One of my favorite moments leading up to this season's fashion week was a commercial advertising shoot for Mongolian cashmere brand Emzeg Steppe. Laura Lanteri New York (formerly of Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Oscar de la Renta), provided the creative direction for Emzeg Steppe's new advertising campaign shot by my studio, Mike Mellia Photography. The collection features a selection of Mongolian cashmere pieces where downtown New York meets Parisian cool.
The Emzeg Steppe collection presented here is intriguing due to the fact that it's comprised of oversized, textured, highly stylized and overly indulgent cashmere pieces that yet, at the same time, have an attitude of effortless cool.
Emzeg steppe is like the younger rebellious postmodernist brother of Loro Piana. Like Loro Piana, Emzeg Steppe also realizes that the world's warmest and most luxurious cashmere comes from Mongolia.
What makes this work so interesting is that the designer and owner of the brand discussed his work only in abstract terms with the creative director and stylist Laura Lanteri weeks before the shoot, and then allowed the direction of the campaign to form amongst the creative team of the stylist, photographer, makeup artist, set designer, etc.
This is intriguing because it takes a great amount of creative vision and confidence to realize that trusting other creative people is ultimately what will bring your brand to the next level. A designer would usually work obsessively on his collection over many months, spending endless days and nights pouring over every detail of perfection. One could make the argument that by the time the collection is completed, there are diminishing returns for the designer.
In some ways, when it then comes to styling, branding, art direction, or photography, the designer would not want to feel "too close" to the collection to allow the visual media to be its best. This is the reason why all successful large fashion corporations have separate divisions for advertising, product strategy, and creative design- it's almost impossible for one person to be the top of all of these seemingly unrelated fields.
The creative direction for these visuals sought to combine the modern style of downtown New York with the indifferent je ne sais quoi of Parisian teenagers. Classical cable-knit sweaters were juxtaposed against white minimalist sneakers and postmodern leather-pleated skirts. This unexpected conflict in the styling along with the photographic moodiness of the industrial atmosphere is what drove the branding of this collection.
The campaign was shot in studio in New York City. Given the large amount of lighting equipment, computers, set design, and personnel required to realize all of these elements, it would be considered a medium-sized production. Ironically, this large amount of artificial lighting and equipment was necessary to achieve the illusion of consistent natural light indoors.
The photographic style, lighting, and retouching were done in a very natural style, with the purpose of bringing out the extravagant textures of the cashmere pieces. The compositions of the images were angular, modern, and geometric, which provided great tension against the languid emotions and the almost baroque extravagance of the collection.
I liked the results of this work because several creative minds took risks and came together to produce something greater than would have been possible independently.