Inspiration Dossier: Tim Walker

I have a secret. For years I have been been stashing away-magpie like- Vogue's, Elle's, Grazia's- even Sunday supplements. Long gone are the days of cutting favourite pages and sticking them in the dogeared pages of a notebook (that would ruin them.) Instead I steal them away, creating piles and piles of fashion archives. The sound of shredding paper actually terrifies me and I am screwed if there's ever a fire. With the paper content of a small forest (albeit a pretty stylish one) in my garden shed I've realised that if I marry, he will probably have to marry my library. It was one day, with this in mind, that I decided to go through some of my old issues and, instead of feeling the need for a clear out it only made me realise why I kept them in the first place. There were the obvious key-pieces from trends gone by- YSL Cage boots in Elle September 2008, Roland Mouret's Galaxy dress of 2005, you get the idea but it was when I got to December Vogue 2004 that I really got excited. Everyone loves a Christmas issue, but it was this one in particular which got my attention. Fervently I thumbed through the pages, hoping, praying, heart beating that it was what I thought it was. And how my prayers were answered. Staring back at me was this:

Vogue, UK, December 2004.

Welcome to The Vogue Pantomime. Possibly one of the most iconic awe-inspiring fashion shoots ever created by Tim Walker and set design by Shona Heath. In fact, it's a contender for the most iconic ever:

Walker and Shona Heath use the backdrop of paper geese and dried grass for a modern day interpretation of Mother Goose. Erin O'Connor's playful pose and the insipid ground in contrast showcases the drama of Alexander McQueen's plumed grey dress. 

Text reads: 'Roll-up! Roll-up! Welcome to the Vogue Pantomime, a star-studded spectacular of fairytale fashion and magical delights. Witness beautiful dancing girls and cut-throat pirates, mythical beasts and Kings and Queens of stage and screen. Hurry now,we have so much to show you... Tim Walker photographs the extravaganza and Emily Sheffield reports from backstage as the drama unfolds.

In Alexander McQueen's feathered couture gown, Erin O'Connor becomes Mother Goose' 

I was reminded of this image again in the latest edition of Vogue UK, where a piece from McQueen's last collection was featured. Again it was shot by Tim Walker and was feathered, this time gold plumage. The model looks almost like a bird of prey. Just beautiful and such a shame we lost such a talent:

Vogue UK, October 2010. Russian Dolls. Alexander McQueen. Opposite: Asymmetric open-backed evening dress embroidered with silk fringes and crystals, to order. Atelier Versace. 

Back to the Pantomime feature, I love the composition of this spread. The green of the meadow and the colour of the flowers with Valentino clad Jacquetta Wheeler leaning on a white stead. Lisa Cant makes the prettiest prince of Androgynous cool.

Silk organza fringe dress, Gucci. Marabou feather stole by Jenny Packham, Harrods. Location: Cants of Colchester.
Cotton Blouse with lace detail, Valentino, Armour to hire- Angels Fancy Dress.

Tutu Dress and headdress, BBC costumes and wigs. Chandelier earring, Erickson Beamon.
Lily Cole in silk mini dress, Preen. Tutu skirt around neck BBC Costumes and wigs.

Vogue Pantomime feature article with inspiration images for Tim and the shoot.

'Erin O'Connor, Jacquetta Wheeler and Lily Cole make a trio of sleeping beauties. Erin wears silver bustier dress in silk crepeline set with silver crystals by Givenchy Haute Couture, Paris. Jacquetta wears silk organza dress with roses, David Fielden. Silver sequin shrug, Robert Cary-Williams at Concrete. Lily wears silk top with rose. Long cotton-tulle skirt. Both by Rochas.'

'Viktor and Rolf make a chicer-than-usual Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. Both wear Viktor & Rolf menswear for spring/summer 2005.
Sugarplum fairy in chiffon Valentino. Suede shoes by Guillaume Hinfray.'

This is also featured in Tim Walker's calendar for 2009, created by teNeues. 'Tim wanted the rabbits to signify The Pied Piper, which of course, is not how the poem-cum-fairytale is best remembered, but "we didn't want rats", explains Tim "because rats aren't very Vogue".

Wool gabardine mini dress, Luella. Bowtie, Cat's ears and fishnets all by BBC Costumes and Wigs. Leather shoes, Christian Louboutin. 

'I'll huff and I'll puff... Big, bad and thoroughly wolfish, Bill Nighy takes time out from terrorising Little Pigs. 
Tuxedo Suit, Dress shirt, Bow Tie. All Dunhill. Hat from a selection at James Lock. 

Model Fanni plays the Cheshire cat to Alan Rickman's Lion King. Kimono, Butler & Wilson.'

'In featherlight white tulle, a David Fielden gown is the star of the grand finale'

Lily Cole in Rochas.

'Giles Deacon's dashing White Knight sweeps Erin O'Connor off her feet.
Erin wears silver bustier dress in silk crepeline set with silver crystals, Givenchy Haute Couture, Paris. Giles wears Tuxedo suit, Boss Hugo Boss. Dress shirt, Kilgour.'

Not only is the fashion shown off beautifully, Tim Walker has created that rare thing in fashion- a look so iconic that it still translates today. I've seen these images time and time again and never once have I got bored of them. I'm not sure if I ever will. They are just so lovely.

Born in England and residing in London, Tim has contributed to British Vogue, Italian Vogue, Casa Vogue, Harper's Bazaar and countless others. Fans of Cecil Beaton may be reminded of his work when looking at these scans and Tim himself set up the Cecil Beaton archive at Conde Nast, so there must be some inspiration somewhere in Walker's work from Beaton. 

Cecil Beaton, 1948.
In rediscovering this issue, I've fallen back in love with his evocative, idyllic fantasy world just in time for his newest project- 'The Lost Explorer' a 20-minute film based on Patrick McGrath's short story of the same name from his book 'Blood and Water and Other Stories' previewed yesterday to mark the start of London Fashion Week. Reviews promise that it will be an extension of his photographic work. Looking at his imagery, you sometimes catch yourself willing them to come alive, and the medium of film can finally make that possible.

As well as film and Print, you can find more of his work in 'Pictures' Tim's book of his favourite work, and seriously, if any one reading this would like to buy me this I would pretty much love you forever. I've seen it in Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie in London, it's huge, but visually stunning.

Although I love the rawness of Rankin and the intimacy of Mario Testino, for me no other photographer can capture such scenes without it being tacky or contrived. I still get a little bit excited when I see a Vogue shoot which looks Walker-esque and even more when I see the little white sentence at the bottom of each page reading small and simple 'Tim Walker'.