Among the most fanciful editorials in the eagerly anticipated Chanel Iman-fronted Lula Magazine #8 (released in tandem with the European fashion weeks and available today at Colette) is "Lady Bird", an Ellen von Unwerth-photographed "naughty tea party" spread dedicated entirely to Luella Bartley's Spring 2009 showing. The collection was based upon the "Luella Girl" (in Lula's case, my best friend Simona McIntyre –- as personally requested by Ms. Bartley herself) raiding her grandmother's closet, chockablock with Chanel and genteel teatime separates. While some of Luella's key pieces perfectly fit the bill as a quirky homage to Madame Coco herself (think box-plaid bouclé jackets, tweeds galore and layered pearls aplenty), Simona also took old-lady pieces -– boxy bags, delicate gloves, charming cashmere cardigans, and a profusion of ruffled pieces of yore –- for a whirl. The spread was styled by Leith Clark, the editor-in-chief of Lula, who also happens to be a personal stylist to the likes of Keira Knightley and a freelance fashion editor for the Vogues – including American, British, and Japanese. I recently chatted with Simona and got the down-low on the shoot.
What was the general mood on set? Luella, Leith, Ellen, Lula: sounds like a fairy tale!
That morning [November 7th, 2008], I took the train from Paris into London and arrived at the location –- a charming house, 33 Portland Place –- that is often used for parties and such. It was my first time working with Ellen von Unwerth. She was so much fun to be around and had amazing energy! Ellen was taking pictures the entire day, both on set and with her own digital camera. I was happy to find time during a quick break to make a salad with some fixings that I brought with me... and Ellen of course snapped me eating! Everyone was very cool and enjoyed the work; the day was long but went quickly. In the tight timeframe we not only shot the Lula Magazine editorial, but also changed hair and makeup afterwards to do some portraits for i-D.
Luella Bartley has fallen under the Simona spell; why do you think your enchanting look and personality has struck a chord with Luella and embody a kindred aesthetic?
You think so? Well I just loved her last brilliant Spring/Summer 2009 collection, which [I walked in and] also served as the base for the editorial. With the tea party and all the pastries, the theme for the Lula shoot seemed to translate as Alice in Wonderland meets Marie Antoinette (the Sofia Coppola film). The beautiful quirk of the collection was perfect for the theme, which Leith put together so well and Ellen made happen behind the lens. I had a lot of fun playing the character. The shoot involved being a “naughty” little lady in Luella at her tea party, binging on pastries and sweets -- a little sexy and a little sugar-high. It was a little ironic because I have a plant-based diet! It was really fun to work on the concept and I am pleased that I was chosen for this job. I also got a smile from the name of the story, "Lady Bird" because my nickname is Little Bird (Petit Oiseau)!
What was it like collaborating with Lula editor extraordinaire Leith Clark (and her charming pup)?
I found out that Leith is from Canada as well! Her miniature poodle, Tilda, is adorable and ended up in two of the shots! Leith is young, very accomplished and (besides being the editor of Lula) is a personal stylist for some important icons... but still maintains the cheeriest disposition towards everyone.
You've formed a lovely bond with the legendary photographer/director Ellen von Unwerth –- would you mind sharing a few of your personal experiences with her?
The work we did on set in London and the train ride back to Paris again made for a great day and she was kind enough to later invite me to the Porte de Vanves flea market. We met that Sunday morning and had a ball passing by all the cute vendor tables, taking photos of this and that. Flea markets are fantastic for finding neat supplements for your wardrobe -– especially on a tight recessionary budget. Ellen took pictures of the dolls at the different vendors' stands. Some of the dolls are quite distressed-looking! I hope to be able to work with her many times again, she is a wonderful woman.
How does shooting with Ellen compare to other photographers?
While everyone works differently (individual cameras, preferred angles, etc.), I definitely came to see Ellen's signature style shine through. Since she used a digital camera, it allowed me to see her raw images on the computer after each shot (when I had time to peek). Her on-set direction is gentile and nice; she always has fun hints but was nonetheless happy to give me space to play the character on my own. She was smiling the entire time and making things enjoyable... it's great!
What a lovely day! How did you end your glorious London adventure?
After the shoot I took the train back to Paris in first class cabin with Ellen, her assistant, and my Marilyn Agency editorial booker in Paris, Guillaume (who happened to have a train back from his own work in London). Ron Wood from the Rolling Stones was in our cabin! No pictures with him unfortunately... I think he had a bodyguard.