Boulevard Chanel

A couple of days before we left for Paris we got a call from Chanel. “Karl would like a few photographers to participate in the show, and Kevin, since you’re already filming from the riser, would you be interested?” Sweats nervously.

“Of course, as long as it’s not public humiliation.” Assured this was not the case, I arrived at Paris’ Grand Palais at 6am for rehearsals, along with a handful of other photographers and waited for instructions. A very French stage director walked the models through a mock protest,  led by an enthusiastic Cara Delevingne, which would close the show. The photographers would run out from the sides to “cover” the protest and do our best not to trip over ourselves and each other while running backwards.

Everything went off without a hitch. The models rebelled and disregarded the prescribed protest chant in favor of their own. No one tripped, and it was all an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime, Parisian morning on Boulevard Chanel.

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Metiers d’Art Ateliers LESAGE & LEMARIÉ

Lesage_02

Recently I had the greatest pleasure of photographing one of the most beautiful, rare, masterpieces made by man- haute couture fashion. I knew it would be special, and it was, but in person it was breathtaking so much more than my preconceived notions had allowed my imagination to believe.

Now here we are in Paris and Chanel has invited me on a tour of where couture begins at their ateliers Lesage & Lemarié in Pantin, a suburb of Paris. These two famed workshops have been recused by Chanel to preserve their specialized  embroidery, feather, millinery, flower & couture skills.  From floor to ceiling archived boxes starting in the 1800s of pattern samples for precious embroidery for houses like Chanel, Valentino, and Dior, it goes without saying they are the best in the world. Thumbing through the archives I felt the free inhibitions of the designers, the almost child-like magic in design possibility as seen through color, texture, and pattern. This is not about what is popular for the masses, it is about an idea, it is about art, emotion, beauty and technical skill.

In a moment of humor, they had me try my hand at making a simple embroidery flower which then gave me an even greater appreciation for the skills and volume these artists work at. We looked through the archive of Chanel camellias, and then visited the room where every single flower is created by hand where at least 16 petals and one hour of work goes into creating one. Here  at Lemarié they hand make all the CHANEL camellias, around 40,000 a year.

I was so moved by the attention to detail and just shear human energy put into one single piece making the value greater than anything created any other way. I see now why couture is so special which is far beyond material quality, but artisan skill and above all… time.

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Coco Chanel’s Apartment

A tour of Gabrielle Coco Chanel’s Apartment  at 31 Rue Cambone Paris

It’s hard to imagine walking in the footsteps of a legend… but on this most recent trip to Paris that is exactly where I found myself.  31 Rue Cambon, tucked away on a narrow street is the building Gabrielle Chanel (Coco) purchased in the 1920′s to house her incredibly successful fashion business. The levels of the building are still maintained today as Coco had originally set them up- a shop on the ground floor, haute couture studio on the 1st and her apartment on the 2nd. Walking up the original mirrored staircase was a surreal experience, like being in a toy music box or on a merry-go-round, light reflecting and your angle of perception always on the move. I sat on the infamous 5th step, the number five ever present and repeating itself within her house as she believed it to be a lucky number, and looked at the view Coco herself did so many times. From that angle of mirrored walls you can see how the dress would look on a model at every turn and you could also see the client’s reactions to the collection on the floor below without them being able to see you. Being in the house the day before Chanel’s extravagant spring show allowed me to slip into the fantasy even more, standing on that staircase seeing the models in fittings, running up and down the stairs and all the while watching them in a million reflections, reflections that have not changed in decades.

I found myself throughly surprised when I pushed open the mirrored door to her apartment – the first impression was “ornate oriental”. All of the rooms of Coco’s apartment were lined in 18th century oriental screens in a wallpaper-like fashion. Having been known to hate doors, she had the wooden wall panels cut seamlessly so when closed you would not know a door was there, like a hidden passageway. In the salon she used freestanding screens to obscure the entrance and exists of the room, leaving your eye to seamlessly wonder around and around at her very personal collections.

