I was given a crown jewel assignment: to style and oversee our September cover in Paris, the City of Light and the capital of style. The shoot took place in June, when Europe is a delight. Capturing the essence of a place in one photo is a daunting task. There is a long list of things that can go wrong, and at the top is the weather. So when I arrived to a downpour of biblical proportions, I had to recite positive affirmations in the foggy taxi ride to Hôtel Le Bellechasse, where I was staying.
As I ran with umbrella in tow to Café de Flore to meet French photographer Matthieu Salvaing, I was not convinced—despite the next day's sunny forecast—that things would change. But somewhere between a visit to the Musée d'Orsay and a glass boat ride on the Seine (for only 16 euros!), the dreary gray sky turned into a crisp clear blue with white clouds.
The next morning the crew, which consisted of a hairstylist, makeup artist, photographer, photo assistants, and model, gathered at my hotel. The weather was (literally) picture perfect, and everybody else seemed very blasé about my concerns. C'est la vie! Their positive attitudes put me at ease. We loaded up the location van and headed out.
I had secured looks from Dior, Louis Vuitton, and Dries Van Noten that came straight from the Paris runway. With such beautiful pieces, the biggest concern is to fit each outfit to the right setting (though they would all look breathtaking anywhere). Our plan was to shoot at the Palais-Royal, then off to the Palais du Tokyo and La Fontaine de Mars—a restaurant that our American expat contributor fell in love with.
Salvaing is a confident and collaborative photographer with an easy French attitude. There was plenty of time to shoot because of the long summer day, but there were still a few snafus. I am convinced that no matter how many shoes I procure, it boils down to only one or two pairs that fit the model. Our beauty had a size 41 foot, and sample size is 39. No amount of coaxing would get her into our shoes. After I ran through every Rue de whatever, looking for a shoe shop, we settled on pleading and shoving into an unfashionable compromise shoe, but at least she wasn't barefoot!
With fashion shoots, it's protocol to return clothing samples to their public relations team in a timely manner. The second glitch happened after promising to return a Dior dress by 5 p.m. As the day went on, it was looking like we would not make the deadline. While shooting at the Palais du Tokyo, I was putting out the fire—answering calls from New York and arranging a rushed taxi ride for my assistant to get the look back to the famed Avenue Montaigne showroom.
The perfect cover was captured. Although we shot five different looks in five locations, the best was the iconic Eiffel Tower with our blond French beauty enjoying the view.