Location, location, location!
The eagle-eyed among you may remember I blogged about shooting our Spring and Winter models for the Spring 2017 catalogue in a London studio back in November. Well, that was only part of the story because the other half of the book – Autumn and Summer – was photographed this month in Cape Town, and John and I are just back from the shoot.
People have asked in the past why we photograph our spring catalogue abroad, and my answer is that blue skies make the models look great in their colours, simple as that. Colour is joyful in itself – all you have to do is add a drop of sunshine. And to the question “Why do you always shoot in South Africa and not somewhere like Miami or Morocco?” Well, for one, there are some incredibly beautiful open-plan houses to rent as locations in South Africa, which are all set up for shoots, and they have great production teams just ready to go, including a make-up artist whom we have worked with for the past eight years. She really understands the seasons and how to choose the right colours for the right girls, which is a real bonus for us. Plus, there are a couple of excellent model agencies over in Cape Town, and their models’ schedules neatly tie in with ours – so when the girls are over modelling in Europe for six months of the year, we’ll meet them and get their colours done, ready to photograph them when they’re back in South Africa for the other six months.
As always we were accompanied by our talented photographer, Ben, who has worked with us from the start. Ben also happens to be John’s brother and together they work like a well-oiled machine – while Ben shoots, John will be setting up equipment, ensuring everyone has what they need to do their job, and generally making himself indispensable around the studio. It’s all about being able to anticipate the other person’s needs and that crucial little thing called team work.
Our first shoot, for our high summer book, was with “Spring” Michelle and “Winter” Christina, in Western Cape, which has to be one of the most beautiful of South Africa’s provinces – a mix of Winelands and fabulous sandy beaches and, of course, Cape Town and Table Mountain. The location, a white clapperboard house with an infinity pool and breathtaking views of the ocean, was in Grotto Bay, a place which I can only describe as being a little like Cornwall in the sunshine, with its rocky outcrops, fynboss grass and sandy beaches and lovely white wooden villas dotted along the coastline. To say that the house looks like it’s straight off the pages of Elle Decoration is to understate it – it is absolutely stunning, and the perfect backdrop to make our colours pop.
For the Spring catalogue, with “Summer” Maria and “Autumn” Lenka, our location this time was the Tree House, an incredible contemporary glass house which just so happens to have its own waterfall inside, a glass spiral staircase, a contemporary Japanese kitchen and decking which is built around a huge tree with a staircase you must climb to access the bedroom. Lenka had flown in the day before from Slovakia, where they had just had 10ft of snow fall before she’d left, and this was her first time in South Africa. I can only imagine what a contrast that must have been for her, with the mercury hitting 27C and not a Puffa jacket in sight.
For both shoots the team was up at 5am, ready to start at first light. Six o’clock is when the Cape Town sun is at its softest and easiest to work with and the clothes look their best (as opposed to later in the day when the harsh rays run the risk of creating dark shadows across the model’s face or bleaching out the colours). Plus, starting early means we are able to squeeze a lot in before the wind gets up around midday, which can be a bit challenging when you have floaty clothes and models like Christina with long flowing hair.
It’s knowing these things that makes it so much easier to create the shots we know will bring our clothes to life. It’s also the reason we keep coming back year after year. Eight at the last count.
See the shoots in the new Spring/Summer 2017 catalogue, which is due out at the beginning of March. Make sure you are signed up to receive your copy!