Beauty is often derived from the context of campaigns, but fashion itself is not intended to be experienced as a derivative. A unique and new beauty should be created in its now consumer-context and fashion should be remembered as being intended for interpretation. For Virginia, connecting with fashion means interpreting it in her own way and creating an original beauty from within her own context. This approach to fashion similarly dictates her approach to fashion photography.
"My experience with the fashion industry began back in the UK. I had a number of friends who were studying at Saint Martins, the premier fashion college. I worked closely with them on their various fashion projects and the work was very much about them expressing themselves through fashion and me helping them to create a visual that was reflective of that.
I did some work for Mulberry. The son of Mulberry produced a project which was to raise funds for aids research in Africa, called the Bottle Top Project. He worked with people in Africa and they produced bags made out of these bottle tops, then Mulberry brought them back to the UK, lined them with their leather, and made them beautiful. The bags were then sold to raise funds which were channelled back into the charity to raise awareness of aids in Africa and to provide actual treatment. David Bailey shot the portrait side of the project and I photographed a girl who had aids herself, who came over from Africa, who basically became the spokesperson for the project. She was absolutely stunning.
I also did some mock look books for Clements Ribeiro with some of the young studio assistants that worked with the designers. It was basically their own take on Clements Ribeiro’s collection. We asked if we could do shoots with their clothing, which was exciting, and it meant we got to have our own creative control on the periphery of the brand’s actual work. They entrusted their assistants, and it was for us to be able to say we shot with the Clements Ribeiro collection, and be able to express ourselves and how we experienced the brand as opposed to the brand dictating the style and direction of the shoot."
"My whole experience with fashion has been my own take on it. Very much from a visual feel as opposed to being influenced by the brand’s intended look. You may look at certain brands and say ‘that’s very blocky and structured’ and then other things may be more floaty. It doesn’t mean you can’t put those two things together. If it feels right to me, and if it looks right to me, then that’s good enough.
I was just reading something in the Wabi-Sabi book that was referring to beauty: 'Wabi-Sabi suggests that beauty is a dynamic event that occurs between you and something else. Beauty can spontaneously occur at any moment given the proper circumstances, context, or point of view. Beauty is thus an altered state of consciousness, an extraordinary moment of poetry and grace'. So beauty is very much in the eye of the beholder."
(Conversation with international photographer Virginia Woods-Jack.)