Fashion Statement

Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management, July 1, 2002 | Go to article overview

Fashion Statement


Byline: sarah heim

"The phones have been ringing off the hook," says Jed Root, a New York-based photography agent. He's not the only one in the fashion field busy booking a roster of photographers for ad-campaign shoots. While agents across the board, representing both highly experienced and more fledgling fashion photographers, are hesitant to say that the fashion sector has been cured of its recessionary blues, most confirm that there's been a palpable increase in business during the past few months. And this, say magazine publishers, is a welcomed sign that a burst of fashion ads are on the horizon.

The U.S. fashion industry, which is centered in Manhattan, was not immune to the economic slump that hit the city in the wake of September 11. Recently, however, a growing number of agents and photographers are finding that clients are calling to say they're ready to come shoot again in Gotham. Although it's not uncommon for fashion clients to shift from, say, shoots in Miami to ones in New York during the summer, there are also a slew of clients from the Midwest that are returning to New York to build upcoming campaigns. "We've been incredibly, incredibly busy," says Root, where the phones are, indeed, ringing away in the background.

Becky Lewis, vice president and an agent at Art+Commerce in New York, senses that the pick-up, which her agency has also experienced, has more to do with media buys finally going through than a surge in the overall economy. Lewis explains that plans for many fashion-advertising campaigns were on hold after last year's World Trade Center attacks. In addition, the number of channels and approvals that clients had to go through to get a campaign off the ground increased dramatically.

However, Lewis believes the temporary hold is over, and that many retailers are back on the market, eager to promote their latest fashions. She concludes that within the fashion industry there's a newfound desire to "pull up our bootstraps, get going and get our name in there."

Lewis also notes that although photography work was slower to come in this year, even from top American fashion labels such as Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, the budgets with large, well-known clients are in keeping with previous years. "I [find] it very optimistic," she says.

Overall, it's been the mid-range photographers who have experienced the most notable up-tick in business. These same photographers were also the ones most negatively impacted by the downturn in the economy. (Because of their industry prowess and experience, top-tier fashion photogs such as Steven Meisel, Bruce Weber, Ellen von Unwerth and Michael Thompson were basically immune to the fluctuations in the marketplace.) But David Maloney, who works at a New York-based agency called Art Department, says that his mid-range photographers are definitely seeing a surge in business. "It's not just the elite cadre [of fashion photographers] getting work. …

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