A few months ago I put a call out on my Facebook page... it asked for anyone that had a costume or outfit made by me if they would like to come to a special photo shoot. There was no requirement for modeling experience at all.
The response was amazing.
The shoot was the brainchild of Melbourne photographer Nush, with a sprinkling of me - Nush created the concept, I helped to pull it all together!
I met Nush in March last, we connected after my launch for my label The Lioness and Her Unicorns as I saw some incredible photographs on Instagram of the launch night and was intrigued to find out who the person behind the camera had been.
@anna_phalactic wearing the Benevolence Strapless Bra and Corseted Knickers for The Lioness and Her Unicorns at Melbourne Alternative Designers Catwalk Show
Throughout 2017 our friendship grew through multiple collaborations and shoots, leading us to this adventurous shoot that we wanted to hold together.
The brief was created, each participant was informed, a Crown Casino suit was reserved, a makeup artist was scheduled... we were set.
On the day, everyone woke with a feeling of excitement, if not a question mark as to how it was really going to work... but off we went with tons of champagne in our arms, and an open mind.
As each client arrived we moved from catching up to getting stuck in. One by one they went into either the bathroom or bedroom with Nush, all wearing an outfit that they had personally chosen to represent themselves, how the world is used to seeing them on a daily basis. For this part, the majority chose either a work uniform, sports kit, summer dress etc
The suit/rooms at Crown were chosen due to beautiful large mirrors, as for this shoot we were wanting to create something rather different to the usual fashion photography. We wanted to tell a story. We wanted to show you, the world, who these people are and peel back the layers to show a side that the outside world sometimes doesn't have the privilege to see.
It was an emotional day. Powerful. Educational and breathtaking. The clients who were quite shy on arrival, by the end a camaraderie had been born and they were no longer strangers- more sisters in arms. I watched as a unique bond was formed.
Claudia, J, Simone and Jay - new friendships
As everyone was waiting for the second photo they prepared and changed, donned new makeup, often applied by makeup artist Noams and accessories and changed into their outfit that I have created for them. The atmosphere of the entire suit completely changed. Giggles, laughter, frivolity ensued. These women were transforming before our very eyes. They were changing from feeling tired and exhausted (some having rushed straight from work)... they were becoming a paradox to the person that had walked through the door. Sparkles were flying around, people were storytelling and sharing. Sharing descriptions of their experiences ordering the garments, sharing stories of when they had worn them and how they felt. My heart was filling up so much, it was so much more than I could ever have dreamed of helping to create for these people
Bless Nush, as by the time she was finished she had shot alllllll day. She didn't take a break and just kept on going right through. She's such a professional, an absolute gem. She helped out everyone to feel at ease in front of the camera and really brought out a side of them that they didn't know possible.
Scarlet and Nush
Once everyone had done their two outfits they all began to play even more dress ups. Playing with stock and mixing up their items. Trying each other's on and continuing to share. I'd taken with me a few pieces from my label The Lioness and Her Uincorns cases in case anyone wanted to wear them - and I think the black Romance dress was tried on by just about everyone
Following the day, the phrase Sparkle Gang was born. It's what everyone now referred to themselves as being part of. I see them interacting on Facebook often, continuing that special bond that was born that day. Some now work together. Friendships were created by a group of complete strangers going through this process.
The Sparkle Gang - The final shot of the day
I want to continue this way of working, giving people who wouldn't normally get a chance in front of the camera the opportunity to shine- as we all know, everyone has a sparkle within if we just give it a chance to show itself
Over the next few weeks I will be sharing with you the photographs from this truly special day, and I truly hope you enjoy the series xx
Words from our photographer, Nush:
FOR THE LOVE OF IT ALL…
I’m very torn about how to write about this project. For some reason, I feel the need to convey the experience, as it was. Something completely separate from those final shots I eventually handed in for my assignment.
To be frank this idea had been circling my gut and my being almost from the day I first saw and shot Ariane’s runway show at the M.A.D. event in 2017. That I was there at all was pure chance, but while I’m not religious or a believer in things like kismet, that was probably as close to something fated as I’ve experienced… or maybe just the best kind of leprechaun luck.
