FASHION INSIDER PROFILE:
Bill Marpet "Mr. Fashion Video"
He has just wrapped up the Fall'96 market week in New York's Bryant Park, in which his company, B Video Inc., covered forty-five shows for a list of designers that he jokingly classifies as E.B.R.: Everybody But Ralph. Settling into his sun-filled office on Manhattan's upper west side to reflect on a fashion video dynasty that has endured for more than a decade, Bill Marpet exudes a low key charm and an affable mannner that have earned him a reputation as one of the nicest guys in the business.
Marpet's success is not the result of any grand scheme. Raised in New York's Westchester county, he confesses to "wasting" a year at Bard College before transferring to the New York University Film School in the early seventies. There he found that it was not film that interested him but video, which was undergoing a major revolutionary change into a portable medium.
A pioneer in the "alternative video movement," Marpet began teaching video classes only a few months after he had learned the skills himself, using 1/2" reel-to-reel tapes that were cut with razor blades. From these, he progressed to using broadcast level equipment and eventually landed a job as a freelance cameraman with the television show, Video Fashion, in 1976. "I remember my first shoot for them was Press Week at the Plaza with Eleanor Lambert."
Marpet traveled routinely to Paris and Milan to shoot the European collections for Video Fashion. He continued to sharpen his video techniques while working on a number of documentaries for the Public Broadcasting System. "These made me no money, but they honed my skills for capturing live events, just like a fashion show is a live event. When you're shooting something like the running of the bulls in Pompona or the harvest for wine in Bordeaux, it's a one time occurence - you don't ask them to do it again."
In the early eighties, Marpet was doing corporate videos when he got his first big break toward what would ultimately be his destiny. A romance with a showroom model for Mary Ann Restivo led to his being asked to do a video for the designer. With that success a similar contact resulted in a commission from Bill Blass to shoot one of shows in 1982. He has been shooting for Bill Blass ever since. Next came Calvin Klein, and gradually his client list continued to grow. In 1984, he rented a small office space and opened the doors of B Video Inc.
Today, that office has expanded into a spacious studio. It now houses an operation that consists of Marpet,an accountant, and five full-time employees, some of whom have been with him for years. "I'm one nice guy to work for," he says with a smile.
Marpet has proved to be a savvy entrepreneur. He has diversified B Video into several ancillary areas of the fashion industry that keeps his services in demand roughout the year.They include image videos, that are used at point-of-purchase for a wide range of clients not limited to the high end designers. The company is also a major player in the booming field of sales traning videos. "Due to a more competitive marketplace, companies are moving their money away from imageand more into, educating people about their brand. If a customer comes in and wants Calvin Klein, well that's an easy sale. If they want brand X ... you have to educate them about the brand."
In contrast to the high profile world that Marpet dwells in professionally, his private life is surprisingly quiet and traditional. He and his wife, a former singer, are the parents of four small children. They have recently relocated their family from Manhattan to the picturesque suburb of Hastings-on-Hudson. "I'm busy with my kids ... and I've got the business to run, so my plates pretty full," he explains. "I'm usually in bed by ten and up around five-thirty. I don't go to parties unless I'm shooting for business." Doe he have a hobby? "I guess my work is like a hobby; I'm very lucky, I really love what I do."
by Rhonda Erb