Today’s grand icon of burlesque is Dita Von Teese. I’d been longing to see a live performance by the great porcelain doll reborn of the bygone era of entertainment. The genre appeals to me: glitz, glamour, and sex appeal, along with comic and playful references. Then I was invited to her show for Cointreau. I was agape, like a child — over her incredible body proportions, the Swarovski crystals, the sophisticated interpretation of the music, and the oozing sensuality of course. But it was her ever-present finesse that shone throughout. I went away thinking I should never be flippant with words like “astonishing” again.
I was yearning to work with Ms Von Teese. The opportunity to shoot her took eight months to materialize due to her busy schedule, but finally it came, thanks to the faith of her amazing manager Melissa Dishell. I began obsessively living and breathing Dita. She appeared in my dreams. I really wanted the image to be something this international icon had not dipped into before. A metamorphosis was on the cards, toning down the glitz, but without losing any glamour. I’ve got a bit of a 60s sci-fi fetish, so we would hurl Dita into the future (as seen by 60s visionaries) and play about with mystery and metal sheen.
I unpacked the idea of “The Unexpected” — the certain anxiety when you’re not sure if something is going to blow up, or creatures are about to appear. I wanted to extract tension — a cocktail of nerves and thrill — from the “delicate” in Dita, then take it and amplify it and house it in beauty. It was a major project, taking a month to prep.
The colors would be ghostly silvers and sci-fi reminiscent, all in haute couture — a mix of archive and current pieces. The only bright gown, Jean-Paul Gautier couture, was fitting to the theme as it was emerald green and so The Fifth Element. The others were all metallic and neutral: archived creations by Boudicca and Elie Saab. And the accessories were indispensable — pavé diamonds can only ever be done by the essential de Grisogono.
During production, I got goosebumps as each of her poses reverberated with more force. She is suddenly upon us in an aura from outer space, released in a brilliant and daring apparition.