I always want fashion shoots to feel like a memory…the memory of the lace table settings, the feeling of the spirituality of the local people, the colors in my mind…perhaps it’s not the way they were but it’s the way I remember them. Bahia was a very special place for me. The whiteness in my memory was the inspiration for the walls of this shoot. In my mind I remember leaning against white sun bleached walls, the wind off the ocean pulling at my clothing. Layers of clothing imitate the layers of history, complex and textural…the stories this special place will tell you! I remember the dances, the ritual and percussion of the bodies floating about the floor as weightless as air. These memories are the inspiration behind this shoot, our Salvador Da Bahia muse, come to life in our studio in New York City. Styled by Kelly Framel, our travel companion who brought her own inspiration to the clothing from her personal experiences, from the lessons of dressing she took and the history of fashion from this seaport town.
It comes as no surprise a city as magical as Salvador da Bahia would have a boutique hotel just as enchanting in the heart of the old city. Two colonial homes, one from the 17th century and the other from the 18th, have been carefully renovated into the 17 room experience of Hotel Villa Bahia with two garden courtyards, plunge pool, panoramic terrace and one of the best restaurants I have ever been to. Each room unique in decor, each detail as romantic as the last. If I were a novelist, it is here where I would stay to write as I felt nothing but inspiration between these walls….
We arrived into the port town of Salvador de Bahia on Friday, the day of Oxala which means God of Creation. I didn’t know much about this place, only that it would have a deep river of African history underneath a colonial Portuguese settled landscape. Over the few days I was lucky enough to spend in this culturally rich destination, I discovered a new and very deep love for what they call the Capital da Alegria, or Capital of Happiness.
As we rode in the car to the historic area our hotel lived in, our amazing guide Conor O’Sullivan tells us how an Irish man ended up in the most African American city in the world outside the motherland. He took a 10 month backpacking trip through South America, found himself on a beach in Bahia and that was it. When he moved here in the early 80s he had $600 in his pocket and a return ticket to London that never got used. That is a pretty great first impression.
I think a comment on my Instagram that best describes this destination is a tropical Portugal. We strolled for the entire afternoon climbing up and down narrow cobbled streets where rows of houses are brightly painted in a sorbet of colors. Grand Baroque churches on every other corner. Each block a new sound of music, music flows here like the subways at rush hour. Drums, guitars, African instruments, music for the soul not for the name. Men sitting outside on the petite sidewalks playing dominos. They feel free, they feel happy, they don’t feel the bland taste yet of globalization. Maybe I didn’t know about Salvador da Bahia before because it’s better as a secret, a play for life and love.