Smile, you're on candid camera

Just when the model Chrystele thought she was off duty - snap! Another ad campaign was born. Tamsin Blanchard on the marketing of the Oasis high street chain

Models are not used to being photographed in between studio shots, but Chrystele has become so used to seeing Gavin bond, the photographer, backstage at shows that he has become part of the wallpaper. And on the shoot at the beginning of July for the current Oasis advertising campaign, between each brush of the mascara wand and each tease of her hair, he snapped away, almost unnoticed. Meanwhile, Chrystele and her fellow model Tua were preened and glossed, ready to go before the perfectly trained lens of the Paris-based photographer Christopher Griffith for the campaign now gracing the glossy fashion magazines.

After the Independent took Gavin Bond backstage at the Paris couture shows last January to follow Chrystele on to her first haute couture catwalk, it was but a small sashay from the unaffordable finery of Christian Lacroix to the affordable and essential at high street chain Oasis.

By July, Chrystele, the fine-featured, aloof face of Christian Lacroix, was flying to London to be photographed for the autumn/winter advertising campaign for the London-based chain, which has more than 70 outlets in the UK. The finished ads show conventional fashion shots with reportage- style images of the models in preparation, mid-hair-styling and make-up, catching 40 winks between outfit changes and, of course, on the telephone. "We wanted to include our customers in the behind-the-scenes side of the making of the ads, to show them the reality behind the glamour," says Karen Hendry, who initiated the latest campaign.

The ads appear in the September issues of magazines as diverse as Vogue and Looks, which gives an idea of the flexibility of merchandise available at the outlets. Mothers and daughters can shop together, and both might buy a shiny acetate top. The one with the best legs and figure would put it with an A-line suede mini, while the one with more to cover up might wear it with a long wrap skirt. Oasis cannot be pigeon-holed into catering for one age group. As the design director, Lynne Burstall, says, "What's age? It's just a number."

The mothers of teenage and twentysomething daughters who shop at Oasis might have shopped at Chelsea Girl in the Sixties, Miss Selfridge in the Seventies, and Next or Warehouse in the Eighties and are now likely to choose Oasis.

The company opened its first branches in 1991 and took pounds 9.5m worth of sales in its first year. Last year, sales had trebled to more than pounds 29m.

According to Vivian Scott, the company's MD, Oasis customers are educated and confident shoppers, who are not so much interested in fashion for the sake of fashion but in looking good - never ridiculous. With Oasis, women can build a wardrobe that will last for several seasons and prices are reasonable so that they can keep on adding to it. The company works to six seasons instead of the traditional four so that there is constant interest on the rails, even during transitional sale periods.

For this winter, the most sought-after pieces from Oasis will include a rock chick snakeprint leather fitted jacket (pounds 244.99), a tailored, floral print shirt (from pounds 29.99) and hipster jeans (pounds 34.99), all as worn by Chrystele in the ads.

After the two-day shoot for Oasis, Chrystele was straight on a plane back to Paris for the autumn/winter couture shows. And with less than 24 hours to herself, away from the constant snap of the camera, she was backstage at the ritziest Paris venues again. And so, too, armed with his most discreet of cameras, was Gavin Bond.

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