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If you're going to offer alpaca and cashmere sweaters on the internet, it won’t be long until you’re negotiating the world of models, photographers and stylists. For a couple of people in a small town in Alaska, this has been a learning experience.
Our first photoshoot was, oddly, a cashmere sweater shoot in Beijing in the early 2000s. Many Western models, particularly from South America and Eastern Europe, work in Taiwan and Beijing as steps toward a career in the top modeling markets of Milan, Paris and New York. The shoot began with an embarrassing cattle-call casting and proceeded to a photo shoot of cashmere cardigans and pullovers where the owner had no idea what to ask for and the crew spoke no English. The result was… not so hot.
Fast forward to the present. Now we shoot our alpaca sweaters and ruanas in Seattle. We start by examining the online portfolios of several agencies. Choosing a model is a skill. Models are like silent film actors: they need to radiate emotion without words. If you want that one edgy shot for a magazine cover, you might choose a young model with a bleached blonde crew cut and tattoos. But if you want a lot of shots, each one different, you look for a model that shows a wide range of expressions and emotions. The best models have interesting body postures and expressions that they move in and out of fluidly, while lesser models will have the same two or three expressions and much stiffer poses. Some are better than others, and you may see that on our site!
On a shoot we cover a wide range of cashmere and alpaca sweaters for men and women, alpaca hats, alpaca ponchos, and even alpaca socks. This requires three to five models of both sexes. To keep everything flowing on and off the models, we typically have a large crew. The photographer has an assistant to manage all the digital technology while she shoots. The clothing stylist assembles and then stages the pants, blouses and jewelry for each shot, as well as making sure the clothing is all in place as the model poses and moves. The stylist tugs sleeves up or down, buttons and unbuttons coats, and occasionally pins extra material in the back of the sweater. Another stylist does hair and makeup will hold a leaf blower to get that windblown look during the shot. Our job is to make sure everything gets photographed and give some guidance on shots that may be missing (“Let’s shoot this unbuttoned.” “That’s the Oslo Norwegian Sweater, blue colorway!” On these shoots, women rule, as our photographer Elke is the boss and the only other men, her assistant and I, just try be helpful and not get in the way. If you want to see what this looks in action, take a peek at this
This year we did an on-location photoshoot of women’s alpaca sweaters in Portugal, which was managed by our wonderful marketing team there, all in their twenties. In this case, the photos were for Facebook and Instagram, rather than the website, so we were looking for a more casual, “lifestyle” effect.
On-location shoots are more complicated. The locations we chose, in a castle complex above Lisbon, were crowded with Sunday morning tourists wearing shorts and t-shirts, which doesn’t go so well with toboggan hats and winter sweaters. One model was deathly ill and could not shoot, so our marketing team actually stepped in to provide some new faces. You can see the results below: