What is the Difference Between a Catalog and a Lookbook?

By Angela RuthOctober 24, 2019Last updated on June 9, 2021Content Marketing

Catalogs and Lookbooks – What’s the Difference?

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 fashion catalog displays a clothing brand’s collection, or full offerings, with all of the details included. Catalogs are used for wholesale and purchasing needs. Thus, it is imperative for manufacturers, designers, and retailers to include all of the necessary details. Those being, pricing, sizing, materials, and measurements.

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.

  • 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.

In conclusion, lookbooks focus on the visual storytelling of the products. Less of the wordy details, more of the visual inspiration. 

Here’s an example of a lookbook:

Here’s an example of a catalog:

Start your catalog or lookbook today with our free templates >

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