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15-09-2013
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AndroMenswear's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2013
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Advice About Fashion Copywriting
I'm new to this forum, and I'm writing to post a question.

Currently, I am a full-time copywriter and a freelance fashion writer, and I have been wanting to transition into fashion copywriting. Right now, my full-time job tends to be all over the place, and I have been looking to combine my copywriting skills with my knowledge of fashion.

Does anyone here currently work as a fashion copywriter? Do you have any tips about getting into the field.

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16-09-2013
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In order to stand out from the crowd and from the in-house scribes, your fashion and luxury-related copywriting and branding skills need to be well-developed. In a sense, it's not unlike the skills required to produce high end Front-of-Book pieces and extended captions, skills traditionally reflected in the higher rates paid to freelances by magazines back in the days before publishers thought they were onto a cool money-saving gig by employing bloggers to provide content for nothing or next to nothing.

As I am sure you know by now, writing is a craft, and crafts require not just the learning thereof but constant practice and refinement.

As far as selling yourself to fashion houses or even retailers as a freelance copywriter goes, you could try the direct approach in sending Dircoms the bilge produced by their in-house people or by their ad agencies along with a couple of samples of the way in which you would improve on it. I got quite a few clients this way. Some of them actually continued using their in-house or agency people and paying me quite well to improve on it. When I worked with the late Giovanni Russo, founder of the No11 agency in New York, he and I sometimes had to dream up slogans and logos to cover up advertising photography of doubtful relevance and, sometimes, doubtful quality. Other clients came to me because they had seen my byline here and there, or my name on the right dort of masthead. However, these clients can be difficult because they want you for your name or your associations rather than your skills. Remember that most of them wouldn't know the difference between good and bad writing, which is why their promotional material is sub par to begin with. Which introduces a further dimension in that you have to be quite diplomatic when showing them how you can improve on things because they can take it quite personally when you tell them that their firm's PR and advertising presence is wishy-washy.

What I am saying is that while it can be very difficult to get into a position where you are the go-to person to begin with - like Glenn O'Brien, for instance - because of the tangled business and social politics enclosing Planet Fashion like poison ivy around a tumbledown folly, there are plenty of opportunities for writers with the editorial abilities required to improve upon already existing material. And you can make decent money too.

PK

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Last edited by prosperk; 16-09-2013 at 01:32 AM.
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16-09-2013
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PK,

This advice is really helpful. I hadn't thought about pitching the brands themselves, but it does sound like a good way to stand out. Thanks for answering my question!

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17-09-2013
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It's a pleasure. The people whose contact details you should acquire for such pitches are the Directors of Communications, the Press Office Managers and so on. Don't be shy about following your pitches up even if you get knocked back because the time will come sooner or later when the people in the Press Office are ripping their hair out by the roots because the designer failed to jot down his/her thoughts for inclusion in the press package that is supposed to left on guests' seats the day after tomorrow and they need a writer-for-hire right then and there, rather than the person they usually use, who probably takes a week to write a hundred mediocre or excessively intellectual words.

Or perhaps they are on deadline with a package for a launch somewhere in the world and they know that the copywriting by some alleged writer the CEO's wife met at dinner last month is crap but they can't say so because the alleged writer is Mrs CEO's latest chou-chou. You probably think I am exaggerating but I am not. I have seen a massive clothing company in the US obliged to use aggressively homoerotic advertising imagery to sell a brand in parts of the Union where the local crackers are still nailing gay people to barn doors when not burning crosses in the woods, all because the photographer stroked Mrs CEO's ego and photoshopped a few tons off her well-upholstered frame for the Christmas Card portrait. This was when Giovanni Russo and I had to cover the images up with Soviet-style slogans and buzz phrases in an attempt to make them more acceptable to the projected target market.

I have even been engaged to respond to email and fax interviews as if I were the designer, because the real designer was off his face in some crack house or, as is sometimes the case, simply too dumb to formulate coherent answers to questions about 'his' work, which often isn't his work. That's a good gig. You can make good money at it. And there is a greater need for it than Planet Fashion's larger public might think. One thing I have learned is that female designers are often more intelligent than their male counterparts these days, because the males are often hired for their ability to behave like gay strippers on crack than any actual design or even styling ability. And that's why people have to be called in to create personalities for them. It's a form of 'copywriting'. Sort of...

