What are Look Books?

I found your entries on line sheets, and the one you worked with Danielle on so much help. I think it was in the original posts of those that look books were brought up- in any case I know that I read about them on your blog. Until then I didn’t even realise there was such a thing. I attended Magic last year, and was in hopes of seeing some, but actually didn’t get much of a chance. So this where I reveal how ignorant I am. Are they just photographs or sketches of the line in more detail in a book format? I’ve formed this picture in my mind of a 3 ring binder with the sketches and colorways in it. Except that doesn’t sound all too professional to me. Am I way off base?

You’ve defined “look book” just fine as far as I’m concerned. Look books can be considered to be like portfolios, except they represent a product line rather than providing visual samples of one’s work history. I don’t know where the term comes from, it’s relatively new. I think it came out of the colleges.

Perhaps a 3-ring binder doesn’t seem professional but you don’t need -and should not have- a consumer level “professional” presentation package. Don’t forget that some retailers (and the people who work for you) will resent an expensive print project at that stage of the game because they’ll be subsidizing the cost of it. If you were a big huge company with oodles to spend, you wouldn’t even be asking me this question because you’d have a catalog and a whole art department.

A 3 ring binder with a selection of photos, sketches and swatches can be tastefully done (if needed, consider hiring an art student or somebody who’s into scrapbooking). Me, I throw all my photos into plastic sleeves of a 3 ring binder and call it good. What I don’t understand is why someone needs a look book if it’s a new line and they’re showing the samples right there because look books show past products or previous lines. I could see using a look book as a portfolio for a line, which could give a new account a feel for the design evolution of a company.

I worry if DEs get too wrapped up in trappings like this. You’re not going to fail at market for lack of a look book.

Need something defined? Submit your glossary questions here.

Get New Posts by Email


  1. sahara says:

    At fashion publications, look books are necessary for photo shoots, as editors do not always run to showrooms, and some clothes shown on the runway are not even in the showrooms. We get look books at the magazine I edit, of FUTURE products; this way we can get what we want to shoot first.

    I dislike the fact that it’s becoming all about presentation, but it is. Look books are just another layer of work (they pile up on my desk and get thrown out after the shoot), but the fashion media is very powerful; you have to come to them now.

  2. Ernest says:

    Look books have been around for years and years. I used to shoot look books for a number of designers in the 1980’s and 1990’s including Vera Wang, Emmanuel Ungaro, Pauline Trigere among others. I shot these books with studios flash against seemless backgrounds. A lot of look books today done by the bigger designers are simply photos taken from the runway show.

    As opposed to “look books” there is something called an “image book”. The pictures in these books give the feel or the image of the designer collection. These photos are very editorial and present the collection the way the designer wants to sees it.

  3. Yahzi Rose says:

    The first time I attended Magic & Children’s Club I went with a buyer/owner of a boutique. I of course asked questions about everything that night at the hotel & collected all the material she didn’t need. I found that most companies (usually larger ones but some DEs as well) provided both line sheets and a look book of the current season. The line sheets used flat drawings or pictures of the clothes flat on a surface with all of the detail that Kathleen suggests in the book. These were usually regular sheets of color-copied paper stapled in one corner. The look books were given less frequently and were much more expensively done-glossy, heavy paper, beautiful graphics, etc. They almost always had clothed models and seemed to promote the brand and style of the company or collection. The buyer I was with said they both are helpful when choosing new lines or adding a new style in the store. The line sheets gave the information she needed to make a decision on buying and fitting things in her budget while the look books gave her a feel of what market the company is targeting and how the clothes actually look on people. I noticed too that for the big shows some buyers will look around (if looking for something new), get material from lines they may be interested in, and in the lounge or at the hotel sift through everything and make decisions on who to visit the next day. Now you cannot take pictures so these materials and any notes you write are all you have to remember the clothes. These shows have soooo many booths it’s amazing that anyone can remember anything. I was astounded by the difference between some of the materials (look books) & the actual clothing in the booths. Some companies had great collections in person but on paper their photos were too dark or the clothes didn’t look good on the chosen models, the graphics overpowered the clothing, etc. On the other hand, there were companies who had blah products but the materials were so well done -great photography, color, simple, etc- that they got a visit the next day. The buyer also said if there was a company she really liked but she has exhausted her budget she will definitely keep the materials and check their site for future business.

