A HIMALAYAN ADVENTURE
As I dreamt and drew my first collection in Nepal back in 1997 I hoped against hope that someday could merge the beautiful backdrops that inspired me with a collection based on local artisan crafts and the luxurious textile traditions of the Far East. The dream I had then finally came true with the pictures we shot for the Flying Silk Collection.
As part of my very first trip to Nepal, I explored crafts, fabrics, ecology, the landscape and people of Nepal for 3 months. One of the most vivid memories I have is the reflections from the Pokhara Lake, where many of the images here were shot. I remember the magical moments exploring the Hindu temples, Buddhist monasteries, peacefully sketching designs in the small boat on the Pokhara and sitting on the hilltop of Sarangkot overlooking the same lake. Here the vision of the brand LEILA HAFZI came to life: “I will give myself 15 years to achieve my mission of transforming Nepalese crafts skills into high-end fashion, along with inspiring the fashion industry to embrace sustainable change.” 16 years down the turbulent road, the brand is well established in some of the most prestigious bridal- and evening wear boutiques around the world.
The Flying Silk Collection was created in the small LEILA HAFZI tailor studio in Kathmandu. Here a professional and a highly skillful administration blends with craftsmanship to create a high-end, partly couture collection. Doing this in a developing country is as I usually say “an extreme fashion challenge”. Doing this in 5 weeks is virtually a miracle.
I knew that the name of the collection would come to me during our trip but did not expect it to happen in such a magical moment. At the first mountain-site we were based in the most beautiful eco-farm: Small houses and smiling, helpful locals. We fell in love with the elder couple living there and caring for their fields in a manner most Western people associate with pre-industrial farming. On the set while shooting the floating and romantic dress on Sarah, the model, we decorated a small village table (the family’s food preparation table from their kitchen) with wedding symbols from the many cultures I travel between.
A village celebration offered the opportunity to cast 30 locals wearing their finest saris, joyfully clapping and singing around our village bride: “Risham firiri, Risham firiri” and so on the collection magically had a name: Risham Firiri or Flying Silk.
THE “HIMALEILIAN” CREW
Having with me a team of 7 people from Norway and the UK to create this breath-taking shoot at on the top of the world has given me even more confidence in our vision. For a team who never before had been in Nepal and on short notice needed to partake in my vision, was both a challenge and an amazing adventure. When scouting, it was important to me to find the sites that were a part of my original trip in 1997: The places where I felt both the inspiring and spiritual magic of sounds, smells and the exquisite kindness of the Nepalese. A dream come true for a not so little girl.
And even though I did not expect the results to be exactly like my memories – amazingly enough the end results are very near to these. I was constantly speechless as each one in the team made my dreams come true, capturing my memories of how I once experienced the magic of Nepal. I am deeply grateful for the whole team’s professional and skillful approach and how they all adopted the vision in my head.
THE DREAM TEAM
Photographer Erik Almås, Norway http://www.erikalmas.com/
San Francisco-based Norwegian photographer, Erik Almås, has an impressive client-list (Intercontinental Hotel Group, American Airlines, Absolut, Ritz Carlton, Credit Suisse, Toyota, Hyatt, Puma, Microsoft and Nike, to mention some). He magically melted the model and dresses into the scenery - creating dreamscapes with a quality of romance and adventure. With only 3 days to “live the dream”, travel to 4 different locations, shoot 14 gowns in the chaos of a developing country and cultural shocks, he infused the team with energy and vision.
Model Sarah Parker Birkett, UK
Our Model, Sarah Birkett, was another dream come through. With an endless library of beautiful poses, physical strength and endurance she transformed herself into the most beautiful, graceful and perfect temple and mountain bride. My dresses are romantic, flowing and bohemian, with a hint of flirtation and graceful sensuality, something Sarah could easily convey as she became the immaculate LH couture bride.
Make-up artist, Tore Petterson (The Body Shop), Norway
Tore is the official make-up artist for The Body Shop Norway, collaborating partner of LEILA HAFZI for this catalogue. The Body Shop has many common ethical and environmental values shared by LEILA HAFZI, so this was a natural choice for both brands. Tore enhanced the looks with subtle changes in make-up, using the hues of the dresses and the settings to inspire and augment the mood of every shot.
The Hair stylist, Birger Løkeng (Bumble & Bumble), Norway
Birger Løkeng and I have worked together for many years and created most of my shows together. A highly experienced and skillful “hair professor”, I like to call him, and bringing him to Nepal has always been a dream. Birger brought my vision to a new level, ensuring that many brides will be aspiring to copy these looks on their Big Day.
Producer, Jocelyn Whipple, UK
Every shoot needs someone level-headed who can maneuver in the chaos of high ambitions and logistics of a country where travel and infrastructure is a challenge. Thanks to Jocelyn who saved my life and saved the day, when she was able to take on this challenge on very short notice.
“It has been a fantastic week at the foot of the Himalayas. And I had no doubt when accepting the job as I always wanted to visit Nepal. The memories of the country and the shoot will last through my life.” - Erik Almås
“The 10 days spent shooting in Nepal with Leila Hafzi were the most life-affirming; humbling; exhilarating; shocking; breath-taking; spiritual and humour-filled of my entire professional career: A truly authentic experience. (One in which the vision of the designer melded sincerely and respectfully with the rich culture and beauty of the Nepalese People. My final word on the shoot? No other designer could have better captured the inspiration of this earth-bound heaven in the creative expression of her collection as Leila has.” - Sarah Parker Birkett
“With leaches, stormy weather, fantastic views, singing monks and a really great team, this was an extreme makeover... Not for the model, but for the make-up artist! You really meet your self in the mirror in a environment so challenging, and a culture so different from Norway! I have to say, it really changes you.” - Tore Petterson
“It’s been an extreme experience cultural and work-wise. And being a part of fulfilling Leila’s dream has been an absolutely life changing experience.” - Birger Løkeng
“When Leila and I started discussing and planning this shoot we realized what we were attempting was really a first for fashion in Nepal. The incredibly rare talent, exceptional sense of humor and sheer guts of our wonderful team made Leila and Erik's epic vision come to life despite the seemingly impossible task, I'm so proud and touched to have been there.” - Jocelyn Whipple
Read about the collection and view the campaign in full here > http://leilahafzi.com/collections/royaye-sefid-iv-resham-firiri-2014/