To celebrate the launch of five new colours being added to our range it was with much anticipation I embarked on the idea of setting up a photoshoot to showcase these new colours in all their glory for everyone to see.
Being the founder and designer at Willow & Pearl gives me the great privilege to be involved with every aspect of the business so when it comes to putting a photo shoot together it’s a really exciting time where I get to exercise some pretty unrestrained creativity and make my vision of the brand come to life for other people to see – well; I say ‘I get to be creative’ but what I really mean is I get to be a small part of a highly creative and inspirational team of people, each bringing their expertise to the table in order to create something really special.
Where it all began:
As so often happens in life a chance comment made by one to another sparked off what would end up being the foundation of our new colours shoot. The mother of our flower girl model Sophia mentioned to another parent from Sophia’s school that Sophia was going to be a model for our flower girl dresses, to which the other parent took an interest as she was a florist and suggested perhaps she could provide a small posy for the shoot and in return have a couple of images in to use on her website. This kind offer was relayed to me but after missing each other’s calls over a couple of days and it all getting too short notice I left a message suggesting doing something together in the future as I felt it could be mutually beneficial.
The parent, when we managed to make contact, turned out to be Penny from Crown House Flowers a modern, innovative and contemporary independent florist based in Norfolk. Penny provides floristry for weddings, events and special occasions and runs floristry workshops sharing her expertise in wedding flowers, hand tied bouquets and also teaches introduction to floristry courses. Penny and I spoke a few days after the flower girl shoot and decided it would be great to collaborate on the new colours launch project together. Furthermore Penny told me how she works closely with Caroline, owner of the beautiful wedding venue Swanton Morley House & Gardens and herself a professional photographer at Swanton Morley Studios – and so, far more easily than I believed was possible I had an offer to collaborate with a fantastic venue, professional photographer and a highly skilled florist – we were off to a good start.
With a florist on board, a photographer and a wedding venue at our disposal for our location there was still a key role to fill: a stylist, who would be able to coordinate the whole shoot and bring all of our skills, products and visions together to create something really special – enter Kate Cooper of By Kate Elizabeth, a recent introduction to me but quickly becoming a great friend and a fantastic connection. Kate is a creative stylist with a considerable about of styled wedding shoots under her belt in addition to being one of Norwich Fashion Week’s official bloggers and the co-founder of Norwich Fashion Jam; a 24-hour challenge where entrants create a catwalk collection from donated charity shop clothing – challenging and redefining the concept of ‘fast fashion’. Kate listened to the brief of launching the new colours, took a look at the location and Penny’s creative work, saw the potential of the shoot and agreed to be on board.
The very first thing to do was set up a meeting between the four of us and it only seemed right to head to Swanton Morley House & Gardens to do this and scout out the location at the same time. We arrived early one sunny afternoon to find Penny and Caroline in a courtyard covered by a semi-permanent big top style marquee roof tidying up after a one of Penny’s floristry classes that she holds at the house, Kate and I both made a mental note – floristry workshop – definitely something to do one day, we both agreed it would be a very pleasant way to spend a morning indeed!
It turns out this courtyard space is where the wedding breakfast is held if you have your wedding here and the surrounding building houses the ceremony room, the area that transforms into the bar and a third room which becomes the dancefloor. All three spaces have high ceilings and exposed oak beams with neutral décor that provides a great backdrop for decorations or if left undecorated is fresh and simple. There are doors opening out of each area back into the covered courtyard area and looking around it’s clear to see how great this space is for weddings.
We all introduced ourselves and our businesses over a cup of tea and discussed the aims of the shoot and two possible dates that worked for everyone before heading out into the grounds and gardens to see what the venue had to offer terms of settings and we weren’t disappointed.
The gardens are expansive and perfectly tended to, there are many different areas with different vistas, planting styles and everything is also beautifully mature – I went into inspiration overdrive! It’s at this point Kate had to start reigning in my enthusiasm, “it’s only one photoshoot, it’s only one day, there is only so much we will be able to do in that amount of time” which granted was true, but that didn’t stop me waxing lyrical about all the endless possibilities. We all discussed lots of different options whilst touring the grounds and taking photos of possible settings and locations for reference, when it came to saying our goodbyes it was clear that we all left the meeting excited about what was to come.
