The year 2020 began with the dramatic wildfires in Australia in January; by February we were moving headlong into a global pandemic with the onset of COVID-19. It is difficult to describe how this time of crisis has changed the world. From the mighty streets of New York City to our own downtown core, the emptiness is a precursor of a new era.
So what does that mean for the world of creatives and of fashion itself here in Seattle? Like everything else, fashion is a global business that has been impacted profoundly by this pandemic. Creativity doesn’t happen in a vacuum; it is driven by social interaction, experiences, how we relate to ourselves and the world around us. It is also a part of human nature, and it is in our nature to adapt, to survive, to thrive. As a community of business owners, media, and creatives, what are the innovators doing in this industry to survive?
The Leadership Collaboration
Jill Donnelly, the owner/buyer of Baby & Company, has long been an avant-garde pioneer of the style scene in Seattle. On a magnificent corner in the heart of Belltown, Baby & Company began in 1976 as an innovative hub of style and when the Donnelly’s purchased it in 2009, they built on this tradition. Focusing on a desire for the unique and inspired by travel and culture, Donnelly has taken the store’s original vision and created her own legacy of what it means to tell the story of yourself through personal style.
Recently, Donnelly moved on a project to make an unprecedented look at fashion in Seattle. Collaborating with photographer Anastasia Babenko who, together with stylist Kim Brooks, the three created an editorial concept that reflected the current situation of social distancing and isolation experienced by all of us during the lockdown from the COVID pandemic. Anastasia Babenko wanted to explore the new way’s photoshoots could take place given the social distance restrictions we are all living within these times. The shoot was done with social distancing rules in place in several empty rooms of The Hotel Sorrento in Seattle. The images capture the isolation of doing a shoot remotely, with models in separate spaces and the results of the shoot shared through screenshots.
Jill Donnelly says, “I think the project showcases the speed at which adaptability can influence how the creative community can quickly change as we move into the New Normals of our work and process.”
Stylist Kim Brooks took on the project of creating a modern feel in the storied hotel through the use of both vintage and current pieces that are featured at Baby and Company. Brooks tells VS she felt that this project was important because of this pivotal time in history. “This time is documented over and over with words, but I wanted to help show it as visual moment in time”, says Brooks.
Photographer Anastasia Babenko told us she spent the first week of lockdown doing ZOOM calls to stay connected. She was fascinated by the FaceTime photoshoots being published online, but saw that no one was using ZOOM as medium for multiple shoots have a lot of people together but separated. Babenko created a group shot without actually having the subjects be together, telling the story of how they are alone, and yet they are not. Acknowledging the difficulty of the world right now with its pain and loss, she felt that by taking photos in separate rooms in the empty yet lovely hotel she could “have a celebration of this empty space and to shift the mood by placing the scene into this beautiful, festive place.”
So how does Seattle as a creative community move forward? As uncertainty looms, businesses large and small are learning to do business in a new way—from private appointments to virtual shopping events, new websites and sharable social media assets. What is also key is working together as a community of media, consumers, business owners, and creatives to connect and support each other as Seattle positions itself to work toward its new future.
The models, part of three different agencies, volunteered their time for this project defined by the times. The Hotel Sorrento provided the rooms and space for the shoot to take place.
Photography by Anastasia Babenko inside the empty Hotel Sorrento.
Styling by Kim Brooks
Wardrobe courtesy of Baby & Company in collaboration with Susan Wheeler, Atelier+Repairs and Kim Brooks. Contact Baby & Company for purchase information.
Ava Lichter, Cole Kippes, Liliana Valencia, Maz Paopao of Heffner Management.
Kalia Castro of SMG Model Management.
Anastasia Mikhanoshina of TCM Models.
Matthew Donnelly, Independent.