How one Welsh town became the backdrop for a remarkable fashion shoot. Words by Paula Cocozza. Photographs by Clémentine Schneidermann and Charlotte James
After their costume workshop at the Gellideg youth centre in Merthyr Tydfil, south Wales, some of the girls who had taken part braved the wind and the rain to parade the streets in their finery. It was soon after Halloween, November 2016. They were dressed in black, in extravagant hats, faces pale as the moon. Ice-cold curls, frozen by gel and the weather, snaked stiffly across their foreheads. A few boys skulked around on their bikes to watch the unlikely procession. When the girls walked past, the boys broke into derisive laughter. The girls stopped in their tracks. “It’s called fashion!” one shouted. “Look it up!”
Right then, the photographer Clémentine Schneidermann “realised there was something magical happening”. She had organised the girls’ costume workshop with Charlotte James, a creative director. The photographs the two women took of that seminal outing launched a collaboration lasting nearly three years, between Schneidermann, James and a group of children from the youth centre and the Coed Cae Interact club near Brynmawr. Now a selection of their photographs are to be exhibited in a collection entitled It’s Called Ffasiwn (Welsh for fashion), along with some of the costumes, at the Martin Parr Foundation in Bristol.