The only way is up: How a generation of creatives is changing the face of fashion
Saturday 26 March 2011
The film-maker: Quentin Jones
Twenty-seven-year-old Quentin Jones is regarded assomething of a Renaissance woman. She's a model, a philosophy graduate and one of fashion's brightest young film-makers, specialising in a cartoonish style of surreal photo-montaged animation.
"When I was at art school, anything 'fashionable' was frowned upon," says Jones, who studied her craft at London's Central Saint Martins. "I jumped straight into this from a BA at Cambridge, so spent a lot of time playing catch-up and making up my own way of doing things. Maybe this is why my style is so slap-dash."
But there is a precision present in much of Jones's work, in her films created for brands like Chanel and designer Holly Fulton, where montaged images are overlaid with graffiti-style collaging, everything building to an almost-kaleidoscopic vision of femininity, fashion and modern-day beauty.
"We start with a brief," she explains, "then there is manic sketching and scribbling, which needs to be decoded so other people get what I am thinking about. Then we make props, paint and prepare to shoot. After the shoot, I get to splat a bit more paint on top. This is my favourite stage: defacing the film with final collaged flourishes."
As well as commissions for numerous blogs and websites, Jones is currently creating a film for vogue.com. "Then I am going to take some time off to paint," she says. "Famous last words."
The set designer: Rhea Thierstein
Rhea Thierstein, aged 30, is responsible for putting a giant wasp in the hallowed vitrines of Selfridges.
"I love making things that don't exist," she says. "One day I'm designing a dinner at Claridge's, the next I'm making jellies with flowers in them, and then I'll be making a shed look like it's been exploded on top of a building. It's great!"
After working in three dimensions when she was at art college, Thierstein transferred to a photography course and gravitated towards fashion imagery. Aiming high, she took an internship at Nick Knight's website, SHOWstudio.com and began working for set designer Shona Heath and then went on to work with some of the industry's greats, such as fashion photographer Tim Walker.
"I realised that Shona Heath was behind a lot of the images I already knew well," she says. "I realised this is what I wanted to do. It's creatively so broad and fresh."
Thierstein has gone on to build the set for Tim Walker's Mulberry dinner at Claridges, as well as the heavily stylised backdrop to popstar Jessie J's video "Price Tag".
The illustrator: Zoe Taylor
"There's an element of melodrama in my drawings," says 29-year-old Zoe Taylor, "but they are also ambiguous. I try and give them a dream-like intensity." In these dreamscapes, bouffanted femme fatales smoking cigarettes in Prada tweeds, or bestriding office chairs in a flat-pack shirt designed by Martin Margiela, are rendered in chalk pastels on newsprint paper.
Taylor's images combine all the sassiness and femininity of Old Hollywood stars with the more modern elements and iconography of high-fashion imagery.
These imaginative mise-en-scènes spring perhaps from Taylor's original interest in archaeology and anthropology, which she studied before starting her art foundation. From there, she took a course in illustration at Camberwell College of Art, before applying for the MA course at the Royal College of Art.
"I've always been interested in costume," she says, "and the way clothing can suggest a character and a story. For a while I wanted to be a designer, but it was really about drawing the clothes – I'm hopeless when it comes to cutting a pattern."
After her degree show, Taylor was employed by Luella Bartley – for whom she created T-shirt graphics, and whose recent book Luella's Guide to English Style she illustrated last year. Her drawings (such as 'Sheer Delight', left) also feature in a fashion column on the AnOther Magazine website.
The photographer: Lina Scheynius
Lina Scheynius's sky-rocketing career is a testament to the talent-scouting capacities of the modern digital age. A passionate, experimental photographer, she created her own website a few years ago and began posting pictures from holidays and of friends. Soon, she received an e-mail from an agent seeking to represent her and after two weeks was given her first commission: to shoot Charlotte Rampling for Dazed & Confused.
"I haven't studied photography, I haven't assisted anyone either," admits the 29-year-old Swede, a former model. "I just experimented on my own and I'm pretty much self-taught."
Scheynius's imagery is shot through with natural light, glinting beams of sunlight glisten through net curtains, while subjects are silhouetted in windows; compositions are natural, immediate and rarely look posed. Indeed, Scheynius often inserts herself into the backgrounds of her tableaux, too.
"I have loved taking pictures since I was a child," she says. "I started on my 10th birthday, in my home, taking pictures of the cake and my feet and of my best friend sitting on the toilet. Pretty much the same thing I do now. I didn't really dream about it becoming a profession of mine, but I am very happy that it has."
As well as her own life and own experiences, Scheynius takes inspiration from her native Sweden, looking to the work of other Scandinavian image-makers such as Annelies Strba, JH Engstrom and Ake Hedstrom. "Fashion-wise, I think Juergen Teller and Viviane Sassen are great for managing to make every photo they take look like a photo taken by them."
With a 3D book being published this spring, Scheynius is en route to becoming a well-known name in the industry. Her imprecise, nostalgic aesthetic seems somehow to suit the romantic realism that pervades fashion imagery at the moment. "I don't mind if other people want to put words to my photos," she says, "but I prefer them without."
The stylist: Agata Belcen
It's only in recent years that people have begun to understand what it is that a stylist does – previously they were workers behind the scenes; now they're lauded as the creative and pragmatic powers in fashion, often becoming brands in themselves.
"I didn't really know what 'this' was for a long time," says Agata Belcen, stylist and fashion editor at AnOther Magazine. "At university, I went down the student newspaper route and it made me think I'd found something close to the thing I wanted to do when I grew up."
A philosophy graduate from Cambridge, 27-year-old Belcen studied a Masters in the history of dress in art at the Courtauld Institute, before assisting some of the biggest names in the industry – Cathy Edwards, Camilla Nickerson and Nicola Formichetti to name but a few.
She is a quiet and pragmatic stylist, with work ranging from the ultra avant garde to the more commercial, but always reflecting a subtle and considered take on contemporary femininity. "I couldn't describe my work without feeling ridiculous," she says, with characteristic modesty.
Inspiration comes in the form of archive images and ad campaigns. "I love every single Comme des Garçons advert ever made," Belcen says. "I don't often understand them, and like to imagine how the conversation between the creatives behind them went."
As Voltaire once said, “Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal”
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