Loungewear in Los Angeles: A lockdown love story of slow fashion and friendship.
Place du Vosges, Paris 13th November 2015. A happy group of strangers with a shared love of photography gather together at a little bistro just off the square, to discuss the event of the weekend, Paris Photo. They have travelled form LA, NYC, London, Beirut, Dublin, and of course Paris, an eclectic mix of photographers and collectors, and me, the hanger on, the observer and the friend. Just as our authentically French food starts to arrive, my phone rings, “are you OK, where are you, are you safe? A shooting.” The phone slips from my ear as I tell my new friends, the restaurant goes silent, not 5 mins away, a terrorist attack* is taking place and we are in the middle of it. Peter van Agtmael, a Magnum documentary photographer, is sitting directly across from me, we have just been politely chatting about inane subjects, now without a word, he stands up and puts on his jacket slinging his backpack over one shoulder, “what are you doing?”, “going to work” he tells me. In awe, I tell him what my husband has told me about the location, “Bataclan, 5 mins walk from here, see my google maps?”, and with that he is gone into the night, with us calling after him naively to stay safe.
Sitting at the same cramped table in the bistro, myself and my new friends slowly become acutely aware of the glass frontage of the room in which we were sitting, I stand up and make my way to the back of the restaurant with Tatiana Wills and her husband, outside in the courtyard behind the huge ancient doors, we felt safe, well safer, we cling to each other and reel at the implication of our current predicament. We are terrified. It’s a study in human nature, looking back, to observe how people deal with this level of stress, some are silent and focused on survival, others are maniacally laughing while most are stunned and following instructions from the owner of the bistro, our new protector.
A few hours later, we are told to make a run for it by the hotel, my dear friend called to ask what we should do, they sent a very brave concierge to escort a group of us from the area, a few mins only on foot, but the most terrifying few minutes of my life. Running barefoot in November on the cobbled streets while being filmed by a more hysterical member of our group. Not a moment I will forget easily.
Back in the safety of the hotel, it’s now closer to 2am, no one can sleep, we sit together, looking in shock at each other, holding on to the company for lack of any idea of what else to do, strangers no longer. When we can no longer keep our eyes open, we retire to our respective rooms and wait for what the morning will bring us.
Little Venice, London June 2020. After saying a very happy goodbye to 2019, I’m sitting in my house, facing the reality of trying to run a small business (almost) single handedly while managing three kids’ anxieties, home-schooling (or lack thereof), housework and four pets. Our AW20 season for my brand is going to be late. A number of factors against us meant this was my reality. How to do a photo shoot with no models , photographer and limited samples? Quite frankly, the least of my worries.
But then, my now long distance insta friend, with whom I formed a life-long bond through hiding out the back of “that” bistro in Paris pops into my head. I have an idea. TC Wills is an LA based Photographic artist of incredible talent; her daughter Lily is a professional ballet dancer. I have been following her since that horrifically sad night, admiring her and her adult daughters’ talent and strong bond from behind the squares, with the occasional message or comment to check in. The combination of dance and art is the most serendipitously perfect thing in my mind’s eye for my brand Smalls. Can we do a socially distanced photo shoot in more ways than one?
Luckily for me Tatiana, is up for it and her open heart embraces my hair-brained plan…also lucky for me my art director business partner Cat Pharo also loves the concept. We have always had the safety of her “A team” photographers and stylists to rely on, never having to venture away from our bubble. This will be a first in so many ways.
Tatiana also has a gorgeous 7 year old son, he invites some friends and hey presto we have a beautiful cast of friends and family. We post the samples off to locked-down Los Angeles with a song and socially distanced prayer after just one zoom call and a few emails….and this is the result. Our lockdown love story. I’m sitting down on my first day with no kids for 2.5 years to tell you about it. Two women and their “Smalls” on opposite sides of the Atlantic making shit happen, despite so many twists and turns. This is a true ‘2020’ way of doing things, and maybe just maybe it worked out even better. We will let you decide.
EJ Adam & TC Wills
About Tatiana Wills
Tatiana launched her career while running the photo department at a Hollywood entertainment ad agency, eventually shooting campaigns for major movie and tv studios. She went on to create personal work that has been recognized by Communication Arts, Photo District News, International Photography Awards, Moscow International Foto Awards, among others. Her last book, Heroes & Villains, showcased over 100 artists representing a cross-section of the vibrant Los Angeles contemporary art scene. Her work has traveled up and down the west coast, invited to Wynwood Arts District during Art Basel, appeared in several major publications and seen in Banksy's film 'Exit Through The Gift Shop'. Tatiana is an inaugural member of Captured52, an invitation-only large scale print collective based in Portland, Oregon
Lily Wills is a dancer and model living in Los Angeles, California. Born in Seattle, and grown in LA and Portland, Lily has spent her life surrounded by strong female artists—including her mother, Tatiana Wills. Though she started training at age 14, Lily managed to become a professional ballet dancer, ascending to the rank of soloist at a reputable company within a decade. Lily had her second hip surgery this July, and continues to practice resilience and pursue her dream of dancing. She is currently working and collaborating on projects incorporating dance, music and film.
About EJ Adam, Cat Pharo and Smalls
Catriona Pharo is a London based photographic art director, Emma-Jane Adam also based in London is marketing creative and both founded Smalls Merino in 2014. Smalls is now stocked in select stores worldwide, including exclusively in Harrods of London. They started with a mission to re imagine the way we wear wool. How they make Smalls, and the values behind it were and remain as important to them today. Sustainability and traceability have always been at the core of everything they do.
They only work with ZQ Merino certified farms, ensuring the wool is held to the highest standards of farming, land management and animal welfare. Their fabric mill partner in Italy is the only one in the world with EMAS certification and 100% vertical supply chain. They have partnered with a family run factory in Portugal to make Smalls.
*The November 2015 Paris attacks were a series of co-ordinated terrorist attacks that took place on 13 November 2015 in Paris, France and the city's northern suburb, Saint-Denis. Beginning at 21:16 CET, three suicide bombers struck outside the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, during a football match. This was followed by several mass shootings and a suicide bombing, at cafés and restaurants. Gunmen carried out another mass shooting and took hostages at an Eagles of Death Metal concert in the Bataclan theatre, leading to a stand-off with police. The attackers were either shot or blew themselves up when police raided the theatre.
The attackers killed 130 people, including 90 at the Bataclan theatre. Another 413 people were injured, almost 100 seriously. Seven of the attackers also died while the authorities continued to search for accomplices. The attacks were the deadliest in France since the Second World War, and the deadliest in the European Union since the Madrid train bombings in 2004. SOURCE: WIKIPEDIA
**Peter van Agtmael is a documentary photographer based in New York. Since 2006 he has concentrated on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and their consequences in the United States. He is a member of Magnum Photos. Wikipedia