Prettybird UK Co-Founder and Executive Producer Juliette Larthe Talks to Lee Sharrock about finding inspiration during the challenging time of the Pandemic, and Co-Creative Directing the Preen by Thornton Bregazzi SS21 Film for Virtual London Fashion Week.
Lee Sharrock: You’ve been collaborating with Preen by Thornton Bregazzi for many years now with your production company Prettybird UK producing their LFW shows. There must be a great creative connection between you now. How do you usually translate the theme of their collections into a live catwalk show?
Juliette Larthe: I’ve worked with Preen for 21 years and we have made shows twice a year: I think there was only one year when I had my son that I didn’t do it, and then of course we didn’t do a show this year (because of the pandemic). It’s been a collaboration that has grown into a beautiful friendship and creative partnership, this precedes PRETTYBIRD and every other company I have worked at for the last 21 years. I think I was at 4D Films when we started collaborating, and then at Godman.
LS: What was the theme of the new Preen collection?
JL: This collection began during lock down when Preen worked on the idea of picking up the pieces, working with what they had a home, collecting and joining scraps and swatches, working with their kids on textile projects, and home school inspired these ideas. Justin and Thea looked at the Japanese art of Kintsugi, where they take broken ceramics and reconnect them with gold to become stronger and more beautiful. The idea of embracing flaws and imperfections in order to become more beautiful.
LS: And did you commission the dreamy soundtrack specially to go with the theme?
JL: I knew the song very well – I had been wanting to collaborate and make something visual for it for some time. It was really fitting for the concepts of the film and the cast. It’s essentially a love song to his daughter Poppy Pierce who stars in the film (Jason Pierce of Spiritualized) and it was poignant and powerful to watch her and her friends take parts in the film with such a beautiful score. It was really kind and so fitting to have it as the soundtrack, and we were over the moon by the generosity of J. Spaceman/Spiritualized and James Oldham from Rough Trade, who turned around all the permissions and licensing in record time.
LS: Because of Covid-19 restrictions forcing fashion week online, you’ve co-creative directed a film with Justin and Thea to showcase their new collection. How was that different to creating a live show, and how did you come up with the concept?
JL: WE always use the inspiration and themes of the collection to inspire the catwalk shows, and this is no different to making the film. We wanted to continue with the theme for the collection and translate this idea with the film, taking a broken time and stitching it together with the beauty we have in the world. I was inspired by another Japanese concept Ikigai, which means ‘a reason for being’, essentially that which makes ones life worthwhile, and towards which an individual tailors spontaneous and willing actions, giving a sense of satisfaction and meaning to life, we wanted to create some thing positive and uplifting.
Our little film also echoed this, we had to follow restrictions while filming due to Covid, so after discussion with Justin and Thea, we asked friends and family to help us bring this to fruition. Poppy my daughter, who has been working for the NHS and helping the homeless whilst her studies as a medicine student at UCL have been put on hold, cast her friends who are between them an incredible bunch of inspiring young women; Senga studies English at Cambridge; Sumah studies Drama and Theatre at Bristol; Morgan and Giselle are models; and Gwyneth is an artist and model. They were all with Justin and Thea from Preen, and Kim our Makeup artist in our local bubble. Creating the world we wanted to inhabit and protecting our little eco system so everyone felt safe was only possible with the help of the directors Modu Sesay and Ben Cole, who delivered beautiful camera and direction on the day. They were assisted by Justin and Thea’s children Fauve and Blythe, which was so amazing. Ben Cole multitasked and shot all the stills too, adding to the phenomenal outpouring of creativity on the day.
We had worked with both Modu and Ben before – they knew the designers having created impeccably caught collection films, embodying the spirit and design of the garments, the models and the show. We also couldn’t have done it without the amazing help of Benji Landman at PRETTYBIRD UK and the incredible staff at the Canterbury Punting Company.
LS: You filmed in Canterbury with the models punting down an idyllic river in a beautiful landscape. Is utopian setting of the film a reaction to the frightening period we’ve been going through with the global pandemic?
JL: I had been spending a lot of time in Canterbury, working from there for 3/4 days a week, tending my Mother during her radiotherapy treatment. Although she lives in the city, by the railway, in an old Victorian rail-workers attached cottage, the walk to her house can be taken along the river, with it the delights of the changing seasons and watching the river life ebb and flow with wild animals, their young and masked walkers. These river walks to my Mother’s house were really an inspiration for creative thought and a settled equilibrium during a tough time, that coupled with the desire to slow down and be close to nature, the love of the seasons and the celebration of our world was our mood. There’s always a silver lining, it’s about being open to it.
LS: The Pandemic bought the world to a virtual standstill, and carbon emissions were reduced momentarily as a consequence. The fashion and film industry have been accused before of contributing to our carbon footprint, so do you think that post-Covid we will see more virtual fashion weeks and film shoots in an effort for both industries to become more sustainable?
JL: We are in flux as an industry. Change can be positive. We hope that the industry adopts a more eco-friendly direction and takes this time to re-think and reduce mass production.
Interview by Lee Sharrock for Magazine