Danielle and Jodie Snyder’s Dannijo jewelry line has always been colorful, layered and irreverent, but for their Spring 2014 collection ~ which has just launched and coincides with the brand’s fifth anniversary (and first-ever bag line!) ~ the sisters updated those signatures with a darker-tinted twist. Employing onyx metal bases and a toughed-up, repeating railroad motif, the pieces have a refreshed strength and sophistication. Black and white themes lend a tribalistic bent, as if each item had been carved from dark horn and sun-bleached bone.
The designing duo asked me to art direct and style the campaign for this anniversary collection, and it got me thinking on all sorts of ideas about jewelry as talisman, as armor, as a badge of fierce femininity. The colors of the collection may have been inspired by film noir, but the imposing, sculptural elegance of their execution ~ coupled with Dannijo’s signature attitude toward unrestrained layering ~ reminded me of an array of African cultures, and the way so many of the women there have traditionally worn heavily-layered jewelry for aesthetic, societal and religious reasons. |ABOVE| Anya Caliendo hat, Maiyet gown |BELOW| A Peace Treaty scarf, Alice + Olivia gown When I started this project, I’d not yet been introduced to Candomblé (or Yoruba, the African culture from which that Brazilian religion descended), but I was already heavily familiar with the work of Malian photographer Seydou Keita, and deeply entranced by the confident style of the women in his pictures. |ABOVE| vintage hat, Rebecca Taylor tunic, Maiyet skirt |BELOW| Anya Caliendo hat, Oscar de la Renta tiered coatdress and sleeveless dress Visually, I’m delighted by the way that Keita’s subjects paired audaciously patterned, silk taffeta gowns with Kente cloth turbans, finishing their looks with a mash-up of Malian and Western accessories (Keita always kept European props and adornments in his studio, to mix into shoots). This subtle melding is part of what makes his pictures so special; they tell an underlying story of a culture in transition. To me, they’re beautiful but bittersweet, riddled with visual hints of the early ripples of industrialization and the homogenization of the modern world. |ABOVE| Cynthia Rowley top, Carolina Herrera skirt |BELOW| A Peace Treaty scarf, Honor gown The more I see of our earth, the more desperately I wish that its ancient tribes and customs could be preserved a little longer ~ not for the sake of some sort of quaint colloquial ideal, but because we lose a little wisdom, a bit of our shared soul, stories, specializations and secrets with each degree of modernization.|ABOVE + BELOW| Rebecca Minkoff dress, BCBG skirt I find inspiration in so many things: from great literature to North American suburbia to 1930′s cabaret, from Egyptian mythology to European fairy tales to the suffragette movement to West Coast sport culture. Fashion is about so much more than aesthetics; it’s about people ~ the customs they observe, the symbols they prize, and the moments in time they are both unwittingly trapped in and also actively shaping. |ABOVE| vintage hat, Cynthia Rowley dress, Nanette Lepore sandals |BELOW| A Peace Treaty scarf, Lela Rose jacket, Zuhair Murad dress Equality must be the greatest gift modernity has brought. It’s still a work in progress, but I was proud to look around the set of this shoot and see a diverse array of female entrepreneurs collaborating creatively. I was proud to be shooting bold jewelry designed by and for daring women, and proud to work with Selita Ebanks, a bighearted, hardworking model, actress and philanthropist whose beauty is only enriched by her age and experience. She truly became a queen in these images ~ not merely because of Chloe Crespi’s celebratory lens or due to my styling, but because of the innate confidence she herself brought to set. In that way, she honored the memory of Seydou Keita’s heroines more honestly than I could ever have planned. |ABOVE + BELOW| Suno top, CH Carolina Herrera skirt |QUEEN SELITA| starring Selita Ebanks + Dannijo jewelry and bags |PHOTOGRAPHY| by Chloe Crespi |STYLING| by Kelly Framel |HAIR| by Bethany Brill |MAKEUP| by Porsche Cooper |NAILS| by Jackie Saulsbery