Prominence. It’s one of the most strived for elements of success in fashion industry. The great thing about the fashion industry is that there are creatives such as fashions stylists and photographers who can help nudge a little further into the limelight. We’re talking luxe exotic spread in the holy grail of the latest glossy magazines, inclusion to the wardrobe of trending IT films/TV shows or loaning them to VIP celebrities for events. Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to lend their apparel and accessories out for that level of publicity and validation? Especially when they’re the ones who come a-knocking, cooing and ‘yes darling’ all over your merchandise.
Not so fast.
From the outside, there’s certainly the appeal of glamour, but get close enough to a shoot and you’ll notice a little chaos boils underneath the frilly collar. The bigger the crew, the higher the probability that something could happen to your goods. They could be damaged, nicked, portrayed in a way that isn’t in line with your brand or not used at all. Don’t be fooled, this industry has its fair share of horror stories that range for accidental to sheer preposterousness or negligence. A gentleman’s agreement isn’t enough proof to hold anyone accountable. But a pull agreement is.
A pull agreement, also known as a letter of responsibility (LOR), is a document a fashion photographer or stylist often use to gain access to the magical kingdom that is your brand. Fashion blog, Start Up Fashion, defines it as ‘a legal document that outlines the relationship between the owner and the borrower.’ It isn’t just a piece of paper that allows them to borrow product, but it also clearly states who will be responsible for loss, theft or any damages to the borrowed clothes and accessories. As much as you’re building relationships and want to keep things cordial, this is business. Cover your bases and have this document in the event you have a recourse against the borrower. To be truly effective, your pull element should capture the following rudiments:
Parties Involved – Who will be taking your clothes? Not only are you finding out their names but also their role on this project. Are they doing it as an individual or on behalf of a publication? If it’s the latter, you need to get the editor’s contact information and confirm that they are indeed authorised to act on their behalf. If it’s the former, their name and contact information can help you do an online vetting of their work thus far. They could have amazing editorials but they could be infamous on their handling capabilities.
Shoot Details – This will look at details such as the time, date and location the shoot will take place. Will it be indoors or outdoors? The latter is less of a controlled environment and you can advise accordingly on how to avoid damages. It also helps to note down the intended theme so you can have a little control over how they use your items. As much as possible, you want your goods to be used in a way that reflects their original purpose.
Item’s Description – Get into the details of each product that’s leaving your shop and the condition they’re in. Take for example a pair of heels. You’ll indicate the model name and number, colour, size and the condition it is in. If you can photograph each item, even better. Then have the borrower sign to confirm all is in order.
Bond – Some designers do ask for deposits before handing their clothes out. This money can be used to cover any damages that occur during the shoot. It helps to define what kind of damaged the deposit will cover and the time frame that the compensation needs to happen in.
Ensure that you get the rights to use the pictures or footage for your online and social media promotion. If you forget this step, they aren’t obligated to give them to you.
Extra Costs – It isn’t always a as simple as the stylist collecting and dropping your clothes. Sometimes additional costs pop up, such as shipping/transportation costs if they can’t come to the store, or dry-cleaning costs. Incorporate a clause in the pull agreement that states this information as well as preferred service providers or handling.
Loan Duration – There have been situations where borrowers stay with the product weeks, or months, after the shoot. You can avoid this by indicating the date of collection, how long they can stay with the item and when they should bring it back. Also describe the penalty if the stylist or photographer doesn’t adhere to the timelines.
Even if it’s a model that sweated through the garments or an intern that burnt a hole through the dress, the aforementioned individual will have to answer to it.
Responsibility – This very critical element of the agreement specifies who’ll be charged with the items’ safety. Even if it’s a model that sweated through the garments or an intern that burnt a hole through the dress, the aforementioned individual will have to answer to it. This also covers reputable damages such as if the items are used for purposes that you didn’t agree to. However, if you’re a start-up designer, there is the possibility that you would have to absorb the damages’ costs or be a little lenient with the penalties. Stepping on the major players toes so early in the game may get you blacklisted.
Rights and Credits – The whole reason you’re doing this is so that you can get some visibility. But sometimes, they can forget to indicate where they got the items from. This agreement will discuss how crediting should be done on the published shoot. You also need to ensure that you get the rights to use the pictures or footage for your online and social media promotion. If you forget this step, they aren’t obligated to give them to you.
Buying Options – With all these people on the shoot set, it’s common for someone to express interest in purchasing items right there and then. Having the stylist direct them to your store may not result in a sale. Instead, add a clause that addresses the purchase price and whether a discount can be given depending on the circumstances. It could be a great way to get a celebrity hooked on your brand!
Pull agreements or LORs are a keen practice for any designer; veteran or newbie. They not only give an air of validity to the project, but also provides a level of comfort. Each party understands what they’re getting into and how to react in the worst-case scenario. The bigger you get the more commonplace these kind of business collaborations will become. Best to be proactive and make them common practice straight off the bat. Most importantly, this should be treated as a legal contract and thus you should seek legal counsel to draft your LOR. Always read through contracts and countercheck to ensure you’ve covered all your bases. Once that’s out of the way, you can essentially enjoy the creative process and publicity that comes from these projects.