Peep Show: Tumblr inspired fashion individuality

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Fashion and the internet share a thirst for individuality and newness. Photographer Nick Knight and a little-known style blogger offer plenty of both. Susannah Frankel reports

When a "very shy" 22-year-old Spanish fashion graduate named Rei Nadal received a message from the acclaimed fashion photographer Nick Knight via her Tumblr site – it's called Death And Milk, and tagged "I'm Rei, I don't exist" – she believed it to be nothing more than an elaborate ruse. Their initial conversation reads like this.

Nick Knight: "To 'I'm Rei. I don't exist'. I have been looking at your Tumblr and really like it. Do you fancy guest curating the SHOWstudio Tumblr for one week. Sorry if this is weird and out of the blue but I don't know a more formal way of contacting you. Nick Knight."

I'm Rei, I don't exist duly replies: "Can you imagine this being actually real?"

"It was this Tumblr full of slightly strange images", Knight says now. "It was a lot to do with death, a lot to do with sex and a lot to do with fashion. There were some abstract ones. And this blonde girl appeared every now and then. She was photographing herself and putting the photographs on to her Tumblr, and people were commenting on it. She's got a very distinctive face, an unconventional beauty. And people wrote quite savage things to her. 'What's wrong with your face?' That sort of thing. But she was putting herself out there, answering those comments. Her answers felt fast, open and vulnerable but at the same time tough. So I thought she'd be really good. I'm going to write to her."

To cut a long-ish story short, after some decidedly sceptical to-ing and fro-ing, culminating in Knight encouraging Nadal to contact the stylist Simon Foxton, who had guest curated Tumblr for SHOWstudio the month before and to substantiate his veracity, Ms Nadal, who also clearly does exist after all, agreed to participate.

With that, Knight dispatched an assistant who "struggled down to Barcelona with suitcases full of clothes" to a hotel near Nadal's home and, each morning, for seven days, asked her to deliver a white leather box overflowing with the requisite tissue paper and replete with a designer look and maybe accompanying music, make-up, scent, flowers, and even food, should it add to any atmosphere.

Nadal had the contents of this box to do with as she wished for 24 hours and, occasionally, there would be a second delivery, quaintly, for evening, and then it would be collected and a new look would arrive. The project was styled remotely by Ellie Grace Cumming and it says something of the weight of authority behind this project that clothes were provided by everyone from Alexander McQueen to Rick Owens.

The end results are remarkable, particularly given that the images of Nadal herself were shot on the photobooth application on her computer. They are interspersed with various carefully juxtaposed and more formal inspiration pictures –a close-up of hair backstage at McQueen, snakes, hard-to-identify nudes, a Nick Knight rose.

"This is her dancing in the Jil Sander dress," says Knight, speaking from SHOWstudio's London headquarters and scrolling through the finished work. "The tones are gorgeous. Cecil Beaton wouldn't have done any better. It's like a painting."

Praise indeed, given that this is a man responsible for many of the most arresting fashion images of the age, from a young Naomi Campbell dressed in Yohji Yamamoto to Kate Moss on any number of British Vogue covers. Having, over more than three decades, climbed his way to the top of the (establishment) tree, Knight, still potently idealistic after all these years, continues to fight against it. "What really gets to me is that you talk to art colleges and they're still teaching dark room," he says. "But nobody uses it any more. Nobody. Nobody teaches Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter, but that's what they should be doing."

Embracing new media was at least partly Knight's reason for founding SHOWstudio 12 years ago. And since that time he has put his money where his mouth is. Self-funded, the site features nurtures bright young talent as well as featuring many of the biggest names in fashion and indeed contemporary culture more broadly. Victoria Beckham, Lara Stone and the Chapman Brothers have all recently collaborated and allowed unprecedented access to their working process. They are awarded complete creative freedom in return.

The democracy of the internet has always been a driving force. In particular, the removal of the (frequently commercially interested) middle man is appealing, as Knight goes on to explain. "10 years ago I was working for magazines," he says. "I had no idea whether anybody was looking at my work. The only way I knew whether something I was saying had resonance was if I was booked by a client again. But the situation has changed. With things like Tumblr and Instagram, you're immediately and directly in contact with your audience. When I publish a picture on Tumblr, it's seen by more people than a picture I might have published in Vogue. And they tell me what they think and I can see them sharing. Previously, going right back to any form of patronage of the arts, to the Medicis, say, they would say, 'okay you paint the painting for that church but we tell you how to do it, we decide'."

"I started using Tumblr as both an inspiration source and a way to record the things that inspire me," Nadal says. "Because I am a very shy person, it's not logical to expose myself that way, where anyone can see me and comment. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I wanted to make it more personal, to make my Tumblr more than one image after another, and to make it more conceptual, although that might sound pretentious."

Away from the camera's gaze, she dresses "like a tomboy" in "skinny jeans, a T-shirt and a variable number of layers of shirts, jumpers or jackets." She rose to the challenge of wearing more complex looks – from overblown and beautiful to highly provocative – in the manner, Knight argues, of a "a modern Cindy Sherman". "I was in different moods depending on what I was wearing," she says. "I tried to let the clothes influence me and can honestly say I gained self-confidence wearing these outfits and felt very powerful."

"I'm so excited about this project because it reinforces many of the things that I think fashion should be," says Knight. "We get very cut off and systematic and maybe miss the fact that fashion is capable of making somebody fall in love. I wanted to put the power back into it in a way."

showstudio.com

Concept: Rei Nadal and Nick Knight

Tumblr curation: Rei Nadal

Styling selection: Ellie Grace Cumming

Headpieces: Sam McKnight

Make-up consultation: Val Garland

Nails: Marian Newman

Project photography and assistance: Chloe Orefice

Styling assistance: Gerry O'Kane

Suggested Topics
News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
football
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
News
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
i100
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Travel
travel
Life and Style
The veteran poverty campaigner Sir Bob Geldof issues a stark challenge to emerging economies at the Melbourne HIV/Aids conference
health
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich talk Penguins of Madagascar at Comic-Con
comic-con 2014Cumberbatch fans banned from asking about Sherlock at Comic-Con
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
filmGuardians Of The Galaxy should have taken itself a bit more seriously, writes Geoffrey Macnab
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

    Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

    £40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

    Digital Content Officer - Central London - £33,000

    £28000 - £33000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive (Digital Marketi...

    SSIS/ORACLE DBA

    £400 - £401 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SSIS Administrat...

    The benefits of being in Recruitment at SThree...

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: SThree, International Recruitme...

    Day In a Page

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform