It was a hot day. Hard to imagine now in the depths of wind and rain. That kind of heat that begins bouncing back up from the tarmac by midday. I arrived halfway through the morning, at a point where the shadows thrown down by the office blocks around Liverpool Street station were still cool. I walked the now familiar stretch of road where glass and steel transition into the less imposing buildings of Shoreditch; suits and briefcases replaced with crop tops and John Lennon-style round sunglasses.
We were meeting in a sandwich shop. As ever, only the most glamorous locations to prep for a fashion shoot… Having my make-up done in the corner of the café, the window table arrayed with brushes, palettes and bottles of foundation, was certainly an experience. More exciting still was seeing the next table briefly transformed into a jeweller’s counter of necklaces, bracelets and rings – laid out in boxes and bags or resting on rolls of fabric. A menagerie of animals from bees to lions, honeycomb hexagons alongside beads and tassels. Many reminded me of a more understated version of what Wallis Simpson might have worn. All the creations of Bill Skinner, a British jewelry brand embracing the whimsical and fantastical. We’d gathered to shoot the new collection, with Jonathan Daniel Pryce (of 100 Beards/ GarconJon fame) as photographer.
Doing the lookbook outside had its memorable moments. Shooting on the streets meant many dashes into cafes to ask if I could quickly change outfits in the loos. Then there was the weather. Trench coats and trousers in a heat-wave required a concerted effort to look cool and breezy where the natural response might be hot and bothered. Always worth it for the image. Modelling requires all sorts of strange things in order to get that ‘natural’ shot – constant striding up and down pavements in precarious heels, or assistants looking in two directions for traffic for me to cross the multi-laned main road back and forth, back and forth, darting away as taxis came around the corner. Then there’s the added intrigue created for the pedestrians around. Take one camera, several people holding bags and one tall girl having her lips re-done, and you’ll inevitably turn heads. When I was younger this kind of attention was unsettling. The model, as well as being the focus of the shot, is also the one who hooks in passersby’s eyes. Now, more than anything, it’s amusing.
It helps perhaps that I’m quite used to surprising people in my native hills, having wandered around country lanes in newspaper dresses and haunted tumbledown cottages in Havisham-style outfits (all in the name of interesting photos). In a place where a red cape is unusual enough, these more extreme costumes tend to startle unsuspecting hikers, dog-walkers and families driving past. By comparison, in London – a city teeming with photo-shoots and street style snappers – it merely creates a small ripple of interest.
With locations ranging from Columbia Road (odd to see it stripped of flower stalls) to Shoreditch Church, I played at being a girl about town – sitting dreamily on steps in my floral vintage dress, posing by columns in a jumpsuit. All the while my wrists, neck and fingers were adorned with various pieces. Wild horses galloped across a bracelet and a march hare leapt over my hand. I clutched a newspaper-wrapped bouquet of blooms, pretended to hail a bus, leant against doorways.
I enjoy wriggling into the semblance of someone else, inhabiting a particular attitude or story for a few hours. When we finished I ran into another café, changed back into my shorts and shirt, and sloped off to the nearest Overground station – the cool depths of the Hampstead Heath ponds were waiting. I could slough off the skin of this imagined character and step into a swimming costume. The only remaining sign of the morning’s activity was my full face of make-up. I breast-stroked my way to the other side, past ducks and trees, keeping my chin up to avoid splashing my heavily ringed eyes. Where normally to be completely fresh-faced is to stand out, at the ladies' pond I was suddenly the complete and utter anomaly.
Photographer: Jonathan Daniel Pryce
Hair and make-up: Jodie Hyams
You can currently see me on the Bill Skinner website, as well as in an extended range of images in this blog post and these behind the scenes snaps.
Hope you've all had a wonderful festive season, and a very happy new year. 2014 is shaping up to be both busy and exciting.