As I sit here in London and look out at the rain and contemplate putting the heating on I realise, most definitely here anyway - Fall is upon us.
It is by far my personal favourite time of the year - London can be super sticky and hot in Summer, grey and rainy in Spring and depressingly dark and uninspiring in the Winter, September and October here is usually glorious sunshine and blue skies, a little bit of warmth still and the stunning colours of leaves as they change before they fall.
Try to capture that - all of THAT - in a photoshoot and you are creating yourself a little bit of a tall order. But try we do...and as always I sit here thinking WHERE can we go this time that hits the spot. It boils down to a few needs:
1- is there anywhere nice that we can rent for 10 people to stay for 10 days?
2 - will the leaves have changed and still look beautiful?
3 - will it be crisp and dry with no rain?
4 - will it be warm enough for kids not to freeze during the shoot?
5 - will the samples be ready in time?
6 - will we get any models!!!?
You would think its all about just turning up and taking pics but my goodness the stress that goes into these things. Any one of those things above (especially 5 and 6) can ruin a very well planned trip which usually encompasses us all flying to the US and doing the shoots there.
So for this Fall we opted for Tennessee again but a slightly different location to previous shoots. Various beautiful spots in the Great Smoky Mountains such as Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, Sevierville and Townsend.
So let's think about this step by step....could we find anywhere nice to call our home for ten days?
Well absolutely - thank you Airbnb for providing us with an overwhelming amount of incredible properties to pick from. This is clearly the land of family vacations and the sheer offering of very large properties was astounding.
In my head I wanted log cabin - with roaring fire (and a Labrador rolled out in front if possible) We got just that (minus the Lab) and ran around the property like excited school kids when we all arrived.
About 15 mins west of Pigeon Forge, nestled in the forested mountains we managed to get a huge three storied cabin complete with games room, cinema and hot tub.
These shoots sound like a blast - and they are - but I might just add the hot tub was used once by two people and I think we tried the cinema but all fell asleep during the movie - because these shoots are also exhausting!
One thing that is evident - and something I really don't ever think about as a person nestled in a house in Central London is there are bears. I thought it was a joke. The signs. The warnings. I just thought that was some cute reference to 'you're in the mountains' nut oohhhhh no - they're real - and they're everywhere apparently! And we saw some! More of that later!
Looking out from our multiple balconies we were surrounded by stunning trees that were sadly leafless by just a few days it seems...but hey ho - it means there's lots on the ground for playing with and kicking around in!
So house- great ... trees a little disappointing but we can cope - but was it crisp and rain free....oh goodness me...no.
When the sun was out it was STUNNING and I could have jumped with joy at the pics we were getting - the clothes and the colours popped, the kids were smiling and all was good in the world.
But if you throw in the days we had rain...well...damp and dreary us Brits can do quite well but it REALLY rained on some days and we had to suspend our usual upbeat glass half-full attitude and accept not even the most waterproof of kids and clothes could step outside. We literally cancelled whole days and gave in to the rain Gods.
The rain had been in the area the week before also which is why the leaves had fallen - but it also meant the ground was sodden...just delightful for trying to persuade little babies to sit on!
And what about the temperature - well...I would say it was uncomfortably cold...one morning was miserably freezing and we delayed the shoot for a few hours just so the temperature could lift above zero. You never want a baby that turned blue in a photo...thats not a good look for us as a responsible team of adults and certainly won't help sell a piece of clothing lol.
So whilst I don't think there was a single day it felt mild...when the sun did grace us with its presence that few degrees extra helped and made it more comfortable and we just sped everything up to get double the pics in half the time before it disappeared again.
Now of course no shoot can happen without samples and models- and clearly - just in time we got the clothes but wow we had problems getting the kids!
We don't usually have an issue - we are normally overwhelmed with applicants ad on this occasion we started with a huge list but as the weather worsened, the rain got heavier, the temperatures dropped - there was even talk of snow at one point...models started dropping like flies...one whole afternoon had to be abandoned due to nobody turning up!
But what does one do if a whole afternoon shoot is cancelled...well...we are in the Smoky Mountains and it only seemed appropriate to go on a little road trip and fill the time seeing if we really COULD see these supposed bears that signs tell us everywhere to avoid.
We joined an 11 mile loop called Cades Cove where you can supposedly see black bears... and honestly, I eat my words because convinced we wouldn't we didn't see just one bear...we saw thirteen! In a 90min drive around this beautiful area we were amazed. So..the signs are real. I stand corrected!
As always... thanks to adorable little ones, the clothes looked amazing and we all
drew a collective sigh of relief as yet another collection wowed even us!
But thank you also to our amazing team who braved the cold, steamed (and re-steamed) over 1200 pieces of clothing, dealt with me being moody about my MacBook suddenly giving up (thank you Apple in Knoxville for rescuing me!).
And a special thanks to my sister Tracey. We NOW know the true reason for her waking most mornings feeling awful and full of aches and pains was that she had COVID (which is so 2020) but soldiered on with a smile and a wicked right hand steaming arm!
And so to our thousands of Me & Henry fans - we give you ....drum roll... Fall 23
Mark, Owner and designer of Me & Henry
Click on the image below to browse the entire collection!