A photoshoot is such an inspiring way to meet other creatives and to play a part in making new art. Unfortunately I can’t always put together fresh outfits in time for a collaboration but we do rent out our archive sample pieces to photographers and models looking for something special. Sometimes this even allows me the opportunity to shoot with an individual whose work I’ve long admired, and one such example was the beautiful artist Roswell Ivory, who was due to work with Shannon Swift, a photographer who has the knack of capturing really emotionally rich images.
I had already been in touch with Roswell about working together as I feel our artistic styles overlap beautifully, so I was able to send her a few pieces from our SS15 collection to style on set with Shannon. I could not have been prepared for the vibrant, glowing images that came back, which stopped my heart. One of my favourite things about working in this way is the surrender of creative control that I would usually retain on my own photoshoot, which allows a model and photographer to reinterpret your work anew without any interference. I love how my fresh, outdoorsy images from the original SS15 En Plain Air theme became more urbane, sophisticated and sensual. Does this make you see the lingerie and corsetry differently than the original images did?
We’ve had the good fortune to work alongside some inspiring photographers this year, contributing our corsetry for other artists photoshoot plans and in some cases, making corsets especially for the occasion! One particularly exciting project saw me assisting Salleh Sparrow and Jack Creed on location at a derelict manor house and school as we shot a series of images drawing on themes of social anxiety, a personal project for Salleh which is now available as a coffee table book. The atmospheric and visually rich images that were created are just beautiful, and very eerie in their intensity. For this shoot I made an ivory silk fan-lacing ribbon corset, which was an experiment for me, and resulted in a striking finished look that drew on the styling of Victorian straitjackets. The final edited images are currently exclusive to the printed book (available from Salleh) but I can share some behind the scenes shots in the meantime.
I was also given the opportunity to send wardrobe along to a photographer who has been on my “dream team” list for some time- Mick Ackland. His distinctive brand of dark, intriguing cinematic image making has been a constant source of indulgent consumption for me, and to be asked to play a part in this art was a real honour. Photo’s are still coming through from Mick, but I purpose built a sheer waspie for this occasion which I hope will feature in some of his work.
Danielle Sharp (MUA Natasha Devedlaka) wearing our Clouds bralette and panties shot by Mick Ackland.
I often speak about my passion for the engineering side of corsetmaking, but it occurred to me that many clients don’t understand how their bespoke corset is made in the first place. When the beautiful Edith Emerald asked me to take some behind the scenes photo’s of her commission for her blog it seemed a perfect opportunity to share some of the techniques that I use in the studio, and that you may never have realised play a part in your corset’s existence.
When you send over your measurements, we use them to draft you a unique pattern that responds to your individual body lengths and circumferences.
This process differs depending on whether you are having a double coutil corset, a four layer corset, a summer mesh corset or a single coutil layer with fashion fabric and lining like Edith, but each seperate layer is cut with care from your pattern, taking care to follow grain lines in the fabric so as to retain the strength of the weave.
Once the panels of the corset have been sewn together and the sizing carefully checked it’s time to press the work so far, using steam, heat and pressure to get the desired sleek effect over the contours and seams. In many ways, this is where the magic happens!
Basting and boning channels
Because Edith’s corset used a single strength layer (the coutil) we are using boning tape stitched inside the corset to securely retain the steel boning rather than stitching the channels through multiple layers of cloth as we would do on a 4 layer corset. This is hand stitched (or basted) into position to allow for the most effective and attractive top stitching.
Cutting and tipping steel bones
No corset would be complete without it’s steel skeleton! many people don’t realise that the steel boning is not there to reduce the waist (this is done at the pattern making stage with how we shape the panels) but in fact to hold the fabric taut and prevent the corset wrinkling and folding under pressure at the waist. The boning gives tension and support to the figure but does not actually change your waist shape.
Attaching and handsewing binding
With the bones inserted, the corset is nearly complete except for binding the edges…
The finished corset
You can read more about Edith’s adventures here, and find on her on Instagram for her latest updates and stunning vintage inspired portraits.