    In my inexperienced humble opinion, it seemed like a good idea for an unknown DE who doesn’t have a book full of appointments at a major trade show to have something informational & professional for buyers to leave the show with whether they buy anything or not. I saw some really smart creative ways of showing your clothes, brand & info on just one sheet or postcards.

    One of the first things Kathleen says about tradeshows is to ‘walk’ them if you get a chance. I’m so grateful I followed this advice because the money was well spent. I learned sooo much (I won’t go into it because I know my post is already too long). I have collected a lot of material, maybe I can post some pictures of examples in another thread.


  4. Kathleen says:

    One of the first things Kathleen says about tradeshows is to ‘walk’ them if you get a chance. I’m so grateful I followed this advice because the money was well spent. I learned sooo much (I won’t go into it because I know my post is already too long). I have collected a lot of material, maybe I can post some pictures of examples in another thread.

    Would you consider writing a post for this site? I’m sure others would be very interested in your impressions.

    Btw, anyone can write a post for this site. Just drop me an email.

  5. Megs says:

    Just found this site via The Switchboards and it seems to be a wealth of information.

    I’m wondering if Look Books work. I’m part of a co-op of small Indie businesses and we’re doing a Look book that combines several businesses into one professional book. It’s divided by category so it’s easy to navigate. This is the second round (I missed the first one) and we got some good responses from several good sized magazines/programs. It’s costing quite a bit, but since there are quite a few of us we split the cost to make it more economical for each of us.

    So do you think they work? Is it worth it for small Independent artists/businesses?

  6. Danielle says:

    Hi all. I am applying for accessories shows right now. Looking towards Jan-Feb. I make costime jewelry from vintage Lucite-really mod colorful stuff and I sell vintage La Rose shoes. What shows would you recomend I apply to? I would like to do small incubator shows-but when they are well edited-they have limited space.

    Thank you.

  7. MattB says:

    I cannot tell you how crucial my lookbook has been for my shoe and sandal line. I feel that it shows the buyer what image you are trying to project, which is a vital aspect of any company, fashion or otherwise. It shows personality and I can say with great confidence that it was the #1 driver for brand recognition upon my launch. I had buyers at my first show tell me they loved my book and came to find me because of it. Buyers are overwhelmed at shows, but if they saw your book and liked it, then see your name on a plaque at a show, they will stop in and they will buy. It makes you look like a real company rather than just having samples in a raw space. It is $ well spent. Design it yourself and print it with a local printer.

  8. Bobbi Jo Hart says:

    hi, i’m launching a new luxury children’s line of clothing (out of montreal) targetted at babies, toddlers & children and hope to attend BUBBLE in NYC as my first show. would you recommend this show and any advice on how to set up interviews and with whom? should i try and get fashion magazines to meet with me there, have a press conference, fashion show or…? i’m preparing a look book myself with photos i’m taking myself at a friends’ studio space, but any advice on making a great FIRST impression to distributors/buyers would be welcome asap…

  9. B Easy says:

    We are attending the Magic Show this month and have been asked by retailers to email our line sheet to them? my question is how much product should a list sheet have?

  10. violet femme says:

    I agree with Danielle. It’s 1000% necessary and you will be remembered and stand out. Say for example, you have a tee shirt line. A tee shirt, is a tee shirt is a tee shirt, until you shoot it to evoke the mood of your inspiration. You can do this simply in a studio setting with a white background and still suggest the mood by model choice and lighting or you can get good images for a look book on a location shoot. But in the latter, I’d suggest that you make sure the mood doesn’t take so far over that you focus on the model and the background and remember it’s about the clothing.
    I offer a line sheet separately because for quick reference and easy ordering (after seeing the line in person) is easiest.

