2 posts tagged "Alannah Weston"
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 Style.com) 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.”
As creative director of her family’s business, Selfridges’ Alannah Weston has turned the massive department store on London’s Oxford Street into her private fiefdom of fun with a series of large-scale events that have brought together artists, filmmakers, musicians, and designers in the name of underscoring the store’s retail vision. Wednesday night saw one of the smartest, artiest events yet, to mark the opening of the Women’s Designer Galleries. Curator Emma Reeves commissioned a set of short films to interpret seven of the collections carried in the new space. The single criterion? A strong female character at the heart of each film. For Ann Demeulemeester, for instance, Michael Pitt filmed his fiancée, Jamie Bochert, as a wraithlike figure moving through the desert (top), like a contemporary version of Isabelle Eberhardt, the 19th-century French traveler who inspired the designer’s collection. For Comme des Garçons, Katerina Jebb filmed concert pianist Madeleine Malraux, the widow of cultural nabob André Malraux, still playing at the age of 90.
Ruth Hogben made a typically brilliant piece of film for Gareth Pugh (above), a hectic slice of Cabaret-style decadence. She also created a sepulchral German-expressionist short for Rick Owens: harsh angles, shadowy reveals, eldritch textures, and an opera soundtrack. Her grasp of atmospheric moviemaking is so acute it came as a surprise to hear Hogben admit that all she wants to do is take still pictures. I swear everybody’s going to be reading real books again in a few years.
Speaking of atmosphere, set designer Simon Costin has made Mars out of molehills, and here he turned the derelict Selfridges’ hotel into an outlying branch of the Overlook, with curtained-off spaces intended to obliquely echo the building’s former use. There were “rooms” with oversize sofas, long dining tables, cracked vanity tables, and huge beds, with the movies projected on the ceiling above them. That was how we got to see an edit of the film Christopher Doyle had made, but not used, as the backdrop for Dries Van Noten’s show for Fall 2005. (Technical issues pulled it at the last minute.) Doyle was the man whose camerawork made In the Mood for Love into the swoonsville date movie of the millennium. A perfect match for Dries’s own romantic leanings. It was kinda nice watching it lying down, too.
Funny, only one of the films—the McQueen one—really featured recognizable clothes. The others were all projections, figurative and literal, like Delfine Balfort’s erotic equine dance for A.F. Vandevorst. You can see them all on Selfridges’ Web site, but you’ve got till March 26 to experience them in person. More fun that way.