August 31 2014

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Exclusive: Selfridges Is Dreaming of A Bruce Weber Christmas


Alannah Weston’s favorite book as a child was From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler, the story of two children who decide to spend the night in the Metropolitan Museum. An advantage of being a scion of one of world’s great retail dynasties is that Weston got to re-create that childhood fantasy as a Christmas campaign, only now it’s a night in Selfridges, the legendary London department store where she is creative director. And she had as her co-conspirator the equally legendary Bruce Weber. “As a kid, I always wanted to run around a department store at night, fantasizing that I could buy anything I wanted,” he recalls. “Years later, as a teenager, I remember seeing a TV show with Barbra Streisand after-hours in Bergdorf’s and I thought, ‘Boy, is she lucky!’ “

Weston and Weber go back, at least to the mid-nineties. “We share a lot of things in life, especially dogs and art,” says the photographer. She calls his massive career overview Blood, Sweat and Tears her bible. They last worked together two years ago, on a shoe campaign for Selfridges. “Everything has to have a bit of a twist for me,” says Weston. “I’m not much of a fashion person. There always has to be a story.” Which makes Weber, the past master of the implied narrative, a dream collaborator for her. In that last campaign, a handsome fireman turned into a superhero in the ladies’ shoe department. In this new one, a ballerina meets a poet, a beautiful young Grace Jones lookalike is lovestruck by a boxer. He’s holding a puppy while she soothes his bruised eye. It’s a quintessential Weber moment, young outsiders meeting in a romantic fantasy…with dogs. There’s also a wizard, a Rasta Santa, five ponies, a handful of adorable kids, and Tim Easton, the face of Weber’s iconic campaigns for Ralph Lauren in the eighties. That mix of old, new, and slightly skewed is a Weber signature. “I still photograph people I met 30 years ago, so I do have a big repertory company—old friends, parents of models, my favorite dogs I meet walking around the neighborhood, people I’d love to dance with, others I’d like to play football with. As you can see, the people I’m drawn to in my work are limitless. I like it when a sitting is like making a vegetable soup from scratch.”

Weston’s sentiments exactly. “Knowing Bruce’s film work, knowing his documentary work, I wouldn’t be looking for the same thing his other clients would be looking for,” she explains. Which is why the meat of the campaign is the two short films Weber has made. A New-Fashioned Christmas captures the fairy-tale Nutcracker-meets-The Big Store spirit of the whole endeavor. Have Yourself a Count Basie Christmas (see it here, exclusively on is more impressionistic, a little wilder. “I think New-Fashioned represents Alannah’s quieter self and Count Basie reflects her party self,” says Weber. Something that stands out in both films is how un-promotional they are. “I never think of selling something when I make films like these,” he agrees. “I think of what the experience is and what it means to the person we are collaborating with.” Adds Weston, with a wry laugh, “The only thing you can buy in the whole shoot is the T-shirt for Kids Company, the charity we’re promoting.”

That same unconventional spirit permeates the advertising campaign made up of stills lifted from the movies. Come Christmas, billboards all over London will be plastered with an image of Weber’s boxer, back to the camera in his yellow robe. Given the season, it’s kind of audacious, but Alannah Weston wouldn’t have it any other way. “It’s been one of those experiences that changes you.”

Photos: Bruce Weber / Courtesy of Selfridge’s



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Dept. of Culture