Do try to gatecrash soirées where the beleaguered Dircoms, PR people and press attachés are drinking themselves into pliable oblivion because they have run out of positive things to say about their charges and the products. Set up a blog and write intelligibly about fashion, style and accessories, without too much editorialising. This gets around the problem of not being a magazine editor, regular columnist or masthead name. This is marketing yourself. If you can market yourself, you see, then your prospective clients will understand that you can market them.

Hope I don't come across as cynical.

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Last edited by prosperk; 17-09-2013 at 04:25 AM.
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18-09-2013
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PK,

These tips are very helpful, and I don't think this seems cynical at all. I already write for a highly-trafficked menswear blog and have decent samples from that, but I have been wanting to start a personal blog, too. The networking suggestion also seems worth a try.

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07-10-2013
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Now that Paris Fashion Week and the unveiling of the first functionally interactive fashion and arts print review is behind us, I am back. For five minutes...

There is a lot of talent out there in the blogosphere. I trawl it myself when looking for fresh writing talent. And there is nothing wrong with presenting any pieces you have had published on established web log sites (Tip of the day: use this term to confuse luddite reactionaries like me) as 'published work'. They certainly amount to published work. They may be more valid in that sense than extracts from your own blogs...sorry...web logs.

There's a similar snobbery, for want of a better word for it, in play to that found in the book world concerning self-published works. The same applies to those showcase magazines published as visiting cards by art directors. The underlying feeling seems to be that if you have to publish yourself, then you're no good. In turn, this exposes the real problem in media in general, this being a failure to recognise good work regardless of the delivery system.

In conclusion, do set up your own blog. But you should be wary of presenting it as published work until such time as it carries weight in terms of having generated a following, otherwise you are simply providing decision-makers evaluating you in a line-up of other applicants with a pretext to filter you out before lunch, if you get my point.

I have a blog myself. It has nothing to do with fashion. It's about the illicit removal of a large and very valuable motorcycle collection from the home of an old gent I knew by the head shed of a prestigious club, who got into his house between his death in a hospice and his funeral and picked the place clean before his lawyers could get there and carry out inventory for probate. No newspaper was interested in the story and so, with the help of outraged club members, we nailed them in this way. This explains the 'fan page' you will find when Googling me. But as they are semi-literate, they couldn't think og much to write...

Nonetheless, I applied strict, old-school journalistic standards in doing so, which is why it hasn't been closed down and why they haven't managed to find lawyers willing to sue me, despite being very, very rich. And that's the other problem or perceived problem with blogs, that even when the writing is good, the writer's sources and fact-checking abilities may well be unreliable. For instance, I have read bloggers whose prose seduced me but who later admitted to using Wikipedia as a primary source. Need I say more?

So, the trick is to install confidence in not just your readers - humans being rather like pigs, as Orwell reminded us, we will consume any old sludge that's put in front of us, knowing full-well what we are swallowing, if there is nothing better in the trough - but in your future clients. They might not put your name on their brochures, internal communications tools, ad campaigns and so on, but they will boast of having a "serious" writer on the job, someone who is an trend-former. Even if you are simply imposing a trend they have conceived in order to pay the rent/mortgage/ticket out of there.

In addition to crashing events and evenings for hand-shaking purposes, you should develop a fearless approach to calling up anyone about whom you intend to write in your blog. That is an important step in getting taken seriously. And don't take knock-backs personally. Remember that the PA or the secretary has orders to field calls and emails. So, charm them. Why do you think James Bond always got in to see his commander so easily? He made Miss Moneypenny smile. Get snotty with the gate-keepers and you will have to wait until Death takes them before you get through that obstacle.

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Fashion is something barbarous, for it produces innovation without reason and imitation without benefit (George Santayana) - http://prosperkeating.com

Last edited by prosperk; 07-10-2013 at 11:50 PM.
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