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by Alex Brzezicka

The photographer and stylist talk zines, why reading is fundamental and how to make it big by accident.

When we talk intimacy, the picture of romantic love suddenly pops in into our culturally pre-programmed poor minds. While, in some cases, it’s a fantasy worth entertaining, two people crazy about each other, unless on Helen of Troy level, usually won’t shake the world up. The stakes go higher when you find someone you can share not a bed but an obsession with. Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Pharrell Williams and Takashi Murakami. John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Only to name a few. Truth be told, there’s nothing more intimate than creative collaboration.

When Jenny Brough has spotted young stylist Davey Sutton on Instagram and stalked him thoroughly, she fell in love with his aesthetics. Ever since their first shoot together, they knew something special is going on. They’ve grown side by side, through various shared and separate projects. Jenny has thrived collaborating with iconic designer Harris Reed, dazzling singer Anaiis, New Gen couturier Miss Sohee or Drag Race superstar, Bimini. Davey has styled many Diesel campaigns, was appointed Senior Fashion Editor of King Kong Magazine and worked alongside legendary photographers like David LaChapelle or Alasdair McLellan.

Jenny and Davey are a visual power-duo and real-life proof that the fashion industry is not only for cold-hearted solo players. Today, they’re more than ready to present ‘Without You I’m Nothing’, their 36-page long lovechild, and walk us through curvy catwalks of their careers’. In style, of course.

How did you meet?

Jenny: I came across Davey’s work through a mutual old work colleague and I really liked his style. I’ve kind of Insta-stalked him and I was like ‘Hi, I’m Jenny!’ and then we just did our first shoot together, didn’t we?

Davey: Yeah, you were one of my first editorials. Basically, I went backwards in my career. I’ve started doing campaigns and really big shoots before I did any editorial and then when you stalked me…

J: I don’t think I’ve seen even one editorial.

D: I’ve done a couple of things and then that was it. But Jenny is my first proper fashion one.

How did you come up with the idea for ‘Without You I’m Nothing’?

D: We didn’t have one. We already said that to someone else, we were just bored.

J: I was during covid, we shot it back in November.

D: Yeah, we shot it back in November. We were bored. I had a lot of the clothes with me anyway. Well, that’s not true actually. We have been saying for ages that we gonna do a zine and we had actually done test stuff and just fucked around in my garden and stuff with models.

J: It could be certainly more coherent in a way.

D: It didn’t match up because we shot it randomly. It was just a bit chaotic looking so we decided to spend a day to make it look like this [showing the zine].

Did you have any concept going into that?

D: No, Jenny and I work very well together anyway. Everything that we do has a very nice romanticism. We are both perfectionists in our own way. Jenny with technical skills, me with styling.

J: It seems always to have that ‘look’ though we don’t really plan.

D: My friends always know when I shot with Jenny. Actually, when I first started styling and I was shooting with anybody and everybody, the one consistent comment that I always got was ‘who shot this?’ and it was always Jenny because I apparently work well with you.

How would you describe your shared aesthetics?

J: We work quite well together because I love working with colour and Davey’s more like…

D: Black and white.

J: We’ve combined both of our loves together to produce this and, then working with Patrick [Waugh], with all the collages that he did. Brought it all together.

D: We loved all the pictures, they were really, really beautiful but they didn’t flow nicely or not as nice as the 36 pages thing that we wanted. We got Patrick Waugh who is amazing and we just gave him all the images and he said ‘what do you want me to do?’ and we went ‘good luck’. This suit originally is Gucci. It was neon green and it was fucking hideous. It’s a beautiful image on orange but in the zine where everything is pink, black and red to have this green was like ‘argh!’. I said to Patrick, ‘I love that image but I hate that suit, can you do anything with it?’ and he came back with that and it’s really, really beautiful. He helped make it more cohesive, sleek and appealing.

J: It’s quite nice to see how someone takes your work because I’ve never worked with collage artists before. I’ve seen his work obviously so we trusted him. It’s nice to hand in some things and then see what he does with it and have someone else to have visual input in it.

D: He had a lot of respect for us as well because he didn’t really butcher anything. He didn’t butcher in a bad way. He just added tiny, little things to it, just photocopied them. Just did like little things. It wasn’t like he needs to slice everything and rip it up and paint all over it. He was very respectful of us but at the same time made it a hell of a lot better.

