Fashion Forward: Working with couture gowns
Published: Monday, September 24, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 24, 2012 23:09
Every relationship hits a dry spell in one way or another; the moment when you’re ready for something different, new, exciting and less predictable. Unfortunately I’ve experienced that feeling with a number of my epic loves: Valentino, Versace, Julien MacDonald, Naeem Khan, Chanel, Balmain and Gucci, just to name a few.
I had been assisting London-based fashion stylist Aldene Johnson for multiple appearances, performances and red carpets for music artist Florence Welch, which required handling countless beautiful designer gowns (woe is me, I know). Epic gowns arrived at the studio almost every day, and I couldn’t help but fall hopelessly in love with each and every one of them. At first it was silk organza, then pink chiffon, black lace and ivory tulle—before I knew it, the studio overflowed with lush hues and gorgeous fabrics.
When the gowns first arrive they look undoubtedly stunning to say the least—but then you have to actually meet them. A gown’s true personality comes to life when you steam it: the ethereal gowns are stubborn, the sexy ones are easy, the elegant gowns are complicated and the simple ones never seem to cause a problem.
I noticed the first red flag of my relationship when I unpacked a haute couture gown made of white embroidered tulle with chantilly lace sequins. Immediately I recognized the gown from Givenchy’s Fall 2011 iconic campaign worn by fashion model Daphne Groeneveld. Almost every fashion Tumblr went insane the moment the collection debuted and now here it was in my hands fresh from Paris—beautifully constructed and breathtaking to say the least. I looked over it for a minute, carefully hung the heavy swanlike gown to the side and went on with the rest of my work. A year ago I was drooling over it online and now I barely made a double-take. Givenchy and I needed a break.
Don’t get me wrong, working with the most beautiful couture gowns is an amazing opportunity and will always be my first and favorite love, but when I discovered that my next project involved an editorial for American publication Nylon Magazine, I was thrilled. The editorial was to be a denim story and sticking to Nylon’s aesthetic: trendy, eclectic, alternative and young street-wear, a complete 180 from what I was used to.
The language alone was a whole new territory. There was a point I thought I had lost my mind: my inventory list stated that there were 50 jumpers, but I was left with a pile of pullover sweaters. Little did I know there are a few things an American fashion intern should know in the United Kingdown: sweaters are called jumpers (not to be confused with the onesie playsuits), sneakers are called trainers, pants are called trousers, tank tops are called vests and our American interpretation of a “vest” is called a waistcoat. Also chips are fries, a carrier bag is a plastic grocery bag and the bin is the trash—but those don’t apply for an inventory of designer clothes.
The photoshoot was a refreshing change in the art of styling. It was an alternative aesthetic, easygoing and fun. Photographed by Valerie Phillips, she and Johnson worked terrifically together, producing an amazing editorial spread of denim and street fashion.
After months of prepping performances, music videos, editorials and appearances, it had been an incredible summer in London and Johnson had given me every angle of a stylist’s perspective. As soon as I arrived home, I made my way to New York City just in time for the screening of independent film, “Not Waving but Drowning”—my first fashion internship as a wardrobe assistant three years ago, running around the Big Apple just as I had done in London.
On my way to the theatre I noticed a man at the corner bodega stocking up the August issue of Nylon Magazine. Flipping through the denim story gave me the weirdest sensation of déjà vu. My time in London felt like such a distant dream, I constantly had to ask myself—did it all actually happen? I turned to the final page of the story and at the top right-hand corner, typed in white, fine print I found my name credited as the style assistant—this was no dream.