An ambient, dimly-lit home on a sunny Sunday afternoon, a woman who is as enigmatic as she is relatable - a multi-faceted muse, adorned with handcrafted jewellery by local brand, WAIF, in a fashion film that challenges the status quo.
Owned by Gisèle Human, WAIF is one of the freshest jewellery brands to come out of Africa. The brand hones its otherness using all-natural materials, intricately crafted to suit the femme face. There is a natural element to all the designs that lends to the modern elegance of each of the pieces. The short film is no different, a moody visual feast that had us wanting more.
We spoke to Gisèle to find out what inspired the WAIF film.
Where did the idea for a fashion film come about?
The initial challenge in coming up with a concept for this film was that we wanted something narrative-driven rather than a simple abstract showcase. We felt that it needed to take the viewer on a journey and be relatable. So when we considered the role of jewellery in people’s lives, we realised that the function of jewellery, and fashion for that matter, is transformation.
What inspired the mood and narrative in the film?
Waif, as a one-woman run, independent South African brand, is centred on self-expression and the storied identity. Large, bold, colourful and unique, the Technicolor Melodrama collection stays true to the brand’s philosophy of Pleasantly Eccentric. They’re statement pieces, conversation pieces, and they say something about the wearer.
We all shift and reshape multiple times a day, multiple times a lifetime, some more than others. And those who make transformation a part of their lives - actors - are the masters of metamorphosis.
With our lead actress in mind, Inge Beckmann, who has in her own right transformed and grown over the time that we’ve all got to know her (Lark, Beast, actress, artist), we wrote a script that explored what a quiet Sunday afternoon might look like if you’re a seasoned actress with many roles under your belt. In our story, those memories come alive, some great, some weak, some pleasing, some curious. Visited by these memories, she self-reflects somewhat bemusedly and quietly celebrates the pleasant eccentricities of all the roles she’s played that have, for better or worse, stuck with her.
There is a strong feminine presence in the film, a woman that is independent and aware of herself. What role do women play in your brand’s direction?
That’s a very big, complicated question, the answer to which could take years to define.
As a woman, I am acutely aware of the corporate world’s patriarchal ways.
I used jewellery as a way of escaping corporate, and I fight very hard to keep my business afloat because if I don’t, I’d probably have to return to it. In so doing, I try to encourage women with entrepreneurial and creative spirits to start their own businesses and become self-sufficient. That way, you gain autonomy and can live free. We women are great multitaskers, and you need that skill to be your own marketer/producer/creative director/accountant.
Your leading lady is an enigma, what prompted you to cast her?
The director and I both felt that Inge Beckmann embodies everything we envisioned for the film. In fact, we wrote the script with her in mind. She has the beauty, but also the mysterious quality that we wanted. She’s a model but also a prominent personality in South Africa’s creative scene, so we were very lucky that she agreed to work with us.
...And the rest of the team?
The team is incredible and was a dream to work with. Aadil Dhalech, a new director on the scene, came to me with the idea of creating a Waif film. We agreed to write and produce it together. We’re both copywriters, so the writing part was the easy bit, but I’ve never produced such a big project before. We cast Inge early on and the rest of the team fell into place fairly easily. Gavin Collins worked with me on my previous stills campaign (Technicolor Melodrama), and he totally gets the Waif aesthetic, and Diana Asherson is my favourite makeup artist and hair stylist. Lucian Barnard is the absolute best editor in Cape Town and I am so grateful to him for cutting the film, his sensitive eye is what we needed, and Nic van Reenen created the music from scratch, based on the film and through conversations with Aadil, which is also so incredible. It ebbs and flows with the film, which adds so much value. Frances Marais shot behind-the-scenes and stills in between takes because she also fulfilled the role of a body double, and Devin Toselli spent the entire shoot wearing a very heavy steady cam rig because our budget didn’t allow for a focus puller! The production and shoot came together beautifully, and there was a lot of joy on set. I don’t think I’ll ever forget those few crazy days. It was amazing.
How did you maintain the focus on the jewellery without compromising the narrative?
The intended focus was on storytelling while the jewellery is residual, and yet the structure of the idea is such that the jewellery can be seen throughout the film since each memory is a character whose visual identity is partly reflected through the jewellery. The clothes used were also carefully considered.
What are the main jewellery pieces featured in the film?
In order of appearance, they are The Sleepers, The Caracole Earrings, The Transvaal Jade Earrings, The Thinking Ring, the Japanese Lichen Earrings, The Rainforest Earrings, The Circular Stairwell Earrings and the Dalmatian Jasper brooch.
Who is the WAIF woman?
A woman, young and old, black and white, who isn’t afraid to be seen and heard.
What makes your jewellery stand out, in light of the WAIF woman?
Totally, totally, totally different to anything you’ve seen before.
Will we be seeing more fashion films in the future?
We certainly can't wait for whatever magical projects Giséle and her team has in store - we'll definitely be keeping our eyes open.
Producer: Gisèle Human & Zayd Halim
Written by Gisèle Human & Aadil Dhalech
Director: Aadil Dhalech
Starring; Inge Beckmann
Cinematography; Devin Toselli
Editor: Lucian Barnard
Music: Nic Van Reenen
Stylist: Gavin Collins
Hair & Make-Up: Diana Asherson
Colourist: Nic Apostoli
Body double: Frances Marais