Confessions of a fashion editor – the summer trip

The June issues of the glossies are in the shops now bringing memories of past summer fashion-shoot trips flooding back. The tears, the trauma, the time my entire crew got thrown off a BA flight, it’s all etched in my memory in glorious detail.

In order to shoot bikinis in time for a glossy mag’s deadline, the trip needs to be in the bag by the end of February. Which means a warm and often ‘exotic’ location is called for as February in London doesn’t quite conjure up ‘sexy summer swimwear’. The first thing to be addressed is budget. Contrary to popular myth, a fashion editor’s best accessory is more likely to be her calculator than her Chanel 2.55. Having presented her figures to the managing editor, there is inevitably a shortfall meaning extra funds need to be raised. This is called sponsorship. Cue breakfasts, lunches and teas in the diary to beg persuade PRs of non-cool brands (i.e. catalogues) to part with cash in exchange for a few well-placed mentions across the summer issues. Planning a joint trip with the beauty team? Oh phew. The beauty editor will also pull as many strings as she can from the cash-rich suncare, skincare, hair and make-up brands to boost the budget in exchange for bigging up their new-and-improved wares.

More calls are placed to hotels and airlines to blag free/cheap flights and accomodation for the team. Want to know why so many publications shoot in Cape Town? Because it’s pretty cheap, the weather is fairly reliable and there are model agencies in place to save money on ‘flying girls in’. (Also, the food is amazing.) Fact: Trip budgets are usually tighter than a pair of Superfines and don’t include alcohol. The reality is that you need the nightly bar-hop to get you through the trip. Solution: a mountain of blank taxi receipts to be filled in post-trip – a Labour MP has nothing on a funds-strapped fashion editor.

Money issues out of the way, there is the small matter of the clothes to deal with. Not least, how do we shoot bikinis in a new and innovative way? Can we bear to do nautical, safari and ‘ethnic’ again? Can we think of a snappy new name for ‘boho’? Of course, while your magazine is planning its summer swimwear trip, so is every other glossy. Meaning there is much competition for the Missonis, Ralphs and Guccis, not to mention TopShops, H & Ms and Gaps. Plus the essential cheapo bikini from Primark – a must for that bonanza ‘Found! The £4.99 bikini!’ coverline. Pity the poor PR who tries to call back her key piece that has already been sitting in your cupboard for a fortnight. Honey, you won’t be seeing it again for weeks.

Having managed to collate five caseloads of clothes, accessories and shoes, the real fun begins – organising the carnet. The bane of the fashion assistant’s life, a carnet is a typed, numbered list of all the luggage contents – no mistakes allowed. Each item is numbered with a sticker and listed on a form. Cue an army of interns enlisted to stay up all night until every earring, flipflop and bikini top is listed, numbered and packed. While all this goes on, the fashion editor (or bookings editor if they’re lucky) simultaneously spends the weeks prior to departure liaising with the production company based in Rio/Cape Town/Goa. A whole other heap of fun ensues as hidden location fees and government charges are routinely flagged up, queried and refused. Bodyguards, props managers and umbrella-holders all get the red-pencil treatment. Three catering assistants? I thought we were having sandwiches!

A word about models. Use the local model agencies at your peril. I’ll never forget the trip I did in Rio where the production company assured me they had access to the same girls as the main agencies in Sao Paulo. Big fat liar! We arrived at the casting to a room overflowing with ‘models’ who looked like they’d literally rolled out of the local school. Tall, short, fat, thin, there they were, not one of them with a portfolio or any semblance of ‘model looks’. Oh how we cried laughed. And yet. However stingy the budget, however ropy the models, however nightmarish the production company and however crazy the photographer (it’s true, all photographers are a little bit mad), a trip is always an unforgettable experience and the pictures always work out in the end.

[Pic: Italian Vogue]