Lingerie Manufacturers Innovate Production, Delivery of Fashion Catalogs

Creating a fashion catalog is a major undertaking. Companies appealing to wholesale or retail clients all put considerable effort and enthusiasm into making their catalogs the best they can be.

At Shirley of Hollywood in Hollywood, Calif., director of design Dana Walczuk says the process takes months of preparation. “And of course there are many people involved in the process, from designers and stylists to the models of course. It’s a big production.”

In regard to creating our catalog, everything is done digitally now. It’s a big change from the old days, from sitting alongside designers doing paste-ups. -Jeff Baker President, Magic Silk

Technology has changed the creation and delivery of her catalogs. “We still love hard copy, something tangible to hold, but we’re printing less and less, as more people are moving toward wanting to be greener and using the Internet. We distribute through our website, and contact our customers with email blasts.” In terms of assembly, Walczuk still proofs on paper, but the catalog is assembled digitally.

Shirley of Hollywood releases five catalogs a year, and serves retailers well with each issue, showing them the details of the garments they offer. “We show the front and back, and we show every color the garment is offered in, so they won’t have to guess what it looks like.” Walczuk also incorporates themes in her catalogs. “We group in terms of the holidays, spring-like colors for that season, red and crystals as the background for winter holidays. Christmas and Valentine’s Day we try to tell a story. I’ve incorporated sleighs, Santa chairs, cute, fun things like that.”

To make sure her photography shows off her lingerie and fits her catalog’s look, Walczuk relies on a solid relationship with her photographer, to make the models “look so wonderful that you want to buy the product. And of course, if there is a special feature on the garment we will show that in an inserted close-up.” For shoot locations, Walczuk uses a studio. “We’re very fortunate to use an event planner’s studio. The studio creates different vignettes within a large warehouse space. This gives us fresh settings in one location.”

At Dreamgirl International in Bell, Calif., director of marketing Lar Hovsepian said she has a full staff at the ready for her catalog. “We have a three-person design team for lingerie, they write text for all the items, choose the images that get selected, and are in charge of laying out the catalog. We have a creative director who does all the retouching and uses the software to get it print ready. I personally go out and lay out the catalog in digital form and work with a local printer to do digital color checks. From shoot to finish for our main collection catalog we start shooting in June and July, and the catalog drops around Oct. 30. It’s usually over 200 pages. We also have smaller, seasonal books that are between eight and 90 pages. Reviewing our catalogs is a major undertaking, with a cross-functional team.”

Technology will eventually lead to more people using tablet-form catalog PDFs, Hovsepian asserts. But she notes, “I don’t believe we will ever not print our catalog. There is something to be said for touching and feeling a catalog. Our catalogs are like coffee-table type books, you receive one in the mail, and it’s like receiving a gift.” While Hovsepian creates much of her catalogs digitally, she still relies on proofs to make sure her colors are accurate. Dreamgirl puts out five catalogs per year on average. To best serve her retailers, she offers an easy-ordering section of the catalog. “It’s perforated, so that retailers can literally tear out a page to order. We’ve also created an easy to read table of contents so that you can find the section you’re looking for simply, whether it’s hosiery or lingerie.” She uses a soft-gloss finish that helps retailers to see all aspects of the lingerie and costumes her company offers. “We’ve incorporated lighter backgrounds as well, to make the colors really pop out.”

Dreamgirl’s catalogs feature story lines that set the tone for photography and editorial images. “We want to create a dreamy ‘dream girl’ that customers aspire to, who has a naughty, playful side. We have a bit of a Helmut Newton type edgy feeling, particularly in our fetish Diamond line, where we went with a very de-saturated theme, removing some of the color to make it almost sepia. We’ve carried that into our packaging as well.” Hovsepian says Dreamgirl uses different themes for different catalog categories. For its costume catalog this year, Dreamgirl used a space theme.

