In Pursuit of the Protagonist: A Hidden Journey of Innovation

Photography and Text by Sophie Webster

Designer Harriet Dowling

Model Aiysha Ilyas

Assistant Emily Ellison

Sophie Webster, The Protagonist Magazine

When in a culture fanatically enamoured towards the finished piece, the understanding of process can become a naïve illusion. Increasingly the recipe for underappreciated or quickly forgotten creativity, this insular look at only the end result means the beauty in craft throughout concept and construction remains a hidden journey of innovation. A journey reserved only in secrecy to the practitioner when it is mesmerising to us all, unfortunately to me as a photographer the lack of spotlight given to the in-between processes removes a certain magic which emerges from original thinking. This editorial story ‘In Pursuit of the Protagonist’ therefore explores how elements of fashion craftsmanship transcend to become narrators in themselves as objects, fulfilled with meticulous symbolism, reference and imagination. 

Sophie Webster, The Protagonist Magazine
Sophie Webster, The Protagonist Magazine

Inspired by the words of Oscar Wilde; “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars” my objective with this imagery was to identify the spirit of the sublime in the artistic vision of those around me. From this I wanted to show its integral involvement in the formulation of a great behind the scenes method of process, unique to the creator and unable to be imitated by others. A rare thing, this organic ability to view things as beautiful and necessary before others can even understand the approach is a way of seeing only held by a few. As realised by Wilde, we are all in the gutter but only some of us imagine in ways special enough to exceed our surrounding limitations and wider commercial boundaries.

Sophie Webster, The Protagonist Magazine

Motivated by ideas of how a protagonist is born and characterised through innovative approaches towards fashion design, giving platform to the process I captured the craft developments of one designer, Harriet Dowling, from toile experiments to finished creations. Offering a new insight into the protagonist at work through exploring the designer as a building artist, both the beginning struggles and final successes are presented as equal victories of relevance in the arc of process. Here the gravity of anxious careful conceptual navigation is outlined to the audience as an integral part of the ambitious product. In short, the beauty is in the trying and the failing, something few creators would scarcely openly admit. Through using still life, I hoped to translate the idea that when fashion design is approached open-mindedly in respect as a constant art form, the narrative is already woven into the conceptually intelligent clothes, even before the introduction of a subject.

Sophie Webster, The Protagonist Magazine

Forwarding a project based upon fragmented psychological states, the vulnerability of the mind as a catalyst for visual symbolism was expressed by Harriet through deconstructionist approaches. Through co-ordinating her garments in multiple interchangeable pieces of liberty fabric, this gesture of adaptive craftsmanship allowed opportunity for different looks to be paired. As a result, each time I photographed I was pursuing, creating and imagining a new protagonist, challenging all original ideas of her intended processes. This honest evolution of character in design was then captured in its true place of origin, the dense university workrooms. A setting so regular to practitioner, but so romantic to audience, the important use of this space aided me to represent the slow and dedicated path that must be undertaken in the pursuit of good craftsmanship. Reflected in this darkened, almost neglected setting, it became significant to me to show creation of craft as continually challenging, sometimes problematic and perhaps isolating, but always experimentally exciting – the exact emotions circling the atmospheres of these spaces. This insight into the design process from mannequin to model ultimately not just explores but celebrates every artist’s search for personal style, a search which remains strictly personal and protected to practitioner, but deserves to be paraded to all.

Sophie Webster, The Protagonist Magazine

The Eyes of the Peacock

Photography by Ram Shergill

Fashion Direction by Margherita Gardella

Production DPH Creative Production

Model Leila Zandonai

Hair Issey Hide

Make Up Barrie Griffith

Nails Julia Babbage

Styling Assistants Jade Jeboda, Debora Storti, Benedetta Baruffi

 Dress Zaeem Jamal, brooch Andrew Logan, gloves Cornelia James, silk cushions Mariska Meijers, peacock fabric Lizzo

Dress Zaeem Jamal, brooch Andrew Logan, gloves Cornelia James, silk cushions Mariska Meijers, peacock fabric Lizzo

Feathers winding hand in hand, stitches close together, creating a unique texture. Each piece of yarn winding up, reflecting the light, so soft. Shimmering, half illusion, half reality it seems, colours that let our mind drift to scenes so rich. The black and white film with the elegant character of the story reclining on a chaise longue in a chiffon dress, her jewels accentuating the light that the fabric catches behind her, a hundred eyes watching that the peacock feathers seem to be… The feathers on the headdress in an archive of stage costumes, witness of music, dance, cabaret, skin and sweat of the dancer that wore them… The garden full of birds in evening light, just catching a quick glance of the animal, painting our imagination blue, green, golden, soft – jewels of nature.