  11. Earth Rowe says:

    Hi I am a jewelry designer and wanted to know more about look books and how they should be presented to a buyer. I really do appreciate any info provided. take care of yourself. This has been very informative.

  12. Michelle Frost says:

    Hi all. My father recently launched his own business online manufacturing and selling high quality lingerie. I am exploring potential business opportunities on his behalf and contacted an up-market department store asking if we could send them some company and product information and was asked to send them a ‘look book’. Not having worked in the fashion industry myself (my father was in the trade for 25 years and took a break before returning) I had not heard of look books so googled the term and was brought to this site which I have found most informative – thank you. I am fairly artistic and excited about designing a look book for the business. If anyone can offer further advice or input in presenting look books that would be much appreciated.

  13. Josephine McGowan says:

    Hey, guys. Thank you so much for the information. I am a model, and recently got a job for look book, and was wondering what that was. This helped so much! Thanks, again!

  14. Bestype says:

    My company works with many start-up designers as well as established companies to print their look books. With digital printing, it’s cost effective to print as few as 50 books, although $/book comes down the more you print.

    Look books range in size, shape, paper stock, type of binding, etc. A typical configuration is a 6w x 8h” size, 20-56 pages, saddle-stitch binding (stapled in the middle and folded). On the cover is the logo, the season of the collection, and maybe a cover photo. Layout on the inside usually contains one look per page with number and name/description of the look. Contact info is listed on the back cover complete with press and sales contacts. You can contact me for pricing.

  15. Bambi says:

    I am currently creating a look book for my university project and was just wondering whether all the photos needed to be in the same format, for example if i choose black and white images should they all be black and white or can some be in colour? what do you think would look better?

  16. Noro says:

    I’m making a look book for my designer and can’t help myself to stop thinking about making an impact.
    After all it is simply aimed at buyers to show them how the garments look when worn, creative presentation (abstractive, artistic..etc) IS NOT THE BIG ISSUE.

    But as a fashion illustration student who likes to see funky and abstract images in magazine, it would be nice to present garments with a bit of creative touch. Meaning that i personally find it boring looking at a collection in look book with the model in similar poses. How images are presented should be taken in account, in my opinion.

    For people like Bambi, there isn’t a standard format and shouldn’t be, for look book, as long as it contains enough information of the garments. In point of view as a creator, people should create look book in their own taste.
    Your creative input in it’s representation might take a part to attract customers, because once garments are made I don’t think it’s only one person’s job but everyone who were involved in post production’s job as a team.

    Every effort counts.
    Even running a business can be considered as work of art :)

  17. pk says:


    I have a swimwear/resort collection that is ready and been shot on models professionally. Hence, I’m ready to create my lookbook. I’m aslo considering participating in the tradeshows for swimwear 2011 that start in July 2010. Should my lookbook say spring/summer 2010/2011 or only spring/summer 2011. (since I’m ready to sell asap)


  18. NadineBean says:

    If you had the opportunity to have a designer and photographer create a professional “look book” for you would you pay for someone else to do this? Suppose you could submit your ideas and photos and let a designer put it together for you?

    I am writing a business proposal for a class in college and have noticed the need for designers to have “Look Books” for their presentations. Many do not even know what it is or what format to do it in. It is the visual manifesto of your design. I do beleive it is a great marketing device. Plus if you get a copy of it on file (pdf or jpg) you can submit it to facebook business accounts which have shown to effectively drive up revenu in many retail markets. Check the statistics and see!

    What do you think?
    Would you pay (provided it is not too expensive) to have your “look book” created by a designer?

  19. Yolanda Jasso says:

    Hi NadineBean,
    I’m am a graphic design student and interested in learning more about Look Books. Would you share some of your research with me.


  20. Harper says:

    I have a 3 Ring Look Book for my Bridesmaid/Destination Bridal Line with photos of models in the pieces (that I can’t afford to have standing in my show booth for 3 days), very finished sketches, and the Label Graphics on the outside. I think its crucial to communicate the theme of the line and when someone buys samples of my line for their Bridal Shop they get a book tweaked twards Customers to help them sell! They get Line Sheets and all the Wholesale stuff to take with them hopefully after they place a Sample Order…..

