It’s fair to say I’ve had more than a few ‘pinch me’ moments over my career as a fashion editor – whether it’s been finding myself at an awe-inspiring location for a shoot or watching a particularly amazing show. But when I was tasked to work with legendary photographer Jean-Paul Goude on a major collaboration with Nicolas Ghesquière and Louis Vuitton, to feature in every ELLE around the world, it was a ‘pinch me’ moment of epic proportions – not simply professional, but personal.
Rewind to my teenage suburban bedroom sometime in the 1980s and there’s me, perched on my Laura Ashley duvet-clad bed, all crimped hair and Vivienne Westwood pirate boots, in front of a wall plastered with pages from The Face and i-D magazine. But it was the various images of Grace Jones, shot by Jean-Paul Goude, that took centre stage. Not only were these pictures an integral part of my teenage landscape, but without a doubt they informed my decision to pursue a career in fashion image-making.
Fast forward to October 2014 and I'm walking into a studio on the outskirts of Paris ready to meet Mr Goude. The twinkly eyed, mischievous man in his trademark Breton, baggy pants and white brogues felt not unlike a character in one of his stories. A little eccentric, almost cartoon-like with an infectious sense of fun. It all felt a little surreal… This was the man whose images I had plastered all over my bedroom wall, after all.
'I'm so excited to be working with you,' I said. 'But you are English,' he replied. 'How do you even know who I am?' Cue a rather uncool but heartfelt explanation from me about how he was a HUGE deal in the UK and that everyone knew who he was.
Introductions over, we talked through the story idea briefly again, which was was to create a stylised version the backstage scene at the s/s 2015 Louis Vuitton show held for the first time at The Vuitton Foundation HQ. It was to run in the form of a timeline from first model arriving, to first exit going out at the show, with Nicholas Ghesquière appearing in each scenario to illustrate how involved he is in every aspect of the show.
Apart from Jean Paul’s incredible vision for this project, it was this energy that had everyone on the shoot in his thrall. Who else could get the Creative Director of Louis Vuitton and King of Cool Nicolas Ghesquière to jump and smile and goof around like ‘an elf’ (as Jean-Paul saw him, having watched him backstage before the show)? I can’t recall another shoot where there has been so much smiling and laughter on set - like children at a circus, with Jean-Paul as the consummate ringmaster.
For me, the most fascinating part of the shoot was watching how Jean-Paul worked. The idea of a backstage story evolved as we were shooting. In-between takes, he would furiously sketch away, reworking and refining the idea. In the end, pretty much everyone on set became part of the shoot in one way or another. My role as a Fashion Director sitting front row was not too much of a stretch, granted. And as I sat there following Jean-Paul Goude’s directions – ‘Head up!’; ‘No smiling, you’re at a show!’ – a teenage dream became reality, right there.
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