Shrimpton Couture, Vogue Magazine


David Bailey. Jean Shrimpton

British photographer David Bailey (1938) and supermodel Jean Shrimpton (1942) are considered pioneers in the fashion industry. They were part of Swinging London, a new era of youth culture domination. Together, they paired to create endless iconic images that would stand the test of time.

Today we look at a photo editorial from British Vogue that captured this movement. A shoot that has been dramatized in a 2011 BBC film, We’ll Take Manhattan.

It was 1962. Involved was a 24-year-old unknown photographer David Bailey and 19-year-old local model Jean Shrimpton. Bailey was married to his first wife Rosemary Bramble when he met Shrimpton while modelling for Duffy. Bailey quickly took a shine to the model, starting a four-year relationship that would last until 1964.

British Vogue fashion editor Lady Clare Rendlesham reluctantly sent Bailey and Shrimpton to New York City for a new feature for Vogue, titled ‘The Young Idea’. The magazine had recently started a youth section, using less sophisticated clothes and younger models, photographed in a more modern style. Photographers were beginning to use a Rolleiflex camera and 35mm film to get movement and spontaneity into their pictures. Lady Rendlesham was used to her 1950’s aristocratic models captured with stern poses in grandeur locations and controlled studio spaces. Bailey, on the other hand was determined to take fashion photography in a new direction.

The two set off for Manhattan with no hair or makeup artist, and were instructed to shoot mid-priced British clothing manufacturers like Jaeger and Susan Small against the cityscape. All Jean took on the plane was a plastic bag as her luggage.

Staying at the St Regis Hotel, the couple watched Ella Fitzgerald perform, encounter Salvador Dali in a lift, and eat hamburgers every night at their favorite diner. For the shoot, Shrimpton wandered the honky-tonk streets of Manhattan in a trench coat, trailing a sad-looking teddy bear, leaning against parking signs, ranging uptown to Harlem and downtown to the impoverished Lower East Side. “It was February and Bailey photographed me in a Jaeger camel spring outfit with an apple-green blouse and suit standing on the dizzy heights of Brooklyn Bridge. I thought I would freeze. I was crying with the cold,” wrote Shrimpton.

The resulting images were offbeat, realistic poses shot against the grittier side of Manhattan. Together they morphed raw street photography with fashion; a far departure of what Lady Rendlesham was accustomed to. It was the dawning of a movement Vogue editor Diana Vreeland would later label ‘The Youthquake’.

Of Jean Shrimpton, Bailey said: “She was magic and the camera loved her too. In a way she was the cheapest model in the world – you only needed to shoot half a roll of film and then you had it.” On their break up he went on to say, “Losing Jean… it was like losing my camera.”

Upon their return to London, Vogue loved the pictures in what would change the industry forever. As Shrimpton wrote in her autobiography, “The trip was wonderful. We both knew we had it made.”

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