Back in January, when life felt very different, our creative team headed to Provence, France, to shoot our spring collection in a spectacular 16th-century property. Months of planning unfolded into a week of travel and shooting for the team of 12 (13, if you include Napo the dog) and resulted in the imagery you’ll see below.
Something from Stories With our stores closed for the time being and delivery services working extra hard, we knew that not everyone would be able to get hold of the spring edition of our lifestyle anthology, Stories. So, rather than printing it, we’re publishing all the articles on our Neptune journal instead, including this one. That way you can still read it, wherever you are in the world.
Monday 13th January With their lorry painstakingly and fully packed, Neptune drivers Sam and Dave set off for the Channel Tunnel. As they drove from Dover to Calais, third driver Mark also hit the road to head for the ferry. A long delay, followed by a stormy sea and a little lie down on the deck (where an elderly French lady recommended he put his finger in his ear to stop the sickness) and Mark finally made it to the mainland (no thanks to Storm Brendan). Sam and Dave had a significantly less troublesome trip on the Tunnel – lesson learnt, perhaps.
Tuesday 14th January After a final day of office-based planning, Neptune’s in-house stylist, Meaghan, flew to Nice, along with stylists Sally and Jane, styling assistant Rebecca, and set builder Gareth. They navigated Nice airport to track down their rental car (if you’ve been there, you’ll understand why it took so long) and set off for the pretty village of Moissac Bellevue, deep in Provence. In need of fresh flowers as props, the team played spot-the-florist along the way – and as the team’s only French speaker, Jane saved the day and managed to order some small plants and ferns that would come in handy in various photos.
As the light was fading, the team reached the chateau and were met by owners, Marie-Christine and Louis, who spoke only French (thank you again, Jane). The chateau is their passion project – a rambling, historic building, and now home – that the couple have lovingly restored while retaining many of the original features. Taking a first tour around, the team knew they were in for a special week.
Finally, photographer Chris and his assistant Alex arrived, straight from another shoot in Morocco and, after a quick production meeting over dinner, it was time for bed. The team had assembled.
Wednesday 15th January With all drivers safely arrived, the morning was spent unpacking the lorries, setting up the props room and reviewing the schedule for the week ahead. Meaghan had only been able to plan the shoot from photos and rough floorplans back in England, so now was the chance to make sure what she’d imagined would work in reality. By 10am, shooting had begun, starting with a bedlinen and table linen story, while Gareth built a room divider to showcase our new season wallpaper. At 11am, local chef Cat arrived with two bags of fresh produce to cook a delicious lunch (it’s probably worth saying, this isn’t the norm on a photoshoot) of fresh fish, salads, home baked bread and pineapple tart. She really did look after everyone.
Thursday 16th January Thursday treated the team to beautifully sunny weather. Gareth got to work on a shot Meaghan had planned for the grand staircase to showcase our paint range – taking a pot of every Neptune colour, he painted canvases to stretch around antique frames. Meanwhile, the team got to know Napo, the resident Labrador, as he settled into them temporarily taking over his home, and he proved a welcome distraction. A living room scheme was set up to demonstrate scale and proportion, a smaller scullery-style staircase, and a dining room scene featuring the new Wycombe folding chairs on the imposing mezzanine floor were all shot – the stunning spaces within the chateau made it easy work. Mark and Jane headed out on a mission to borrow olive trees for an upcoming shot Meaghan had planned. Little did Mark know he was about to fall in love – the daughter of the flower shop owner drove a tractor with great skill: he was smitten! Just as the light was fading on the day, photographer Ben arrived – he would be shooting extra content with a second team for social media and our journal. Marie-Christine and Louis invited everyone to share a drink with them after the day’s intense work – of course, it was a delicious glass of Provence rose. And if your glass ended up empty? Madame was quickly on hand to fill it up.
Friday 17th January Friday was full steam ahead – with two shoot teams running, the chateau was teeming with activity. With permission from Marie-Christine, the team stayed later into the evening in order to capture a kitchen shot with Napo – the dappled light was just perfect (and Napo finally sat still).
Saturday 18th January The main team got to work on an Easter dining scheme, and Jane utilised her skills in flower pressing (using a piece of heavy marble from the chateau) to create yellow mimosa eggs for the tabletop. Keen to get Napo in another shot, the team spent some time trying to get him to ‘Sit!’ in French, with a lot of GCSE-level French being evidenced. Napo certainly developed his modelling skills during our visit.
Gareth finished the painting project and set about hanging the frames. Naturally, being a 16th-century chateau, nothing could be attached to the walls, so Gareth hung the frames with a delicately balanced arrangement of acrylic and fishing wire. After taking a fun team shot, and a frantic dash for the airport, Ben headed back to England, leaving the original team one more day of shooting.
Sunday 19th January The final day’s shooting took the form of florals and smaller shots – lighting ideas, accessories, moodboards, the bathroom and some Easter decorating ideas. The final afternoon was spent tidying, reloading the vans, and waving off Chris and Alex as they headed back to London and onto their next photographic job. The final team members remained to pack up and, of course, were persuaded to stay for Louis’ specialty of tomato and garlic bruschetta (complete with obligatory glass of rose). There were blushes all round as the couple thanked everyone for being such a friendly team.
Monday 20th January Sam, Dave and Mark left early for the long drive back to England while Meaghan, Sally, Rebecca, Jane and Gareth headed to the airport and home, tired but confident that they’d got plenty of memorable photos from a very special shoot. A special thanks to Monsiour Louis, Madame Marie-Christine and Napo the dog, they truly were the hosts with the most and their wonderful home allowed our spring collection to come to life.