Q&A: Power of Witches

published on 28 May 2004

A live on-set Q&A allowed members of the public to propose questions to the creatives involved in the Power of Witches shoot, including Nick Knight and Rei Kawakubo.

A live on-set Q&A allowed members of the public to propose questions to the creatives involved in the Power of Witches shoot, including Nick Knight and Rei Kawakubo.

Still from the Power of Witches webchat, 28 May 2004

David West, South Africa: Does the team feel that use of models such as Erin O'Connor is in the spirit of Comme des Garçons? Couldn't it have been more exciting to show these clothes on less exposed faces. Faces that are in keeping with Comme's constant challenging of aesthetic values? I'm aware that Comme do use top models for their shows, but but given the freedom one has with a photographic shoot, why the use of these particular models?

Sam McKnight: Erin and our other model, Britni are actually two very different looking girls. One with dark, short hair and one with long blonde, one being very experienced in front of the camera the other relatively new. Polar opposites in the modelling world in fact. If you keep watching SHOWstudio all should become apparent when you see the finished results.

David Weightman, London: I'm interested to see that Nick went to the Wallace Collection after the shoot. Had this always been the plan, or did you feel the pictures needed something more? Had you gone anywhere for inspiration before the shoot?

Nick Knight: Yes, it was always planned that I would go and look at the Wallace Collection. I was surprised, on arrival, that the aesthetic of the armour didn't appear to correlate with the idea in my head. Sometimes it's important to rule these options out.

Aita Elisseeva: Rei Kawabuko is a genius! Would you still consider the clothes 'anti-fashion', but still guiding the fashion of today?

Penny Martin, Editor, SHOWstudio: In referring to Comme des Garçons' designs as 'anti-fashion', I imagine that you are referring to our biography of Rei Kawakubo, in which we paraphrase various cultural pundits' assessment of the Commes des Garçons visual imperative. However, you will also have read that in addition to consistently creating collections of clothes that challenge other designers to think outside conventional modes of production and beauty, Rei Kawakubo has also built a considerable international business. In this sense, her contribution could never be regarded as outside or 'anti' the fashion industry, though at times its aesthetic may appear to be delightfully at odds with prevailing trends.

Ruben Caulfield, Ohio: Adam, how do you keep a distance from what Nick is shooting, to make the picture your own?

Adam Mufti: I try to pick up on details and moments that go unobserved by those involved on the editorial shoot. I think of images in sequence as film and construct a fantasy from the progression of events that happen in front of me.

Ami Sioux, Berlin: Hello from Berlin! Are you using an 8x10 Polaroid camera with direct lighting, as you noted, specifically to transmit the idea for this particular shooting, or is this a technique that you use commonly for studio?

Nick Knight: Yes, I try and customise the light every time I shoot. This is ring flash overexposed, it brings out the reflective qualities in the silk and satin of the clothes. The lighting can be very precise and exact but at other times I am happy to abandon any conscious control and I will literally leave it to chance. It is often in loosing control that I discover images that I could not have imagined or predicted.

Rei Kawakubo: I always like to start from zero with each collection, so with nearly all our fabrics I start with the thread and the technique and make my own fabrics.

Natasha Chickolini, Moscow: If a museum of avant-garde fashion were opened, which fashion artefact would you include in its permanent exhibition? If all your creations were to disappear, which one would you prefer to keep?

Rei Kawakubo: I would try to pick my strongest pieces, but in general I like my clothes to be worn, not put in a museum! As for keeping one of my creations, after thirty years of collections this is very difficult to decide!

Alina Land: How do you start to work on new textile designs for a new collection? Do you 'borrow' traditional techniques or you invent your own type of materials? Do you use craftsmen to execute them?

Rei Kawakubo: I always like to start from zero with each collection, so with nearly all our fabrics I start with the thread and the technique and make my own fabrics. Sometimes they might be special because of some new finishing process. I experiment a lot trying to find something new.

Kristin Rooney, New York: Do you feel like music is necessary in setting the overall mood/tone of the shoot? If so, what music are you currently playing?

Nick Knight: Certainly, yes. But for this shoot scent has played an equally important role. The aroma setting the mood is Comme des Garçon's 'Series 2: Red Sequoia' (T-Rex provides the accompaniment).

Tytan, Japan: On the more technical aspect of the shoot, is Nick Knight shooting with a 4x5 or 8x10 camera? Film or digital? Chromes or negatives? What type of lighting is used?

Nick Knight: We're using 8x10 Polaroid with Direct lighting.

Fiona Wylie, Leeds: Does Erin contribute her opinions and suggestions during the shoot or is she simply the 'model'?

Erin O'Connor: It makes sense that we all have something to add, I've never been excluded from giving my opinion. I'm a firm contributor - no one knows how to form my body better than I do.

Bryan Keith, New York: What was the thinking behind casting this shoot?

Alister Mackie: Range of girls with different skin tones for formal portraits.

Céline Struder: What do you think of Techno-fashion?

Alister Mackie: Like it! Especially Candy Ravers and Cyberdog.

Wesley David: Who is the stylist? What will they bring to the shoot?

Alister Mackie: I am Alister Mackie. I dress the models and talk to the photographer about how the clothes look, who wears which outfit and what direction the fashion will go in.

Lloyd Gimbal, Worcestershire: Are the pictures we are seeing on screen taken by Nick Knight? What's the difference between these and the ones Allan Finamore will be retouching?

SHOWstudio: The images you can see above have been captured by SHOWstudio's motion image designer, Adam Mufti. Adam will be documenting all the action from the make-up room to the studio throughout the opening three days of Power of Witches before we turn our attention to post production. Allan Finamore will initially retouch scanned photocopies of Nick's large-format polaroids before taking his developments to the real thing.

Sarah Marshall, Lincoln: The make-up you are using seems to recall Kabuki theatre. Can you explain the thinking behind imposing such a classic Japanese aesthetic?

Val Garland: It was a referenced starting point, the aesthetic to be lost inside make-up. This was my beginning but the make-up has now evolved into Botox-Beauty, a completely blank face playing down, rather than up, all the features.

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