The first thing to mention is the owl. He was real; his name was Alfie, and he was my co-model for the latest Charlotte Taylor A/W 2012 lookbook. He also nipped me (it didn’t hurt), but it’s very easy to forgive any creature that is happy enough to sit on my hand in front of a team of eleven and flap his wings for the camera. His presence also made the two days spent in London one of the most memorable modeling experiences I have had - and one I was very honoured to be asked to do.
I have now known Charlotte Taylor and appreciated her wonderful designs for several seasons. Charlotte’s brand is instantly recognisable through her use of prints – intricate and boldly patterned fabrics that alter every six months to reflect the theme of her collection, as well as her exquisitely cut pieces.
This particular theme for Autumn/Winter is Cornwall – from the purple cabbages to the miners’ lanterns – all based on an inspiration-gathering trip that Charlotte made with her father. I found out about this backstory after using a London A-Z to navigate my way through the chilly streets of Dalston to the designated studio. I arrived early and, once everyone had thawed a little, Charlotte ran through the all-important ‘mood’ that stitched the collection together. It was altogether darker than previous seasons – with storm clouds, bare floorboards and a velvet chair that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the imposing house of Manderley.
For of course, the collection instantly calls to mind the writing of Daphne du Maurier – an author who immortalized the landscape of Cornwall in books such as Rebecca, Frenchman’s Creek and Jamaica Inn, the last of which is also the title and stimulus for Charlotte’s collection. As she talked through how she envisaged the lookbook, I resolved to combine the romanticism of Dona St Columb with the gothic threat of Rebecca. The images in my head were ones of walking on cliffs in the rain or exploring rooms filled with drapes and echoes. The clothes, theme and inspiration appeared to be conspiring to out-do each other in the “This is Roz’s idea of perfect” category. It’s steeped in the rural; cut with the classic and tinged around the edges with literature.
This collection calls to mind the wind shrieking through Bodmin Moor, or the sun dipping below the thin line of the horizon as waves shush and crash. These clothes suggest stories – the owl prints to be worn in moonlight, or the banjo dress to be donned while listening to a live band in a crumbling, atmospheric pub (or Inn). Much like the books of Daphne du Maurier, they mix together an irrepressible charm with a hint of chaos beneath the surface.
There is a sense of pace and adventure that runs throughout Du Maurier’s books – as well as an eye for carefully built suspense. They are the kind of novels that one subsides into for an afternoon, consuming chapter after chapter, unwittingly becoming emotionally involved in the fate of the characters. For me, the experience of reading Daphne Du Maurier inevitably links to thoughts of how the story could be expressed through other art forms – they are cinematic; photographic; evocative and lavishly visual. So they are rich in source material, and lend themselves well to the narrative of a collection - as demonstrated so beautifully here by Charlotte Taylor.
When reading ‘Frenchman’s Creek’ recently, I was intrigued by author Julie Myerson’s introduction – not least because I have met and talked with Myerson (she was a judge on the Vogue Talent Contest). Julie Myerson herself had a sporadic correspondence with Daphne Du Maurier. The idea of exchanging strings of letters and postcards has a dusting of magic about it. I think it is the appeal of making contact with someone who is respected for his or her achievements – being given the thrilling chance to communicate with a greatly admired creative mind. Similarly, there is something to be taken from grasping at every chance that makes itself known – embracing the possibility to work with highly imaginative and skilled designers, photographers, hair & make-up artists and stylists.
The owl is often seen as a symbol of wisdom, which is apt – because Charlotte’s latest array of clothes are not only delicious to admire, but also easy to wear. It’s a very wise collection, both business and design wise, being her boldest and grandest yet. Thank you to the whole team, and especially to Charlotte for asking me to take part! You can see the whole lookbook here and the gifs we shot here, on very talented photographer Claire Pepper's website (gifs produced by Harriman Steel).
Design - Charlotte Taylor
Photography - Claire Pepper
Stylist - Hayley Simmons
Make-up - Camilla Hewitt
Hair - David Wadlow
Art Direction - Harriman Steel