Great editorial spreads perfectly merge the worlds of art and commerce. Often, they transport you to a fantastical world while also highlighting new clothes and accessories in a manner that will (ideally) drive you to purchase them. They achieve this in a way that looks effortless—as if the perfect shot was merely stumbled upon, a gem waiting to be found.
Of course, that's not the case at all. In fact, planning and styling an editorial shoot is quite an ordeal, one that requires lots of time and plenty of hands on deck. Curious to know the specifics of this process, we reached out to acclaimed Marie Claire senior fashion editor and Target stylist Zanna Roberts Rassi to find out exactly what it entails!
Scroll down to find out what really goes into styling an editorial shoot!
WHO WHAT WEAR: What is the biggest misconception about styling an editorial shoot?
ZANNA ROBERTS RASSI: That it’s a quick process. Editorials can take anywhere from four weeks from soup to nuts.
WWW: How long in advance do you start planning for a shoot, and what does that entail for you?
ZRR: Planning entails: 1. Concepting—creating a storyboard. 2. [Picking out] the fashion, first and foremost—looking at your edit from the shows and other references that represent your vision. 3. [Looking through] suggested teams—the photographers, models, etc.
For the photographer, you ask yourself, Who is right to shoot this story and capture the idea? Then you work with the photo director to secure them.
When it comes to talent, we say who's our “girl”? The girl you want isn't always available on the dates needed, so the casting game ensues. Options are placed, and it's a little like betting.
With hair and makeup, as well as a tailor, it’s all about securing the A team! We editors often have our favorites that we like to work with, but we shake it up, too, depending on [what] the story calls for. For example: Do we want dramatic makeup or a super light touch?
For the clothes, the market team is responsible for wrangling the looks the editor wants. They reach out to all the PR teams and fashion houses to pull looks. Because there is usually only one of each piece in existence in the world (and the world's press is trying to shoot it!), it can be a battle to get it on your requested date. When a key look is confirmed, there is a mini lap of celebration around the office, like, "Look 3 from Céline confirmed; whoop whoop!"
The producer is responsible for booking all of the teams, locations, permits [for shooting in those locations], catering (very important), and then getting us all to the same place at the same time with an overly organized call sheet.
[When it comes to location], if we’re not shooting in a studio, there is a lot of back and forth and working with location companies to find, say, the perfect house in Palm Springs, with the perfect light, pool, art, walls, and so on.
The day before the shoot, we’ll usually do a run through with the editor-in-chief, fashion director, art director, producer, market editors, and assistants. We go through each look—the concepts for hair and makeup, etc.—in the fashion closet to make sure all are in agreement. Fingers crossed!
WWW: How big is the team you work with on the styling side?
ZRR: I work with two styling assistants.
WWW: What's your favorite part about the styling experience?
ZRR: Being on set and seeing it all come together. As an editor, you’re not just putting clothes on a model—you’re an art director. The process on set is just that—a process. You have to work to help everyone reach the perfect storm of fashion, hair, makeup, lighting, mood, etc.!
WWW: What has been your most memorable styling experience?
ZRR: A cover shoot I did with Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Aniston, and Ginnifer Goodwin. It was in a giant L.A. studio. I would run from each of their dressing areas (which were a mile apart) trying desperately to give them all the attention they deserved. It was a juggle of an awful lot of clothes, amazing talent, and opinions!"
WWW: What was a particularly stressful styling experience?
ZRR: When I arrived in Brazil to shoot three stories—with the bags, teams, and everything booked—but photographer couldn't get in with his visa. That was stressful. Or even small things like a model showing up with no hair after having long, luscious locks at the casting. You have to think on your feet!
WWW: How long does styling an editorial shoot take, on average?
ZRR: The actual styling is a process over a few weeks. By the time everything arrives, the actual styling of pieces together doesn't take that long if you're well-edited from the get-go!
WWW" What's the most important thing for someone to know if they want to style editorial shoots as part of their career?
ZRR: It's a collaborative process—there are a lot of opinions and views, so you have to be a team player.
Would you ever consider editorial styling as a career? Let us know in the comments, and shop some of our favorite books on the fashion industry below!
That’s What Fashion Is by Joe Zee ($19)
In this new book from fashion-world favorite Joe Zee, the editor-in-chief of Yahoo Style and “lifestylist” on the new ABC show FAB Life jokes that he’s a “slashie,” or, a man who wears many hats. It’s an accurate description, as this fast-paced memoir confirms. Amid tales of near-impossible assignments and ever-looming deadlines, Zee also shares accessible fashion tips (and his pro tip for taking the perfect selfie). And like everything Zee touches, it’s hilarious.
Which book are you most excited to read? Let us know in the comments!