NYC & David Bailey | Behind the picture

Posted by Willy
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Willy was a darling of some of the best designers the world has ever seen and worked with iconic photographers during one of the most exciting eras in fashion history. Her face has graced every major fashion magazine on the planet that was in circulation during this time period. This month Willy takes us behind the scene to tell us about working with David Bailey in1967 and going to America for the first time! It's a remarkable glimpse into the story behind the picture! (and we sort of think Tyra Banks must have worked with David Bailey after reading Willy's story - Smizing much?)

Dear friends, I hope you are all fine and well and if you let me I take you now with me on a trip to New York...

It is still 1967 and this all came about a few months after I arrived in London. David Bailey, who was going to work a week in New York for American Vogue, suggested to the magazine that I go as well to be introduced to America.

Wow, I had been half around the world but never had been to America and New York seemed a big thing to me!

When we arrived, David went off with his woman, the beautiful Catherine Deneuve, and I was sort of left alone. When we arrived at the airport they got me a taxi to the St. James hotel and they just disappeared! I remember that the beautiful skyline of New York impressed me a lot, it was just like in the pictures and movies I had seen of it. When I arrived at the marvelous hotel there were flowers waiting for me and a message from Eileen Ford inviting me to her house for dinner! Still, I felt lonely and a bit overwhelmed but went on my way. At Eileen's, who was very kind, I met some models, of which I remember one girl vividly because she was so kind to me and always smiling with that beautiful mouth, that was Maud Adams who later became an actress and was also a James Bond's girl.

Since I was a bit lonely at the hotel, Eileen invited me to stay at her house (which was a mansion), instead of at the hotel, and that was nice but I did not feel that comfortable as I really did not know anyone there. The next day I was to be at the Vogue studio where David was working. I hung out most of the day watching Lauren Hutton in front of the camera, she made it seem like play and did incredible poses, which impressed me very much. Lauren was so beautiful and moved so well and everybody was so taken by her that they hardly looked at me which made me feel a bit insecure. I felt even more insecure when, by the end of the day David had taken only one picture of me! The best part of the day was Lauren herself, who was so kind to me, I still see her face when she said goodbye and told me "not to worry about anything". As it ended up that one photo did make it into the issue!

The very next day I had an appointment with the Empress of Vogue, Diane Vreeland herself and of course I dressed the best I could, a white mini dress that I had made up myself and some incredible Italian shoes full of colors I had found, I don't remember where, and flowers in my hair. She received me in her office and asked me to stand about 4 yards away and looked at me like a photographer, putting her hands in a square and look through them. She asked me to turn slowly and observed me from all sides, it was very funny. She then sent me to Richard Avedon's studio and after a confusing trip to get there (that's an other story for another day), I rang the bell of his studio and an assistant opened the door and asked me what I wanted. I said I wanted to see Mr. Avedon and he asked me for my "book" as Mr. Avedon was shooting and.... Stupid me, I had not taken my book from London with me, what was I thinking? Usually when one goes to see an editor or a photographer you take your book with pictures of work you have done and your best pictures of course! Well, I came to NY totally unprepared and had not taken my "book" at all. I had nothing with me, but Diane Vreeland (or maybe it was Eileen) had given me one picture of the flying furs shot from Vogue and I was supposed to show that to Avedon. When the assistant opened the door and asked for my book I showed him that single picture but he dismissed it. I was very shy... and somehow in the clouds because I could have just bought some copies of UK Vogue even because around that time I was in all of them!

He closed the door in my face before I could say Mrs Vreeland had sent me because that certainly would have opened the door...

Ah, life goes where it has to go but is a pity that I was turned away because I know it would have been wonderful to work with him. I was not prepared for this trip to be honest, where was my head? Plus I was shy I guess.

Once back in London I worked several more times with David Bailey that year and it was always a pleasure, he was very funny and easy. He did my British Vogue cover (above) and I always remember he said "smile with your eyes, try to smile with your eyes" and I tried to smile with my eyes...  so funny! I did my own make up (but don't remember the hair stylist) and at the time I remember thinking that this cover was so simple and I really would have liked something extraordinary and very glamorous instead, but as time goes by I actually like the simplicity of it. For the 1975 editorial we went to Wales to a very beautiful place and the pictures came out cool, everything was very simple, no "hush hush, quiet on set" and tons of people around. It was just David and I basically.

Working with David was always a pleasure and very relaxed.I have lost many of the photos from the years that I worked with him. We did some in Paris in the 1970's when I was living there, but haven't got any pictures of that any longer. That was actually the last time I worked with him and was after the Wales shoot. I would have actually had more photo shoots with Bailey and with Helmut Newton if I would have stayed around more. I was always disappearing in those days. I went for a year to Ibiza, did a year in India and spent a long time in Brazil. I always had many bookings but I would just disappear at times and come back a year later so my pictures are very sporadic and jump years. It was very different then and a model could do this and still have a career.

Till next time dear friends,

All photos by David Bailey / Top Photo: Vogue UK September 1967  / Below: The only photo that ran in Vogue US



Below: Vogue UK December 1967



Below: Vogue UK February 1968


Below: Vogue UK September 1975

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