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What is the Difference Between a Catalog and a Lookbook?

Oct 24th, 2019 by Angela Ruth

Whether you’re in the fashion industry or a fashionista on the hunt for the latest trend – catalogs and lookbooks are often a very important piece of collateral within the industry. Imagery and the clothing and how accessories are merchandised is crucial. Thus, that’s why clothing brands turn to catalogs and lookbooks to display their offerings. But, what’s the difference?

What is a catalog?

A very basic definition of a catalog is a "list of items in an arranged order". This could be a catalog of books, arranged in alphabetical order, a catalog of clothes, arranged by type of clothing (shirts, pants, shoes) or arranged by collection or by outfits. A fashion catalog typically displays a clothing brand’s collection, or full offerings, with all of the details included. Your typical catalog will include everything that the seller has, or at the very least, what is currently available in that collection.

Catalogs should include:
  • Pricing

  • Sizing

  • Materials

  • Measurements

  • Complex background (potentially including other products available for purchase)

Here’s an example of a catalog:

What is a lookbook?

Lookbooks are used within the fashion industry as a visual display of the product. Meaning that lookbooks are intended to inspire consumers and attract interest from fashion buyers without all of the bulky additional information. Oftentimes, offerings are grouped by a certain theme or color within each section, creating a visually stunning experience for viewers. Additionally, lookbooks are often published by the season to truly capture a specific story amongst the clothing.

Generally less wordy, and mostly focussed on imagery. Showing multiple views of the same items, against simple backgrounds. Lookbooks encompass that “feeling” you get when you imagine yourself wearing or using the product, and they focus more heavily on the high quality imagery and full page spreads rather than directly about the products themselves. While many lookbooks do have shopping links for digital sales, many are more geared towards being the showroom for products. “Shop the look”, rather than just the product.

Loobooks should include:
  • Simple background

  • Multiple angles of the same product

  • The “feeling” or aesthetic of the product

  • Meant to tip you over the edge towards purchase

  • Sometimes meant for wholesale rather than average consumer purchase

What makes this a lookbook? Notice the attention to detail in the various photographs of the same person. Most backgrounds are simple and muted unless the background is meant to drive the aesthetic, and there is a large focus on high quality photography over selling the products contained within them. Sure, products are mentioned, and you could certainly buy them, but the aesthetic, the feeling, is what’s important to note here.

Note: Just because lookbooks prioritize photography over pricing and word count doesn’t mean that there aren’t products being sold. Many lookbooks have items available for purchase.

Here is a wonderful example of a lookbook. The kits to make these clothes are for sale, but prices aren’t mentioned. Notice the attention to photography. The pages are all about the photos, and multiple angles of the same items customers can purchase.

Here’s another example of a lookbook:

In conclusion, lookbooks focus on the visual storytelling of the products. Less of the wordy details, more of the visual inspiration. Catalogs on the other hand, are selling the utility of the items, how you can use them, where they would fit in your home, and precise details of the item.

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Looking for some lookbook inspiration? Check out amazing Customer Stories, learn How to Drive Digital Sales, Overcoming Writer's Block, and more. Sign up on Issuu to create a digital catalog or lookbook today!