What about the dynamic between you two, did you fight over creative decisions?

D: We literally had a fight 30 seconds before we put the Zoom call on. That’s what we do.

J: We fight and then we get over it.

D: We’re like annoying brother and sister. We bicker and it’s over in two seconds.

Like a love-hate relationship?

D: Walking a line of love and hate for sure. But no, we didn’t argue over creative stuff. We were more aligned.

J: Yeah, I think generally it’s maybe about one image or two.

D: There’s one image I didn’t really like. Jenny fought for it and actually when I see this image now, it’s beautiful. That’s the other thing. Our art taste isn’t exactly the same but we trust each other when we do image selection together. I’d say 80 to 90 per cent of the time we’re aligned with what we like in terms of how images have been shot and styling. There’s that 20 per cent where we argue but that’s important to the creative process.

Last week you had a launch night of the zine at Photobookcafe, how did you enjoy it?

J: I reckon we had such a good time considering the weather.

D: Considering the weather was appalling. We had a really good turnout. We sold about a bunch. It was cute. It was just nice as the first event that I’ve been to since covid rules were relaxed here.

J: It was a nice mix of people as well. Friends and fashion industry people.

D: Yeah, I had a few people turn up that I was surprised to see but we’re very supported which is cute. It was nice to have people come together, celebrate, be proud of us and buy it and say like ‘well done’. It made it worth it because…

J: …we looked at it for so long…

D: … that we hated it.

J: We fucking hated it and then to have people seeing it for the first time and get their reaction, it makes you like it again.

D: The prints at the café, just seeing them big, it looked really cool, and on the screen and stuff. It’s nice to see other people appreciate something that we’re so bored of.

How do you find working in the post-pandemic creative industry now that you’re back? Davey, I’ve seen that you’ve been on tour with Yungblud.

D: It’s really interesting with him because last Friday and last night, he was doing big shows in Kentish town, and it was really weird to be around that many people and basically, we have to wear, all his team has to wear masks and not really allowed to mix with the crowd. The security guard takes us if we want to watch the show, up to a little VIP bit and we’re away from everybody because if he gets covid then he’s gonna lose a ton of money. I’ve been double vaccinated and I’m happy for that and all the stuff but it’s gonna take a little while for things to return to normal. Even on shoots and stuff, I think it’s important for everyone to wear a mask, wash hands, socially distance. It’s annoying and I hate doing it but until this situation sorts itself out [we have to]. The best part about our job prior was travelling and flying the model that you love from some country and even for me, getting samples. I used to be able to get clothes from Paris or Italy or wherever with next day delivery and now it’s the risk that every one in ten parcels gets stopped. Sometimes it’s your main for the shoot and you’re like ‘fuck’. Renting in covid sucks.

What is your advice to young creatives just starting out in the fashion industry?

D: Don’t do it!

J: That’s what someone told me once.

D: What? Don’t do it?

J: Yes. Don’t do fashion.

D: And now you’re here. No, I mean. What advice would I give? Literally, don’t do it. Have a backup. No. What’s your advice?

J: For me, the turning point was not always looking at other people’s work. If you research, look at the older paintings, old school books and stuff. It’s so easy to get impressed by what’s popular at the moment.

D: Looking at, that’s such a good thing to say, works like David LaChapelle, David Bailey, whoever, even that their work is available online, it’s not the same as a book. It’s not the same as going to a gallery. I get mood boards sent all the time from people that want to work together and I’m like ‘you’ve literally just fucking put the first images that come on Google Images and whacked it on the mood board’. People don’t research and do their work.

J: It’s just current images.

D: Yes. It’s like people wants us to reference the shoot that we shot six months ago and I’m like ‘what the fuck?’. Referencing images and all that stuff, do your research. Do your homework. That’s how you get creative. Be inspired by art. Be inspired by music. Don’t just rely on fucking Instagram or the rest of it. Although annoyingly Instagram is a huge part of our jobs now, sadly… What’s the John Waters’ quote that’s my favourite? ‘If you go home with somebody and they don’t have books, don’t fuck ‘em’. I always laugh at that because books are so important. If you’re not a reader that’s fine but just visually, pick something up. As a kid, I was always inspired by people’s autobiographies and how fucked up their lives were and how they’ve got their careers. I certainly didn’t plan to be a stylist. It was an accident.

