Here we go again. This time though, I managed to get a deal flying Business which is life changing when you’re 6ft 4 with legs for days. It’s American Airlines going out and first impressions are that check-in is a joke, the lounge hasn’t been updated since the 80s, although not in a good way, and the additional security checks at the gate make me groan inwardly. However, once you’re onboard, the inflight experience beats British Airways with well designed lie-flat seats in a more enclosed ‘pod’, luxury details and a menu by British Chef Mark Sargeant that doesn’t taste like plane food.
Flying through security at LAX with the ESTA automated kiosks, I pick up my very first Globe-Trotter case; a special prototype given to me by the owner when I started working for the brand in 2005. It’s a 21″ Trolley Case made from 16-layers of vulcanised fibreboard instead of the usual 14 and it’s traveled around the world with me more times than Phileas Fogg. This time I’m staying at the Mondrian, just down the road from the original Standard in the heart of West Hollywood. The Skybar area is cool for an evening but the DJ by the pool everyday from 2pm is wasted on me this trip when I’m only here for 48-hours to shoot our FITE campaign tomorrow. Oh, also I’m 46.
Planning this shoot has been like a plot from Mission Impossible. My idea was to find a house like Amy Adam’s in Nocturnal Animals. That house is in Malibu btw and costs $100m; you can hire it for a month if you’ve got $750k. We don’t have that kind of budget, so we’ve been trying to locate a mid-20th century bungalow in the hills with panoramic views of the city. 78 emails and 23 phone calls later, here we are on set in Bel Air with a crew of 14 (photographer +2, stylist, videographer +1, MUA +1, producer +1, assistant, 3x models) along with Founder Holly and myself. The house is minimalist heaven; everything is white against the blue pool and natural multi colours of the valley. There’s so much kit and so many hands involved you would think we were shooting a feature length movie. Holly has brought 3 brand new Rimowa trunks full of brand new shiny clothes to style with our FITE collection. We have two t-shirt styles in two fabrics (cashmere & linen) in two colours per fabric; so we need eight finished images focusing on the t-shirt plus several editorial looks. Same goes for Mey Story, the mens t-shirt from Germany that will be available to buy exclusively in the USA from our FITE online store. Every shot has been meticulously planned out in advance but there’s also room to improvise on the day and often generates some of the best results.
It’s a full-on day where we manage a meeting at the house with our design team to discuss production changes and revised schedules in the run up to our launch at Paris Fashion Week. The CEO of Omega once told me that the 3 rules of marketing are product, product, product. I’ve seen this with many a brand where their identity and aspirational value is defined by their image, more so than the design and/or quality of what they actually produce. Our entire concept is centred on tailoring; a t-shirt that fits in every way and luxury; using only the most beautiful fabrics from cashmere to silk (more on this when I visit Première Vision in Paris in 3-weeks). We’ve spent 18-months on R&D which may seem like an age but in reality, when you’re starting from scratch and in search of never ending perfection, this is what it takes.
When we wrap at the end of the day, it’s a mix of euphoria at seeing our product come to life and slumping from the build up to getting it all done. Holly has ordered in a case of ice cold Rosé that helps keep the high going after the last frame is shot. We celebrate drinking with Marc, the new owner of the house who moved in the week before. Turns out he’s a huge Bond fan with an enviable collection of rare memorabilia. He seems impressed that I’ve visited the Bond Archives and been on set for Skyfall, so we geek out together and swap details. Marc works with record labels so has access to artists that may need a new t-shirt one day.
We move on to Holly’s hotel, the Bel Air for a team dinner where we discuss the next campaign that she wants to shoot in Aspen when we get back from Paris. Hanging out at the Bel Air is like being on a tropical island luxury resort #paradise. I want to come back immediately so I schedule in a meeting here with Jason our designer the next day who has our mutual friend Greg Chapman staying with him. I’ve worked with Greg before on a special edition Globe-Trotter case and he’s the guy that showed me everywhere to go in New York back in the day. He’s a colourful character (literally covered in ink) and as we discover has the same birthday as Holly which makes them kindred spirits over more Rosé/Brosé.
Time’s up. Once again LA, you’ve been amazing. What I love about traveling is that voyage of discovery. Experiencing new places and cultures, meeting new people and widening your outlook on life and possibilities. I feel like I work in San Francisco and Los Angeles now, even though my base is an early 13th century village in Cambridgeshire. I love the Golden State not just for it’s perpetual sunshine and clean living but for it being the ideal place to start something new and make it. A la la land of opportunity. Until next time, Paris is calling.