MEDIA ANALYSIS: How to make fashion work for travel

Top fashion titles are renowned for setting up cutting-edge photo shoots in exotic locations. Lucy Aitken looks at how travel PROs can ensure maximum coverage in return for free hotel rooms and airline seats.

Prada in Papua New Guinea: Vogue’s August cover
Prada in Papua New Guinea: Vogue’s August cover

Prada hits Papua New Guinea in the August edition of Vogue. The Asian ­Pacific island might seem an unlikely destination to showcase the new ­autumn collections, but the undisputed queen of fashion titles has a reputation for pushing the boundaries.

The 20-page spread carries 16 pictures by photographer Tim Walker, some of which features a model snapped with Huli tribesmen.

In this case, Walker himself came up with the idea and pitched to Vogue. But targeting fashion editors with shoot locations is a valuable tactic for travel PROs. If they remain conscious of the often complex logistics involved in setting up the deal, there is an opportunity for valuable, highly visual coverage.

Ironically, the Vogue spread, although visually stunning, was certainly not to the Papua New Guineans’ liking – the feature mentions how the wrath of the High Commissioner in London was incurred prior to the shoot when Vogue’s props department phoned to request some human skulls to feature in the spread. It reads: ‘The High Commissioner himself was on the phone, furious that Vogue appeared to be planning to pastiche his country with images of cannibalism and withchcraft.’

Cultural sensibilities
A sensitive understanding of the local culture is a must for fashion titles visiting countries that have cultural sensibilities, and this is one area where PROs can provide guidance.

Sophie Baudrand, the fashion bookings editor at Vogue, was heavily involved in the Papua New Guinea shoot (r). She says: ‘Good PROs will put you in touch with someone who’s been to the destination and can tell you what you need. On-the-ground help and expertise, and people helping out with things such as props, are also really valuable.’

But travel PROs must be tough negotiators, so that they do not wind up with a hefty hotel bill and only minimal coverage to show for it.

One increasingly popular way of working is to secure an extra feature in the magazine’s travel section. This ­prevents clients from feeling short-changed when a fashion shoot appears and they have just one line of credit or, at best, a fact box which names the airline and hotel.

Debbie Flynn, chief executive of The Brighter Group, a specialist travel consultancy, prefers to have a ‘straight-talking conversation’ at the outset where she will negotiate with editors for additional coverage and clarify a cost breakdown.

Most travel PROs agree that the destinations worth selling into fashion editors have to be distinctive.

Adrian Leighton, associate director at BGB, which bills itself as a travel and lifestyle specialist, says: ‘We would suggest countries that have a unique feel. For instance, we represent Tourism Ireland and that country has many iconic backdrops and landscapes. People recognise Giant’s Causeway, or a striking destination such as Namibia in a fashion shoot, whereas a sunny beach can be anywhere. You can spend a lot of your client’s money on financing a shoot and people can end up not even knowing which continent the beach is on, let alone in which country.’

Leighton says that BGB often turns down requests for fashion shoots if there is not a clear benefit for the client. He is more likely to agree if there is a page about the location and information about the hotel. ‘Clients are happy to get involved with that because it provides a call to action,’ he says.

The June issue of Glamour magazine was refreshingly transparent. It ran a travel piece on Mauritius which featured snaps from the beach-based fashion spread higher up the book. A ‘behind the scenes’ story featured Mauritian schoolchildren observing the models being photographed.

Tsara Lawrence, an account executive at Sadler & Co, which represents Le Telfair Golf & Spa Resort – the hotel which accommodated the ­Glamour team and which is favourably written up – comments: ‘The hotel hosted the team for five nights, while the maga­zine had its own budget for food and beverages and paid for its own flights.’

Another factor worth remembering – particularly for PROs with hotel clients – is that fashion shoots tend to take over. Jonathan Sloan, the PR director for Hills Balfour Synergy, a specialist travel PR agency, says: ‘Some hotel guests find the lights and the cameras interesting; others find it irritating.’

Explore the options
Other routes might have more long-term benefit for clients, suggests Sloan: ‘A fashion shoot can involve around 15 people wanting flights and accommodation covered and they can take over a resort or hotel. When I can take 15 journalists from individual news­papers and get 15 ­double-page spreads as a result, that can often be a better option.’

Flynn adds that if hotels can be persuaded to offer up accommodation for a fashion shoot – or any other occasion – there is more goodwill towards them when they are looking for coverage if, for example, they have refurbished their suites. She adds that thinking laterally is a good option, too. ‘You have to be creative about how you promote destinations,’ she says.

Food and drink pages can work well for travel clients, as can travel websites. And there is a respect for travel PROs who think creatively. Vogue’s Baudrand says: ‘Travel PROs often come up with ideas and then, when an opportunity arises, we call them.’ She adds: ‘The days that Vogue would go to a spa resort for three nights and shoot everything at the hotel are over. We’re quite demanding.’


Sophie Baudrand
Fashion bookings editor, Vogue T 020 7499 9080

Rosie Vogel
Bookings editor, Glamour T 020 7499 9080

Susan Moore-Davies
Travel and lifestyle editor, Elle T 020 7150 7369

Tessa Solomons
Bookings editor, Marie-Claire T 020 3148 7523


Click here to watch the Brighter Group's Debbie Flynn name the easiest mags to work with in this week's Video Podcast
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