For our spring 2013 photo shoot, we traveled to the romantic cobblestoned villages of Southern France, punctuated by the rocky Alpilles mountain range and the sparkling Côte D’Azur shoreline. From the ochre painted canyons of Roussillon to the mirrored canals of Martigues, we were dazzled by the quiet grandeur and rich histories surrounding our every step.
Famous for their unbeatable pigments in every shade of rusty ochre and mineral blue, the colorful village of Roussillon was a gorgeous backdrop for our collection. This unique village spirals up a steep canyon, striped in a rich ochre palette. This same pigmented stone is used to build the tile-roofed homes that are characteristically colorful. According to the “official” record, the layers of ochre exist because Roussillon was at the bottom of the sea millions of years ago. The specific ochre coloration is caused by the mineral goethite (named after the German writer Goethe, who was also an avid mineralogist). But local legend tells a far more intriguing story…
In this version, a tragic love affair brought about the rich coloration of the town. The story takes place in the Middle Ages and centers upon Sermonde, the young wife of Raymond d’Avignon, the lord of Roussillon. Since Raymond spent most of his time away hunting, the lonely Sermonde fell in love with a local troubadour (a poet-musician). When Raymond learned about her infidelity, he secretly cut the troubadour’s heart out and served it to Sermonde for dinner. Upon finishing her meal, Raymond revealed how she was truly “heart to heart” with her lover now. Unable to handle this horrific truth, Sermonde threw herself from the top of the village and fell to her untimely death. From that point on, her red blood has run through Roussillon.
The historic Château de Roussan was another location that teemed with rumors and local legends. Nestled in the heart of Saint Rémy de Provence, the Château provided a dreamy, fairy-tale setting, with looming plane trees lining the walkways, beautiful carved wood doors and museum-worthy relics housed inside. This early 18th-century mansion was once the “treasured love” of Nostradamus’ brother, Sir Bertrand de Nostredame. The beloved mansion was a grand inheritance, housing generation after generation, successively enriching its history. One such rumor-laden owner was Lady Diane, known as the “Belle de Provence.” It was well known that she had caught the attention of King Louis XIV, after attending one of his balls with Mme de Sévigné. It’s rumored that he even stayed at the Château on more than one occasion (and this was before it was a hotel)! Now a functioning hotel, the Château is filled with unbelievably rare antiques, including original prints by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and hand-carved chinoiserie cabinets made with real ivory. The place was filled with surprises!
The colorful pastoral landscapes that inspired our spring shoot had also been a major source of inspiration for Van Gogh, who moved to Provençe in early 1888. Although his time was short in the region, he manically produced over 300 works around St. Rémy, portraying local churches, harvests, windmills, the Alpilles mountain range and the simplicities of country life. His time in Provençe was famously disturbing, as his psychological instability grew worse and worse—culminating in late 1888 when he cut off his own ear after a violent dispute with his painter friend Gauguin (who had moved to the region that same year to work with Van Gogh). Following this meltdown, Van Gogh checked himself into the Saint Paul de Mausole asylum near St. Rémy, where he lived for a year. If you visit this region, you can see the exact places where Van Gogh created some of his most renowned paintings, such as The Evening Café, Starry Night, The Old Windmill and The Hospital Garden. You can even see some of these landmarks in our photos!
We also basked under the warm sun in Martigues, capturing the charm of its boat-lined canals and softly colored stucco homes. The placid waters of the canals shined like mirrors, inspiring the front cover shot of our Alençon Sheath. Nicknamed the “Venice of Provence,” this relaxing town was a perfect backdrop for our new sundresses! As I look back on these sun-drenched days filled with the carefree spirit of France, I can’t help but get excited for warmer spring days (and a wardrobe change)!
Take a peek behind-the-scenes with our Spring 2013 video