A slice of Toast: Where does the mail-order fashion find inspiration for its lavish catalogue shoots?

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Eastern European fairy-tales, locations to die for and a catalogue cosy enough to live in – Lisa Markwell reveals why everyone wants a piece of this hot fashion brand

Fans of the cult mail-order clothes company Toast greet each new collection's catalogue with a piquant mix of desire and envy. Desire for the beautifully cut pieces, envy for the lifestyle of the women in the photographs.

In the 11 years since husband-and-wife team Jamie and Jessica Seaton (inset) founded the company, its catalogues have been shot everywhere from Sri Lanka to Morocco. Everywhere that women with wanderlust and desire to be chic have wanted to go.

From their rambling rural home in Wales, the Seatons have developed a label that has grown from pyjamas to slinky silk dresses, sharp tailoring and cosy knitwear. The recent inclusion of homeware has brought fabulous throws, desirable soaps and scents, as well as things you want without knowing why, such as storm lanterns and a cable-knit tea cosy.

Russia, and the fairy tales illustrated by Ivan Yakovlevich Bilibin, were the inspiration for the warm colours and textures of the new autumn/winter collection. As Jamie explains: "I've known about Bilibin since my father read the stories to me as a child. I realised recently they could inspire a collection – there's an opulence about the clothes in the pictures, and a sense of wildness and mystery that's enticing."

To bring the collection to life, Jamie and his wife travelled to Slovakia with a crew of models, stylists and local fixers. The three-week shoot was quite an adventure. "We saw deer, bears and wolves while we were up in the Carpathian mountains," he recalls.

The production staff had the tough task of approaching local residents for permission to shoot: every location, interior and exterior, is authentic. "They go off to that forbidding-looking farmhouse and ask the owners if we can look in their bedroom," says Seaton with a laugh. "We stayed in a town called Stary Smokovec; it's an old resort from late Habsburg days so we stayed in a once-grand hotel that had kept going through the Soviet years. It was a little like the hotel in The Shining!"

It is Toast's organic way of working – from original concept to finished imagery – that makes it so desirable. And when its new catalogue is published in two weeks' time, the Slovakian tourist board can no doubt expect a flurry of enquiries from women wanting to capture that elusive lifestyle magic.

How Toast gets its look (see images above)

1. The location

"Holíc Castle was owned centuries ago by Empress Theresa. It's in the west of Slovakia, 30 miles from Vienna," Jamie Seaton explains of this photograph.

"In the summer, the court would head to Holíc, to be attended to by 1,000 retainers, It's now owned by the local town but is derelict. We photographed in a chinoiserie-style room, which was beautiful but faded."

Cord necklace, £39; silk velvet tunic; £125; trousers, £35; Sylvie heels, £145.

2. The props

"We were looking for a red Lada, as there was a theme of red in the photos. We ended up swapping our location van for this faded example for an evening. This was taken just outside a Roma village. I love the sense that what's happening is within a landscape; that the clothes are within a context."

Poplin fitted shirt, £75; wrist-warmers, £22; Zenda skirt, £145; pumps, £89.

3. The extras

"This man lived in this tiny house (now a heritage site) years ago. He now lives in a nearby town but was happy to open up for us. Here he is at the stove making us tea. The idea is that the model is his niece come to visit, but she suggested she might be his pregnant lover!"

Wrap cardigan, £155; cotton silk chemise paysanne, £89; leg-warmers, £29; sheepskin slippers, £25.

4. The still-life

"This is the work-shop of a house; it seemed a wonderful place to shoot these shoes – a variation of a style we have done for a couple of seasons. They have that burnished look that photographs well in shadow – they appear to glimmer."

Jazz derbys, £145.

www.toast.co.uk

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

    £26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

    Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

    £24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

    Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

    £22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

    Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions