Old money in a new world, the beautiful and the damned debutantes live in a dream. Suspended high above the streets of New York, they mingle with the flappers and philosophers and soak up tales of the jazz age. All the sad young men swoon on their brownstone stoops and chase their silken skirts. They spend their days perusing novels and stories in a nice quiet place of porcelain and pink and flirt with the gods of darkness. Tender is the night they dwell in, like gilded moths they glide.
On a recent trip to New York photographer Adam Ghijben crossed paths with an old friend, stylist Aaron Love. Known widely for his editorial work in Melbourne with admired photographers such as Peter Coulson, he was also famed as stylist to singer Ricki-Lee Coulter. Aaron was working for a retired Australian model who married a New York lawyer and banked big, spending his days in their glorious brownstone townhouse a stone’s throw from Central Park on the Upper West Side. He invited us over, and we sat in the living room upon the plush red sofa admiring the art adorning the walls, and drank wine on the terrace as the sun set. He turned to Adam and declared, “We should shoot here. It’d be a crime not to.” And so we did.
Between changes Aaron cheekily showed me the lady of the house’s extensive collection of vintage couture clothing, along with her husband’s red Prada loafers that perfectly matched the couch downstairs. It was hard to shake off the feeling of being in an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel the moment we passed through the doorway. The neighbourhood still had glimmers of the roaring 20s, the pre-WW2 architecture intact and unchanged. The lofty ceilings, spiral staircase, rustic wooden cabinets and endless artwork encapsulated the refined prosperity of the era. Decadent wallpaper and exposed brick sat side by side, perfectly matched. A choice Gatsby himself might have made.
Inspiration for makeup and styling came directly from the location. Makeup artist and hair stylist Patrice Evangeline created a polished chignon bun with a fringe to soften on Brianna, which was later pulled down to create classic waves. A burnt orange and bronze eye was matched with porcelain skin, pink cheeks and a pale coral lip before a darker red lip was applied later. Eden’s hair was teased into a Barbarella-esque mane before being pulled into a large loose bun, and later brushed out to create voluminous waves. A dark smoky eye, soft bronze contouring high on the cheekbones and a natural dark pink lip accompanied.
The designs featured were created by New York designer J. Mode by J. Daniel. His use of classic tailoring with modern embellishments gave the editorial a twist. Accents such as studded spikes and layers of dark tulle toughened up the looks, while statement jewellery of dark stones, feather, pearls and crucifixes hinted at the darker undertones of wealth just as The Great Gatsby did. The delicate gowns in glamorous cuts had full skirts, long trains and lace overlays to invoke a vintage aesthetic.
As we wrapped the shoot and descended the brown steps onto the summery New York street, it was as though we had passed through time. The Upper West Side will hopefully remain gloriously entrenched in history, even if Hollywood does reinvent the classics