To show off Dreamgirl lingerie’s best features, Hovsepian relies on careful lighting and photography. “We take full-length images, which are a good selling point along with cropped images. We light the garment to make sure it’s clearly visible and people can see it. We also use a Hasselblad camera, which is top-of-the-line to get the very nitty-gritty details of a garment.” For locations, she chooses mansions and other properties that offer an attractive depth of field, utilizing online agencies and word of mouth to find location sites to scout.

Jeff Baker, president of Magic Silk in Hauppage, N.Y., says it takes approximately eight weeks to put a catalog together, with photography on-going throughout the course of a year. Like Dreamgirl, Magic Silk posts on its website and sends digital links, but also relies on print catalogs. “In regard to creating our catalog, everything is done digitally now. It’s a big change from the old days, from sitting alongside designers doing paste-ups.” Baker produces one main catalog a year, plus two to three seasonal supplements. His themes tie into Magic Silk’s packaging, and use a classic design.

To best serve retailers, Baker notes, “We show collections grouped together in the catalog, and we try to put complementary looks, such as all-leather and fish nets, together.”

At Seven til Midnight in El Monte, Calif., Cathy Whorley, sales executive, says their catalog completion is a year-long process including photography and re-touching. “We have 10-plus people working on it. We used to mail our catalog, but now we do a lot less print, and more digital distribution that can be emailed, downloaded off our website, or sent on DVDs.” Her company releases two main collection catalogs yearly, and one holiday collection.

To assist retailers, Whorley notes, “Our catalog is divided into sections of packaged items, loose goods/hanging goods, a bridal section, and our Midnight Must-Haves, which are our panties, garter belts and hosiery. Retailers can go to a specific page or section, whether it is just boxed goods or just hose that they’re looking for. And the catalog is color-coordinated along the spine so that it is also easy to find different categories within the full 400 pages.”

Whorley says Seven til Midnight’s catalog also uses themes. “This year we did a cowgirl theme, but whatever theme we pick, we try to go with an up-and-coming trend.” To highlight Seven til Midnight’s lingerie’s best features, photography focuses on lighting and color contrasts. “For example, we will place red lingerie against a blue sky background that really pops. As a team, we select what styles work the best with a particular location or backdrop.” And about those locations, she says, “Once we pick a theme, then we look for a location that fits. We work with photographers who can recommend settings. But it’s not hard to find a great location in Southern California.”

Marcus Horea, vice president at Coquette says his company’s four to five yearly catalogs are planned six months to a year in advance. “All the way from design to sales, graphics, finance and purchasing, it is a true company effort to make our books come to life. The design department works closely with our sales team and purchasing to gauge our customers’ expectations and also continuously improve and develop new and exciting designs. Then, the design department presents their latest designs to our creative department, and they work together to create a visual story for the photo shoot. Depending on the theme and direction, sets are created by the graphics department while props and accessories to style the shoot are brought in by the design department.”

Horea says themes are based on individual collections. “The Darque catalog is a fashion-forward book with a more raw and edgy feel to it. The 2015 collection is very sleek and simple. That book was done in-studio with a simple white background; the edge came from the raw hard lighting and the emotion that the models were able to convey to the camera. Hair and make-up played a significant part as well.” Coquette has an in-house photographer who is “very keen on details, showing customers the textures and intricate details as much as possible.”

Technology has indeed changed the approach Coquette’s catalog uses. “We were one of the first lingerie companies to shoot digitally back in 1999,” Horea said. “Digital photography has enabled us to be more flexible, and definitely more creative throughout the years. The biggest changes have been in the delivery methods of our digital books from CD, to USB and the next step is digital download with a focus on mobile devices.”

To assist retailers, Coquette’s catalogs are designed simply. “We make the pertinent information easy and efficient for ordering. Our books also feature a detailed picture index at the back, which includes all of our accessories in each book. That way customers can order from a collection without having to reference the main book for the appropriate accessories.” The design of the catalog helps retailers too, Horea says. “When we shoot and lay out a book we make sure that we take front and back shots, and any shots depicting how the garment can be worn in different ways to show the end user how to wear the product.”

In short: catalogs are of key importance for lingerie and clothing companies, and the effort put into completing them pays off in sales.