9 am: Call Time

There have been worse call times!

9:15 am

Rachel, the stylist I’m working for, introduces me to everyone on set: the client from the fashion brand, hairstylist, makeup artist, and art director.

Next on the agenda is a universal plea for coffee, so I run to the café upstairs with everyone’s orders. I grab some breakfast on my way and I'm greeted by an abundance of pastries, fruit, yoghurt and granola… life is good!

9:30 am

My first job is to unpack all the boxes delivered by the client. I sort through all the jewellery, shoes and clothes sent by the company and lay them out neatly so that when they’re styling each look they’ll be able to see all the options clearly.

Even though they’ve sent us about a hundred pairs of shoes, we are only shooting seven looks today.

The brand had also sent along a mood-board for the shoot, with descriptions of how many shots to take and which clothes should appear in each image.

I guess this is the reality of commercial styling: working within a select range of pieces set out by the client, rather than having complete creative freedom.

10:00 am

The model arrives. She is very experienced, having walked in nearly every major show this fashion week.

After each garment is fitted to the model, a tailor re-sews the piece so that it fits her perfectly.

We set up a heater to keep her warm while she gets changed.

10:30 am

I turn on the steamer and start getting all the creases out of the clothes so that they hang smoothly on the model.

The process goes: fitting, tailoring and adjustments, steaming and then it’s time to shoot.

11:00 am

After the fitting, the model goes straight into hair and make up for about two hours.

There is a minor hiccup when the hairstylist asks to take two inches off her hair, and she refuses.

We start shooting.

I had never witnessed first-hand the construction of a commercial image before and I’m struck by how flawless the captured images are. The lighting sets a flawless ambience and the model twirls and flirts with the camera; all of which is caught by a satisfying click.

As soon as the images are taken, they are blown up onto two screens; one in front of the photographer so that he can see the product of his shots and the other on the screen of the man in charge of retouching the image as well as adjusting its colour and lighting.

1:00 pm

Lunchtime! By this point, everyone is starving.

Each studio comes equipped with its own kitchen and sofa area. Lunch arrives: a vegan spread of vegetable lasagne, roast pepper and rocket salad, topped off with a passion fruit tart. As well as seemingly endless supplies of coffee, of course.

2:00 pm

Back to shooting. We work under time pressure as the model has to leave promptly at 5:30 pm for a fitting at Burberry.

After a few minor hair and makeup touch-ups, she is back in the studio, dancing around in front of the camera.

3:00 pm

The brand had also requested for some video content, so after each series of shots and stills, a separate videographer comes in to interview the model, with a camera attached to a brace on his back.

They shoot some silent footage of her moving in the clothes and also ask her general questions about her lifestyle and exercise regime. She answers confidently about the power of exercise to improve one’s emotional and mental state. Although I do wonder at how her penchant for diet coke and cigarettes works into this healthy regime…

4:30 pm

To save time, I start packing up the clothes and shoes we no longer need.

5:15 pm

It all ends in a blur: the model runs out in her last outfit to get the final shot before her taxi arrives at 5:30.

5:30 pm

Once the final shot is captured, we pack up quickly, say a rushed goodbye, and head on our way.

There’s no way I’m forgetting the boxes of leftovers from lunch! I'm only trying to do my bit to reduce food waste and if I get to take home some delicious vegan lasagne, I’m not complaining. I leave with four takeaway boxes stuffed with food.


Mountain View

The problem with ethical fashion

All in all, it was a very fun day which I feel lucky to have experienced, although it did elucidate certain realities about the styling of commercial images: a lack of complete creative liberty, a tight schedule, and last but no least: having to find a way to please conflicting opinions on set.