J: Was it?

D: God, it’s like a four-hour story. I was born here but I moved to London from Canada, got a job in Gap at Oxford Street. Really hated serving customers. I wanted to work with the visual team. I thought all they did was drinking coffee and hanging out so I joined and realised it’s actually a lot of work, dressing mannequins, but I was weirdly good at it. Head office noticed and they promoted me, promoted me and then I got a job at Matches. One of my best friends, Nicola Formichetti, started working at Diesel and he came around to mine with a bottle of whiskey, at the time I didn’t realise, but it was like a really vague job interview because he obviously came from Lady Gaga’s world and all that fabulous high fashion and I didn’t, but I knew retail and he was just made creative director of Diesel. He invited me to come and join him and I honestly thought I was going to be steaming clothes and organising racks. He just basically gave me a fucking lookbook, did the first three looks and went ‘you know what you’re doing, I’ll see you later’.

Sounds like one of the best job interviews anyone could ask for.

D: Also, what he didn’t know at the time, I’ve been up for three days partying with my best friend so just before he came around, I showed my best friend out of the door, had a shower, pretend to sober up and was like ‘hey girl!’.

What about you Jenny, why photography?

J: I didn’t actually want to do photography, to begin with. I wanted to work with animals when I was doing my A-Levels but you need to do three sciences and I wasn’t clever enough to pass them all. At the same time, I started doing Photography A-Level and I just fell in love with it. I didn’t know what area I wanted to do for a really long time. I went to study it at uni but I went to Cornwall uni.

D: You went to Cornwall? Cute.

J: Yeah. I did literally no work because I’m a massive beach bum so I just spent my whole time surfing or being in the scene and stuff. I left uni wanting to go to music. One day I decided to try fashion and then I just became hooked and was like ‘this is good fun’. It’s taken a while to build up because I don’t have anyone in fashion in my family. I’m the only creative in my whole family. I have cousins that were like mathematicians and accountants.

D: My mum’s a nurse and my dad’s a fireman so when I’ve started ‘playing’ with clothes they were like ‘what the fuck is he doing?’. Then I could fly back to Canada, buy my own plane ticket and take them out for dinner so they were like ‘he’s doing ok’. My advice from a styling point of view is ‘do not pay to study styling’. It breaks my heart when I hear kids say ‘I’m studying styling, can I assist you or intern?’. I don’t personally believe that it’s something that you can study. It’s something that’s hands-on. I know it’s a difficult industry but I think it’s important to be as hands-on as possible. I don’t think it’s something you can learn in the classroom, sit there and have the teacher explain to you. It’s either you’ve got it or you don’t. Photography at least is technical; you can learn the technical nerdy things. But styling is like, you know, don’t pay for that. I’m probably going to get in a lot of trouble for saying that. I’ll probably have some teacher or professor being like ‘don’t lecture me’.

J: Actually, for me, uni was uni life. Years of just like…

D: Drinking and sex.

You could get that for free, not a few grand a year.

D: Exactly. Although, I say fuck uni but then…

J: What about CSM?

D: Yeah, I just never went so I’m just thinking fashion for me. It’s not to say people shouldn’t go because I wish, to a degree that I had gone but not for styling. I think the best is learning by watching and doing.

J: No one ever once asked me if I’ve got a degree.

D: Never. When I was in school, they were like ‘you need to get these good grades, people are check’. No one in my fucking life was like ‘did you graduate high school?’. Yes, I did but no one gives a shit. It’s about the portfolio. Who have you worked with? What had you done? Who have you assisted? That’s it. Unfortunately, that’s also annoying. ‘Who do you know’ is a really annoying one.

What are you working on right now?

D: We’re taking a break. Retired. It’s August.

J: It’s not much happening right now. We’ve got some nice stories coming out next month.

D: We’ve done quite a lot of stuff. Not together but we’ve done a lot of other editorials separately. It’s coming out next month.

J: I mean, it’s a slow thinking process at the moment about what I’m gonna start working on again when September comes but for now, I need a bit of a brain-rest.

D: Summer holiday. Well, as much of summer holiday as you can have in this country.

Find the zine available to purchase online here. Scroll down for a sneak peek inside…

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