Lookbooks have become a staple among fashion designers, retailers and fashion/style bloggers as a way to convey a "feeling" or a "mood" for an upcoming season or new collection. Lookbooks are great for creating excitement about a new collection and, make for great social media content.
West End Select Shop is a local Portland boutique that gets it. Their lookbooks have been featured in Portland Monthly Magazine as well as the Portland Mercury and just so happen to always be a favorite of mine season after season.
I had the opportunity to chat with Andi Bakos, Owner of West End and take a peek into her world to learn how she finds inspiration for her lookbooks and how emerging/independent designers, boutique owners, and fashion brands can create quality lookbooks on a budget. Here's what she had to say:
Laptops & Smalltalk: WHAT LEAD YOU TO OPEN WEST END SELECT SHOP?
ANDI BAKOS: Opening a shop was always my “North Star”. For years I talked about it so much that my friends became sick of hearing about it! I left my full time position at Nike in 2010 to start freelancing as a Trend Scout but always had my eyes on a future in retail. I think the turning point was when my husband and I moved to Tokyo. It was there that I was exposed to so much incredible retail, so many great examples of how to utilize a small space and create a really captivating retail experience. Tokyo is the mecca for retail! When we moved back to Portland I really felt full of inspiration and just mentally ready to get a shop started. It took me a year to conceive it, buy merchandise for it, brand it, find a space and build it out. I’m in a good position to do this. I have a long standing career in the apparel business. I have family who helps me out, I have friends to turn to when I need advice and some of the best employees in the world. That doesn’t mean it’s easy or I’m sure to succeed. I’m just saying that having a good support system is key!
WHAT INSPIRES THE CREATIVE DIRECTION AND VISION FOR YOUR LOOKBOOKS?
Inspiration can come anytime from anywhere. Sometimes my lookbook concept will be directly related to what's happening in my life. Sometimes they can be more abstract and inspired by the seasons. Sometimes I just dream them! Once an idea strikes me I become very focused on it and it'll be like having a song stuck in my head.
WHAT ALL GOES INTO CREATING A LOOKBOOK? WHAT IS YOUR PROCESS? WHAT STEPS DO YOU TAKE?
Once I come up with a concept and a story, I create a mood board and get a team together. I find a model to suit the concept, find a photographer whose style works with the concept, and a makeup and hair artist that can complement my wardrobe styling ideas. I then create a more formal story board presentation to share with the team so everyone is on the same page and can marinate on the concept before the shoot. I love collaborating and incorporating ideas from other people involved. The best ideas come from working together and leaving space for others to be creative. I like to lead, but I'm a team player.
HOW OFTEN DO YOU CREATE A NEW LOOKBOOK?
1-2 times per season.
HOW IMPORTANT ARE LOOKBOOKS TO THE SUCCESS OF YOUR BUSINESS? HOW NECESSARY DO YOU THINK THEY ARE FOR BOUTIQUES?
Do I think we could survive without doing a seasonal lookbook? Sure, but what fun would that be! Creating a seasonal story helps excite people about our brand. Through our visuals they get to know the personality behind the shop, what we think is inspiring. It's our creative output, our eye candy, and we love doing them.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE ON HOW TO CREATE A DECENT LOOKBOOK ON A BUDGET?
Work with friends, work for trade. Be resourceful.
THE PORTLAND MONTHLY FEATURED YOUR SPRING/SUMMER LOOKBOOK ON THEIR SITE. DO YOU PURPOSEFULLY SEND YOUR LOOKBOOKS TO THE PRESS FOR COVERAGE? IF SO, DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR FASHION BRANDS ON HOW TO PITCH THE MEDIA?
When we create a lookbook we send it to all the media first and those who wish to share it do. We never ask them to share it or pressure them. We simply present the lookbook and say, "feel free to share it if you like it" and hope they do!
YOU'VE WORKED WITH NIKE, NORDSTROM AND VANITY FAIR, HOW HAS YOUR PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE IN THE INDUSTRY SHAPED YOUR BUSINESS TODAY. WHAT ARE SOME BUSINESS LESSONS YOU'VE LEARNED FROM WORKING WITH THOSE BRANDS.
Working with Nike was an incredible learning experience for me. I was fairly young when I started, so in a way, I feel like I was raised in a corporate environment. I learned the importance of structure, organization, presentation and listening to the consumer. Without that foundation, I could never do what I do now. Managing yourself and a team, you owe it to everyone to keep it organized and have good communication.
CAN YOU OFFER ANY ADVICE TO PEOPLE WANTING TO OPWN A BOUTIQUE OR GET INVOLVED IN THE PORTLAND FASHION INDUSTRY?
Getting involved is easy, just find those who are doing the things that inspire you and ask if they need help! When I was growing up in this city I did so much free work for people. I helped put on fashion shows, I did makeup, I styled. I just offered to help with any creative project that excited me. I truly enjoyed these opportunities to meet people, get experience and contribute! If opening a store is your "north star" then I would first recommend writing a business plan. I took a class at NW Mercy Corps called "Business Foundations" that helped me write a business plan. Start there, it's key! From there get some money. You'll need it! A mentor is always helpful too, I have a few in my life that I turn to when I need advice.
Stay connected with Andi and West End Select Shop on Instagram