I feel completely humbled to be writing this post today. To be able to share behind the scenes insight into Nu Brides very first styled shoot; “Grace” and to celebrate how far Nu Bride has come in the short 18 months it has been in existence.
Styled bridal shoots are often used in the wedding industry as a chance for suppliers to collaborate and showcase their work, whilst inspiring brides-to-be with creative ideas.
♥ Sowing the seed…..
Most of you will know I have a disdain for networking. I can’t help it. It always sends me into a state of dread and panic which usually leads to overheating, ridiculous nerves, palpitations and thoughts of “why on earth would this person be interested in talking to me” Well…..the result of this styled shoot just goes to show the true power of networking. So Dear Mr Niemierko, I have a lot to thank you for! It was at the launch of the Oscar De La Renta bridal salon in London, hosted by Mark Niemierko, that I had the privilege of meeting the deliciously delightful Jo and Apos of Urban Cinematography and the excitement to collaborate was born!
Both Jo and I immediately had a keen interest to collaborate and showcase something elegant with a modern editorial edge, whilst celebrating the beauty of brides of colour. A couple of months and several Pinterest mood boards later, I came up with the idea for “Grace” and prayed that Jo and Apos were free and still keen to collaborate…. Needless to say they were!
♥ The beginnings…..
I had some wedding vendors in mind that I was dying to collaborate with, as I had confidence they could bring my vision to light. However, I was expecting several “no thank you’s”, and could not believe how excited and keen the suppliers were to collaborate, not only because each of them were volunteering their time and artistry to create the vision behind my shoot, but because it seemed to be a genuine shared passion for each and every collaborator involved! This made me smile and it also made me realise that my concerns about the large gaping hole for representation of black brides in the mainstream UK wedding industry, is not all in my mind!
So, with a palette of white, gold and a sprinkle of black, several Pinterest mood boards and a myriad of emails later; a dream team of up-and-coming and elite wedding industry suppliers were set to turn my ideas into reality.
♥ Developing the shoot….
Creating “Grace” was like my second chance at planning a wedding – only this time there was no budget and I could have everything I wanted (well almost). WEEEE!
The venue was the hardest part to get right. It wasn’t until the early planning stages of the shoot that I realised how difficult it was to find a modern venue in keeping with our theme (and date and geographical restrictions). That’s when I decided to step outside of the ‘wedding’ box completely and looked at a few recently refurbished bars and night clubs. I was instantly drawn to Grace Bar in Piccadilly, London. It seems it was a natural fit given the title of the shoot!
As well as wanting to create a modern, luxurious feel, the shoot was also delicately inspired by ballet.
Coming from a background in professional dance, I have always thought that the relationship between theatre and ballet naturally lends itself to weddings. The staging and theatrical elements of a wedding day from walking down the aisle, to the first dance. The elegance and poise of a ballet dancer can easily be compared to the effortless elegance of a bride.
I was keen to use professional dancers as models for the shoot. We did bring our ballet pointe shoes with us, but those ended up being left on the shelf. All day. (Sigh of relief from me as I haven’t danced in those since the millennium! Lol!) There were other subtle accents in the styling which honoured ballet, particularly in the stunning contemporary stationery by Foto-Fusion, for example, our table was named “Swan Lake”
♥ Putting the pieces together….
Having first met the beautiful Elizabeth Stuart during my own wedding planning and being familiar with her designs, from the outset I knew I wanted to capture Elizabeth Stuarts gowns for “Grace”. They worked well to complement the modern editorial focus we were trying to create. So I was thrilled when she agreed to collaborate and agreed to let me loose on her dresses! The most exciting part for me was getting to pick some of her new designs fresh off the White Gallery catwalk! And I was honoured to be given the opportunity to showcase some of her new 2014 White Label collection in “Grace”.
Days before the shoot, my house looked like I was getting married all over again. Utter chaos! I loved it! (Hubby did not!)
Boxes of beautiful tender gowns from Elizabeth Stuart arrived, hand-picked from the catwalk. Excitement built whilst unwrapping layers-upon-layers of tissue paper, to reveal gorgeous elegant accessories and stylish bird-cage veils from Yarwood White & Lily Bella.
