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Blog Comment Of The Week: Liability During Fashion Shoots

A few days back, I got asked a great set of questions to an article I wrote some months back titled: How To Write A Commissioning Letter To Fashion PR’s

The article was addressed to stylists starting out in the industry, who were either new on the scene or working for new independent magazines.  And in the article, based on my experiences early on in my styling career, I listed the various information a commissioning letter should have and what PR’s are looking for in such a letter.

I then received this comment, word for word, from a reader (Eimear):

Great advice! Have you ever had an incident where something is damaged on a shoot? Is the client responsible? Or are you responsible? And do you get models/clients to sign anything on a shoot to say that they are liable?

And here is my response:

Indeed I have been unlucky enough to have a press piece damaged on a shoot, and it inspired me to write the following article, which I believe will answer the majority of your questions: What They Don’t Teach You In Fashion Styling School

With regards to your other questions, I will answer them from my experiences working as a freelance stylist for independent magazines (i.e. not owned by publishing companies).

You ask if the Stylist or the Client is responsible for damaged Press Pieces, and if you can get the clients to sign a liability document:  Yes, you can have a client (i.e. mag) give you a signed commissioning letter, where it states that the client is responsible for damages.  Following from that, should damages occur during the course of the shoot, the reparation costs will be passed on from the PR to the client.  And ideally, the client is supposed to have insurance that covers this.  I have to stress here that although you may not be financially responsible, unless you are an A-list Stylist (that both the PR and Client sees as useful), the chances of that client choosing you for future work is anorexic.  And also the relationship you have with the PR in question may become strained, because the bottom line is that the press piece got damaged under your watch.

Also as with many aspects of the fashion industry, the lines are so murky that’s it’s hard to give a straight answer or state a fixed rule.  E.g. when an assistant damaged a press piece during my shoot, although there was no statement in the commissioning letter where the client took responsibility: because the client and press office had a good relationship, and the assistant was from the client’s office: both the press office and the client came to an agreement between themselves, and I luckily continued a good working relationship with both parties.

Your other question asks if models can be given anything to sign.  This is a very interesting question, and one I have not done any actual research on, so you may want to ask around or Google.  But from my 10 year experience in the industry and working with models and their agents, I would say: ABSOLUTELY NOT. Don’t even suggest it!  As a newbie, the quickest way to be on the NO! list of every model booker would be to present them with such a letter to sign before a shoot. Does this seem unfair? Probably, but that’s the industry.  The good news is most models are professional and treat the clothes and accessories with respect.  After all they know that if they go round ripping and staining press pieces, they aren’t likely to get booked for any future jobs thus ending their career sharpish.

I hope this helps, Good Luck!