Broadband where there is none. Permission to carry a gun on a public street. The world’s fashionistas are a demanding lot, wanting a wild, windswept moor as a location one minute, a quaint cobbled street the next. Then they throw a hissy fit and insist they simply CANNOT do without a crumbling stately home complete with overgrown grounds, moat and a family of elves living in the basement.
OK, that last one was made up. But Marie Owen is accustomed to making pretty much anything happen in the name of fashion. When Chanel was looking for a ruined Scottish castle with a great hall for its Metier d’Art extravaganza, it turned to her for help. When Anthropologie called for misty moors, she took the team to Skye, and when Boden had a vision of its happy, impeccably dressed families frolicking on a grassy beach, Owen knew just the spot.
“My husband had the idea for the business,” she says. “He’s a photographer and lived in Manchester. Then, when we got together and he moved to Scotland, he was just blown away by it. Part of his job was travelling internationally on fashion shoots but he had no idea Scotland was so beautiful.”
Working as air stewardess at the time, three children and redundancy came their way and, by 2006, she was ready to put the idea into action, selling Scotland’s unique qualities to brands as a location for stills photography.
“It doesn’t have to be a really grand castle,” says Owen, “it could be a broken-down wall with a gate on a hillside. You look for something that has its own style.”
That could mean she’s taking a team from Tatler to Skye one day and the big cahunas from Carine Roitfeld’s CR Fashion Book to Gosford House the next, an old sawmill for a Polish fashion label another. “It’s about character, having that special something.”
And while those of us who live in Scotland might say, “But what about the rubbish weather?” Owen says, “A lot of our campaigns are focused on autumn/winter collections so they’re coming for that light, a little bit of mist; they’re not really coming for sunny weather. Actually, quite often they’re saying, ‘It’s too sunny.’”
Her job is not just to find the perfect location either; it is to arrange all the logistics involved in getting a group of fashion people there and catering for their every impetuous need.
“We have a Japanese client who wanted to camp overnight so they could get certain times of day and night, and the location they wanted was only accessible by boat. So you speak to someone who has a boat. And if you need to go up a mountain, you get a mountain guide. On one shoot they wanted us to walk a micro-pig down a street on a lead. We contacted the Micropig Association of Scotland, and apparently it’s illegal to walk a micropig down a public road, but you’re allowed to walk a piglet.
“We do everything they need us to do and have a budget to do – all the production support from the minute they land at the airport, from picking them up to where they’re going to stay, how they get from hotel to set, permits, access, food and toilets and ironing things on set ... everything. If there’s a boat involved, it’s working out tide times and safety, and what kind of boat they want.
“I’ve never had anyone come and say they didn’t like it. Sometimes they come and say, ‘It was Edinburgh or New York ... and we’ve got Edinburgh.’ Like they’re disappointed. And at the end they say, “My God, I had no idea!” n
Vanity Fair for Chanel
“This was photographed very early in the morning, after Chanel’s Metier d’Art show. It was so busy at the Location Scotland studio, producing this shoot alongside another for Karl Lagerfeld. I always think producers are like swans, working maniacally under the water but looking graceful and completely in control to the outside world.”
Pringle of Scotland
“This was one of Location Scotland’s first jobs and one we will never forget. It was incredible to work with Tilda Swinton. She was such a gem, and invited us round to her house for tea and cake. We had to wait for hair dye to be delivered in order for her to match the surroundings for the shoot. And when the caterer turned up she thought she was there for Pringle crisps.”
Bamburgh beach, Northumberland
“We have worked with Boden several times and they are fantastic clients. We use East Lothian beaches a lot – Gullane, Seacliff, Cove, with its beautiful harbour walls. But this shoot actually took place in Northumberland. The team had to build the hut they used in the shoot.”
Isle of Skye and Edinburgh
“Due to the long hours of light on Skye, the shoot days were long and fun. Anthropologie’s creative director Trevor Lunn is of Scottish descent and it was the first time he’d been back in the country for several years. He was so happy to bring Anthropologie to Scotland for this shoot. It transpired that Trevor’s parents lived just down the road from mine – small world.”
Isle of Skye
“This was a hugely successful campaign for the German catalogue company and the first time they had shot in Scotland. It was a fantastic shoot to work on – we took the whole team to a local farm and had a spit roast with plenty of food, music and drinks – all great fun.”
“We cast local men as models for this shoot, which worked incredibly well and gave a real edge to the finished shots.”