The central theme of this campaign is about reintroduction into the world; emerging from the pandemic and expressing ourselves through fashion. We see vibrant garments, fun patterns, and movement through dance. What was the brief from Neiman Marcus and how did you and the team go about bringing the campaign message to the next level?
Neiman Marcus came to us knowing that they had a big opportunity at their doorstep, to help a great number of people reintroduce themselves to the world. They’d seen how a year+ isolated and mostly indoors had affected the ways people saw themselves, and the ways people wanted to express themselves to the world. They wanted to present their fall collection as a way for people to rediscover, or even reinvent, who they are and how they present themselves. To do this, they wanted to tap into the emotional aspect of what fashion can do for the way people feel – about themselves, and the world around them. That’s where we came in. Neiman needed a centerpiece for their fall campaign, an emotional film that elevated the meaning of re-emergence to an audience who all now had this very common shared experience.
We wrote a number of topline concepts, and presented them to the Neiman Marcus team. What almost everyone gravitated toward was a movement-based film that centered on the metaphor of unfolding. There was so much self-expression that so many of us lost for ourselves over the past year and half, whether that was through clothing, or movement, or any other artistic endeavors. We’ve been looking for a reason – and a way – to unfold, stretch our limbs and our minds, and come back to ourselves – likely in a new way. It’s something everyone could really feel, so it was only right that we forged ahead in that direction.
But this is also about making a big splash, and the fact that it’s now a very big deal to step back out into the world (however quickly, slowly, clumsily, or gracefully we each might). So we wanted to elevate that big step in every way we could, from the location, to the casting, to the movement itself – and of course, we had to match the incredible boldness of the wardrobe.
There are a plethora of beautiful aspects in this campaign – one of them being the mansion we see in the film. What was it like shooting at the Westbury Mansion?
We truly couldn’t have ended up in a more inspiring, and fitting location for the heart of this film. Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney’s artists studio in Long Island is a rich, storied place, filled with character and a kind of style only an artist could create. We were so lucky to hear so much of the history and many stories from John, her descendant and our host on the property, about Gertrude and the studio. Her life, and the property, were both remarkable to take in. It felt so purposeful that we were there; it was more than a location, but an environment where it felt like anything was possible.
What was the biggest challenge during this project and how did you and the creative team tackle it?
One of the biggest challenges we faced was one that really tapped into The Mill’s ability to work as one to create a solution. It started with that most uncontrollable of elements: weather. Over our 2-day shoot, the outdoor rooftop scene was meant to shoot on the second day, and there was a forecast for rain. So, at the Westbury Mansion, Anais LaRocca, our director, Jade Kim, our VFX supervisor, and our producers came together to make a decision. Either risk the rain or come up with a creative solution to be filmed that day.
We worked together quickly to brainstorm, deciding to try to move the filming of the rooftop scene to the Mansion, scouting the rooftop, determining new shots, angles, and what VFX could do to create the backdrop. The client was on board, and the schedule was revised to ensure we could film that day. In post, our VFX team pivoted to create the stunning backdrop needed to finish the film. Every creative and production team came together to turn a major challenge into a complete masterpiece.
Many people can relate to experiencing a style evolution as we re-enter the world. On the note of evolving, how has your creative process and creative inspirations evolved over the course of the pandemic?
I can’t truthfully wax poetic about the newfound inspirations I’ve come to, or the new perspectives I’ve gained, because in honesty, they’ve been fewer and farther between than I had originally expected for such a life-shaking time. And I don’t think it’s useful to pretend that the moments of draining monotony, of heartache, frustration, and sheer numbness weren’t as permeating as they were. Because you gain something from those moments as well – they allow you to take stock, they bluntly push to light a lot of what you may not have realized you can change about your life, if you want to. So I’ve come to appreciate that, both creatively and just for my life. Feeling overwhelmed, languishing under the weight of fatigue is not something to be ashamed of, I’ve learned, and being dishonest about how arduous things may feel will only close you up to what good can be found.
Because of that, my process has gotten maybe a little darker sometimes, but more meaningful. The spots of light that break through are brighter. I’ve always found that smaller, less noticeable things are what I draw most inspiration from in general, but even more so now, because they feel more concentratedly good. And maybe because I have to concentrate more to find them. I’m not in the habit, so I have to try harder. I think habits broke a lot over the course of the last year, and rebuilding the good ones better, and creating new ones, is itself a creative process to be excited about. Turning something fresh into something routine is always a good way to learn about the ways we each relate to the world. That is what this entire year and a half has been, in a way. Taking something, well, unprecedented, and creating a life you can keep waking up to each day within it.