I’d never been to an alternative show or had anything to do with alternative fashion, and that event just opened up a whole new world for me. In a sea of shows, The Lioness and her Unicorns show stood out (possibly the fault of Hannah and her beauteous bottom that mesmerized me so much I forgot to shoot it!). Kitten in the green Joy dress, Cara in red Envy, Anna laughing between takes in the orange Benevolence, all of Bea’s stunning headpieces... each model had such a strong look and the show had such a sense of character that I can remember it and the pieces just as well today (don’t even get me started on what has become my long-standing affair with the Romance dress).
@hennebell111 wearing the Devotion Bodysuit for The Lioness and Her Unicorns at Melbourne Alternative Designers Catwalk Show
The show made me think about the idea of transformation, and the power of fashion to effect it. With no knowledge of the models or even the designer behind it all, I felt personalities and energy coming at me through the lens. These were women from all walks of life, with diverse skin tones, body types, and sizes, who were up there in lingerie looking powerful and strong and feminine and confident. They felt like they were up there owning their feminity and their bodies and being actually empowered by what they were wearing.
Nush shooting Maelle and Kittenlebow - fellow Sparkle Gang are watching
Kittenlebow and Maelle wearing the Romance dress by The Lioness and Her Unicorns
I’ve always thought Ariane’s clothing just imbues its wearers with something of her own energy, which is definitely all those adjectives I mentioned, and more. Throughout the year, getting to know Ariane and all the wonderful people in her orbit, and shooting the collection on the runway again in Byron Bay, I started to think about shoots we could collaborate on. One of those was a version of what we ended up with it; very very different, but a shoot that would hopefully show people looking at the photographs that transformative effect of Ariane’s outfits.
I’ve been hedging, but the shoot that we ended up having, was a product of: pushing everything onto just one marathon of a day of shooting; not having time and money to organize and fund my own location; a last-minute location opportunity opening up; that location being structurally complex, a lighting nightmare, too small, too crowded to shoot on a fixed tripod: you name it and it was just wrong. A logistical nightmare like I’d never experienced before or since. As a result, I actually hate the final edits I passed up. Hate is a strong word, but all I see in them are the technical difficulties and all the things I would love to change. I could go on and on about it, but I will spare you. Was this the shoot I dreamed about all year? No. Were the end results what I wanted? Also a no. However, I would not take that day, and that experience back for anything.
I got to meet and interact with these funny, giving, goddesses for the better part of 14 hours. In that time I shot so many frames that are as unforgettable to me as that first runway I described before. Most of them were behind the scenes; in between moments of rawness and beauty (also Kitten in lingerie.. more Kitten in lingerie..the others watching Kitten in lingerie).
Kittenlebow in the Romance dress
Some of these women were models and some of them were Ariane’s clients; each one was unique and so each “shoot” was very different. I left the location that day feeling beyond energized and (despite hobbling around like an old lady the following day) just …happy. That was the mood in the room, that was the theme of the day: just happiness.
After I had edited a lot of behind the scenes hilarity, reality and assignment deadlines set in, and then I kind of descended into a dark bipolar photographic space. Nothing was working and I needed so much help piecing it all together, and it became more about eyelines matching and sizing, and the nightmarish compositing process. When that was done, as I said before, hate came into play; for those few final composites, and for all the technicalities. I felt like I had failed everyone who was there. Turned an experience so amazing into something..less than it was. It has taken me months now to even look at those shots since I handed them in. To look at any of my work from the day, to be honest.
I’m glad I did. I feel like the best way to get across the experience, and not my feelings about that final part of the shoot is to go through some of my never before seen shots and talk about each woman and each shoot separately. I want to highlight that transformative spark I’ve been wanting to capture for oh so long now. To focus on those small but powerful moments I was able to capture and set aside my feelings for (you guessed it) those final edits. I think I’ve hated myself for them probably long enough now.
Jae in her Sparkles outfit
Stay tuned, as we will show you the final edits very soon xx