The Liberty of Venus – Melanie Scheriau (2002)

I went into Liberty of London’s flagship store for a meeting and sat in their beautifully Victorian Gothic office and waited to be seen. They wanted to discuss a forthcoming shoot. I thought as I was driving into town, and after discussing it with my agent that it would be a shoot of their wonderful interiors and fabrics. I was then walked by an elegant secretary into the main office where the design team were waiting with their art director. The art director gestured to a beautiful chair and said, ” Sit down Clive, I am a great admirer of your work.”

At that moment the reality of where I was hit me. Liberty of London is one of the most beautiful and historic stores in the world, with its vaulted almost cathedral like galleries, finely woven wall hangings and fabrics and museum quality objet d’art. An exquisite bijoux Notre Dame (call me a sentimental fool if you will). My thoughts hung in the air as the art director voice drifted into my consciousness as I sat down, distracted from my imaginings.

“We want to do a male fashion shoot.” At that moment, my minds heart sank and I fell into a stunned silence, thinking how disappointed I was not to be shooting beautiful girls draped in beautiful fabric. I had shot mens fashion before for Yves Saint Laurent, Dunhill and Vogue and felt my forte was shooting beautiful women. I was sinking further into disappointment as the art director leant forward said in an almost intimate whisper “and a lingerie shoot.” At that moment I heard Schiller’s ‘Ode to Joy’ in the background in my mind or so I thought ( it turned out to be the piped muzak playing in the background in the store coincidentally).

‘When can we organise a casting Clive?” I snapped out of my joy filled dream and announced ‘We don’t need one, I know exactly the girl to do this job, she is an absolute Goddess, wonderful body, beautiful skin and her name is Melanie Scheriau.” I added “my dear friend Soumi La Valle would say ‘she is like a whistle on velvet.” They adored Melanie and immediately booked her.

The next day the stylist and myself had free range over the entire store and were directed to choose anything we needed as props for the shoot. Liberty and I had agreed on a red theme. We chose a large selection of cushions and bedding and saw a wonderful gilt mirror. The Rokeby Venus by Diego Velåzquez sprung to mind as an inspiration.

Liberty had everything delivered to the studio where I was met my team. My dear friend the eccentric talented Keith Harrris was booked to do the hair. In fact he reminded me that we did this shoot the other day. The amazing Marcella Martinelli did the hair and Cheryl Phelps Gardener did the make up.

When I walked onto the studio set it seemed as if the entire Liberty store had been delivered. There were packages and boxes everywhere (all stamped with the gorgeous Liberty logo) and rails of beautiful lingerie. I’d had, had a set built with a huge bed and window, with drapes. In the dressing room Keith Harris was preparing the hair and Melanie was radiant as ever and greeted me with her wonderful smile and laughter. “I can’t wait to start” she said between sips of coffee.

Melanie made everything so easy for me, there was not a hint of embarrassment at all, she was so aware of herself and carried herself with such grace. She was always an absolute joy to work with and she went on to live in New York and made a great success of her modelling career. She is now happily married and living in New York. Blessings and thanks Melanie.

I later drove past the Liberty of London store window in a black cab and noticed a crowd gathered looking in the Liberty window. I later had a call from Liberty and was told that there had been such a great reaction from the public to the photographs. Of course this is not always the case, you cannot always know what people think when you do a shoot but this time it seemed to be a great success.

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