High Fashion At The Duke of York’s Theatre – A Drama Unfolds


I love working with the divine Marcella Martinelli whose styling is unsurpassed. Previously she had worked with The Duke of York’s Theatre and she managed to get us the theatre for the day to shoot for How to Spend It (the lux Financial Times supplement). This was a wonderful opportunity to really create some unique images out of the  studio , with incredible clothes, styling and stunning models or as they become on that day for me actors of the moment.

When I entered the theatre and saw the gowns I decided to do the photographs as if they were scenes from a very romantic play. Marcella styled each scene beautifully and the images display the sometimes passionate and coquettish female with her younger Latin lover caught in a dramatic power play. This was a lot of fun and very tongue in cheek.


I adored the vivid colours, opulence and luxury of the clothes contrasting against the dark and shadowy props that would be used later that evening in the real play.  A story had to  be told in between the models, using silent dialogue and a very loose plot to say the least. It was a great pleasure to be able to explore these clothes in such a wonderful and imaginative way.


Being in the theatre immediately inspired me (probably wrongly) to enthusiastically instruct the models using clichés such as, “Wonderful my Darling hearts”,  “Fabulous my luvvies” and “It’s a triumph!” Much to my own and the teams amusement, which eventually I had to tone down, with the models saying “Please Clive stop making us laugh, we are trying to capture the mood”.


We explored a selection of the most fabulous gowns flown in from Roberto Cavalli, Gucci, Ellie Saab and diamonds from De Beers, Bulgari, Van Cleef & Arpels, Chopard and many others, which was usual for the opulent high end How To Spend It. On the day of the shoot we also had additional security for the priceless jewels and the added excitement of an Haute Couture gown by Christian Dior being couriered directly to the theatre from Paris in a huge wooden custom crate, which added to the frisson of the day.


The whole day was a drama all of it’s own, with jewels, urgent couriers, exclusive gowns and the leading lady being whisked away at the end of the shoot in a bright red Ferrari by her mysterious lover.  At the close of the shoot myself and the rest of the team had to wind down slowly (at The Ivy Club), all feeling delightfully exhausted from a wonderful performance. More and more I think that fashion and fashion photography is all theatre.

  • Clive Arrowsmith is shooting stunning images, staging exhibitions and is as passionate about photography as he was when he first pressed the shutter at The Paris Collections. He is available for global media opportunities related to his work and photography generally. Bespoke prints from Clive’s archive are also available by special request, for any enquiries  (email Eugenie here). Clive’s book Arrowsmith: Fashion, Beauty & Portraits is available here and Lowry at Home: Salford 1966 is available here


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