Mar 15, 2010

One from the Mailbag: Wardrobe for Spec Editorials

Here's an email I received that I thought might be of general interest to folks.  Chris writes:

"Hey I have a question on putting an editorial spec together, this is something I'd love to do- I have talked to some people about it and also caught your blog about it - but it seems the biggest challenge is pulling current season clothing without magazine backing, how do you approach this, or do you go with a more abstract idea that doesn't focus on brand clothes? Do you talk to editors to see what sort of editorials they would be interested in or just go with an idea you like?"

First of all, I've been called on not properly defining my terms, so I should point out: a "spec" editorial, or any project really, means you're doing it "on speculation"...there's no client attached nor any promise of publication, but you intend to shoot it as if there were and then shop it around after the fact.  With a spec editorial that means casting, producing, shooting and editing the story to magazine-quality, then sending it around in hopes of someone being interested in publishing it.  Ad agencies also design spec ad campaigns in hopes of winning a client's attention, screenwriters draft spec scripts for TV shows, graphic designers mock up spec layouts or packaging designs for existing products, etc.  In essence, it's a way of proving your chops when people aren't willing to give you a shot on faith.

Now, to the question at hand: it's actually even more complicated than that, Chris.  Not only do you need to obtain the wardrobe without a magazine's endorsement (or "pull letter"), you need to obtain next season's wardrobe.  Yeah.  It just gets better and better.

The idea is that the fashion in an editorial should be current and relevant (if not cutting-edge and prescient) when the magazine hits newsstands, so that means being ahead of the curve...potentially several months ahead of the curve to accommodate the time necessary for a magazine to be edited and prepped for print.  Luckily the fashion industry is built around this, with new collections designed and executed a season in advance to allow for garments to be shopped to wholesalers/retailers and mass-produced - prototypes, or "samples", may be available even though the final product isn't. 

Your best bet is hiring or collaborating with fashion stylists who have their own relationships with designers, know what looks and styles are on the verge of hitting the public and can borrow samples more-casually - you may not get next season's BCBG or Hugo Boss or Prada but you will get clothes that people haven't seen yet.

And here's another good tip: if you're shopping to smaller independent magazines, smaller independent designers' wardrobe may be the ticket anyway.  The designers will be hungry for exposure that they couldn't otherwise afford, the magazines will appreciate seeing something a little different and you could be building a relationship that you'll return to in the future.

Getting an idea of preferences from a magazine's art director, photo editor or fashion editor will certainly give you a leg up, but there's a lot you can learn just by doing your research: pull every recent back issue of the magazine you can find and get a sense for their taste and what kind of fashion they're using.

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Danny Tucker said...

Thanks for the post. Interesting reading & good ideas about approaching designers directly.

Jeremy said...

Great advice here Simon...thanks for your insight!

Melissa said...

Love it!