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Exploring skate culture & photography with Size? and House of Vans

BA (Hons) Fashion Communication student Lucy Timbrell reflects on her cohort's experience working on a brief for Size? and House of Vans, styling and photographing in response to skate culture.

Guest blog: Lucy Timbrell, BA (Hons) Fashion Communication


On Tuesday 22 February, second-year BA (Hons) Fashion Communication students headed to digital hub/cinema/skate park/gallery/bar ‘House Of Vans’ (HOV), London for a collaborative project with footwear and clothing retailer Size?.

Having been briefed, the cohort was welcomed by staff and acclaimed photographer Leo Sharp, who kicked off with a workshop discussing the culture of skateboard photography, how to approach lighting and composition, and tasking us to think about styling and cultural representation. Students developed responses that reflected ‘skater’ and ‘anti-skater’ themes through the use of the location and styling.

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Photographer Leo Sharp gives his top tips on skate photography

HOV is a non-profit community project under the arches of Waterloo, HOV houses a number of stone tunnels each one dedicated to a different activity. The first tunnel houses art exhibitions and projects, currently looking at the history of Vans’ evolution. Tunnel two is a cinema with accompanying bean bags for a chilled vibe, and tunnel three is a music venue where Metallica, Foo Fighters and Dizzee Rascal have all played. Tunnels five and six include the bowl, for skating and BMX.

I caught up with my fellow students Georgie Tombs and Sara Voce, who chatted about their experience at ‘House of Vans’ and their ‘skater’ and ‘anti-skater’ outcomes.

Georgie described HOV as casual, but a professional and fun environment to work in, remarking that she was in her element. “Rough and ready” were words Sara used to describe the space in which she captured her skater style images. Georgie and Sara worked together and felt the style, atmosphere, and brief were perfect for them. Sara is looking for a future career in streetwear so the workshop was the perfect opportunity for her to explore her creativity and get some industry experience. The location was versatile, with a photo booth, a stage, a cafe and a skating bowl, providing plenty of ways for the second-year class to make the space their own, with room for both feminine and masculine styling.

The experience at House of Vans set her [Sara] up with knowledge and tools that gave her the confidence to push herself and her creativity.
- Guest writer Lucy Timbrell

A pair of Vans were an obvious choice of shoe to be worn on the day for both students. Sara actively buys into the brand for herself and her family, so when styling her choice of outfit it was pretty easy to find a good fit. She took an effortless approach to the skater shoot to match the brand's vibe, flared leather-look trousers, a leopard print fur jacket and leopard print Vans to match, a jumper and a Vans cap. To finish off the image, they used a longboard to emphasise the skater theme.

As a contrast to, and to fit the second part of the brief being anti-skater, Georgie went for a Vans t-shirt, ballerina skirt, tights and pointed ballet shoes which were eventually switched out for some pink slip-on Vans further into the shoot once her feet had reached their limit!

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To begin with, Georgie and Sara tried the shoot without extra lighting but the images lacked the moodiness and edgy feel they were looking for. Once they incorporated a flash, the results were much more suited to the plan they came to the location with. Adding lighting resulted in a shadow behind the model and it captured the texture and feel of the location well. The walls were tough, solid brick walls, the students were looking to add depth to this and add feeling to the image through the location which the lighting highlighted. The images went from flat with minimal texture, to an image with depth, shadow and a touch of atmosphere.

Mood boards were put together beforehand, but with no knowledge of what to expect when entering HOV the students had to improvise a plan with skate parks found online, all of them outside. Despite the fact that the HOV is an inside venue, Georgie and Sara’s plan worked well, in terms of both styling and location.

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Photos by Georgie Tombs and Sara Voce

Georgie felt the workshop at HOV made her shift her perspective and approach to styling and photography. She initially thought of placing a model in the bowl or the indoor skatepark and getting an image of the model posing with a skateboard. Being in the HOV environment helped her be more creative when placing models and think deeper than just an image of a model looking like they could be a skater. Instead, she worked to create a feeling that the Vans customer could relate to. Sara said, “Vans is more of a lifestyle brand… people often wear it as a fashion choice but the brief was skate and we wanted to target the skating audience as that is who we would be marketing to.”

I asked Georgie and Sara if Vans was a brand they'd like to work for in the future: Georgie said, “If I was given the opportunity I would definitely say yes! But surf is more my style, Vans as a brand are more family-oriented and I like to target the Gen Z demographic.” Sara said, “I am currently doing an internship at a skate brand, Flatspot. I love to work with the high-end skate style across a versatile array of brands, Vans included.”

“Eye-opening” were words Georgie used to describe the workshop and she also enjoyed working in a completely new space by getting out of the studio and pushing her creativity on location. The workshop was really helpful in building up experience for Sara before she embarked on her next adventure at her internship with ‘Flatspot’. It set her up with knowledge and tools that gave her the confidence to push herself and her creativity.

The trip was extremely beneficial for all students that were able to go and the images show great success for both Georgie and Sara, well done!