A high-fashion photo shoot with Real Housewives of Melbourne star Pettifleur Berenger, featuring evening wear designs by label Art du Jour by Leiela and photography by LA photographer Maurice Rinaldi has revealed a fascinating story of chance meetings, creative collaboration and longstanding friendship.
Celebrity Photographer Maurice spends his time between Los Angeles and Melbourne and has photographed for everyone from Vogue to Versace, shooting fashion collections around the world. The photographer is fun and charismatic, and in total command of the shoot.
Maurice and former Sale of the Century and New Price is Right model Celeste Billinge have enjoyed a friendship spanning decades. Following a successful career in television and modelling in both Australia and London, a passion for jewellery has seen Celeste create her own jewellery and resort wear range, Celeste. Vintage, modern and costume jewellery pieces sourced from around the world include sophisticated one-off Morroccan wrist cuffs and draping gold back jewellery.
Fashion designer Lucy Laurita has twenty years experience within the fashion industry. Establishing her own label Leiela, derived from the Italian Lei e La meaning ‘There She Is’, Lucy creates elegant and timeless evening gowns for formal and red carpet occasions. Her originality is evident in the array of gorgeous gowns available on shoot. The designer works with luxurious fabrics such as georgettes, soft satins and silks, ornate beaded fabric and ‘anything with a beautiful drape’. She finds inspiration in the everyday – a shade of eye shadow may inspire a new way of working with a fabric. Lucy created Art du Jour by Leiela in 2013, as a way of bringing together the differing talents and creative artists within the fashion community. Celeste was MC at the Art du Jour by Leiela VAMFF event in 2014.
The real star of the day however, is Pettifleur. Known predominately for her role in the television series Real Housewives of Melbourne, Pettifleur is quick to counteract misperceptions of her persona, and comes across as warm and engaging, particularly when discussing her recent book entitled Switch the Bitch. The venture, she says, is one written truly from the heart and based upon life’s experiences relevant to all. She hopes to encourage woman everywhere to lead the life they desire, albeit in a calm, pro-active and graceful way.
“It’s about recognising the rewards and the way you approach other people and situations,” she says. “This book is based upon real women, real stories, and I’m excited to be able to inspire other women to get the results they desire in their own lives.”
In a chance meeting of fate, Pettifleur discovered Leiela evening gowns whilst searching for a one-of-a-kind outfit to wear to a charity gala event.
“There was an immediate connection”, says Pettifleur. “I loved Lucy’s energy and can-do attitude.”
The pair has remained friends since, working together on unusual concepts to create works of art and individual designs.
Lucy’s dedicated Marketing Assistant Nikki Chamberlain confirms, “Lucy makes really stand-out, one off pieces.”
Maurice is eager to start the shoot. He takes charge and coaxes everyone into place for preparations. The room hushes to a lull, and candid prompts shortly ensue. “Gorgeous… Beautiful! What a shot!” Maurice yells as Pettifleur begins to take command of the photographs. “It’s a bit of a show,” Celeste enthuses.
Pettifleur remains engaged throughout the shoot, enquiring about the progress of the shots, making sure they look beautiful. The aura is one of opulence, and every aspect of the shoot is beautiful. Each gown is truly magnificent, regal. Gold crystal encrusted stilettos finish the look. Celeste selects stylish accessories to accompany each piece.
“You don’t always have to go glam,” she says. “You can mix it up and add in some bohemian.”
“Not be so predictable,” Lucy agrees.
Hairdresser Fatima Musai and make-up artist Mal Bobotis are on-hand for incremental touch-ups and the pair work closely together to create the ideal look.
“This is so much fun! I love it,” Mal says. She is so passionate about the work she does everyday, adding, “I go to work and put gloss on people – it’s a good life!”
Maurice continues to work his magic, and every now and then takes a short break to show off the photography so far. There are oohs and aahs all round – everyone is clearly impressed by the shots. Pettifleur is mindful and inclusive of everyone on shoot, and requests a short break, ensuring lunch is ordered for everyone.
The shoot moves to an outdoor setting – where the breeze can catch the flow of arm-length feature wings on a white ornate beaded gown. Exuding old-style Hollywood glamour, the scene naturally attracts a flurry of attention from Collins St passers-by. A small crowd gathers, and Pettifleur doesn’t miss a beat. She effortlessly invites onlooker CJ to join the shoot, and he guest stars in some key photographs of the day.
Everyone has a ball.
“My jaws are going to hurt from laughing so much today,” Lucy exclaims.
Stay on the lookout for what’s next for Pettifleur. With a ‘Switch the Bitch’ jewellery and t-shirt range already in the works, this multi-faceted lady has a few secret projects up her sleeve and feels it’s just the beginning.
“I’d like to leave a legacy, a footprint,” she says.
Likewise, Lucy never stops creating and the designer’s mind is always abuzz with new projects, creative inspiration and opportunities to collaborate.
“My mind never stops,” says Lucy. “I’m always looking for the next adventure.”
With this year seeing the 10-year anniversary of Leiela, there is sure to be many exciting projects on the horizon.
Article: Jenni Anne/melbartsfash.com