I find Laura Holmes deeply engaged in a phone call as I make my way through an enormous photo shoot in Three Mill Studios, a Hollywood-like warehouse complex in East London. They are shooting a new campaign for a major luxury house hold name, and we stroll past extraordinary set designs and tables with the lavish new shoe range before finding a quiet spot in the catering area, to speak about the company that is Laura Holmes Production.
From the first instant, Laura Holmes comes off as focused, relaxed and incredibly engaged with her work. Originally from Nottinghamshire in the Midlands, she was always quite self-oriented towards a career in fashion: from touring the country’s foundation courses and finally choosing Kingston in London aged 18, to embarking on the specialised Fashion Communication and Promotion pathway within Central Saint Martin’s Fashion department. Like many before and after her, she wasn’t too sure exactly which approach to fashion she was interested in, before a Kingston tutor gave her some advice: “He asked me, ‘well what’s more interesting to you – the garment and the way it’s made up, or the image of the garment?’ and I said ‘that’s easy; that’s the image’. That made a lot of sense to me.”
“I think it’s completely essential to do work experience. It’s a brilliant way to learn what you do want to do and what you don’t want to do, and it gives fantastic insight into so many different jobs.”
Miu Miu Resort 2015 by Jamie Hawkesworth
The cross-disciplinary FCP course, then directed by Lee Widdows, prepared Laura for the multifunctional job position she was to pursue in her subsequent career. “First and foremost, I learned how to make a presentation,” she tells me. “And how to tailor needs to a client. In fact, it was quite commercial in that sense.” She mentions the importance of research and the importance of collaborating with your contemporaries — from producing the menswear and womenswear fashion graduate shows to working on a L’Oreal project with the Fashion and Marketing kids.
Quintessentially CSM, Holmes did an astonishing amount of internships and placements through her uni years; ELLE, LOVE, the Independent and acclaimed production company Gainsbury & Whiting. “I think it’s completely essential to do work experience, unfortunately” she argues, before she corrects herself: “… actually, not even unfortunately; it’s a really incredible way to learn. It’s a brilliant way to learn what you do want to do and what you don’t want to do, and gives fantastic insight into so many different jobs.” As it is evidenced in any major production, fashion is full of jobs that don’t necessarily reach the awareness of many people – the behind-the-scenes jobs that often tend to be the most interesting.
CÉLINE AW15 by Juergen Teller
Laura herself was surprised when she encountered Gainsbury and Whiting in a mention in The Independent, and was immediately attracted to that kind of work. “I just thought it sounded really incredible to facilitate designers and their work,” she says. “So I bugged them until they let me come and work for them.” She spent her placement year with them, and continued with them on part-time basis through and after the 4th year of her degree. She briefly flirted with freelance writing after producing her graduate magazine project, but was underwhelmed, to put it mildly, with her pay-check, “or the lack thereof.” Laura Holmes was to stay in production.
It was after six years at G&W that Laura, somewhat running out of steam, decided to go freelance. She was quickly approached by former colleagues and acquaintances with work, and as her commissions grew (and she produced the Wallpaper Design Awards single-handedly), VAT and company registration, and most importantly, help, was needed. “It’s all developed through necessity and requests,” she reflects. Today, she oversees six people full-time with her eponymous company.
“It’s definitely about what you know, but also about who knows what you know.”
Loewe AW15 by Jamie Hawkesworth
Browsing through Laura’s client list, it’s hard not to get a sense of her company’s success in its field. Client include the very elite of luxury goods and fashion publications, like Vogue Italia, i-D, AnOther, Céline, Stella McCartney, Marc Jacobs and J.W. Anderson, and ranges from film, still, editorials, campaigns, TV commercials and digital content. “There is no average day, and we work on every single job in a new way,” she explains, as we try to break down the actual meaning of ‘fashion production’. “What I really enjoy is the mix and cross-pollination of all of those disciplines,” she says, like a true FCP alumni: “I like the contrasts. I like going from a stills project to a TV commercial to a video project to a show. All of those practices inform each other.” Holmes gets a lot of her work from commissioned photographers and directors, as well as directly from clients – the ‘work’ entails instigating all the many components that go into realising a shoot, a video, or a fashion show. “Essentially, we’re there to facilitate the project in the best way possible. It could be finding a location based on a brief; putting a team together; finding the right cinematographer, getting a stylist, a hair stylist, or a make-up artist; doing casting, or finding the perfect casting directors; making sure that the flowers are on brand and nice, etc.” Even the particularities of people’s eating habits is overseen by Holmes: “we keep a record of everyone we’ve ever worked with and their dietary requirements and special requests, and make sure that they’re checked before every job. We know everyone’s wants and needs, so that everyone can do their best of their ability on the job. That’s really important,” she says.
A production-101 would be a constant consideration of two aspects: time and money. Despite the big names, Laura often has to work within strict limitations that reduce options, but not, she argues, necessarily limit creativity: “parameters only make you more creative. I really enjoy a restriction. If you have restrictions, and know you can only work within a certain area, you have to work extra hard to find something amazing or think outside the box and do something different.
“I have no ambition to be Richard Branson.”
HBA Journal Volume One, Pitti Uomo 87 by Colin Dodgson
Now overseeing seven people (including herself), Holmes only has plans of “small expansions,” as she insists on keeping her company small and personal. “I have no ambition to be Richard Branson,” she insists. “The personal aspect of what we do is incredibly important. We don’t do anything in a generic or formulaic way — we do everything from scratch, and I really enjoy that.“ She continues to work with her contemporaries, like photographer Niall O’Brien whom she has worked with since he assisted Sam Taylor Wood, as well as Sharif Hamza since he was assisting Steven Klein. “All of our work, as with most people within the fashion industry, is via word of mouth,” she concludes. “But that’s the way it works, which is why work experience is so important. Those connections are so valuable. It’s definitely about what you know, but also about who knows what you know.”
Words by Jeppe Ugelvig
Cover photo by Jamie Hawkesworth
All images courtesy of Laura Holmes Production Ltd.