Cade Martin Goes Down the Rabbit Hole

“Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.”

The Cheshire Cat

We admire Cade Martins drive, how he chases characters and stories for sport, traveling without hesitation to learn about a subject that intrigues him. Lucky for him, Cade recently found a local project where he can do what he loves; create images celebrating imagination and characters with a little cinematic flair. Cade recently created images of a new fashion collection from designer Shawnicy Marie. With the collection based on the characters from “Alice in Wonderland,” we think it’s safe to say that the designer, crew, and Cade himself ‘went down the rabbit hole’ for this project. We couldn’t wait to hear about the journey.

As The King remarks in Alice and Wonderland, “Begin at the beginning.” Tell us how this project began, how you became a part of it.

Relationships, relationships, relationships that turn into friendships and collaborations. I met and worked with senior art director Bryant Prince, two years or so now. Bryant and I immediately hit it off, and he is one of those people you always want to hang out with.

Flash forward to the pandemic present, where there’s no hanging out to be had. Bryant reached out as he was working on a personal project for and with his wife, and he asked me if I was interested. I was. You know how some people talk about quarantine and grim, distanced days as an opportunity to create? Designer Shawnicy Marie did more than talk about it; she finished up her first full fashion collection. Enlisting the help of Bryant (her husband) and his creative partner, Jimmy Carroll, they built a creative vision and team with an eye on spirited collaboration to showcase her work.

What did you know about this fashion collection? At what point in the creative process did you join the team?

I was immediately interested when Bryant initially reached out about the project. At that point, I had no idea what we are doing, but I knew I was in for creative fun regardless. A fashion collection based on Alice in Wonderland didn’t disappoint. Once we got started with the ideation phase and knocking around ideas, concepts evolved, and we were on our way. 

Shawnicy’s collection is focused on the interplay between Alice and the three main characters, Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter, and the Queen of Hearts. These are clothes that speak to the power of our self-belief, self-expression, and the fun of what makes you feel good – as Shawnicy puts it, “falling face-first into a pile of prints and going for it.” It was a delight to be a part of the creative team born of such joy and the purpose of making something special during a time that has often felt heavy. We went for it.

You’ve said that you wanted this shoot to be a mix of Alice and Wonderland and Willy Wonka, a fantastical dreamland. Both of these storylines are about being ready for whatever comes your way — only by venturing into the unknown will you discover what lies on the other side. Knowing that you aren’t afraid of the unknown and that you find beauty in the unfamiliar tells us this was a match made in creative heaven. What did you find during this shoot?

This shoot was right up my alley indeed. This was the best kind of project, a free-flowing, follow your gut, don’t know what’s around the next corner, trust the creative process, type of project. There were no rules – everyone was open and game for exploration, so we collectively embraced the ability to experiment.

Going in, I loosely had the idea of lighting the set a la Irving Penn’s iconic corner portrait series. On-set, things evolved – as they do – and we made tweaks to the lighting design to fit the set and placement of talent. Once I got behind the tripod in the set, I thought of the hallway scene in Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka where they played with scale. I took the camera off of the tripod, put on a wide-angle lens, and got as close to the subjects as I could handheld and played with distortion.

Talk to us about the logistics of the shoot. Where did this take place? Did you have a particular mindset going into it since it was during COVID?

The safety of everyone involved was top of mind from start to finish. We shot this project at the beginning of Winter 2020. Because of COVID, we had a scaled-down crew and took all of the appropriate safety precautions. We worked in-studio and created two different sets. This was a passion project so there was no budget, and we created everything – set build, all of the images and set tear down – all in one day. This was definitely a labor of love — love in the time of COVID — if you will.

It was also one of those days where everyone had their flow going and was really in a groove. It’s hard to overstate how great it is to work with people that you really like — doing what you love to do.

Follow Cade on Instagram for more imagery, the result of him chasing characters and stories.