A glance behind ‘Alexander McQueen within Wales’, shot by Clémentine Schneidermann

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Schneidermann and Charlotte James aka. Ffasiwn Studio, collaborate with the worldwide fashion house on a capture, workshops and a book by making use of the young Welsh neighborhood

A group of girls stand upon Ogmore Beach in Wales, posing carefree with their foot in the water. Though their lilac dresses are elevated to avoid the waves, their particular hems have been dampened and are illuminated by the low-lying sunlight. This image – evocative of hazy summer times, capturing the unalloyed pleasure of being dressed up in an incongruous place – is part of a series created in a cooperation between documentary photographer Clémentine Schneidermann, stylist Charlotte James, and fashion label Alexander McQueen.  

Unlike several shoots, however , this wasn’t just a question of turning up for the day. Since 2015, Schneidermann and James have worked jointly under the banner of Ffasiwn Studio: a Merthyr Tydfil-based initiative working with local youngsters groups and communities on elaborate photo projects that place young people at the heart from the images. “We wanted to problem negative stereotypes that exist for that Valleys, and for the community to become a part of creating that, ” James explains of their approach, which yields surreal, staged photographs that linger somewhere between high fashion editorials plus social documentary, set against the hills and towns of South Wales.    

Alexander McQueen in Wales © Clementine Schneidermann and Charlotte Wayne, 2021 / Ffasiwn

Alexander McQueen within Wales © Clementine Schneidermann and Charlotte James, 2021 / Ffasiwn

When Alexander McQueen’s Creative Director Sarah Burton embarked upon research for her AW20 selection inspired by Welsh mythology and craftsmanship, her team alerted her to the Ffasiwn Studio. It seemed like the right match. In 2020, the style house reached out and recommended a joint project. “We had spent years establishing our programme. Our first workshop consisted of one dark bag full of donated clothing and each time we got more ambitious with what we’re able to deliver, ” James states. “We were always looking to expand it by having other creatives deliver workshops therefore the young people could learn their particular stories. When McQueen approached us, it was a full group moment, and one that we certainly not imagined could happen. ” 

Together, the team devised a scaled-up version of Ffasiwn Studios workshops. The the younger generation involved were given the chance to learn more about everything from image research plus clothes design to model casting and studio pictures. “Working with McQueen pressed us in new instructions and encouraged us to renew ourselves and issue our practice, ” Schneidermann says. “Luckily, we had complete freedom and Sarah Burton trusted our vision with this project. ” 

Alexander McQueen in Wales © Clementine Schneidermann and Charlotte John, 2021 / Ffasiwn

“Working with McQueen pushed us in brand new directions and encouraged us to renew ourselves plus question our practice. Luckily, we had complete freedom and Sarah Burton trusted our own vision for this project. ” 

Paige Watts, Alexander McQueen within Wales © Clementine Schneidermann and Charlotte James, 2021 / Ffasiwn

Alexander McQueen in Wales © Clementine Schneidermann and Charlotte now James, 2021 / Ffasiwn

Although there were several unexpected problems along the way, not least Covid-19 restrictions, which limited the number of participants, this culminated in an atmospheric guide combining the resulting style imagery – complete with individuals lilac dresses, which were custom designed by Burton – along with creative writing, embroidery, and illustrations made by the children in the workshops. The real power of this initiative lies not only in the photos, but in the long lasting effect on those who took component. “Since we started the particular project, even though it might sound quite cheesy, we wanted to believe that nothing is impossible, ” Schneidermann explains. “So even though setting up workshops and shoots within the Valleys with Alexander McQueen seemed surreal, it demonstrated to us that indeed, nothing is impossible, and you can accomplish wonderful things outside major cities. ” 

It’s the sentiment shared by James. “It was high energy with a lot of excited young people buzzing about, ” she adds. “Youth workers have told all of us that it is great for their self-confidence, as they are encouraged to explore their particular creativity or stand in front of the camera. Even as they get towards their teenage many years they still want to engage in some way and ask us once the next [workshop] is – which says a lot. ” 

Alexander McQueen in Wales © Clementine Schneidermann and Charlotte Wayne, 2021 / Ffasiwn

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