What does the coronavirus mean for fashion magazines?

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On the set or not.
Photo: ozgurdonmaz / Getty Images

Fashion magazines, at the best of times, sell fantasy. It’s a tough sale to make from the boundaries of your apartment.

Editors, stylists and brands were filming summer fashion numbers and starting to receive fall samples when COVID-19 abruptly halted most, but not all, of the work in progress. Fashion professionals find it difficult to adapt on the fly to a new reality of uncertain duration, when the old ways of producing fashion images – sending samples, photographers, subjects and a phalanx of hair, makeup, hairdressers and their assistants around the world to collaborate, spending what can amount to tens of thousands of dollars on a single shot – is no longer feasible, possible or safe. Those who are self-employed, outside the safety net of a staff job, face the postponement or cancellation of work in progress and even upcoming projects several weeks apart that have been suspended indefinitely, a precarious position to put. in place without a clear resolution.

Fashion shoots have been in contractions for years, squeezed by shrinking budgets and a voracious demand for more content (Instagram, video, behind the scenes) from everyone. The glory days of sending an editor, a trunk of clothes and a model to a remote beach for days or weeks at a time are rarer than before, though far from being completely gone. Environmental and climate concerns also arose, forcing a more conscious generation of editors to question the ethics of traveling all over the world to take the picture. But the challenges of the present moment will likely only accelerate the change.

“Magazines don’t run,” said one publicist, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on behalf of their company. “People were very zealous, and then I think reality sank.”

The coronavirus has not completely stopped production. Some magazines continue to send requests and shoots for The Wall Street Journal‘s WSJ. review and Squire are scheduled for this week – SquireIt’s a cover shoot in LA using local talent and styling from a distance. But most of the shoots, several PRs said, have already been canceled. IMG Models, which represents many of the best models in the industry including Bella and Gigi Hadid, Ashley Graham and Amber Valletta, declined to say whether they always send models for shoots or under what parameters. The Company, which represents several others including Kendall Jenner, Willow Smith, Winnie Harlow and Adut Akech, did not respond to a request for comment.

“We were in the process of ordering the last issue of the season, the summer issue,” said Emma Wyman, fashion director of Dazed + Confused. The magazine is currently closing its Spring / Summer issue and has yet to decide what to do with the next one. The well-being of its contributors, both physical and financial, is a priority. (Editorial shoots pay a pittance compared to lucrative advertising and branding work.) “It’s very socially irresponsible to ask anyone to contribute right now,” she said, “and we’re thinking about some creative solutions for ordering and production in the future. We’re not sure what to do with our fall issues. I think most publications ask that question. (She added Stunned intends to create a magazine for the fall season.)

Publicists are also wondering. As samples – which are made available to magazines and retailers to photograph before the full sales collection is produced – have started pouring in, the flow is lower than it would otherwise be, and publicists who traffickers must find a workaround. from complicated dance solutions to getting pieces for sets that can be across the city, country or the world. “‘How will your fall-winter sample be available at the end of the month? ‘Said a publicist repeating an email from a magazine. “How would we know? We don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. It changes every day. Between nervous companies on one side and nervous editors on the other, “I play the role of therapist and news agency,” the person added.

As late as midweek, several of New York’s leading fashion PR firms were open and operating with reduced staff. “Taking the example of how our offices in Asia operate, our teams are in constant communication to ensure that we are working strategically from a distance,” Alexander Werz, CEO of Karla Otto International, who represents clients including Off-White, Jil Sander, and Erdem in the United States, said last week. “When shooting, regardless of the region or a client’s shipping need, we have processes in place that drastically limit the amount of staff and time spent in the office. We have seen an incredible collaborative spirit within our global teams and with our clients, which is essential as we work during this time and beyond. But Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order, which came into effect Sunday night, ordering all non-essential businesses in New York City to shut down, further complicates matters.

Hearst and Condé Nast, two of the biggest magazine publishers – together they publish Vogue, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, Allure and Vanity Fair, among others – said they currently have no plans to reverse the issues. For independent magazines, the choice may not be so clear.

That said, even the largest companies have to design new processes. Expect more user-generated or contributed content than usual in upcoming issues – there have already been calls for designers and fashion professionals to send images from their self-isolated neighborhoods.

This interruption, as long as it may last, will it end up significantly altering the MO of fashion shoots more permanently? At this point, too early to tell. Sustainability and environmental impact issues have already started to creep into the conversation around the shoots (albeit slower than the climate crisis should demand), and the disruption from COVID-19 is likely only to grow. discussions about responsible filming come to the fore. “It’s about thinking about local teams and commissioning in a different way than we usually commission,” said Wyman. “Of course, there is talent all over the world that everyone wants to showcase. This will remain an important aspect of both magazine and digital. But the way we produce shoots around the world is going to have to change. “

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