Fashion lookbooks – why you need them and how to make them great
If you’ve ever approached a store to stock your line you would have had them ask for a lookbook. So what are fashion lookbooks, why do you need them, what should they include and how do you make a great one?
What is a fashion lookbook?
A lookbook is a digital or printed document which features your collection. It can have a mix of editorial style images (these are styled like magazine shoots, i.e. editorials) and also your e-commerce style product images, which show off each product in its entirety.
There are 2 types of lookbooks – consumer lookbooks for the general public and wholesale lookbooks for buyers, agents and distributors.
The only difference is that wholesale lookbooks list product information that helps the buyer understand your product and pricing structure.
The purpose of a fashion lookbook
The lookbook serves as a communication and sales piece for your collection. Each collection has its own lookbook. These help buyers decide if they want to pick you up.
Fashion agents, distributors and buyers need a wholesale version of your lookbook, so they can understand your vision for the collection.
When you approach a buyer, agent or distributor they will ask to see lookbooks for previous collections, as they need to see your commitment to quality and also your growth through collections.
Buyers have been known to not pick up a label or designer because of a shitty lookbook. Low production quality says you don’t have the funds to invest in your business, and that tells a buyer that you won’t be around for a while – which is a big risk for them. Buyers that I’ve interviewed for my online course have also said that a terrible lookbook can be a sign of poor back end processes which is another red flag for the buyer, and can result in them not buying this line.
Once you do place your line in a store, you may like to place a retail (customer centric) version of your lookbook in each store – this version is slightly different to the wholesale version (for details see next section).
What should a lookbook have
Wholesale lookbook – for buyers, agents, distributors
The wholesale lookbook needs to make it easy for the buyer/agent/distributor to understand your collection and to want to buy it. Above all else it needs to have HIGH QUALITY IMAGES (yes I used caps because this my friend is SERIOUS).
- Do not have your cousin model for your unless she/he is a professional model.
- Do not shoot the photos yourself because owning a DSLR does not make you a photographer.
- Definitely do not make the lookbook in Word because buyers will know you’re a low budget, low commitment brand.
- Hire a professional FASHION photographer (here I go again with the caps, but this is super important)
- Hire a professional model
- Hire a stylist! You are the designer but a stylist knows current tastes and can take your line from great to f@%^ing brilliant
- Hire a makeup/hair artist
- Hire a graphic designer to create the actual lookbook file
In the lookbook include:
- Collection name
- Season / Year
- Editorial style image
- A mix of editorial style shots and product shots OR just product shots
- For each product: Style name, SKU (stock keeping unit) or style number, colours it comes in, fabric, size range, wholesale price (minus tax or GST), RRP (recommended retail price
- Editorial style image
- Contact number
In the footer of all pages – logo, collection name and season, copyright notice, website
You can copy and paste this in an email to your lookbook designer to serve as your brief.
Retail lookbook – for your website, store and stores you are stocked in
Same as above except the wholesale price – you do not need the general public to know your wholesale prices and the retailer margin.
What you shouldn’t include in a lookbook
You don’t need to include an order form, as buyers like to fill these out in an editable file like Excel, so if your lookbook is a PDF you want to have an Excel order form as a separate file.
You don’t need a blurb about your brand – a lookbook is literally a book of looks from your line so keep it simple and to the point.
How much does a lookbook cost?
This is like asking how much does a dress cost – depends where you go!
Let’s look at lookbook costs:
- Photographer/retoucher – 1 days shoot (8hrs) can shoot approx 10-15 outfits if you are fast. This could set you back $2,000 for the day, it could be more, it could be less. Depends on the photographer
- Model – a model’s day rate also varies, it could be $800 per day plus booking fee (15-20%)
- Stylist – it could be from $500 a day
- Hair/makeup – from $500 day
- Graphic designer – from $500 for design
Again, these costs depend on who you use and what their rates are.
For design I suggest stay away from Fiverr and cheap work sites, and get a freelancer instead. The lookbook design is priced based on number of pages, and costs differently whether it’s print or digital only. With digital lookbooks the pages flow from 1 to 2 to 3 etc., where as with a printed file the page order can differ based on the finishing method (e.g. stapling, binding etc.). Printed lookbooks are more involved.
How to make a great lookbook
Know what you want from your lookbook – create a moodboard for styling, photography, hair/makeup, model look and design layout.
The more specific you are, the more likely you are to get what you want out of the project.
For the actual shoot, make sure you create a shoot list, or a running order for the shoot. This could look like:
- 9-10am – Look 1 – black dress, red jacket, white shoes, gold accessories, nude lip
- 10-11am – Look 2 – white jumpsuit, purple hat, green scarf
- 11-12pm – Look 3
Print out your poses, styling examples and makeup looks and bring them to the shoot to refer to them as you go.
Organise a catered lunch ahead of time, so you don’t have everyone go out of the studio looking for food, you could lose a bit of time there. Have plenty of water in the studio.
Confirm with the photographer the deadline for retouched files to be delivered.
Confirm with the designer that your job is booked.
Stick to project dates to make sure you have the lookbook in time for when you need it.
I have included some lookbook examples here, but more can be found on my fashion lookbooks Pinterest board.
Click on each image to see the full version.
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