Lulu Chen on How Online Retail and Editorial Fashion Jobs Compare

In Chapter 9 of 16 in her 2012 Capture Your Flag interview, art director Lulu Chen answers "How Does Working in Retail E-Commerce Compare and Contrast With the Work That You Have Done in Editorial?"  Chen notes how the teams - photographers, models, stylists, etc. can be the same as can the process.  However, the goals can be very different, as editorial goals can trend more toward aspirational brand communication whereas online retail or retail e-commerce is more functional, rooted in selling clothes that fit. 

Lulu Chen is a photo art director working in retail e-commerce in New York City.  Previously, Chen worked as a freelance stylist for leading fashion catalogs and magazines.  She earned a BFA in design and art history from the University of Michigan.


Erik Michielsen: How does working in retail e-commerce compare and contrast with the work that you’ve done in editorial?

Lulu Chen: Well, the teams are the same—can be actually almost the same, you know, the talents, people do both, you know, your photographer, your hair and makeup, your models, and everybody who’s freelance. Actually, you know, even some contributors of magazines, they do both, so the process is similar in a way, depending on what you’re working on. But the actual—the goal might vary. So in editorial work, you’re more focused on this narrative and this aspirational kind of fantasy and this mood and this lifestyle you might be selling or, you know, trying to achieve.

Whereas I think in retail and in commerce, it has to be more brand specific or, you know, it has to be more pointed, you know, it’s—you’re selling. You’re selling a specific thing. You’re selling either a brand or an item or items, and specifically for me, I work on apparel, so the clothes have to look good, you know. I mean in editorial, we can move around or lay someone down, and sometimes it’s a hot mess, you know, and it doesn’t matter that things are flying around and, you know, but I think that in commerce, it has to be a little bit more functional, you know?

I think you can have fun in both editorial and in retail. 

I think it’s starting to be bridged too, you know, it’s like that whole art and commerce, and I think a lot of retail brands are doing a really good job, they’re still trying to make—they’re trying actually to be aspirational and trying to get their customer to push the boundaries or, you know, to kind of imagine this lifestyle—you know, wearing their clothes or their items or their accessories, but at the end of the day, you know, it’s still—it still has to be more functioning.