The “Full Look” Style Problem in Fashion Magazines


London, United Kingdom Once upon a time, stylists – or session editors, as they used to be called – were largely anonymous characters bringing together the best clothes from the latest collections and artfully putting together looks to photograph for glossy magazines.

Today, fashion designers are more visible than ever and the profession has become highly desirable for a younger generation more informed than ever about the inner workings of the industry. But as fashion editors become more and more dependent on advertisers, the nature of the profession is changing. This change is more visible in terms of restrictions imposed on stylists by fashion brands to only present “complete looks” from a given collection.

“I really feel like it’s become more common over the past couple of years,” says an established stylist, speaking on condition of anonymity, who began by assisting prominent personalities and has six years of experience in editorial shoots. “This is particularly noticeable when a house hires a new creative director and the brand’s style is being redeveloped or completely changed. It really affects the work. Either one really needs to find a look in the collection that loosely works with the theme of the shot – this is especially apparent when shooting advertisers – or it can even restrict the photographer, forcing them to only photograph them. only partially as a portrait or detail photo. . “

You are not a good stylist if you do full looks – you are a dresser.

Certainly, the brands that have the most influence on how their collections are designed for publishing are those with sizable advertising budgets, and that power is especially valuable when a new brand aesthetic is established.

Of all the fashion houses to publish style diktats for fashion magazines – including big brands like Saint Laurent, Celine, Christian Dior, Balenciaga and Louis Vuitton – Calvin Klein, it seems, is currently the most demanding. With Raf Simons in place as the newly appointed Creative Director, the New York-based brand is keen to cement the Belgian designer’s vision for the brand by issuing tough commandments for publishers. The rule is that all items from Simons’ first ready-to-wear collection (Fall / Winter 2017) must be photographed as a full runway look, and not styled with other brands (even unbranded clothing and vintage clothing) or even items of other looks from the same catwalk collection. Even accessories should not be worn with any other clothing: the brand will offer a nude nylon body to accompany a pair of ankle boots. Essentially, the clothes should not be styled at all, but simply placed on the model as seen on the catwalk and in the brand’s advertising campaigns.

“A full look gives a stronger message,” says one senior fashion publicist, also speaking anonymously. “With a new Creative Director, a change in aesthetics means you can define what the look is and that comes down to having a very clear vision and purer communication of it.” From a publicist’s perspective, there is also the logistical advantage of sending each complete look as a package. “A look will go from shot to shot,” explains the publicist. “If you divide a search, it becomes fragmented. When he is [sent out and photographed] as a complete look, it’s not split between five different shoots around the world.

This new standard in fashion photography has, however, frustrated many stylists. “You’re not a good stylist if you do full looks – you’re a dresser,” says Alexandra Carl, fashion director of Rika, a biannual style headline, who has also contributed to W and Vogue Italia. “It takes creativity away and kills inspiration because it’s so heavily controlled. How am I or a photographer going to stamp it? As a freelance title, Carl says the pressure from advertisers on Rika is not as great as when working on mainstream publications. “People should watch the credits and be surprised,” she said. “The Balenciaga collection is already beautiful, so it is not difficult to make it beautiful as it is. It’s much harder to mix up commercial pieces and make them look cool.

I have to explain to people, ‘This shoe is the reason we’re on this shoot. It’s paying for the shoot.

On the flip side, some argue that a seasoned stylist can and should work within the parameters of such restrictions and produce inspiring images regardless of pressure from the most prominent advertising brands. “When you work on copywriting you get a list of advertisers and it’s been going on for a very long time – I was a baby in Bazaar when I got that list,” Melanie Ward told BoF earlier this year. “I have to explain to people, ‘This shoe is what we’re on this shoot for. It pays off for the shoot, so it’s up to us to take a nice picture with that shoe on and see the character and imagine her wearing the shoe and she has to own the shoe. You have to take the challenge and not be negative about everything. Take it as a positive challenge! “

The tightly controlled restrictions on traditional magazines have coincided with the rise of social media and a wave of more relevant images from personal style bloggers and influencers, who mix high-end brands with high-end labels. range and benefit from lucrative affiliate partnerships with multiple brands. e-commerce sites. “[It] can be traced to ‘real people’ who wanted to see fashion clothes worn in real life, ”says Camille Charrière, who started her personal style blog, Camille Over the Rainbow, in 2010 and now has over half a million followers on Instagram. “If magazines refuse to mix the highs and the lows, or at least all the highs together, I think that might explain why people would be less interested in buying this type of content because it is too designed to reflect the way we do. let’s consume fashion these days. ” She adds that stylists should be able to work with creative autonomy and that when editorials sound like “marketing tools,” it’s “something millennials just aren’t interested in, in particular.”

Do style bloggers and influencers experience the same pressure from brands to wear “complete looks”? “All the time,” says Charrière. “But I simply refuse to work under these conditions, because it does no one service. This is not what my audience wants to see and by agreeing I would be doing the brand no service either. The most important thing is to stick to your own voice. Brands will just have to learn to trust us, like we do with them.

For a new generation of creatives, the unique style can also have negative financial repercussions. “Most of the time when you’re doing an editorial as a young creative, there’s very little or no budget at all,” says London photographer Daisy Walker. “Basically you shoot for free to market yourself and advertisers dictate to magazines, which then dictate to [creatives]. The result, she says, is that the images look nothing like the original pitch and the creatives involved end up with a portfolio that is not a true representation of their talent.

As the aforementioned anonymous stylist notes: “Ironically, you get paid to style a campaign, or even an infomercial, where full looks are naturally shot, so shooting full looks because of a policy in an average editorial is not. not far from advertising. work for the brand, but at no cost.

Updated at 6:40 p.m. GMT on August 28, 2017: A Saint Laurent representative denied that the brand requires a “full look” style from editors, saying it does not require a full look exactly as shown on the catwalk and allows accessories from other brands to be stylish with its ready-to-wear products.

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