Heather Elder Represents
Reps Journal

Power and Grace: Kremer/Johnson’s Celebration of African Inspired Fashion Through Creative Set Design

Kremer/Johnson’s “Power and Grace” project intertwines creativity, passion and celebration of African fashion. Meeting Denise Gordon, Creator and Designer of Mimi Zuri Designs, on a previous shoot, Neil and Cory were inspired by her bright designs, which all pay homage to her African roots and the continent's diverse cultures. Denise appreciated Neil and Cory’s collaborative nature and asked them to photograph her line. Understanding the importance of being invited in to tell someone else's story, Neil and Cory saw this opportunity as a way to educate themselves on the heritage and cultural influences that are embedded in Mimi Zuri Designs.

Working with a limited budget allowed Neil and Cory to get creative with the sets and how they could make designs that were impactful while also creating an authentic narrative. We wanted to learn more about the process of ideation to final images, and spoke with Kremer/Johnson to learn more.

What does being invited in to tell someone else’s story mean to you?

It’s always an honor when someone asks you to capture images that represent and celebrate a community. However, when it’s one you are not a part of, it’s important to take a step back and see the bigger picture before getting to the creative angle. We did a ton of research and had conversations with Denise to ensure the story we were telling was accurate and respectful of the cultures these designs represent. It was a very cool opportunity and we are grateful she asked us to bring these designs to life through imagery.

How did you come up with the set design for each jacket?

The concepts for the shots were inspired by different regions of Africa. For instance, we chose to shoot one jacket in a jungle setting to represent the greenery within the African jungles. Or for one we wanted to create a background that looked like a political poster of Africa and then hand painted a backdrop. It was a lot of research to make sure we were accurately portraying elements from Africa, while also tying into the design of the jackets themselves. 

Who did the styling for the talent in each shot?

Because the budget was small, we couldn’t hire a stylist.  So, much like creating the designs of the sets, we performed research of traditional fashion from different regions and countries in Africa and used that knowledge to style each shot. This includes the jewelry, make-up and headpieces. Denise oversaw the shoot so she fine-tuned our ideas once we styled the models. 

How long did each set take to build? Was there one that was more involved than the others?

Building the sets took quite some time and effort. It took around four to five days to build each set. We used canvas backdrops and props to give depth to the scenes. The BTS shots show how important angles are in a studio setting to make sure that each element of the set is aligned and looks realistic. The jungle scene was undoubtedly the most involved as we needed to create a realistic jungle environment in the studio. We bought dirt skins, a common tool for sets but since we were using very high-definition cameras, we added more dirt on top to look are realistic as possible. It was a really fun challenge setting up each shot.

How did this project stand out from other photo shoots you've done?

This project was unique because it wasn't solely about promoting a product; it was about celebrating culture in an artistic way. We wanted to represent Africa in an authentic and respectful way, showcasing the diversity of the continent through our photos. It was a unique opportunity to grow our craft, learn about different cultures and combine those elements into a beautiful image. These kinds of projects aren’t common but are always a great experience.