Saturday, March 07, 2009

What I actually do...sometimes...

I really do need to work on leaving the house occasionally. It’s one of the reasons why having a Proper Job is good for me, even if my talents are probably better suited to being freelance. This is because I’m unusual in the fashion industry as I have worked as both a stylist and as a writer, & jobs that combine both disciplines are rare. (I generally describe myself as a writer these days.) The freelance projects where I can write & style, with deadlines set by others, and which pay very well have always been high on my list. Not least because they mean I have to get out & about, but don't have to work from an office.

These projects are generally either as a fashion editor on various contract publishing magazines or as a consultant on their launch or re-launch. (Contract magazines are the high circulation, usually giveaway, mags produced by a publishing house for a client, such as in-flight mags or mags for shopping malls, that kind of thing, rather than for general sale on newsstand.)

The job isn’t that different from that of an editorial fashion editor, just substitute tricky editor in chief for tricky client. Usually it involves coming up with all the fashion content of the magazine, both written & shot. The editor then either writes or commissions the copy, and conceptualizes the fashion stories, working with the art director to commission photographers, cast models, book hair & make-up, and choose suitable locations.

The overall difference from straight editorial work on contract client magazines is in providing content that is both acceptable to the client and not so bland that editorial interest is completely subordinated to commercial considerations.

This can be quite a tightrope to walk as often the product we have to shoot is not enormously appealing, and clients are often extremely opinionated but not necessarily informed. (For example: choosing models. If the managing editor is inexperienced enough to give the client ultimate sign off on model choices it can take weeks to find a compromise choice, as the client will ALWAYS want to book a model based on who they fancy or admire, rather than picking the model who is best for the job, a subtle differentiation you generally only recognize when it’s your job to book models, rather than gaze at them.)

On my last job, over a month & with the help of my wonderful assistant, I styled over 100 pages of commercial fashion editorial, covers and on-line content on location in South Africa (necessary to enable summer clothes to be shot in sunshine in January) and in the studio in London.

The difference on these shoots from standard editorial work was that instead of making sure I included pieces from major advertisers in the fashion stories, I had to ensure coverage of practically every label stocked at every retailer renting store space across the client’s four shopping malls. (In reality this meant not only calling in product from publicists, editing the selection down and packing the product (listing every single piece on customs forms), but tracking the photographic placement in the fashion shoots of over two thousand pieces of vital fashion product on location, without duplication or error, bearing in mind the malls all had separate stock allocations, vastly differing client bases, & the models didn't always fit the clothes. It involved way, way too much use of Excel for my liking.)

In the same way that advertising pays way more than editorial work, these projects can be pretty lucrative, as the pay needs to be high enough to ensure that good editors & photographers are happy to work on what are often extremely commercial projects. Money jobs like these have great rewards: they often involve shooting on location in lovely places, with fab crews, and can be unexpectedly challenging from the editor’s point of view (see Excel use above). This is a good thing: no one wants their brain to atrophy, a constant risk in fashion editorial work.