For those of you in America, you might not believe this, most of us in the UK haven't heard of Olivia Palermo. (But then again, until a few years ago, it was hard to believe you hadn't heard of Victoria Beckham). And as for the rest of the world, you might even be thinking, who cares.
The only reason I knew who she was is because I love following the Red Carpet Fashion Awards, and I'd often vote for her for best red carpet look. I was so curious I even looked her up on wikipedia. You see, we don't get The City here (if they did show it, they'd have to call it 'Oh By the Way There is Another City on the Planet Besides London').
Before we went into the Topshop Unique show, I was shooting people being fast tracked into the vast, amazing Topshop flower market venue. And I saw this girl who just radiated such beautiful niceness, entering alone and sans entourage (and also, surprisingly in hindsight, unnoticed), but when I shot her, my flash went off. She glanced up, startled, & we smiled and waved. I still didn't know who she was. The photo wasn't very good, and I'd probably have deleted it later.
But after the show, there was suddenly this absolute media feeding frenzy for a few people right in front of me: Peaches, for starts (or was it Pixie?) and Olivia. People kept asking me who is this girl and I'd try and explain. I was right next to her, just shooting her while she did the interviews, and man, it was scary as hell. I only experienced it for a few minutes, and it was exhausting. And, in the midst of all that madness, strangely lonely.
Finally, she was done. A minder was dragging her off, so I simply said:
'I didn't shoot you earlier because of who you were: I thought you were just a pretty girl.' She looked at me for a moment, one human being to another, as if to say 'thank you for not wanting anything from me.' She thanked me, smiled a real smile, and was whisked away.
(Oh and btw: she's in top to toe Topshop, of course. And those wood chips formed the catwalk that snaked thru the space: more on that in a future post.)
It is such a strange world. There were countless pretty girls in the vast room who escaped unnoticed and undocumented. True, she has an absolutely beautiful face: from a photographer's point of view, she is perfection, because she radiates something so pure from within. I've seen people put on that professional smile, but she truly smiles with her eyes.
It's funny, when you're in the midst of the storm that is a fashion week, you only later discover other people had similar experiences. I've been meaning to post this, and just discovered that Garance, too, posted on Olivia, and said something similar, but more succinctly, but it all boils down to the same things: it takes a special person to handle this kind of media circus with dignity and grace.