How many times have you flipped through a magazine and admired the gorgeous beauty campaigns? Better yet, how many times have you stopped to stare at two stunning Italians basking in the sun in some tropical location? That’s right, we’re talking about perhaps the most iconic beauty campaign of our time—Dolce&Gabbana Light Blue. Flawlessly glowing skin, enviable hair, even more enviable locales in the background—it’s all a dream world, one we can only imagine is a whole lot of smoke and mirrors. How does one even begin to create the dreamy wonderland depicted in the beauty campaigns we see splashed across the pages of glossy magazines? That’s exactly what we set out to discover when we went on location for Dolce&Gabbana’s latest Light Blue shoot.
Scroll through for a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of a major beauty campaign!
Let us set the scene for you. It’s a picturesque day in sunny (and hot) Miami—skies as blue as the sea and not a cloud in sight. While the rest of South Beach is sleeping, for everyone involved in today’s shoot, the alarms go off bright and early. “At 6:30 a.m., I jumped in the shower, washed my hair very roughly—only with shampoo, not even conditioner—and then I shaved, and then I came outside,” Italian supermodel and brand ambassador Bianca Balti says. For Balti, even though she’ll be on set all day and hopping around to different locations across the hotel, the beauty prep is minimal. Though she did say that in a perfect world, her beauty prep would include a relaxing bubble bath and a peel the night before, in reality, a five-minute shower is all she needs. She’s actually pretty zen about the process, saying, “Sometimes the less you think about it and the fewer crazy things you do, it just comes out better—your skin looks more rested.”
David Gandy, the other star of this campaign, shares a similar pre-shoot mentality. “It takes preparation, but not as intense as some people probably think,” he says. “I don’t really plan or have a specific workout routine. I just know what it takes. I eat more protein and work out more—I’ll take it up to five or six times a week.” Beauty-wise, he did say a good haircut and a tan help. Yes, that tan is real (and yes, we asked).
It’s clear after being on set for only a few minutes that everyone knows exactly what they’re doing. Which is not surprising considering they shot the very first Light Blue campaign nearly a decade ago, in 2006. Everyone is having fun. Between shots and setups, they’re all catching up what’s going on in each other’s lives. Which, as Balti explained, is the beauty of working in contracts, as is often the case with large campaigns like this one. They’ve all worked together for years and look forward to these shoots, where they get to see each other again.
Balti’s one requirement? Working with secure photographers. “I don’t like the people that are really insecure, the insecure photographers that then make everybody feel miserable. I like people who are secure because they make me feel good about myself, and then everything goes wonderfully,” she says. Photographer Victor Demarchelier definitely makes the cut. “What’s great about Victor is you can tell a great photographer when they come in and take five shots, and you know they got the shot,” Gandy says. “The funny thing about Light Blue is we shot the first original shot—the iconic campaign that it is now was all shot before lunch.” And that’s not just talk. The actual photo-taking portion of each setup took no more than a few minutes. Victor Demarchelier would snap a quick test shot to make sure everything looked right, adjust as needed, and then let Balti and Gandy do their thing. What’s going through Balti’s head while the camera’s are snapping? “Nothing. It’s really relaxing. If you had to read my mind, it would be like blank. It’s nothing, nothing. I’m like a robot,” she says.
All of this is not to say things don’t occasionally go wrong. After all, when you’re on location, certain elements are out of your control, one of those being the forecast. And when you’re in Miami, weather is about as unpredictable as it comes. In the middle of Balti’s shoot, it began to sprinkle. But the show must go on, so one of the guys in the crew grabbed an umbrella and held it over her head while Demarchelier snapped on. When the sun-shower turned into more of downpour, however, the crew packed in their equipment, and we headed to the other, sheltered side of the bungalow’s balcony until it passed. A few minutes later, when the rain had passed, it was business as usual. Makeup artist Christian McCulloch for Dolce&Gabbana Beauty did a quick powder touch-up on Balti, while hairstylist Steven Hoeppner ran a gel-dipped spoolie through her hair (genius!), tacking down moisture-induced flyaways, and then the cameras were back to flashing.
We pressed Balti for more on-set beauty tips she’s picked up over the years, and she gave us one more very simple one. “The best beauty tip is to do makeup with my fingertips,” Balti says. “I had no clue, but it makes it so much easier. So if you’re not so good at makeup, like me, you still look decent.” There you have it—supermodel approval to forgo fancy makeup brushes. We asked Gandy the same question, and he had an arguably more beauty-forward answer: rose oil. As someone with dry skin who flies a lot (Gandy’s flight to Miami was number 85 for him this year—85!), he swears by rose oil—a tip he picked up from one of the greats he’s worked with along the way.
So after a day of shooting by the pool, in a poolside cabana, in a bungalow above South Beach, and more, the real question is what’s going to happen once the shoot wraps? It’s about 5 p.m., and while the general consensus for most of the women on set is to shower (it was a sticky day in Florida), the photographer and makeup artist pack up so they can head to the hotel’s bar for a post-shoot drink. Both Gandy and Balti say they take some “me” time after a shoot. “I really enjoy being by myself, because there’s so much energy, so many people on set, that I really need some me time at the end,” Balti says. She says she usually orders room service, takes off her makeup, and showers. “I usually wash my feet as well because I always go barefoot. [When] I start off I have slippers, but then they always get lost.” (Ed. Note: We never saw her in slippers.) “I will go in and relax for 15 minutes, and then I will hit the gym while I’ve still got a bit of energy. I’ll do that and come back and relax with the team and have some dinner,” Gandy says.
Photographer: Victor Demarchelier
Makeup: Christian McCulloch for Dolce&Gabbana Beauty
Hair: Paolo Orlando
Styling: Nora Flaherty