Arachnophobia

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me today, Natalie…” she sighs rather apologetically. “I’m feeling so lethargic. I can’t seem to wake up. I am usually much more upbeat!” Oh I know that! From the minute I met Charlotte Dellal last February she’s been nothing but exclamation marks and laughs – she has one of those deep chuckles in fact. I express my sincerest sympathy and pat her on the back. I don’t know how I would feel myself if I just spent a week roaming Italy and attended five weddings. That’s a lot of champagne and awkward, moonlit dances. As a matter of fact I’m not feeling myself either today. For one I’m in London and it’s raining – surprised? – which sends me into mini-bouts of depression each time a rain drop falls. And I am about to use my new camera for the first time. (Remember when I shot Caroline Issa? Charlotte was my first attempt that day.) I am shaking like a leaf. What if I mess up? Don’t mess up! We decide to be patient with one another. We’re in our own little worlds, running up and down the stairs of her beautiful town house, looking for that vintage spirit.

I am really surprised when Charlotte tells me she doesn’t own much vintage. I thought we’d be drowning in frocks and feathers! “I have some pieces that belonged to my mother and grandmother, but I mostly buy hats, accessories, furniture and objects, things that are easy to buy on-line and that don’t need to be tried on. I think you need a lot of time to buy vintage and I’m not the best shopper; I don’t have the patience,” she confesses. This is fascinating! And a first! It’s kind of like a reversed kind of retro. Here’s a woman who looks like the bygone era of the 40s and 50s, with the blonde coiffed hairstyle of Lauren Bacall or Rita Hayworth, whose biography she’s reading at the moment (her hair was also naturally much curlier), unwavering red lips and half moon nails, but who hasn’t set foot in a vintage store in years! “My outfits may look nostalgic but I’m not trying to be retro. I just reference an era that I love.”

Charlotte’s house is full of those references and they’ve all at one point influenced her famous shoe designs. She’s passionately obsessed with Carmen Miranda dolls for example. Her SS11 collection ‘Blame it on Rio’ procured a fruit shoe dedicated to said samba dancer and is Charlotte’s personal favorite. She also read every single Agatha Christie novel to date and named her Fall 11 collection ‘To Die For’. And she loves mermaids, so much that the SS12 ‘Sirens’ collection included “shoes that mermaids would want to wear if they had feet”. This is serious! So what’s up with the spider web logo? A fascination with eight-legged creatures? “When I started my business (her first collection launched in 2008) I wanted to build a brand,” she explains in a dry voice. “The spider web logo idea came from the children’s book ‘Charlotte’s Web’. Some people get it straight away.” (I guess I didn’t?) “But ironically I’m scared of spiders!”

We spent three hours together and we made it through without any noticeable scars. But in case you’re wondering if I messed up. I shot all this in low-res…

September 19, 2012

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