The age old adage “when you put lipstick on a pig, at the end of the day, it’s still a pig” is used to convey a message that cosmetic changes ultimately don’t cover up an inferior product that will inevitably drag any and every person into the mud who decides to hang on for a ride. With that being said, in the world of editorial, certain visual benchmarks will get a person a long way when attempting to get a project off the ground – or merely keep an established entity in the cultural zeitgeist. Specifically, in the ever evolving world of fashion, brands must spend as much time in creating vibrant presentation as they do in manufacturing their garments. With a collective 20+ years in the editorial realm, our team provides a little insight into glamorizing the pig. Pucker up.
Read part 1 of the roundtable discussion here.
David Fischer – Founder & Publisher
Unfortunately nowadays making great product is not enough. Over the years many people have asked me advice when it comes to creating their own brand, and even though I have not personally done it before, I have had many discussions with brand founders over the years and have seen hundreds of brands come and go. Creating a nice design and producing a nice garment, is only one piece of the bigger puzzle and it is not even the most important one. The business structure behind the brand and the communication are actually what makes or breaks a brand in my opinion. The ones that have succeeded over the years have gotten these things, this balance right and the others, that went away or barely made it, have gotten one of these wrong. Create a strong foundation and build on top of that.
When it comes to specific visual guidelines for presenting your brand to media and a site like ours, I think Pete and Luis are much better at explaining what is exactly needed. All I can say is again, be prepared. Have your lookbook/product shots ready in high quality. There is nothing more annoying than having to email back and forth five times just to get the right image quality sent over. Have all important information, such as price, availability and release date ready. Basically make it as easy as possible for the media outlet, which means that no questions need to be asked. The more barriers you put up, the better and more interesting you have to be, otherwise you will just drain in the hundreds of emails that the press gets daily. Even seasoned press agencies are still getting these seemingly simple things wrong every day. One agency sends you mini pictures, the next one sends over 3 GB of images. Simple things go wrong all the time and they just should not. If you do get the parameters right though, you will come out on top and the product that you have put months – maybe years – of effort into, will finally get the eyeballs it deserves.
Pete Williams – Editor-in-Chief
While David pointed out that presenting your product in a way that does your work justice is crucial in success, in some ways, in today’s market it’s possible to rise up on visuals alone. Where in decades past, a flashy retail storefront was one of the best ways to drive a brand feel, now it’s possible to make an even stronger impact with a carefully curated web presence. You probably don’t have to spend as much time mopping your floors and merching mannequins, so refocus that energy on your digital. Granted you have the right people on your team, it’s also going to cost much less.
The number one thing to consider with digital presentation is that the attention span today is seconds, if that. So if you’re not capturing a feeling at first glance, we, she and they will have already forgotten about you before you’ve even had a chance to say your name. We see so many lookbooks on a day-to-day, that it’s extremely important for things to be refreshing. The issue is of course that in trying to be different, things can come off corny, forced or gimmicky rather than interesting and new. That said, overall – and especially if your goal is press coverage – the worst thing you can do is create something that’s boring. If your presentation is generic, your brand looks generic. And if your brand looks generic, you’re probably not doing your vision justice.
Over the years I’ve worked with the same photographer (who is also a close friend) for nearly every shoot for my own brand Raised by Wolves and what’s impressive is how he always gets creative with the medium and not just the concept. Whether it be shooting underwater or on old Kodak Portra 400 film and a Mamiya 7, I believe we’ve been able to produce visuals that stand above much of what else is out there by going the extra mile.
From my experience with lookbook creation I’d say the two key takeaways are that, one, everyone involved in the shoot really understands the brand, and second that everyone on set is having fun with it. For me, the best way to achieve this has been working with friends. To me, it has allowed the brand image and personality to shine, and I think having that personal feel that goes a long, long way today. If your lookbook is too polished it’s just going to come off fake or cold, and again is going to miss that valuable connection you should be looking for.
Another thing to consider on top of working with people who “get it” is to consider narrative. You want people to see your photos and see themselves in that situation, and thus in your clothes. The narrative element doesn’t have to be in your face (or perhaps, shouldn’t be), but a subtle underlying theme or story goes a long way in tying together the photos and pushing through the type of vibe that connects with today’s increasingly distracted audience. Tell a story that deserves eyeballs.
Finally, please remember that you’re showing off clothing here, so make sure the pieces are clearly visible in the shots! We’ve seen way too many brands go so far with their creative that the goods themselves are lost to the concept. On the flip side of that, it can also be easy to get caught up trying to show off everything in the collection. In many ways it’s best to present your strongest pieces and go for a small selection of shots that are really going to impress the viewer rather than bombarding them with everything you’ve got. Quality over quantity – it’s an age-old adage, but I find it to be true in nearly every situation.
Luis Ruano – Art Director
Lookbooks are the key to good presentation; it’s the way you capture the mood of your designs and the overall feeling of the brand. Far too many people over-think this process and end up producing something that has little to do with the brand at all. The tricky thing about lookbooks though, is that you can always cover up deficiencies in product, yet when push comes to shove, a customer is going to want to see your gear without all the models and trees in the background. When that time comes, product shots will be mandatory. Especially if you have a web store in place.
Without a doubt, shooting product is a chore. It’s time consuming and boring, but it’s something you need to do. Shoes you can get away with fairly easily, but garments like T-shirts are a whole different ballgame. Below are five tips that can hopefully be of assistance. Click here for a good example of a solid product shot.
1. Make sure you iron the gear! Don’t be lazy, spend some good time ironing out all the creases and making sure each item is crisp.
2. Use the smallest size possible for photos. This seems like common sense, but I’ve actually seen a brand try to use an XXL for images.
3. Make sure you have proper lighting in place, you need to have some balanced light, otherwise you’re going to have one side of the garment darker than the other.
4. Try to get your shot at a 90-degree angle, directly overhead. The worse product shot is one at a bad angle that makes it look like it’s flaring at the top or bottom.
5. Retouch. You’re most likely going to have to retouch in either Photoshop or Lightroom. Make sure you know how to use those programs as they each provide useful tools to get your clothing looking good. Whether it be warping the corner of a T-shirt or cloning out lint from a pair of pants. Again, don’t be lazy, clone out all the lint and loose threads you can. Make it look as presentable as possible.
Alec Banks – Editor
There comes a point when you’ve picked out the perfect gift for a person – having spent countless days and even weeks dissecting their personality in hopes of delivering such a perfect endowment of gratitude that there’s equal enjoyment on both ends – when you have to decide on the wrapping paper. This is at the crux of what has already been explained. There’s a certain showmanship necessary when presenting a brand because while the product can be absolutely perfect, if it isn’t packaged correctly, it might already be gifted to Uncle Spam. In my experience, editorial always responds more friendly to those brands/publicists that personalize correspondences – pointing to similar material a site/journalist has covered in the past – and trying to make a human connection rather than dangling a proverbial carrot in front of a donkey’s mouth. DO use a person’s name and offer some polite compliments as this will go a long way in convincing a person that this isn’t a copy and paste job meant for a deluge of folks lurking in Bcc:.