“I think clothes are a celebration!” Lucinda Chambers talks nostalgia, mood boards, and her recent shoot with Mario for Man About Town‘s 10th Anniversary Edition.
This shoot appeared Man About Town’s 10th Anniversary edition, shot by Mario. Your partnership with Mario has lasted for decades – what’s the secret to a working relationship like that?
LC: Part of a really fruitful relationship is obviously mutual respect, but also, in a funny way, it’s a very good thing to challenge people. I like being challenged, and I like challenging Mario, and slightly taking people out of their comfort zone. I think if you’re going to have any longevity in a working relationship, or any relationship, you’ve got to be quite flexible, and maybe not always do the things that come naturally to you – but actually things you feel you might be frightened by, or slightly uncomfortable with. I think we also have quite a different aesthetic, and yet we both can enjoy each other’s aesthetic – so we’re not always really doing the same thing. I mean I feel very lucky that he absolutely trusts me. You know he’s shooting every day, and I’m not, so I don’t really bother him with a lot! I give him the sense of my idea, and then he has a very strong opinion about casting – we go back and forth about casting more than anything. I will always do a mood board, and that’s what I get really excited about! I love doing a mood board. I will be thinking all the time of what can one bring to the shoot to make it more meaningful. I always think it’s quite an emotional feeling of what one feels about a shoot.
‘In Full Bloom’ shows you orchestrating a shoot celebrating male models in women’s clothing. How is the look of the shoot achieved?
LC: It wasn’t so much a conscious decision, it actually didn’t really occur to me, it was more about the delicacy. So, here, I wanted to start with the delicacy of the clothes that are around, for both men and women. I think it’s just fabulous when men are free to experiment. I think Gucci has a lot to answer for that, in a good way. For them it doesn’t matter who they’re dressing, it’s just a celebration. It’s a celebration of textiles, glittery bits, sparkly bits, pearls, jewellery, glasses, hats, bits and bobs, doesn’t matter who they’re on, doesn’t make any difference, it’s whoever suits that particular look. I think clothes are a celebration – they can be functional, but it’s lovely when they’re not! The best thing is when you have models who really know how to live and breathe in these clothes, and take on this beautiful persona. These boys were actually all very gentle, very natural. They went into their poses very beautifully.
There are a few 70s flourishes here with the silk shirts, plaid trousers, and turtlenecks, but overall it feels distinctly modern. Do you enjoy evoking different decades, or do you feel there is a compulsion to keep everything ‘of the moment’?
LC: Interestingly, I don’t think about that either. I think it’s on the whole nice not to be nostalgic, I have to say. You don’t want the pictures to look like they could have appeared in 1979, because that’s not what’s relevant now. And there were great shoots in 1979, so why bother to try and do that? So I think I try and keep it current, but again I think that’s not a conscious thing, I think it’s just what’s happening at the moment, and these are the clothes that are on the catwalk, and there is a twinge of 70s in the colours.
I wonder when people look back on the 2010s, what they’re going to think that our aesthetic is! Because we seem to be an amalgamation of everything.
LC: I think that’s great, I think it’s rather fabulous at the moment. I was talking about this yesterday, about how in the 90s somebody like Nigel Shafran, who’s a wonderful photographer, came along and and everybody was very influenced by him, and they took Nigel as a starting point. It’s exactly the same as Jamie Hawkesworth five years ago, who started his thing, and now has lots of followers. Today, it’s all up for grabs, and there’s no right or wrong, and I think how fabulous that there’s no right or wrong. Everybody can see what they like, and have access to it so immediately. So people who have always felt slightly out of step with fashion, and slightly out of time, it’s so freeing [for them]. You don’t have to be part of the bigger thing, you can do your own thing, it’s all relevant.
In the shoot, you style Marks and Spencer alongside Prada. What do you enjoy about this pairing of high fashion brands and the high street? What does it take to pull it off?
LC: I absolutely love it. One thing I really love about clothes – not fashion, clothes – is that you don’t have to be rich to make it look good. I think the biggest compliment that somebody could pay me, is looking at a magazine like that, and our picture, and saying “you know I’ve got a shirt like that, it’s not Prada, I’ve had it for ages, if I cut the sleeves off, and hemmed them in …. then I could get that look much cheaper and I could do it in a different way.” I remember when I used to look at magazines I used to think; “that’s a nice cashmere jumper, but that’s £700, but you know what, I could buy one from M&S, and I could turn it back-to-front, and get the same sort of look!” I think that’s what fashion is about, you know. It gives you permission to look at all the brands, the high street, all the vintage and make of it what you want. I would hate to do, or I would probably very rarely do, a shoot where it’s entirely all just high-end designers, I always try and slip in something in there!
There’s something cinematic about the shoot – the flowers, styling, and set are almost reminiscent of a Wes Anderson film palette. Do you ever have a narrative in mind when styling a shoot, or do the images speak for themselves?
LC: Actually that’s such a huge compliment! I think there was something a bit Blue Velvet, by David Lynch, about it, because it is a bit dark, and a bit twisted. Some things just happen – Mario will see something, or I will see something, and you’ll just have to take a picture of it, or you know Mario will see something I don’t see as we go along. I think that’s actually what’s nice about not controlling so much, and that’s something I’ve learnt as I get older and older. When I was young, I used to be much more controlling, and used to want everything to be scripted. And now actually I’m much less of a control freak. I know what I want, but I’m also very happy to veer off and that’s sort of just trusting people! I think it’s really good to be open, I think you can’t be closed.
Thank you Lucinda!