It might be worth explaining first, that I absolutely love everything about China. I’ve had this fairytale-style obsession with the country since I was a small child, back when globalisation hadn’t really hit yet and places still seemed far away and mysterious. As a result I love everything from their food, art, culture, history and dress. I love their food so much I’ve actually become really proficient at cooking Chinese food and I make a mean Chow Mein.
For a country and culture I love so much, it’s a little surprising I’ve never managed to make it to China yet. But I got the next best thing when I moved to London four years ago; Chinatown. So it’s a bit of surprise that I’d never done a shoot there before. In saying that it is a very tricky location to shoot; our Chinatown is based in the heart of Soho and filled with tourists at all times. So shooting by day is always going to be very tricky and I hate shooting in crowds. Nighttime poses some of the same problems, as it’s also quite crowded there from nighttime revellers spilling out from the clubs surrounding Chinatown in the hunt for some good grub. Not to mention the amount of equipment needed to shoot in the dark makes it a bit of logistical nightmare.
The only time left to shoot is shortly after dawn, which is where I ran into problem number three; delivery vans. And lots of them! Thankfully Chinese delivery men aren’t half as stressful as drunk revellers or tourists getting in your way so, while half the street was blocked off with delivery vans I managed to somehow get some shots. In future, I might go ask the delivery men what day of the week they do their deliveries and try and work around them.
Now onto the shoot itself. As with previous shoots, it’s gone through a bit of a transformation from its inception to final product. At first I wanted to shoot the eighties-style party-wear that’ll be hitting the shops in time for Christmas, but to be honest I didn’t want to wait too long with this shoot as shooting in the middle of winter is never fun. I also wanted a time when dawn wouldn’t mean 8am.
I’m not quite sure how it came into my head to do the Geek chic trend in Chinatown, and while I resisted it at first, as it seemed a bit naff and not at all me, I eventually settled on it. Truth be told, it was a wise move because this shoot very quickly stopped being the usual high end editorial I usually shoot, like 3 Mill Lane or Wuthering Heath, and started to resemble a more street-style, accessories shoot you’d find in magazines and on other bloggers’ websites. It was nice to do the latter again, since it’s been a while since I done a shoot like that.
It also allowed me to go a little mad on the accessories, which was fun and are often not as important on my shoots as you’d think. I often don’t shoot with handbags, so it was nice to suddenly have three! The two Chinese-style clutches were an absolute find and I’m so delighted that I discovered them as it really helped tie the shoot into the location. Now I’d been aware of the brand Skinny Dip, having shot them for this shoot in Shoreditch a few months ago. While scouring through ASOS for other inspirational pieces, I came across both the fan clutch and the lucky cat clutch and discovered they were pieces exclusive to ASOS. Yipee!! As if I don’t buy enough from there, but they were so fabulous they had to be bought for this shoot. This shoot does look a bit like the accessories and details were just piled on, but that was the idea behind it. Often I find good style is less about what you’re actually wearing and more to do with the attitude you wear that pulls it off. You can easily see this at any fashion week, when the fashionistas come out with their craziest outfits, but it works because they believe in their outfits.
I wanted to do the same; so I piled glittery monster socks with red strappy courts with an elegant bow on the back. I mixed a furry pom pom beanie in lurid bright pink with a faux leather midi skirt and a conservative high-necked blouse. Why this lovely fur-trimmed cross body bag from Skinny Dip had to be adorned with not two, but three brightly coloured pom poms. This shoot was all about the more, the merrier.
As for what inspired this shoot, the most obvious one is this shoot from a free magazine you get in London called Stylist magazine. Most of the time it’s middling in quality, but they do get particularly good around fashion week, when they publish their magazine with really high end editorials. For spring/summer 2013 they went to Hong Kong and shot this shoot below for the magazine. As a lover of everything Chinese, I was always going to like it, but what I loved even more is that usually when people do shoots in Chinatown, they do it at night, yet this one was done during the day. I also loved the bright, vivid colours and the mix in prints and textures. That’s why it was heavily referenced while styling and planning this shoot, and I would often go back to it when I needed to stay on track.
But it wasn’t the only inspiration I had. As anyone who runs a blog, styles shoots, or just loves pretty pictures knows, Pinterest is an invaluable resource and it’s often the first place I’ll go when planning something new. The search terms take a little getting used to, but once you know what you’re looking for you can find almost anything you want. I personally don’t bother pinning, or creating boards as all I need are the images themselves and they are always saved on my personal drive so I can access them anywhere and everything for a shoot is in one place.
Below are some more images that I loved and used as reference points for this shoot. Each image is captioned with the details.
Lastly, I wanted to touch on the location itself. Chinatown in London is a lot more densely packed and smaller than most other Chinatowns across the globe. I’ve been to one in San Francisco and you really notice the difference in size then. It’s partly because of where it is, the heart of Soho and because like all cool things in London, they will only take up a small street at best. It seems to be a London thing. It’s mostly filled with restaurants, but if you look closely or meander into some of the smaller side streets you’ll see everything from a HSBC bank in Chinese script, Bookies with Chinese writing, Chinese launderettes and supermarkets that sell the best food, in my opinion. It’s always crowded, and while it might not be as pretty as other Chinatowns, they do love colour and at night it is always brightly lit up.
That is a behind-the-scenes look into how I done the shoot Chinatown Geek. It hopefully gave you some idea how I came to my end result and why I done the shoot the way I did. Though these posts are actually quite awkward to write, often because it’s a little hard to verbalise all the errant thoughts in my head when it comes to shoots, it’s nice explain it to my readers how I do these shoots. I often find that bloggers keep this aspect hidden from their readers. They’ll often tell you what they bought and what they eat, but don’t go into the specifics of how a shoot is done. I have to admit, some things I do keep to myself too, especially if they’re industry tricks and secrets I learned over the years that I want to keep private, but it’s nice to explain to a reader all the steps you go through when you plan something as simple as a street-style shoot right up to the high end editorials. So I hope you enjoyed a glimpse into what goes on in the background of this blog. And to finish off, here’s an image from the shoot itself. 🙂