We couldn’t be happier or more proud as we release our first seasonal collection! SS15 responds to the theme of “En Plein Air” or “Yn Yr Awyr Agored” in my native tongue of Welsh. In the process of building up a portfolio of designs inspired by the great outdoors this became an increasingly personal body of work, drawing on specific moments that I treasure from the rugged and breathtaking landscape that I grew up in, as well as adventures from more recent times, including a glorious day at Aberdovey harbour with my love when we had just met. I wanted to draw from the sentimentality that these places can hold for us against the raw power and thrill of nature, the way that our human lives interplay with the timeless landscape.
Choosing our team for the photoshoot wasn’t all that hard when it came down to it. I have been looking for an opportunity to work with Julian Kilsby for some time, a photographer based in Birmingham whose reputation precedes him in every sphere, and this seemed like the ideal time to draw on his talents. Julian and I share a love for Guy Bourdain’s darkly sensual fashion photography, and this allure is really visible in his work to date. We talked about some models whom we were both excited by and agreed wholeheartedly on Miss Miranda. Miranda and I have previously worked together on our Gilded Cages collection, and I was so pleased that she could join us on this project. Every image I see of Miranda has an iconic feel, and I often refer to her as my muse because she really seems to wear the mood of each photoshoot like a second skin, weaving her own artistry with that of designer and photographer.
The final styling of the photoshoot sets were a complete surprise to me- I simply told Julian a little about what I was bringing along with a few in-progress photographs and he worked his own way into the theme. He saw that although we were talking about a shoot inspired by nature we would be working indoors (it was February after all!) and that we had an opportunity to play with the artificiality of the scenario (another link back to Guy Bourdain) by allowing a little of the studio into the scenes- a light left in shot, the back of the sets used to show the 2D nature of it all. But the real magic comes in with a combination of Julian’s subtlety and cleverness with lighting and Miranda’s delicacy with pose and presence. For me, it’s only on second appraisal of the images that one starts to pick out these details, what is initially viewed as a vibrant moment captured with a beautiful woman at the heart of it becomes something more complex and dynamic. A layer of concepts and perceptions that is greater than the sum of it’s parts.
No collection I have ever produced has been perfect. There are many compromises that have to be made in order to get all the pieces together in time, and SS15 is no exception. Are there things I’d do differently next time? Absolutely. I made a few last minute changes to pieces that didn’t work (boning accents on First Light!) and experimented with new construction techniques that I will probably not repeat (alternative flatlining method on “Silhouettes at Sunset”) but as a body of work I feel that is my strongest offering so far, especially as it’s the most ambitious project I’ve ever attempted, with 6 separate looks including full lingerie sets! I’m trying to move onto a stage in my career where instead of trying to hide mistakes, I embrace what I’ve learned from them and take it for experience. After all, what is a photoshoot for, if not an excuse to stretch your boundaries and experiment!
I hope you enjoy En Plein Air. It’s been a pleasure from this side of the sewing machine.
In the postbag from the Orchid Corsetry studio this month- shows, shoots and final touches.
It has been nothing if not action packed this month! Alongside reworking elements of the lingerie range to fine-tune fit and elegance, we were busy taking part in a catwalk event in aid of Severn Hospice, a wonderful organisation in Shropshire that is in constant need of support in order to continue it’s good work. Alongside Shrewsbury based designer Lyuba Carpenter and milliner Laura Cathcart, we presented an evening of high class couture, showcasing casual tailoring, evening wear and bridal. You can see our beautiful model Rhiannah wearing our ivory silk Edwardian underbust corset in this month’s images, and get a flavour of the evening! We were delighted with the funds raised by the evening and hope that all who attended enjoyed themselves.
The end of February also saw us setting off for Birmingham with a suitcase full of corsetry representing months of work and planning, ready to shoot with Miss Miranda and Julian Kilsby! The events of the day will require their own post complete with the soon to be released images, however for now, we can share some of the behind the scenes footage from a day that went exceptionally well. My experience of photoshoots is that so much hangs in the balance, and expectations are high. It can be a pressured environment in which there may have to be compromises as the realities of time intervene in our visions, however having a great team makes these elements manageable, and helps to over-ride my niggling concerns with confidence in a greater overall result. As a perfectionist I am rarely entirely satisfied with the work I bring to a shoot, but thanks to the magic brought to the day by Miranda and Julian I can look back and feel content that we have created something beautiful and exciting. I eagerly anticipate releasing the collection for your enjoyment!