 Top and trousers Junya Watanabe, shoes Salvatore Ferragamo, collar Les Glorieuses, gloves Cornelia James, necklace Butler&Wilson, peacock fabric Lizzo

Top and trousers Junya Watanabe, shoes Salvatore Ferragamo, collar Les Glorieuses, gloves Cornelia James, necklace Butler&Wilson, peacock fabric Lizzo

The Peacock design by Lizzo is one of a range of rich sumptuous designs from the Mata Hari collection. Upon touching, the fabric feels strong and sturdy, the apparent quality becoming even more apparent when turning over. The Lizzo design team were inspired by Mata Hari’s cultural zeitgeist. Her name, meaning “eye of dawn” in Javan culture, where her mother was born, was one of the starting points for the symbolism in the Peacock design. The eyes, having been linked to peacock feathers in many cultures, represent vision, awakening and all-seeing knowledge. At the same time the team were captivated by the charm of exoticism and luxury, and by the yearning for oriental culture that was prevalent at this time. The essence of this inspiration is captured by the most iconic design in the collection: Peacock, which depicts a rich jewel-like layer of peacock feathers in the finest embroidery. The intensely intricate patterning builds in layers to give the impression of feathers on the fabric. This highly decorative design has become of of Lizzo’s most iconic and treasured fabrics.

Jose Angel Climent launched the brand in 2001 having felt that there wasn’t a brand offering a high standard of design and production in an avant-garde stylish alternative but with a refined and eclectic, naturally elegant style. Jose wanted Lizzo to meet the needs of interior designers and global consumers looking for something unique that could create atmosphere through texture and colouration. 

 Pearl and beaded dress and feather jacked Celia Kritharioti, earring (left) Andrew Logan, earring (right) Les Glorieuses, peacock fabric Lizzo

Pearl and beaded dress and feather jacked Celia Kritharioti, earring (left) Andrew Logan, earring (right) Les Glorieuses, peacock fabric Lizzo

See more images in our current print issue, available online and at stockists worldwide including Tate Modern, Somerset House and Wardour News.

Peacock Embroidery by Lizzo, £387 per metre, www.lizzouk.co.uk

Cosmo Bourgeoisie in Current Issue

Photography by Ram Shergill

Fashion Director Margherita Gardella

Creative Direction by Daen Palma Huse

Hair by Issey Hide

Make Up Barrie Griffith

 Dress by Luigi Borbone Haute Couture, Cuff and necklace by Bentley and Skinner, Hat by Stephen Jones Millinery   

Dress by Luigi Borbone Haute Couture, Cuff and necklace by Bentley and Skinner, Hat by Stephen Jones Millinery

 

Beauty presents an indeterminate concept of Understanding, the sublime an indeterminate concept of Reason.

Immanuel Kant

 

18 Stafford Terrace

Photography by Ram Shergill

Fashion Editor Aiden Connor

Creative Direction by Daen Palma Huse

Hair by Sofia Sjoo

Models Dovydas Krievys, Emile Wilmott and Joe Granum

Text extract from The Protagonist Magazine Issue 3 written by Daen Palma Huse

 

Edward Linley Sambourne was a graphic artist that lived in Victorian London at 18 Stafford Terrace, a house situated in London’s South Kensington in close proximity to Lord Leighton’s studio and home. Sambourne, for most of his life, illustrated for the weekly magazine Punch, which was highly influential in the 19th century, commenting satirically on society, politics and cultural life of the time. Deadlines were tight and constant, with weekly Punch meetings on Wednesday deciding on the coming week’s content. Beginning in the 1880s, Sambourne worked from photographs to aid in producing his weekly cartoon for the magazine. Sambourne would usually produce two cartoons every week for which he took exact photographs, sometimes clothed, sometimes nude, or in in-between stages to study the body of the model and its position. This would take place every Thursday after the weekly Punch meeting. Everyone at 18 Stafford Terrace would be part of the spectacle, except his wife Marion who sometimes chose to be away in Margate, especially on weekends, while her husband was working hard to complete his drawings. She wrote in her diary “Lin at those everlasting photos” or “Endless, endless, endless photography!” Quite understandably she must have felt the constant removal of furniture from her house into the backyard an annoyance as well as the commotion caused by all the household staff being convinced by Linley Sambourne to help organise, arrange costumes from a costume hire, and more often than not assist or pose for his photographs. Sambourne repeatedly photographed himself, for which he instructed members of the household to release the shutter for him. Postle writes that Sambourne did not only lead a busy and varied life but took time to organise and compartmentalise his daily activities very well. Sambourne’s diaries are filled with notes on his work and life and details on models, revealing that Sambourne was “a man wedded to routine” – at the same time he strikes us as very humorous, lighthearted and enjoying his creative profession to the utmost.

Born in 1844, Edward Linley Sambourne had little formal training in art. His father’s sister Jane Barr, who was a talented amateur watercolourist, had introduced him to painting early on and when Sambourne was 16 years of age, he attended a few months of classes at the South Kensington School of Art and later some evening classes at Clipstone Street Academy, where students would comment on each others work, however, without a teacher. Sambourne was destined by his father to become an engineer, apprenticed to John Penn and Son, manufacturers of marine steam engines operating in Greenwhich, Blackheath and Deptford. During his time there, Sambourne was promoted to the drawing office when Penn discovered his talent, and henceforth dreamed of devoting himself fully to drawing and a career in art. In 1866 his father passed away – and in 1867, fate had it that fellow employee Alfred German Reed showed Sambourne’s drawings to his father Thomas German Reed, a “well known musical entrepreneur,” who put the drawings to the attention of Mark Lemon, founding editor of Punch. Without further ado, Sambourne’s very first drawing, which was an elaborately decorated letter ‘T’ heading a short article, was consequently published in Punch the very same year on 27 April 1867.