    Walking a show before you plunk down large $$$ is crucial! See what’s there in terms of competition or realize what’s missing, it made me do Flowergirls overnight! What booths are empty and who’s hopping and try to figure out why. See how the Successful are presenting themselves, and now the Nots are missing the point. Overhear Buyer conversations to see what interests them or hell, just introduce yourself and pull out your Look Book! I sold my line early that way out of my tote bag over in the lounge area! Work it Girl! :)

  21. suzywon says:

    I’ve been hearing more and more about virtual lookbooks. Does anyone know how to create one? Or does that just mean a pdf doc that you forward? Is there a service that provides templates, etc.? Thanks!

  22. Lara says:

    Is it ever possible to have a look book that is just drawings and not actualy samples?? If so when and what are these usually used for?

  23. Amelia says:

    ETSY has a great training video from two fabulous successful business women, owners of Radish Underground Boutique in Portland, OR entitled, A Torrid Affair: A Love-Hate Relationship. They discuss each element of choosing a new line for their store, from the perspective of the store owner- including the role of the look book. If you can google this video- I would definitely recommend watching it a couple of times!
    I’m a jewelry designer in my second year of business, and currently editing pictures for my look book. It has been so much work- I’ve asked myself countless times if it’s worth it- but seeing the pictures is incredibly reinvigorating. The look book offers the opportunity to capture whatever imagery, feeling, textures, etc. inspired the artwork in the first place, and visually conveys the story of the brand. I might even go as far as saying the look book helps put your product into context for the viewer.
    Also, the look book is a fantastic way to reflect on yourself and where you’re at as a business person. While its a lot of work -whew!- I think that building a look book has been one of the most exciting parts of my job because it has forced me to really define my vision.
    Lastly, some advice on technical aspects (from someone new at this and on a tight budget!!)- find a photographer. Really. Make the investment. I know, we’re artists, we like to do it ourselves! – but you’ll be glad you delegated that part, because on the day of the shoot, you want hands free to be fussing with everything else.
    Ask your friends to model if you can. They love you and they care about your success- and they feel comfortable around you which will show on camera. Plus you feel more comfortable around them to adjust hair, jewelry- climb a tree, whatever.
    Plan into as much detail as you possibly can. Go to a thrift store and pick outfits for your models. Plan ahead which jewelry sets they will wear with each outfit and try to organize this as best you can so you’re not trying to make creative decisions on the day of the shoot. Maybe even make a list of which poses you think will best show off your jewelry- sometimes it helps to give the model a fake task- have her doing something so she feels more natural and her movements/poses will look more natural on camera.
    Lighting makes such a difference- truly. If you can, do a walk-through w/your photographer on location before the shoot so you know when and where the best lighting is. On the day of the shoot, it really helps to stay on track when you know exactly what time the natural light will be working for you or against you- especially if you’re shooting in multiple locations.
    Ok- I hope that helps! Sorry the post got so long, I guess I got excited reading all the other posts on look books- good luck!!

  24. Heidi says:

    I have learned a ton reading everyone’s posts. Thank you. I did a soft launch of my brand in 2009 with a line sheet, but no look book, mostly because I was flying blind and the designers who were advising me said nothing about having one. A graphic designer and I are just now putting the final touches on a look book, and it conveys so much about our brand and our attitude. I completely agree with having professional photography — it has been a sound investment for my company. In 2009 from our first photo shoot, I had two great postcards that represented the brand — it was my sole piece of collateral and it did its job, but the photography made it work.

  25. Damian says:

    I recently started to sell jewelry online and at craft shows. I am wanting to sell in boutiques. Is it best to email with a link to your website, cold call or go in? What if they are in another state? The look book is new to me. I thought I just go into a boutique with a few samples to show.

    I have a line sheet question. Do you list wholesale or retail prices? Or both? Do you list a price range of an item depending on how many they order?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.