Stacked with a selection of cloths, including a stunning sequin design from the gorgeous and generous Libi at Over The Top Rentals . Armed with a handful of linens to whet our creative appetites, giving us flexibility on the day if we needed it.
Opening parcel after parcel of deliveries from our talented shoe designer Marsha Hall who created wonderful new (and THE most comfortable wedding shoe) designs specifically for “Grace”. Foto-Fusion also created stunning contemporary stationery designs specifically for the shoot. Foto-Fusion’s genuine enthusiasm to collaborate on the shoot was so contagious. We worked closely together during the weeks before, virtually sharing inspiration and ideas they created based on the theme, considering every photo and every detail to complement each aspect of the shoot, right down to the very last font.
Unwrapping each parcel allowed me the very first snippet into how “Grace” was unfolding. (Then it suddenly dawned on me…how am I going to get all this ‘stuff’ into central London?! Lol!)
♥ Styling the shoot….
Similar to planning a wedding , with a styled shoot you never quite know how everything will come together until the day. So there were the ‘not so unfamiliar’ nerves, adrenaline and butterflies with me on the day, but this time with hubby and his creative eye and calming influence right by my side.
It was important for me to allow the team to be in their creative element on the day, plus with only one pair of hands and not enough versions of me, the shoot relied heavily on trust, thorough pre-planning, mood boards, strict timetables and my husband! A lot was also reliant on working with our talented and charismatic photographer Nikos Gogas (did I mention Nikos flew in from Greece to do the shoot!!) and allowing him the flexibility he needed to capture everyone’s work in the best light.
With an early start, much of the morning was spent playing around with space, layout and design ideas and shuffling furniture to create the mood we wanted. It was utterly euphoric and contagious to be bouncing off of everyone’s creative energy. Thinking on our feet, when space or lighting presented us with a challenge and imaginatively re-thinking to create an alternative.
It was inspiring watching our photographer Nikos create his magic, finding depth, texture, contrast, shapes and beauty in the most unusual places. Watching Apos and Nikos feed off of each others creative energy could entertain you for hours!
Photography credit: Nikos Gogas
It was also inspiring watching the team behind Essential Flowers | Essential Wedding Hire, the speed at which they work, almost like superhero’s! Gliding about like swans, utterly transforming the night club into a wedding haven of luxurious bliss. With grand crystal pedestals, candles, opulent centre pieces, a culmination of floral beauty featuring, sweet peas, roses and hydrangea’s and the most fantastic wire bouquet I have ever seen. The floral designs were created to complement and accent the beautiful luxurious materials and movements of Elizabeth Stuarts gowns. I was in awe at how they completely understood and translated my vision from a couple of emails, Pinterest mood boards and just two phone calls.
It was so exciting for me to work with the cake queen that is Elizabeth Solaru, of Elizabeth’s Cakes Emporium having being a huge fan of her work and also as one of the very first supporters of Nu Bride. I felt completely honoured when she said “yes” and agreed to collaborate. Of course when revealing her heavenly cakes and naughty sweet creations for “Grace”, it left everyone with their jaws temporarily suspended.
It was fascinating to see how Elizabeth (Solaru) and the Essentials team, interpreted my initial ideas into their own creations. Heather and Andy at Essentials made some of the most stunning and innovative bouquets I have ever seen. Elizabeth’s intricate and regal cakes were cleverly influenced by Elizabeth Stuart’s bridal designs, using inspiration from the materials to translate into the design of the bouquets and cakes, from intricate lace, to beading, to pearls.
It was delicious watching Tracey of Xaman EK adapt like a chameleon to quickly re-create jewellery to complement a last-minute look we wanted to try out (thank god she brought her pliers!) and creating original and outstanding looks with her designs which were breathtaking and created a refreshing modern bridal look and an interesting twist on wedding favours!
