Alongside the supers – Cindy, Christy, Claudia, Kate, Linda, Naomi et al – there was always one other person you’d find backstage at all the iconic 90s fashion shows – and that was Gavin Bond. The British photographer had unprecedented access, shooting quickly and unobtrusively to capture one of fashion history’s most dazzling decades. Now a new book, Being There, and a concurrent exhibition at Hamiltons Gallery, Gavin Bond: Being There, delves into the photographer’s archive, beautifully showcasing the wildly glamorous world of high fashion in the 90s.
He has always been behind the lens, documenting fashion’s most glittering moments and celebrity’s most iconic names – but now it’s Gavin Bond’s turn in the spotlight. The British commercial photographer – one of the most sought-after in the world – is both the subject of a new book and a recently-opened exhibition in Mayfair.
The glossy coffee-table-worthy Being There is packed with photographs taken by Bond during the 1990s, when he was granted backstage access at all the most prestigious fashion shows (many of which he only unearthed during lockdown). From behind-the-scenes shots of the designers making last-minute outfit adjustments to the supermodels wearing them, the 268-page tome gives a unique and utterly compelling insight into the exclusive world of 90s fashion.
As a student at Central Saint Martins, where other alumni included Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen, Giles Deacon and Katie Grand, Gavin Bond switched from fashion design to photography. In 1993, towards the end of his degree course, he ended up backstage at Vivienne Westwood’s ‘Anglomania’ show and the images he took were published in The Times by its fashion director Iain R Webb.
Westwood was equally impressed and six months later she commissioned him to document her Spring 94 ‘Café Society’ collection. “Gavin Bond appeared on the scene one day, as if, for all the world, he had always been there. If it was good with Vivienne Westwood, we thought, it would be good with the rest of us,” writes supermodel Christy Turlington, who has penned the book’s introduction. Westwood went on to use a montage of Bond’s images for promotional purposes, in a move that Bond says was a “great calling card.”
And it worked. For the best part of the decade, Bond was given unfettered backstage access to all the greatest fashion shows in London, Paris and Milan – John Galliano, Yves Saint Laurent, Azzedine Alaïa, Karl Lagerfeld’s Chanel, McQueen, Westwood… You name it, Bond was there, shooting quickly and unobtrusively, using only the light that was available. His distinct reportage style and engaging, impeccably-framed shots saw him contribute to every publication from Vanity Fair and Vogue to GQ and Rolling Stone.
And just as the editors loved him, the designers and the supermodels did too, welcoming him with open arms to their backstage world. And so you have intimate images of the likes of Jean-Paul Gaultier, McQueen and Lagerfeld, beavering away to put the finishing touches to outfits, as well as photographs of all the supers – Naomi, Claudia, Linda, Kate, Shalom Harlow, Nadja Auermann, Carla Bruni, Stella Tennant, Alek Wek…
This was pre-camera phones and the images are captivating in their intimacy, capturing the models at their most unguarded and honest. It’s interesting to note, too, that Bond didn’t retouch or crop his images – almost unheard of in this day and age, And so we see the glamorous side of 90s fashion – the flowing Champagne, the billowing gowns, the shimmering hair and makeup, the electric atmosphere – but we also see the high emotions, including a striking shot of a young Kate Moss, looking anxious as she prepares to walk topless down the runway for Westwood.
In a world where backstage at fashion shows was very much a closed space, this kind of access was unheard of. “I was this kid who was the same age as all the girls, and I was accepted,” Bond said in a recent interview. “I spoke to Christy [Turlington] and she said, ‘We liked you. It felt cool, it was comfortable. You were one of us’. I wasn’t in people’s faces. Half the time I was hiding under a table or behind a curtain.”
Running concurrently to the book is Bond’s first solo exhibition Gavin Bond: Being There, which is on until 29 October at Hamiltons Gallery in W1, showcasing a wonderful selection of these extraordinary behind-the-scenes, never-seen-before photographs. The exhibition also features a ‘grid’ of gelatin silver prints arranged to emulate the feeling of ‘being there’ backstage, giving a fascinating insight into not just the work of one of photography’s true greats, but also the ultra-glamorous world of 90s fashion.
‘Gavin Bond: Being There’ is at Hamiltons Gallery, Carlos Place, Mayfair, W1 until 29 October; hamiltonsgallery.com
Being There by Gavin Bond (IDEA, £75)
All images © Gavin Bond, Courtesy of Hamiltons Gallery