I was taken by how personal everything was in the space. Either chosen by Coco herself or as a personal gift, there was nothing in place without a story. The side tables – Coco had the marble replaced with black lacquered surfaces (sound like Chanel? yes.). The lions everywhere? Coco was a leo and surrounded herself with her astrological sign. The amazing chandelier in the salon bears both the number 5 and the iconic double crossing C’s. A dinner table for six? Coco preferred later in life more intimate dinner parties with the focus on stimulating conversation, conversations that would be happening with the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, and Marlene Dietrich. She would pick up pieces from all over and mixing high and low without a bother to monetary value surrounding herself in things that meant something to her. On the side table of the salon sat one frog with his mouth open and inside was a piece of crystal. I asked our host why it was there and she said one of Chanel’s more famous guests accidentally broke a crystal off the chandler and hoping Coco would not see, hid the piece in the frog’s mouth… but, Coco did see to which she replied to the guest was a more fitting place for it after all.

My favorite piece in her apartment are the gifts from the Duke of Westminster- silver trinket boxes that sit on the salon’s coffee table and don’t reveal their true value until one opens it and it’s golden interior radiates so bright it feels like a piece of the sun. Coco said after receiving these lavish gifts that this was TRUE luxury: the most valuable aspect hidden from the public eye. This is what inspired her to make fur jackets “inside out”, with the softest part only for you.

She took inspiration from her home- the shape of the mirror in the entryway is the shape of the bottle of Chanel No. 5 as well as the face of many Chanel watches. On the oriental screens lining the walls motifs of camellias danced- another iconic symbol of CHANEL. Most notably, she created her famous quilted bag from the pillows on her 1920′s custom made suede couch. It is quite obvious Coco Chanel had a vision of personal taste, which she let influence her work in the most organic way possible and to that I find her immensely fascinating for she taught me style is everywhere, you just have to see it.

Now imagine this – the owner of this apartment, a woman who set the tone of style for decades, the creator of a fashion house that bears her name and is still so relevant and esteemed today was once just a little girl growing up in poverty simply as Gabrielle…

A tour of Gabrielle Coco Chanel’s Apartment  at 31 Rue Cambone Paris A tour of Gabrielle Coco Chanel’s Apartment  at 31 Rue Cambone Paris    A tour of Gabrielle Coco Chanel’s Apartment  at 31 Rue Cambone Paris    A tour of Gabrielle Coco Chanel’s Apartment  at 31 Rue Cambone Paris

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Lord & Taylor Birdcage

  Birdcage by Lord & Tylor by Ann Street Studio's photographer Jamie Beck

There’s something new happening on the second floor at Lord & Taylor’s flagship store on New York’s 5th ave and it’s called the Birdcage. I’ve always thought of Lord & Taylor as one of those iconic Manhattan department stores but now they are dusting off the old ideals of multi-level shopping and bringing in interesting emerging and boutique designers, making it easy for you to discover a more relevant fashion selection to what is going on in New York  you might not otherwise have access to. This newness is smartly curated to the young, smart and cool crowd that is more or less in the know, the kind of girl that always shows up with just the right balance of trend and style from a designer you can’t wait to google when you get home.

All the accessories in this fashion story we photographed recently at our studio are a small selection of what’s in store for Birdcage and the clothing can all be found as well on Lord & Taylor’s second floor which will soon house a special area just for their new concept of fashion curation. In addition to jewelry, Birdcage will also showcase cosmetics, tech, home products and edibles, supporting a modern day approach to fashion and lifestyle… so how cool is that.

Birdcage by Lord & Tylor by Ann Street Studio's photographer Jamie Beck

Above: A Peace Treaty Ring // BCBGMaxazria Dress

Below: Vanessa Lianne earrings & ring // BCBGMaxazria Turtleneck & Skirt // Enzo Angiolini flats // Ted Baker Coat

Birdcage by Lord & Tylor by Ann Street Studio's photographer Jamie Beck Birdcage by Lord & Tylor by Ann Street Studio's photographer Jamie Beck

Above: Matterial Fix Earrings & Bracelet // BCBGMaxazria Dress

Below: A Peace Treaty Earrings // Michelle Kim Grey Coat

Birdcage by Lord & Tylor by Ann Street Studio's photographer Jamie Beck

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