…well, not Vogue, Vogue, but their sister publication BRIDES (close enough). That aside, less than six months ago I was a liaison and fashion assistant for Conde Nast bridal magazine BRIDES. How many people can say that? This is how it happened.
Months in advance, photographers, fashion directors, editors, accountants, and all the Conde Nast staff necessary, set their sights on Jamaica for the next issue: April/May 2017. What started out as a conversation with my ace Yendi about her impending trip to Jamaica for an upcoming photo shoot — she was so excited, we’d finally get to catch up after so long — surprisingly it all turned into an opportunity for me to work as a local liaison for the glossy’s photo director Liz Brown.
Gasp…Does This Mean?
After all the up-and-down-ing — securing a florist, sourcing racks and steamers, and mobile equipment that would magically appear at the villa when the crew arrived — Liz broke some bad news, “our budget was cut, we have all the people we need.” I thought, “the f@$k? All that work I did was in vain?” What about the people I’d already imagined meeting and working with? What would I tell my host at the villa I had arranged to stay? I was too anxious to let it not happen. I responded hours later saying how excited I was and that regardless, I’d be there. A villa at The Tryall Club in Hanover, and a round trip on the Knutsford Express to Montego Bay, what else could be holding me back? Nothing. I packed my weekend bag and I was off.
Okay, We’re Back In Business
Montego Bay did not welcome me so well. I endured the complete city-kid-in-the-country experience. When I checked out of the Knutsford, I chartered a cab to Tryall, which was a travesty in and of itself. Alas, I made it to the villa, and it was faaab! Chic and clean white furniture offset by hues-of-blue linen, bedding and valances á la Ralph Lauren or Tory Burch. My bedroom door opened to a sky blue pool with a water fountain surrounded by rose pink bougainvillaeas. After all, one must repair in luxe and comfort to achieve the best creative results, or so I believe.
Day 1: Let’s Werk!
Fortunately, our meeting spot Create Abundance, “the BRIDES’ villa” was pretty close to my villa. It was an even more lavish stay, atop a short steep hill towards the rear of the property. Breakfast was the first thing on the agenda, this was where all the team members were introduced.
Liz introduced me to the fashion team: my fellow fashion assistants Victor Vaughns and Jermaine Daley (who’s Jamaican/American), and the mag’s fashion director Elle Strauss. After our exchange, we headed to the wardrobe room. ‘Twas euphoric entering this haven of gowns, shoes, rings, bags, necklaces, everything from Chanel, Dior, Giuseppe Zanotti, and Rochas; to Monique Lhuillier, Valentino, Rosie Assoulin, Lela Rose, Jonathan Simkhai and Marchesa with all the lace, beading, delicate appliqués and tulle you can think of, everything bridal. After finalising the looks for the day, then steaming and organising the pull, we loaded them onto carts and we were off to our first location; a day at the beach if you will.
We were metres away from the windy shoreline, Clair Wuestenberg, the model, was a dream — a blonde-haired, hazel-eyed, gazelle — who knew her angles and worked magic with the photogs, a consummate pro. She delivered one of my favourite looks, an eggshell off-the-shoulder sheath with frayed hems and flounces — shot against an unpainted picket fence. She invoked the spirit of true island romance. Her hair loosely braided into a crown, make-up soft and dewy, and accessories were limited to stacked diamond rings, citrine studs, and strappy espadrille wedges.
Ironically, the cover was shot near this very spot during the first session by the common cattails near a stream on the golf course. Imagine huddling under a light reflector to dodge golf balls or having to grab and shuffle each time a group of golfers hit a birdie. We did it all.
lights. cookbook. action
I left the team minutes before dusk settled in. They had just begun shooting the final looks of the day on an old fort out by Country Club Drive East, and I had to dash off to another assignment in Montego Bay. During that period, I was a lifestyle reporter at the Jamaica Observer, and was responsible for, among other things, coordinating the Christmas edition of the quarterly cookbook. Ahead of my trip to the North Coast, I organised a photo shoot with one of our contributors, caterer Christina Simonitsch, the brainchild behind Simo’s Bread & Catering. Her parents, Austrian hotelier Heinz Simonitsch and his wife Elisabeth, welcomed me and our photographer into their exquisite home. The table was set, dinner was ready, and the instructions were pretty simple, sit and savour while we shoot. The menu consisted of paté sorrel preserve with sorrel chips and butter toasted brioche, followed by a crispy salmon served in a herb oil along with a potato fondant, pumpkin purée, and wilted bak choy. Desert was the salted dark chocolate ganache and mango desert that could pass for fine art. That sorrel liqueur — a concoction of traditional Jamaican sorrel and Champagne — served with dinner, transcends time. After a few selfies and another flute of Sorrel liqueur, we called it a night and I made my way back to Tryall.
Day 2: Down To The Wire
Since Day 1 was so productive — we’d already visited and shot more than half of the desired locations and looks to match — Day 2 was a breeze. The first half was spent at the Old Steamer Beach in Hopewell, Hanover. We had the beach to ourselves, so it’s a no-brainer really that the only swimwear look was shot at this location; in fact, we had a close to 12 wardrobe changes, three malfunctions, two fishermen and a Golden Retriever photobomb; and countless hair-and-make-up touch-ups — all before lunchtime.
After lunch, we stopped by the Great House, then to the Tennis Court, and called it a wrap at Tryall’s Quiet Beach in between sips of Piña Colada.