Visiting 18 Stafford Terrace today, which looks mostly the same as it did when Sambourne lived there – even with his upstairs bath tub where he used to develop his own photographs – lets us dive into the world of an enthusiastic artist at heart. Objects or drawings we can find at 18 Stafford Terrace might make us smile, some are very curious. Reseaching Sambourne’s work, lead The Protagonist Magazine to photograph in Sambourne’s house, with models that would pose nude, clothed and in different positions that could easily serve as visual aids for drawings. The many females that Sambourne photographed in the nude are here contrasted with the contemporary male nudes, coming together beautifully and perhaps pinpointing at the unfiltered qualities that Sambourne’s photographs possess. We have to remember that these would have hardly been seen by anyone apart from himself during his lifetime – they were a means to an end. All the more exciting it was to visit Sambourne’s archive, which today is split between 18 Stafford Terrace and Leighton House Museum, just to find the same boxes with hand labelled dividers in which Sambourne filed his images over a century ago; a piece of tangible history come to life again. Indeed, his professional creative output combined with the content of his diaries that he kept, make ‘Lin’ appear to us as a vivid character, his personality speaking to us through both his photographs and illustrations – and making him ever so relatable and likable.

Read the full feature on Edward Linley Sambourne, including accounts of his relation with the Royal Academy, the importance of Punch as a cultural container and an assessment of his nude studies in The Protagonist Magazine issue 3, available from https://boutiquemags.com/collections/boutique-men/products/the-protagonist

Visit 18 Stafford Terrace - for more information click here.

Special thanks to The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and to Shirley Nicholson for her expertise on Sambourne’s work and life and patience in sifting through the vast archive as well as Ana García and Sam Butler for their organisation and support.

 Joe wearing jacket, shirt and trousers by Artefacts, London, scarf by Rokit vintage, bow tie by The Bow Tie, brooch by The Antique Jewellery Company, shoes by Manolo Blahnik

Joe wearing jacket, shirt and trousers by Artefacts, London, scarf by Rokit vintage, bow tie by The Bow Tie, brooch by The Antique Jewellery Company, shoes by Manolo Blahnik

 Emile wears jacket, shirt ,trousers and tie all by Richard James, pocket square by Hermes, socks by Falke, ring and brooches by The Antique Jewellery Company

Emile wears jacket, shirt ,trousers and tie all by Richard James, pocket square by Hermes, socks by Falke, ring and brooches by The Antique Jewellery Company

 Joe wears jacket & shirt by Antonio Marras, tie by Dior, trousers by Brooks Brothers, brooch by Chanel, shoes by Manolo Blahnik

Joe wears jacket & shirt by Antonio Marras, tie by Dior, trousers by Brooks Brothers, brooch by Chanel, shoes by Manolo Blahnik

 Dovydas wears jacket, shirt & trousers by Artefacts London, bow tie by The Bow Tie, brooch by Antique Jewellery Company

Dovydas wears jacket, shirt & trousers by Artefacts London, bow tie by The Bow Tie, brooch by Antique Jewellery Company

 Joe wears jacket, shirt and trousers by Helen Antony, shoes by Manolo Blahnik

Joe wears jacket, shirt and trousers by Helen Antony, shoes by Manolo Blahnik

 Dovydas wears jacket, shirt and trousers by Artefact London, bow tie by The Bow Tie, hat by Lock & Co Hatters, shoes by Manolo Blahnik

Dovydas wears jacket, shirt and trousers by Artefact London, bow tie by The Bow Tie, hat by Lock & Co Hatters, shoes by Manolo Blahnik

 Joe wears Jacket, shirt and by Helen Antony, shoes by Manolo Blahnik

Joe wears Jacket, shirt and by Helen Antony, shoes by Manolo Blahnik

 Emile wears Jacket and shirt by Helen Antony, tie by Ziad Ghanem

Emile wears Jacket and shirt by Helen Antony, tie by Ziad Ghanem

LEON

Photography by Ram Shergill

Styling by Aiden Connor

Hair by Issy Hide

Grooming by Julia Wren using NARS Cosmetics

Model Leon Brockmann

 Shirt, vest, jacket and trousers by Burberry

Shirt, vest, jacket and trousers by Burberry

 Suit, belt and shoes by Prada

Suit, belt and shoes by Prada

 Jacket by Prada

Jacket by Prada

 Jacket, ribbon and trousers by Ziad Ghanem, bowtie by The Bowtie, shoes by Manolo Blahnik

Jacket, ribbon and trousers by Ziad Ghanem, bowtie by The Bowtie, shoes by Manolo Blahnik

 Jumpsuit by Salvatore Ferragamo

Jumpsuit by Salvatore Ferragamo

 Jumpsuit and shoes by Salvatore Ferragamo

Jumpsuit and shoes by Salvatore Ferragamo