Are Lookbooks the New Music Video?

Unproven theory: many editors cite resort as their favorite of the collections because the season occurs in tandem with the beginning of summer and thus clothes feel much more like a fanciful feast than they do a utilitarian necessity. Clothes on our own terms — no one else’s.

Popular opinion: many editors cite resort as their favorite of the collections because the season requires less traveling to see clothes thanks to intimate viewings and looser editorial obligations and perhaps most pointedly, thanks to lookbooks.

These lookbooks have, for many moons, enabled editors to see collections in full without actually having to see them. Before there was, which became Vogue Runway, these were dutifully printed out on beautiful paper and deployed to editorial offices twice yearly to cover the viewings of pre-fall and resort. That is an expensive feat.

Traditionally, these lookbooks would contain nothing more, nothing less than a generous supply of models standing before simple backgrounds, or as if they were walking in a runway show, wearing new clothes by the marked label. But once browsers came into the picture, the general consensus shifted from hard-copy-lookbook-required, to web-version-works-just-fine. This presented a compelling opportunity to save on printing. But perhaps, too, to spend on storytelling.

For resort, one of the most striking trends to surface had little to do with the actual clothes. Lookbooks weren’t just lookbooks in the traditional sense. They were editorial. You can look no further than Giambattista ValliCreatures of Comfort, Altuzarra or Givenchy — an early purveyor of a lookbook-as-high-budget-magazine-shoot — for proof.

In this format, they’re fit to publish anywhere and beg to be shared on social.

This isn’t necessarily newRosetta Getty, for example, has been treating her lookbooks like opportunities to disclose a narrative for as long as she’s been designing. “Lookbooks are a really valuable tool for me to express the narrative of each collection. Up to this point, I have chosen not to have a formal show or presentation, so it’s the most creative way I can communicate those big ideas that are on the forefront of my mind.”

Her resort lookbook was shot at Brice and Helen Marden’s Hotel Tivoli in upstate New York. “A lot of the collection was inspired by Brice Marden’s work,” she said.

“Overall, there’s more opportunity these days for brands to share content, so I’m not sure the classic format would get the same attention on so many different outlets and social media channels.”

Are lookbooks the new music video? For a long time, the latter was effectively a micro-film accompanied by music, yielding high production cost and even grander emotional sentiment. Maybe the same, sort of holistic rendering of an otherwise creative pursuit is now permeating fashion.

Adam Lippes, another designer whose resort lookbook appeared especially worthy-of-sharing agrees with Getty. “It’s important for us, especially not doing and not planning on doing immersive fashion runway shows, to have lookbooks tell a greater story about the collection. About the woman. Where do the clothes live? What sort of woman wears them — not only in relation to style but also personality.”

This shift toward opening up a wider audience to the universe around the clothes that designers make is a cool one to watch, particularly because if you ask a designer, it is very rare that he or she will explain the collection to you without bringing in a little bit about the women, or places, or colors, or food who inspired the manifestation of the clothes. Diana Vreeland famously said, “It’s not about the dress you wear, it’s about the life you lead in the dress.”

The clothes are just the thing that tell the wider story and that story? Yours for the taking.

Feature images via Vogue Runway.


Leandra M. Cohen

Leandra M. Cohen is the founder of Man Repeller.

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