furious, you’re in one minute and out the next. Yesterday is history so you have to make sure that what you’re bringing to the table today is better than anything you have done before.
With that in mind it is safe to reason that designers should endeavour to make their campaigns perfect. Whilst you may spend months creating your collection making it a real labour of love, the buck doesn’t stop there. There is no point designing an immaculate collection and then presenting it poorly with a shoddy press release and sub-standard images. This industry demands perfection.
Hero Shots / Lookbooks / Catalogues
Your lookbook is the first thing publications, buyers and stylists see. If it isn’t great they won’t look any further. A lookbook is your most recent calling card, and you must ask yourself,
‘Is this lookbook a true representation of my brand?’
If it apparently isn’t, or even if you have a little niggling voice in the back of your head telling you that something just isn’t right, you must listen to that voice. Am I happy releasing these images to the world? What needs changing? Did I cover all the bases?
Of course, the best solution is to have everything in hand pre-shoot to ensure that the production goes smoothly and you need no costly post shoot amendments.
- Samples – Make sure that these have been cut and constructed to perfection. If they are substandard send them back. If they have loose threads trim them. You must capture these samples looking as near as dammit to the finished product, or who is going to buy them?
- Fitting – Arrange a model casting and fitting date. To be blunt, a perfect sample can look shit if it is ill fitting on a model. If you are a lingerie designer, ensure the bra is filled out but not over spilling, make sure the centre gore is flat to the models body. What does an ill fitting bra say to a buyer? That the product is badly cut and wont support or flatter the consumer.
- Models – NEVER SCRIMP ON YOUR MODEL. Cast an agency girl that not only looks incredible but knows what she is doing. If you are a lingerie or swimwear designer it is crucial to book someone who has modelled lingerie or swimwear previously. The shoot will run smoother, faster and above all the images will look natural and comfortable with a model who knows how to work her body. There is really nothing worse than a model looking awkward in lingerie. A vast majority of women lack confidence in underwear so it is your role as a designer to say, ‘Hey, buy my lingerie, you will feel confident, sexy and glamorous.’
- Art Direction – What is the theme or tone of your brand? What message are you trying to convey? In your mind’s eye how do you envision the finished results? Creative direction is crucial and any shoot should be properly storyboarded to ensure that all aspects stay on target from start to finish. Hair, make-up, styling, location or studio, lighting and so forth all need to be pre decided and stuck to. These are your perimeters to make sure that everything you INPUT = OPTIMAL OUTPUT. You can mood board yourself, ask your photographer or even stylist to provide one. But make sure it is there to reign in all aspects of the production.
- Photographer – The tog is presenting your brand to the world through imagery so it isn’t rocket science to know that they need to be professional. But what about being compatible with your style. Do you like their personal photography style? Research photographers well. Look through portfolios of previous work to see if they have produced something similar to what you want from your shoot. If you design lingerie, has your photographer got experience photographing this? Can they provide references from previous clients if you so desire? Meet them pre shoot to make sure you are both on the same page and know what makes each other tick – personality can really be the bridge for connecting the vision of two people. Can they retouch if needs be? Or do they know someone who can? This can save you a lot of hidden costs that crop up in post.
- Stylist – I appreciate that many designers like to style their collections for themselves, and reasoning with everything I have just said above about protecting your brand you may see that fit. Fair enough. But flip it for a minute and think of it this way. A STYLIST IS AN EXTENSION OF YOU. Not only can a stylist cast a fresh eye over things for you, he/she will remember all the small details you will forget in the rush and preparation leading up to the shoot. When a stylist understands your vision he/she will pull everything together in a neat little parcel for you, and even make sure that hair and make up are complimentary to the whole look. A stylist will spend ages steaming garments, trimming loose threads, making last minute alterations, gathering all the right jewellery, hair accessories, shoes and even props. The stylist will make sure that all garments look impeccable – who wants to see a twisted bra strap or a bunched up pair of knickers?! You may laugh but the amount of creased chemises and twisted bra straps I see in lookbooks is really unforgivable. Meet up with different stylists, look at their portfolio, discuss your vision. Your lookbook will be 100% better for it.
- Hair & Make Up – Whether you have individual artists for this or someone who can can do both, again you must scour their portfolio. Can they create the look you want for your brand? Do they understand how make-up is affected in different lighting? Can they interpret your brand message and present it through their craft? Bad hair and make up can simply mean bad lookbook. You do not want an artist who is competing for the limelight and creates overpowering hair and make up. No, instead hire someone who will be sympathetic to the aesthetics of the whole story.
- Presentation Work – Get a graphic designer to compile all your images and present them in good quality printed brochures. Some photographers can do this but if yours can’t they should be able to recommend someone who can.
It seems like a lot to think of and that is why it is crucial to have the best production team you can have around you. But here’s the thing, I can telepathically hear what you are saying, and whilst you read the above you were thinking,
‘There’s no way I can afford all that’
weren’t you? Yup. See. Telepathic. I fully appreciate how for most brands, especially new and independent, that you are working with very limited budgets. Times are tight and yes, the fashion industry is feeling it. You may only be able to afford a photographer, or maybe worse, none of it. I think many designers are torn by the age old, ‘chicken and egg’ scenario, not being able to afford a good production team but never progressing as a brand because the images they put out to the world are simply not good enough. It can be a real Catch 22. In my mind the best way to attack the situation is to speculate to accumulate, beg steal borrow and plough in as much money as you possibly can to reap the benefits of a top notch lookbook. Here’s the thing, if your lookbook is poor, sales will be poor and you brand will never reach its full potential. If you want your brand to grow it is imperative that you take the MAXIMUM INPUT = MAXIMUM OUTPUT approach. Remember, you are only as good as your current collection.
Yes, when you are budgeting your production and start to think, ‘I can’t afford that pro photographer’ or ‘I can’t afford to hire a stylist‘ the real thought on your mind should be,