18 May 2011

Styling: Charlie Chaplin Shoot

The pleasure was mine recently to style a shoot for the amazingly talented Brett Warren.  Transcending time, the looks captured in his most recent work, this Charlie Chaplin inspired shoot, are nothing short of magical. I sat down with Brett post-shoot to discuss and share with you all his inspiration. 

Antique spats cover Charlie's metallic silver lace up boots. Vintage windowpane trousers complement his pale blue dress shirt.  A pink and grey Geoff Nicholson silk gingham bowtie is framed within the blazer, distressed at the seams in true Alexander McQueen style. 

JKB: Brett, what inspired you to select Charlie Chaplin as the muse of this shoot?
BW: I was inspired after watching several films that happened to be playing at a local cathedral one evening, accompanied by an organist from Vienna. I was instantly drawn to the idea of a Charlie Chaplin shoot because of the way he communicated his story without words or sounds, it was all stripped down to simple gestures. I wanted that to be my challenge for this shoot.

JKB: When you set out to capture the modern day Charlie, what first came to mind?
BW: John Galliano's Spring/Summer 2011 runway show.  The Galliano dandies struck a chord with me because of their contrast of old and new.  

JKB: How did you and Jana Hilton collaborate ideas on makeup and hair to create the look?
BW: Inspired by the Galliano dandies, I showed her some reference images. She did a great job interpreting in her own vision how the modern Charlie would look. I couldn't have been any happier. The hair really took it over the top and made it Charlie. 

The gentleness of the grey shirt's rounded collar sharply contrasts Charlie's meticulous and brutal deconstruction of his lobster.  The scattered floral print in his Ralph Lauren tie is brought to life with the carnations placed in the pocket of the Marc Jacobs grey sportcoat and on the brim of his signature vintage bowler hat.

JKB: Neckwear proved to be Charlie's favorite accessory.  This came about organically for me as we transitioned from one look to the next; was that a surprise to you or did you envision that all along? 
BW: I knew Charlie's look needed something extra that we didn't have, and when I saw the collection of neckwear you selected I knew that each look would be complete and surprised me. The neckwear proved to be the accessory that tied everything together in each shot. 

JKB: The Charlie you captured in this shoot is quite unique.  One modern twist is the inclusion of the model's tattoos.  What can you tell me about that?
BW: Not only was I excited to work with Sascha because he is an incredible, professional model but because of the unique twist he brought to Chaplin.  The tattoos were perfect because I feel they linked the past with the present, giving the edge we needed. 

JKB: The library scene with snow was such a unique concept. Where did that inspiration come from?
BW: A lot of Charlie's films dealt with the Depression and being out in the cold, so I wanted to honor that somehow.  After seeing the incredible bookshelf, I knew it was the perfect location for our snow scene. 

 A vintage umbrella shields Charlie's blue and cream Hermes horsebit bowtie from the elements. He shuffles around the snow in his cordovan leather cap-toe Billy Reid boots. His shirt, wool sweater and trench create a warm, layered look pulled together literally with a brown leather belt as handsome and rich as the library bookshelves.

JKB: Tell me about the image that has perhaps garnered the most attention, where Charlie is sprinkled with flour.  What does this photo mean to you?  
BW: Charlie to me was the beginning of Hollywood.  The makeup was such an important thing for him and I also wanted to link it back to old Vaudeville miming.  So I pummeled Sascha with flour to show the explosion of these great ingredients that created Charlie Chaplin. 

Charlie's signature hat is adorned with vintage Hermes silk.  A multicolor striped Baron Wells bowtie is loosely tied to his neck, giving a carefree yet structured pop of color as he places what is likely a very colorful phone call.  

JKB: When people encounter these images, what do you hope they experience or take away?
BW: It is always my desire in any of my photography to inspire people to dream.  Whether that takes them back to the first time they saw a Chaplin film or they're discovering him for the first time, I want them to realize that Charlie brought hope and dreams to people when they needed it most and I attempt to do the same.

For more information on Brett and to view other works, check out

Photography : Brett Warren
Model : Sascha Kooienga
Hair / Makeup : Jana Hilton
Styling / Fashion Director : Judson Aikens
Lighting Assist : Stevie Boudreaux
Set Dressing Assist : Rosemary Radford

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