Albert Einstein said that imagination is more important than knowledge. He was talking about scientific invention but those words are just as true for a quality fashion shoot.
Images on magazine covers, billboards and ads bombard us all the time. They tantalise, suggest or sometimes even offend the sensibilities of some people. But little do people know that how these images manage to do that is the end result of a vigorous process of planning and execution.
Most people outside the fashion industry only see the final product and never know how many hours of research, planning and execution go into the making of that one image.
Ideally, an image should tell a story; one that reflects creativity and some trend. This is where ‘the theme’ comes into play (I feel like there should be drums rolling or bells ringing when I say that).
How do I come up with a theme? We all pull inspiration from different sources. It could be anything that pleases our aesthetic sense. Your unique way of seeing things helps execute your vision, and it is what sets you apart. Personally, I find inspiration in things I find deeply beautiful, whether it’s a piece of art or some beautiful scenery I came across when I’m travelling. It can come from a person or even a building. For instance, renowned stylist Vidal Sassoon’s iconic ‘five-point bob’, the look that catapulted him to fame, was inspired by the Bauhaus Building in Dessau, Germany.
Once I’m struck by something, I let it ferment for a few days, or even a few weeks, until I find a way to translate that aesthetic impact into an actual look. It literally hits me with a Eureka moment, strangely enough often in the shower, and I get a picture of the final look in my head. Before the image slips out of my mind, I immediately call my wife Redah or Tony&Guy’s style director Juju and share it with them.
Once the look is decided, the real work begins. The most important part of it is research, where we figure out how things such as accessories, clothes, colour palate, make-up, lighting, photographers, backdrops, poses and locations are going to be done. We pore over magazines and other media to find the right tools that will bring our shoot to life. It’s a painstaking process that sees the entire team sit around spit-balling and pinning stuff up on our mood-board.
The important thing about mood-boards is to ensure that you’re not copying. Let’s suppose our theme is fairies. Many shoots may have been done on fairies, so we have to make sure that we come up with something fresh and different — like our own version of what fairies would look like in 2013.
This is the point where the idea crystalises into an actual shoot. Quite often I come across shoots with a brilliant concept behind them but shoddy execution. I find myself thinking, “I would’ve done that better” or “this could’ve been so much better”. But I hope no one ever says that about a Tony&Guy shoot!
It’s now time to put the concept down on paper. This involves sketches, and the end result is based mostly on trial and error. For hairstyles in particular, we usually experiment with various styles, the team members unleash their creative monsters to come up with, for instance, new plaiting techniques, ponytail, up-dos and sometimes even haircuts.
Now that the best looks are decided, the core team from Toni&Guy Lahore, which includes Juju, Aiman, Peter, Sadia and myself, get together and meet up with the designer, photographer, sometimes a stylist and makeup artists (who are either in-house or external). It’s very important for us to build a team that works well together, otherwise it’s not fun at all and that comes across in the shoot. The best shoots are the ones where everyone is passionate about them and is fully committed.
Once the team is formed, the actual shoot is planned, which involves finalising the location, setting a date for the shoot and selecting the models.
Now is the time to make it happen!
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, September 2nd, 2012.
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