Sophie Dundas began making up her designs in India over ten years ago. Since then she has built an ever-growing following for her attractive and eminently wearable vintage-inspired tea dresses, skirts and shirts.
Kevin Beck talks to Will McLean about creating feeling through brand imagery, his inspirations and how he photographed the falling dresses.
We decided early on to produce the photographic content. We wanted control over this content so that we could develop a visual identity that truly represented Sophie Dundas. I researched, planned and talked to Sophie to understand her background and ideas. I started by collecting visual references that I felt were in line with her brand. This helped us to figure out what imagery worked before producing any of our own. I developed this further by allocating time to do some exploration of my own photography.
What makes this site work so well is also the editing of the photographs. I produced lots of photographs including editorial style images that looked great but within the context of the the brand looked generic. We did not want the brand to feel like a high street fashion brand. It was vital to retain the feel of an individual boutique brand. Smaller was better in this case. We edited down to only a handful of images that work really well together. I found that the fewer images we showed, the more gravity each image had. It's so important to have great content on a site but it’s also just as important to have the right type of content that conveys the correct style and message.
I was looking at a lot of fashion lookbooks at the time and wanted to bring the ideas I found in them to the screen. I liked how a lot of these lookbooks paired models with mood shots to establish an ambiance and style that complemented the products. I wanted to further enhance this by using the interactive possibilities that come with a website. I achieved this on the home page by developing a never-ending loop of falling dresses on one side while overlaying still images on the other. This interaction strengthens the relationship between the photographs, allowing the user to form a solid idea of the style Sophie Dundas is promoting.
I started in the research phase by photographing a few of the dresses, laid out on the floor in various positions. But they seemed lifeless and did not show the movement and liveliness of the fabric that you get when the dresses are worn. Having seen the work of a friend, Neal Grundy, who shoots a lot of slow motion photography, I was inspired to try capturing movement in the fabric without a model. In a photography studio, I tried throwing dresses up while photographing them in mid-air. I really liked the initial photographs as they captured the dynamism of each dress. As you can imagine, it took some time to get each dress in the perfect position, as I was throwing them in the air as well as trying to press the shutter at the right moment. Hundreds of photographs later, I finally had a photo of each dress at the exact point of falling that worked visually.