Contrary to the way things might have come off on the show, I actually think it’s important to sometimes stand back and give other people a chance to style for Markus and Indrani. We work together as a team, not just on set, but around the clock. The end result is the product of all of that creative tension and synergy. On the other hand, I know it’s important to maintain a certain amount of perspective so you don’t become creatively stagnant or overly self-referential. Working with other people on different kinds of projects is also very important and helps keep us centered artistically. And hopefully we can all bring that energy back to the team.
I sometimes forget how much respect Markus and Indrani have for me in this regard, and I think it showed in their desire to come out and support me during the Thuy fashion show I styled, even though they were in the midst of preparing for a shoot for Cosmopolitan. This part of our relationship might not get as much attention from the cameras, but we really want to see each other evolve and succeed as individuals.
We also get a chance to understand each other better when we see each other from a new perspective. That’s part of the reason why I was so excited to travel to Indrani’s home in India and see where she grew up. The other reason, which wasn’t mentioned on the show, is that I actually spent part of my childhood growing up in a boarding school in northern India. So although I’d never been to Calcutta before, in some ways it felt like coming home for me too.
India is a very personal and spiritual place for me. There’s a lot going on, there are people everywhere and the climate can be really hard on you if you're not prepared. So while I could understand why this might be a shock for Markus, the environment really resonated with me, and I saw a lot of potential for our shoot.
Indrani’s family’s palace was breathtaking. Emerging from the vines and jungle you could see countless layers of history stacked on top of each other. The place had a mysterious and enchanting ambiance, which I knew would come through even though we were working with a small crew and limited resources. Even though Indrani had been away from modeling for some time, I knew that her relationship with this place would shine through if I could make her feel comfortable and at ease.
It was around this time that the heat over 110 degrees and grittiness of the jungle started getting to Markus. When he refused to show me what the shots were looking like on the viewfinder—something he’s never done before—I realized that he was shutting down. Then when he yelled at me, I instinctively knew it was time to snap him out of his funk. My approach was more forceful than usual, but in the end, the benefit of working together as closely as we do, is that when you really need to, you can offer some tough love. And that’s part of the reason we never fail to execute, and this was no exception.
I think something else that contributed to the tension of the situation, was that it meant a lot to Indrani that we see this side of her and share this magical place where she’d grown up. And I really wanted Markus to acknowledge that.
That’s why it was reassuring when Markus got to see the children at Indrani’s school and he finally understood what the whole trip had meant to her.
For me seeing the children was very personal. I remember when I was going to school in India it broke my heart to see so many children my age excluded from a decent education because of poverty. As a foreigner receiving an education I felt a lot of guilt. Seeing Indrani taking on this problem and getting to be a part of that, meant a lot to me. I really admire her and her father for this work of love.
In the end, coming home to the photo exhibit and getting a chance to step back and look at what we’d all accomplished together over these past nine years that I’ve worked with them was a really wonderful experience. But more than just seeing the work we produced, I feel like we all got a chance to stand back and take a fresh look at each other, and realize how far we’ve all come.