After an almost overwhelming afternoon visit to the venue the real challenge was to now narrow down all the ideas we had to a realistically achievable few that would showcase not only the new colours at their best but also Penny’s floristry as well as the beautiful venue at Swanton Morley House & Gardens.
Taking into account time constraints as well as what everyone would need to contribute Kate suggested we aim to create 3 main stories with an additional smaller side story to shoot on the day. This meant we’d need to pair up some of the new colours together to create some complimenting colour palettes – which was tricky because so many different pairings were so appealing. After much to and fro it was decided that Periwinkle would have its own story and that Blush and Sage would be shot together with Blush having a separate small shoot of its own and Wisteria and Heather would be put together for the final story.
With our Willow & Pearl dresses our top priority is to always show off the different ways to wear the dresses as its this flexibility which makes them so great for bridesmaids but Kate wanted to take that idea further and use this shoot to show not only the variety of ways dresses could be wrapped and worn but also how versatile they could be with regards to being suitable for different styles of wedding. Kate decided to illustrate this by using different locations for each story setup and working closely with Penny and her floristry knowledge and skills to accessorise these different looks – it would also mean that we would create some diverse images that would inspire more than one kind of bride-to-be. After much discussion we settled on the story themes for the shoot:
Periwinkle Provence – a classically styled story featuring Pearl dresses, taking inspiration from one of the most beautiful areas in France.
Enchanted Forest – a fairy tale setting with a whimsical bohemian feel featuring Blush and Sage coloured Willow dresses.
The Meadow – a natural, romantic and feminine story featuring Blush Willow dresses.
Dark Romance – a Victorian gothic inspired setting with a contemporary twist -a vintage theme but not quite as you might expect.
Once the stories had been established and we had a vision for the separate shoots we then needed to set about making these visions a reality – other than the dresses, the location and the floral accessories one of the key factors was going to be the models.
At Willow & Pearl we feel it’s really important that we promote healthy body image and that we have happy, healthy models wearing our dresses, the models we wanted for this shoot we’re no exception to this ethos and in additional to heathy shapes and sizes we wanted models that would embody the fact that your bridesmaids are your best friends; so kind, sweet looking girls were at top of our wish list. As with any thing wedding related there is always an overriding aspect of romance and although ‘romance’ means different things to different people for us and this shoot we wanted to go for mostly long flowing natural hair and natural fresh faced looks. We decided on four bridesmaids for the shoot and also a bride to feature in the Periwinkle Provence story to create a ‘real wedding’ feel.
The models we choose for this shoot were Emma, Maisie, Hollie, Liz and Sophie – all absolutely stunning but to make the very best of them and their natural beauty we were over the moon to be able to have hair and makeup professionals Lanoi Hansakda and Jeahan Tuddenham agree to be part of the shoot, both of whom work regularly with our stylist Kate, and are highly skilled and experienced with photoshoots, fashion shows as well as special occasion and wedding make up and styling. Both Lanoi and Jeahan are Norwich School Of Beauty graduates, based in Norfolk and can be booked for your wedding makeup and come fully recommended by us. All of the models we were to use would look beautiful without any makeup but with Lanoi and Jeahan’s expertise we knew they would all looked incredible with flawless skin, radiant complexions and beautifully emphasised features – Lanoi and Jeahan truly are artists.
The final person to put in place was a second photographer to capture the day in a series of behind the scene shots with moments of us all at work and to maximise the potential of the whole day. With four models wearing our multiway dresses wrapped in different styles we were looking at modelling at least 15 different looks and so it was important that we weren’t rushing in order to get all the shots that we wanted to. Our ‘behind the scenes’ photographer Alexandra Blackburn of Lavender Bea Wedding Photography & Illustration had again worked with Kate before so was quick in agreeing to join us for the shoot as well. Alexandra specializes in wedding photography but also has a background in fashion photography and portraiture so would bring an exciting mix of all these skills to her photographs. Alexandra and her assistants can be booked for wedding photography in Norwich and surrounding areas and offer a candid approach to wedding photography that really tells the story of the day and captures the emotion and personality of the couple involved.
And so, with the stories and styling established and all the skilled professionals in place I headed into the studio to get to work on my side of things – the dresses – and making them up in all the beautiful new colours for which this whole photoshoot had been planned for.