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Just as the winter chill started trickling into the corners of the Cape, a beautiful project unfolded in and around Paris.

“It’s about fellowship and the unity of brands which share a common vision, and mission to contribute their strengths and create something grander than one brand could do alone. It’s like fitting all the pieces of a puzzle together to make something larger than the sum of its parts.”   – Stephen Van Eeden

A close-up of Ozbob design with a – Christine Atelier (Milliner) & Stonz Diamonds jewellery.

Every fashion photoshoot requires a suitable muse, typically clad in designer attire dreamed up by an artist. Tasked with capturing them is a skilled photographer with the eye to illuminate both. What transpires before these final moments, however, are a sequence of events that are essential for the culmination of the final product. Orchestrated by a handpicked individual or team of people, the masterpiece would be incomplete without them.

While the multifaceted project fuelled by creativity and collaboration came to fruition in three days, the inspiration, ideation, planning and preparations started long before.

The inspiration

The inspiration was drawn from Stephen Van Eeden’s first international shoot in New York City in 2019. Here, he joined forces with photographer Du Wayne Denton, videographer Philipp Stuvecke, make-up artist Alicia Buckle and model Janine Tugonon – 1st runner-up at Miss Universe 2012. It resulted in an exceptional project, bringing to light the phenomenal ability that a prominent social figure possesses to shed a unique light on brands.

The beginning

Three years later (delayed from 2020 to 2022), travels commenced, starting with Fashion Designer and Project Creative Director Stephen Van Eeden, Director of Photography Christine Le Roux and about 150 kilograms of luggage.

During the shoot, Stephen and Christine were assisted by MMXMS, Paula Zapata and Katerina Meyvial, responsible for Apparel, Cinematography Direction and Coordination & Planning.

Selecting remarkable locations was of paramount importance and while it was no small feat to secure them, the sets ranged from utterly romantic to undeniably iconic. The model for the photoshoot was Namibian beauty, Chanique RabeMiss Supranational 2021 and the first woman to bring this international crown home to Africa (not to mention Stephen’s fashion intern in 2020!).

The shoot

Day one began at the mysterious Chateau de la Houssière – an elegant, exquisitely restored countryside estate located in the heart of Brie region, a quintessential couture backdrop.

Chani photographed on the gorgeous stairs of Château De La Houssière in a graphic floral embroidered gown with pearl teardrop details by Stephen Van Eeden Atelier. Jewellery & hair-accessories – Stonz Diamonds & Relier Design

From there, the scenic city of Paris played stage to a fiery red gown flaunted on a typical French apartment balcony.

Vibrant red beaded evening gown by Stephen van Eeden Atelier on a balcony in the heart of Paris. Jewellery – Viljoen Jewellers.

Next, was the Paris Opera, which complemented both the magical dress as well as the glorious architecture.

Chani photographed in a vibrant red beaded evening gown by Stephen van Eeden Atelier in front of Opera Garnier. Jewellery – Viljoen Jewellers.

Early the following morning, the Louvre Pyramid was the perfect place to start the day, the dazzling mirrored reflections beautifully echoing the volume, texture and colour of the crimson dress.

A pink tulle tiered ballgown by Stephen van Eeden Atelier at the Louvre Museum. Jewellery – Viljoen Jewellers.

Pont de Bir-Hakeim – a bridge with a beautiful view of the Eiffel Tower – was the next stage for the latest MMXMS high fashion pieces, an innovative collection with strong mixed African and Eastern influences.

MMXMS High-fashion editorial on the Pont de Bir-Hakeim. Accessorised with Ozbob and Christine Atelier (Milliner).

This was followed by a Parisian rooftop, a temporary treasure secured after much research and networking.

Enjoying the sunset from a Parisian rooftop wearing a glamorous Stephen Van Eeden Atelier ensemble. Jewellery – Viljoen Jewellers.

Come sunset, the team headed straight for the Seine to a sought-after spot near the magical Eiffel to catch it sparkling at dusk.

A night photoshoot on the banks of the Seine. Chani dressed in a Stephen van Eeden Atelierevening gown complemented with a Christine Atelier (Milliner) headpiece.

The final day’s footage was captured in several locations, beginning at the inner courtyard of the Palais Royal at Colonnes de Buren, an enigmatic art installation by Daniel Buren.

Think provocative and bold pieces in a marble monochrome print, paired with striking red Dior lips against gentle yet graphic black and white striped pillars.

Monochrome printed maxi-dress by Stephen van Eeden at Le Deux Plateaux. Accessorised by Ozbob, Christine Atelier (Milliner) & Stonz Diamonds jewellery.

Onward they went, first to the bustling Paris Métro and then Avenue Montaigne, followed by a tranquil courtyard in the 1st arrondissement enveloped by chic Parisian cafes.

A fashion moment at the Metro in a Stephen Van Eeden maxi-dress. Accessories by Ozbob, Christine Atelier (Milliner) & Stonz Diamonds.

Then, it was the symbolic Arc de Triomphe’s turn at the western end of the Champs-Élysées, an imposing, silent witness to a luxurious red jumpsuit.

Stopping the traffic at the Arc de Triomphe’s. Accessories – Jewellery by Viljoen Jewellers

Pont Alexandre III, a deck arch bridge spanning the Seine, along with Petit Palais, housing the City of Paris Museum of Fine Arts, saw the last look – a dramatic black ballgown, accented by regal gold trims in the background that adorn both historical landmarks.

Full circle Cinderella moment at the Petit Palais. dressed in a black Stephen Van Eeden Atelier ballgown. Accessories – Relier Design & Viljoen Jewellers

The artists

Chanique’s hair and make-up were in the talented hands of Paris-based stylist Alesia Solo while the cosmetics used were from French luxury house, Dior via Dior Beauty South Africa.

Adorning Chanique was sensational jewellery from Stonz Diamonds and Viljoen Jewellers while Christine’s Atelier Millinery, based in Lekki, Nigeria, produced the most exquisite avant-garde inspired hats – the art of millinery at its finest.

A bejewelled headpiece was envisioned and brought to life by Reliér design – one-of-a-kind accessories handmade by Chantel Wirth.

Handbags, resort wear and eyewear were splendidly sorted by Xyza Savanna and OZBOB EyeART – the former, a design studio focused on slow fashion and interior design, the latter renowned for embellished sunglasses and unforgettable eyewear accessories.

Organisers extraordinaire

On the coordination front, Katerina Meyvial was assisted by fabulous fashion designer Amberlea Van Vianen, currently based in Toulouse, as well as the Stephen Van Eeden Atelier studio assistants, Aqueelah Mohammed and Annette Grobler. Taking care of all the journey logistics was Lyndill Cilliers from Travel Counsellors – an indispensable part of the travels.

Culinary delights

Elevating the entire experience were proudly South African delicacies by Marnella Macaron Artistry and Méthode Cap Classique (MCC) – Simonsig Wine Estate. A French connection, MCC is produced using the same classic process as Champagne which entails creating a second fermentation in the bottle.

A balcony picnic in soft pink linen twinset by Xyza Savanna enjoying Simonsig Méthode Cap Classique and Marnella Macarons. Sunglasses by Ozbob and jewellery by Stonz Jewellers.

Media magicians

Helping to share this enchanting story is Publication Partner ASA MAGAZINE which offers a heady mix of fashion, luxury, and entertainment with an African edge. ASA is led by founder and creative director Reynold Agge, an enigmatic entrepreneur hailing from Edo State, Nigeria.

Words | Natascha Strauss
Images | Du Wayne Denton