After nearly three decades spent photographing fashion for the likes of Vogue, Louis Vuitton and Hermès, Koto Bolofo has now stepped out from behind his camera to launch his first apparel collection with US brand Anthropologie. Bolofo’s intriguing career move was actually inspired by his frustration with the decline in quality fabrics: ‘As a fashion photographer for the past 27 years, I've noticed that the materials used to make the garments have deteriorated through time,’ he says. ‘Nowadays a jumper or a shirt looks great off the peg, but you put it in the wash and it bobbles up. It used to frustrate me during shoots knowing that the fabrics weren't so texturised, and thus not as photogenic.’
Six years ago, Bolofo found a stash of vintage linen sheets – some from hospitals and convents, others from the homes of peasants and aristocrats. Fascinated not only by the texture, but by the forgotten histories behind the sheets, he began designing prototype garments and enlisting the help of a seamstress who lived down the road from him in Vendée, France, where he has lived in a tiny village of 500 inhabitants for the past 20 years. Over the course of a year, Bolofo documented his creations with the help of his sister-in-law, who modelled the garments.
After lying dormant in his trunk for years, Bolofo's prototypes resurfaced by chance when Anthropologie, a long-time client for whom he has shot many campaigns, invited him to create his own project for the brand. Reproduced to the exact specification of his original pieces – a rarity in a business where the main preoccupation of a collection is its ability to sell – the new range of is accompanied by a book entitled Dreams. Published by Steidl, it is an engaging narrative of the original creations that Bolofo photographed years earlier.
Despite the fact Dreams has clearly gone down well with Anthropologie – the brand has already indicated its interest in a 'second' installment – Bolofo is clear to point out his roots are firmly planted in photography. ‘The material was always a catalyst for me to further my photography,’ he says. Sensitive and engaging, the creations in Dreams ultimately serve to capture Bolofo’s artistic philosophy.