Writing Commissioning Letters

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Ask Biki: How Do I Pull Clothes From Press Offices For Music Shoots Without an Official Commissioning Letter?

It’s been a long, long time since I have been asked a question I can put in my ‘Ask Biki’ section and so I was mighty pleased to receive this question today at 6am, and here it goes:

Dear Biki

I work with a lot of independent artists (both solo artists and groups) and it’s always a struggle to get wardrobe for photo shoots. I have two album covers coming up and have been doing a lot of research on pull letters. The problem is I’m having is finding out what angle to come from when you’re not commissioned by a print magazine or any magazine in my case. How do I go about getting clothing in this way? Should I write up my own pull letter as the stylist? Or should I have the artist write up a pull letter?

Thanks, Rodney

My Advice

Dear Rodney

First of all, thank you for reaching out to me like this.

In my eight years of working with press offices in the fashion industry, what I have learnt is for them it is all about the End Game.   This means that as it is part of their job to ensure the brand they are looking after is placed in the most credible media- so the brand is seen visibly across the right audience- press offices are very selective as to who they lend.

To answer your question briefly, it is my opinion that a PR Account Manager will not care if you or the artist send the pull out letter, what he/she cares about is-

1)Firstly, do you and the artist fit the brand’s image and ethos?  When PR’s begin to work with a new client (brand), very often that brand gives the PR a list of press they want to be featured in and a list of press which they don’t.  This is why you will never see Alexander Wang in UK’s, LOOK magazine (a mainly High Street magazine).

2) In what media sector will the press clothes be used, and will that media sector lead to high reach of the brand’s target audience?

3) How famous is this artist you want to style, which they will analyze in terms of sales, awards, Facebook Followers and so on.  So you must have this information ready for them.

With no commissioning letter and with your 2 projects coming up what can you do? You can-

1) For the future, you can start to contact and pitch magazines where you state you want to style your bands for one of their issues, if you get a pull-out from them, use this letter to do a fashion shoot, and also use that as an opportunity to pull separate clothes for your album covers.  This is what Stylists call, ‘Back to Back’ shooting.

2) When one is not blessed with a big budget or contacts, one must get creative.  Remember that for an album cover, what is most important is the image that is portrayed which does not necessarily mean ‘The Latest/Seasonal Clothes’.   After all my favorite album covers include Goldfrapp’s, SuperNature and Prince’s, LoveSexy- and in both, clothes are not the key feature.

3) Many stylists also go to clothes stores that have a policy where you can buy and return.  Personally, I never liked this route as you have to be so careful that when you use such clothes, no damage is done on set, because once there is you are stuck with a piece of clothing you don’t want which you paid for.

4) You need to make friends with independent designers who don’t use PR’s and fast.  They are normally much, much easier to borrow from.  A talented, young designer still studying is even better.

5) Remember you can always borrow clothes from friends and even the artist’s wardrobe.

6) Some Press Offices set up an agreement where you can pay them for use of their brand/s, so you can look into this with your target press offices.

7) On a side note, I would not advise the artist you are styling to write the letter as in my opinion, this does not look professional.  Either you write it as the stylist of the shoot or get the artist’s manager or PR to write it.

Finally, I will say that the higher in the fashion food chain a brand is, the tougher their PR will be, so I will advise you not to contact the bigger PR’s till you can tell them what they want to hear and in the meantime grow your music, magazine and independent designer contacts.

Hope this helps somewhat, Good Luck!

The Echo Vamper Band for KALTBLUT mag, Styled by Me.

The Echo Vamper Band for KALTBLUT mag, Styled by Me.

Pic courtesy of Bernhard Musil

Ask Biki...

Commissioning Letter Example -How To Write a Commissioning Letter to Fashion Pr’s

As a freelance stylist I have styled editorials for both established and new magazines.  The tips I am about to share are for the fashion magazines that have just started, and the stylists they have been commissioned to style a shoot for their issue.

I decided to do this post because in the past when I would submit my commissioning letter from a new magazine to a selection of PR’s, I would get a string of questions back from the PR Account Executive and this was mainly due to the lack of information that was on the commissioning letter.

Like I’ve said, PR’s work from a more business angle than say an in-house emerging designer, so when one submits a letter, it can’t simply say, ‘ We(X) have commissioned Stylist (Y) to do an editorial for us.  We would be grateful for your support.’  Ultimately the PR’s are less interested in your ‘creatively, weirdly, fabulous fashion editorial theme/brief’ and are more interested in whether the loaning of their client’s pieces will benefit their client in terms of exposure, positive product placement and sales.

Also, the more established a magazine is, the less likely they will have to follow all of the protocol below.

So when a new magazine is drafting a Commissioning Letter for a Stylist, the following details should be included-

  • The full address or/and website of the magazine as well as all the contact details of the person who is authorizing the commissioning.  PR’s always want to see the website of a magazine, as the visual and content display gives them a good idea as to whether they want to work with the magazine or not.
  • The website links for the stylist and photographer involved in the shoot– this is particularly important for a new magazine, as often I have found that when the magazine is unknown, the PR will then turn to view the work of the team involved as that helps to determine or show the quality the magazine is aiming for.
  • The season the editorial is for and the issue date of the editorial.
  • The creative brief of the story– for e.g. is the shoot a ‘black and white’ story, it has a ‘romantic’ theme etc.
  • The ethos of the magazine and who their target audience is- PR’s especially want to know this from a new magazine, as that will determine if they feel their clients/designers have the same target.
  • If the magazine is in print, the countries the magazine will be sold in should be listed– for e.g. some London PR’s will not lend their pieces to magazines that are not sold in their country.
  • There should be a statement that states who is responsible for any loss or damage to the clothes.

I hope you find these tips useful.  I’d also like to hear from stylists who are pulling pieces for various shoots.  Have you found that it is now harder to do so and are PR’s requiring more information from you before they lend?  Are you finding it easier to pull from established magazines as opposed to newer ones?

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