The gorgeous models; Teneisha, Scarlette and Natalie were an absolute dream to work with, as mentioned, each with a background in professional dance, their discipline on set was a huge help and their natural creativity and comfort in front of the camera worked like a dream! Plus we were lucky to have Natalie on board to help with the theatrics of dresses having previously owned her own gorgeous bridal boutique!
The models and I had a great time with former professional ballet dancer; Suki in hair and make-up. Suki is probably THE coolest make-up artist I have ever worked with. Suki’s infectious smile (even at 8:30am), energy and ridiculously youthful genes were a real joy to be around. Using her artistry to glide over our skin with effortless precision to create stunning looks on all of us.
One of my favourite moments with the models was having a discussion on set about finding nice rich Chelsea men to settle down with to fund our creativity (of course I was only listening at this point, happily married n’all! lol)
♥ Rounding up…
Of course I couldn’t let the day pass without popping on one of Elizabeth Stuarts beautiful gowns myself. (Yes. ANY excuse to ‘pretend’ to be a bride again). whilst on set I was propped into various contortions with covert precision by Nikos, I remember being told not to forget to breathe!
Then with a chêne, fish finger sandwiches, a few pouts and lots of laughter; it was a wrap!
The day flew by and there were so many more moments we wanted to create. One of the best parts of the day for all of us, was getting to devour Elizabeth Solaru’s cakes at the end of the shoot. They look too good to eat, but trust me they taste even better!
I really didn’t want the day to end. It was utterly inspiring to be surrounded by such creative talent.
When the concept of “Grace” was born, there was not only a very large creative aim for me, but an aim to do my little bit towards showcasing positive images of UK black brides and bridging the gap to improve inclusive representation. The only way that we can truly move towards inclusive representation, is if the mainstream UK wedding industry begins to embrace and showcase the beauty of all women, regardless of race or size. I am hopeful. 🙂
♥ Please stay tuned on Nu Bride for further features, exclusive images and updates on the shoot ♥“Grace” Collaborators Cakes: Elizabeth Solaru Elizabeth’s Cake Emporium: http://elizabethscakeemporium.com/ Cinematography: Urban Cinematography http://www.urbancinematography.com/ | Photography: Nikos Gogas: http://www.nikosgogas.com/ Creative Director: Nova Reid | Nu Bride Designer Wedding Gowns: Elizabeth Stuart | http://www.elizabeth-stuart.com/ Flowers & Design: Essential Flowers | Essential Wedding Hire | http://www.essentialcouture.co.uk
Hair & Make Up: Suki Miles | http://www.sukimiles.co.uk/ Jewellery – (modern wire jewellery) Xaman EK | http://www.xamanek.co.uk/ Jewellery & veils – (pearls and birdcage veils) Yarwood White & Lily Bella | http://www.yarwood-white.com/ Linens: Over The Top Rentals | http://www.overthetoprentals.co.uk/ Shoes: Handmade by Marsha Hall | http://www.marshahall.com/ (* red shoes only are by Jimmy Choo) Stationery: Foto Fusion | http://www.foto-fusion.co.uk/ Venue: Grace Bar, Piccadilly London | http://www.grace-bar.co.uk/ Models: Natalie Douglas – Twitter: @NatsTweetyPie @lipsandlol Scarlette Douglas – Twitter: @Scardoug | Currently performing in Rock of Ages – (Garrick Theatre) West End Teneisha Bonner – Just finished performing in Some Like It Hip Hop (Sadler’s Wells) With guest modelling by Nova of Nu Bride! ♥ A Whole Lotta Love and Great Big Thanks ♥ Special thanks to each and every collaborator for volunteering their time and sharing their talent to create “Grace” Extra special thanks go to Jo of Urban Cinematography and Elizabeth Solaru and Mr Nu Bride for all of their invaluable help and support behind the scenes. To Esme our little helper for being so helpful. To Emma Howe of Novus Leisure, to the lovely Sam of Elizabeth Stuart for helping me choose the gowns! And to Nick and all of the staff at Grace Bar for being so incredibly accommodating!
♥ Please stay tuned on Nu Bride for further features, exclusive images and updates on the shoot ♥