Behind MILIEU‘s Spring 2021 Cover Story
By Katrin Cargill, MILIEU European Editor.

The decision to produce a story about spring fabrics and flowers photographed in an English garden was conceived in September/October 2020. I set to work putting together schemes, finding a location, booking lovely Melanie Williams to sew, and master florist Harald Altmaier to do the flowers.

Knowing we would have to do the shoot in early January, we decided we would need to be in a topiary evergreen garden. Forget pretty perennial borders.

After extensive research, Simon Brown, our photographer, put me in touch with his friend, John, who owns Euridge Manor.

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Euridge yews in summer

I drove down immediately to do a recce-perfect (a look-around)! I booked a lovely little pub for us all to stay in, and got to work. I put together schemes for fifteen shots for Pam Pierce, our Editor-in-Chief, to critique.

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Original hand-drawn sketches

After some tweaking, Melanie started to make outfits and soft furnishings for the shoot.

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Fabric scheme

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Little fabric and paper bags ready to shoot

Because of lockdown, we couldn’t have fittings for the clothes. We were due to shoot the first week of January, when an ever stricter lockdown was imposed. No travel anywhere.

The location was three hours from London. We checked with the government regulations and found we could work on photoshoots. However, we needed a letter of permission from MILIEU in case we were stopped.

Together with a severe winter cold snap and snow forecast, we proceeded.

The flower market was closed, but Harald had ordered a room full of flowers from Dutch suppliers in early December. Aren’t they divine?

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Flowers ordered by Harald Altmaier

Harald prepped buckets full of flowers and packed them into a van. I packed up the props and clothes. We all traveled independently and all got COVID tests, which were mercifully clear.

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Flowers ready to use, in buckets

The lovely pub rang us two days before the shoot to cancel our rooms, because of lockdown. I found a Premier Inn nearby with rooms, but it was not guaranteed to stay open, and they were not serving breakfast or dinner.

We set off in a convoy, and dropped all our flowers and props at the location, and repaired to the hotel (open) ready for a dawn start. It was minus six degrees centigrade and snowing lightly.

Frozen ponds, frosty and icy stone

But the snow held off the next morning and we set up the shots on crunchy frosty lawns and yew trees thick with frost.

Our table with cloth on the crunchy lawn

Huxley, our 6’6″ photographer’s assistant (and model), started to brush frost off yew and lawns. The stone paths were sheet ice.

Huxley brushing frost off hedges

Huxley shivering

We worked very fast. Batteries on the cameras froze a few times which held us up. We were so lucky to be able to go to a room for coffee and tea and hand-warming.

Simon Brown in action

Isabella keeping warm

The most poignant moment of the shoot was when we put down the big nest of flowers and a little robin flew over and propped himself right in the middle, thinking spring had arrived!

Harald holding bouquet

Subscribe by April 6th to receive the Spring 2021 issue in the mail.

Subscribe on Zinio to receive the Spring 2021 digitally on March 1, 2021.