Behind the scenes of an epic Cape Verde fashion shoot

Written by Travel Adventures

During the final leg of A/W23 fashion week in Paris, it became apparent that sheer, skin-baring looks were dominating the runways. So I started to think about the idea of ‘less is more’. It was a great fit for a spring/summer photo shoot, and so we set about coming up with a location. Fashion is about storytelling, so Cape Verde felt like the perfect fit for its unique topography. Though I’d never been, I recalled seeing the cinematic dunes of Boa Vista, the eternally deep and long white-sand beach, and the richer volcanic areas. I fell in love with the juxtaposition of the light clothes against these epic and otherworldly backdrops.

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Voile and gazarre dress, POA, Prada.

Daniel Benson

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Viscose bustier dress, £3,500, Loewe.

Daniel Benson

The unforgettable shooting location

Location-scouting a country you have never been to is exciting, surprising and challenging, but it also has pitfalls. You can’t expect everywhere to look like it does on Google Images, maps, social media or Pinterest, to name but a few of the deep dives I went down for several days whilst exploring Cape Verde as a location for this shoot. You don’t entirely know until you get there the true colour of landscapes, the perspective of things, and the accessibility factor. And, of course, everything always looks better in sunshine and blue skies, but that’s out of everyone’s hands. After researching Boa Vista island and deciding it had the most varied topography of all the islands, I found a Portugal-based producer to help us on the ground. Firstly, to locate my virtually recced and chosen spots and then to lead us there to explore. We weren’t disappointed with any of them; from then on, we just prayed to the sun gods.

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Wool dress, £1,720, Fendi.

Daniel Benson

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Macramé dress, £1,920, Alberta Ferretti. High-waisted silk satin and lace briefs, £225, Eres.

Daniel Benson

A tricky shot the photographer pulled off

Finding unique and off-the-beaten-track locations is vital to give the pictures an air of mystery and cinematic feel and avoid the crowds. It’s why I spend so much time researching places online. The internet is a wonderful place. As a consequence, however, almost everywhere in the world, there is now a trail of camera-clad folk seeking secret spots and breathtaking sunrises – even if it means getting up at 4am. So we drove off-road, riding across the island’s lumps and bumps, clinging onto the internal sides of the 4×4 van while whizzing up (and down) vertical inclines. Not only did we find a red mud flat (empty! worth the pain we endured in transit!), we also found a perfect black rock not too far out to sea where the model perched in a Loewe dress as the waves crashed around her; whilst the photographer, atop a precariously perched stepladder, wobbled about on rocks also being splashed about by the sea.

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Cotton bikini top, POA; two-tone double-layer silk skirt, POA, both Louis Vuitton.

Daniel Benson

The best supper after a long shoot day

We found our spot. It was hearty and tasty and involved pizzas and pasta; crucially, it was around the corner from the hotel, so we staggered there sandy, bedraggled and exhausted both nights, having shot in the desert for two sunsets in a row and gasping for carbs. The town had a seven-hour power cut on the second night, so everything was plunged into darkness – making for an additional adventure.

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Multi-coloured fantasy cape, POA; stretch swimsuit, £820, both Chanel.

Daniel Benson

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Silk duchesse mini tank dress, £2,600, Gucci.

Daniel Benson

Unexpected challenges

Going off-road means zero phone signal, so we were almost entirely out of touch for a vast proportion of the three days. This was anxiety-inducing initially, but it swiftly became liberating and joyous. Being so off-track that we were disconnected also meant being a long way from a bathroom, running water, meals, not to mention electricity or – vitally – tea or coffee, the fuel that typically keeps a crew running. But we had snacks and water aplenty and made do until we re-found connectivity and human-run dwellings. The other unanticipated element was the wind. Shooting on dunes with sideways wind is challenging for the camera equipment, not to mention the clothes.

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Silk chiffon skirt with bow tie neck, £1,650; silk satin and tulle stretch triangle bra with lace details, £385, both Dolce & Gabbana.

Daniel Benson

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Sheer silk blouse, £1,035; front kick skirt, £1,385, both Givenchy.

Daniel Benson

The most memorable look

We had some of the very best and most stylish runway looks, and Giselle, the supermodel she is, can carry off anything with seriously chic aplomb. Still, we did rather struggle to find our way into a garment that (seemingly) had five armholes, so it took three of us, a YouTube video, and a lot of imagery inspection to get it right. We got there in the end. There is nothing like a fashion puzzle to get us all working tightly together, with lots of laughter along the way.

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