We had just over 10 days to prepare for one of the biggest shoots we had ever produced at The National - not a lot of time considering what needed to be organised.
The brief was to shoot the cover and eight inside pages for this month's special fashion issue of Luxury magazine. We needed to think outside the box, bringing something new and exclusive and relevant to the luxury Middle East market. There was only one direction that would hit all these notes: haute couture. And only one location in the world where this could happen: Paris.
Would it be easy? Absolutely not. Especially since many of the very same dresses we wanted to photograph would be being worn that week by red carpet A-listers at the Cannes Film Festival. But overcoming challenges like this is what makes a remarkable shoot. Here's how it all came together.
1. Inspiration We spent a weekend working on the concept and mood board for the shoot before delivering our final pitch: the Golden age of Glamour. We wanted to capture the opulence of the 1920s and Thirties, an age that was daring, influential, exciting and, thanks to the recently released remake of The Great Gatsby, an era of vintage that's also one of the year's biggest style trends.
3. The Photographer To get the look we wanted for the shoot, we needed someone who would be able to recreate a vintage world in a modern light. Silja Magg, an Icelandic photographer we had worked with previously at The National, was our first choice. But would we be able to get her at such short notice? We were in luck. She was in London that weekend and able to jump on the Eurostar to Paris just in time for the shoot. We work really well with Silja; her energy and drive is superb, and in fact if no one had stopped us we would have continued shooting right through the night!4. The Location With just over a week to go, finding and securing a location that would have the right look for this shoot - and one that would allow us on to their premises - was actually our biggest concern. Trying to find somewhere at late notice was a challenge in itself, but with the hotels of Paris packed with film industry types on their way to and from Cannes, we were really up against it. We knew we needed something exceptional for our location; something with enough grandeur to showcase the amazing couture pieces we were, by now, starting to secure. It was The National's travel editor Rosemary Behan, who suggested the Shangri-La hotel. A converted palace that was once the home of Napoleon Bonaparte's grand nephew, Prince Roland Bonaparte, it had all the opulence and glamour we were looking for.
5. The Model Securing a model who's right for the job is a painstaking, difficult process. It's also pot luck. We had done an online casting (where agencies send us photos of suitable, available models) the week before, telling the agencies we were looking for someone with elegant limbs and dark features. With a day to go we had four models on hold, with the British model Milly Simmonds our number-one choice. As the current face of Burberry, Milly is in big demand right now, and we had to wait until 3pm the day before the shoot to find out if we had her. Modelling is a physically tough job; you're pushed pulled, prodded, corseted and sewn into dresses, and you barely sit down from 6am until 9pm. Yet Milly didn't once moan, and as you can see from the final photos, she was also perfect for the role.
The pieces from Boucheron, which had previously been worn by Salma Hayek and Gwen Stefani, arrived in a black, unmarked black sports bag accompanied by two bodyguards. In terms of total value, you're dealing with millions of euros, which explains why at one stage during the shoot we had four bodyguards in the room with us.
The importance of having your entire team working in cohesion is vital in when putting together a big production such as this. If one member of the team is "off", it can throw everyone. So we were extremely lucky to have the team we had. Shoots like this are not easy, and from the planning to the post production they are often exhausting. But creating a beautiful fashion shoot as we did here with La Vie En Rose is why we do it. We just hope that you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed making it.
Now for the next one! Katie Trotter, fashion director.