Tom Corbett: Roman Holiday for St. Regis
In the last six months Tom Corbett has been whisked between London, Paris, and Detroit (The Paris of the West) photographing high fashion stories in the world’s hot beds of creativity. Models all their own, the cities are the perfect settings to explore beauty in action, and an environmental context for a gorgeous vision. Most recently, Beyond, the magazine by St Regis Hotels, asked Tom to join them in Rome to show off what they see as the perfect blend of classic elegance and a modern spirit. “It was just an amazing opportunity to shoot in Rome, to get out there,” says Tom. “A great opportunity to do another one of those high fashion luxury stories that I love doing so much.” The blend of classic and modern makes for an interesting aesthetic challenge that offered Tom a unique and exciting technical exercise.
To get high value images quite often it requires high value production, with huge teams and lighting rigs, and a mess of complications. But Tom has found that his clients are looking for a simpler look, a natural grace in the face of complication. It’s something that Tom is really excited about and employed in this Roman shoot. “They wanted to shoot all daylight, to have a real natural look to it, which we’re finding more and more,” Tom says about the vision created with Vanessa Arnaud, the Art Director. “I love shooting daylight. I love the freedom that it gives me. So we basically didn’t use any lights. We were a little creative sometimes using what was available, but we didn’t flash anything up.” With natural light, Tom can move around freely, and collaborate with the models in a 3D space, offering flexibility and improvisation, revealing images that are perhaps more than could have been anticipated.
The natural challenge ends up making for unique images that Tom loves. This kind of process wasn’t even possible just a couple years ago, but because of the advances in technology, Tom is able to capture his vision more readily. At night there is so little ambient light that older cameras wouldn’t be able to pick up any subjects which would require Tom and his team to set up lights. But, what he’s working with now helps him achieve what he’s looking for as naturally as possible. “Shooting at night with no lights was really interesting,” Tom says. “One of the shots we actually went out while it was nighttime and used the available light. I hadn’t done that in a long time. With the cameras the way they are these days you can actually walk down the street and take a picture, whereas in the past it would have been a lot different, which is kind of amazing. I just love that the clients seem to be asking for this look. This uncomplicated, natural light seems to be the trend so I’m excited about that.” Elegance doesn’t have to be complicated, heavy, or confusing. The beautiful styling by B&A Stylist Shelly Vella, balanced by makeup and hair by Lisa Valencia prove that, and that elegance is something Tom will follow no matter where in the world it takes him.
Shelly Vella Teaches Us to Go Our Own Way
If life has taught us anything it’s that you’ve always got to be true to yourself and not be shy about making your own way in the world. No one knows this better than veteran Fashion Director Shelly Vella who, after 15 years at Cosmopolitan UK is venturing off on her own, sharing her unique vision with a world she knows so well. 25 years of fashion expertise are focused into her own endeavor she calls “The Stylish Stuff.” The ongoing project has become a cistern to capture her creativity.
At The Stylish Stuff we see the result of her finely tuned taste offering the perfect place for her to display mastery for hungry readers. The site is meticulously updated with work, which is now directed more by passion and love than print deadlines. It is your window into the mind of an expert Fashion Director, a direct line to seeing what the titans of the fashion world see, and the opportunity to get a grasp on that process.
Shelly’s mastery is on full display in the February issue of Cosmo UK where the story “Prep Yourself” examines fun and unique ways to dress with prep influence. The tradition of the prep aesthetic is tried and true, but the heart of style has always been to bring your own spin to what you wear. Shelly did just that. Giving the fashion a brownstone aesthetic in the midst of comfortable and vintage cleverness renews these timeless looks for a new era.
Stay up to date with Shelly at her site, The Stylish Stuff, that she frequently updates.
Tom Corbett and Shelly Vella's Breakfast Club
Few movies are as transportative or inspiring of another era than ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s.’ Whether it’s an admiration for Audrey Hepburn or a reminiscence of a certain subversive grace that existed only in the 1960s, there’s something for everyone in the classic film and it offers ripe inspiration for artists time and time again. When Tom Corbett linked up with Cosmopolitan UK for their latest editorial, they looked to the iconic movie for inspiration. “We wanted to do a modern take on the ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ idea,” explains Tom. “We shot outside Tiffany’s itself on Bond Street, we shot in Notting Hill, we shot Portobello Road. We shot all around London, all these beautiful locations, and basically came up with this cool concept.” Teaming up with Shelly Vella, Fashion Director at Cosmopolitan, once again, it was about creating something new and intimate for them. They were taking high fashion and mixing it with subtlety in a way that is becoming something of a signature.
Historically, Tom has been known for the energy that he brings to every shoot. His clients know that when they need something that’s punchy and exciting, they can rely on him. But he also loves to operate on this other level that feels closer to the every day experience. Especially when he’s working with Cosmopolitan, or Shelly Vella herself, they like to explore the beauty in quiet moments. “That’s kind of the way we work,” says Tom. “Like how we did the Underground story. Very reportagey, very loose. Very voyeuristic. That was sort of the vibe.” Not only does it allow the viewer to relax into the images, it makes the fashion and beauty feel more accessible, like the editorial pieces could fit into the lives of whoever is holding the magazine.
For a magazine like Cosmopolitan that mix is crucial for connecting with their readers, and it’s something that Tom isn’t afraid of mining and truly exploring. “It’s a very UK kind of thing and something we do come back to time, and time again,” Tom explains. To activate that, they focused on a particular situation where the mix of high fashion and common experience comes together: “The morning after the night before. The idea that someone’s gone out wearing fabulous clothes, minding themselves in an ordinary situation the next morning. The way we occupy ourselves. It’s interesting.” Life is full of moments of suspension; unexpected dichotomies and contrasts. On paper, sometimes they look different from what we remember, but even if we don’t recognize them on their face there’s something familiar there, something beautiful.
Makeup: Kenneth Soh
Hair: Jonathan Malone
Model: Florence Eugene