Benjamin Shine
Photography by Owen Bruce; Styling by Anna Katsanis; Creative direction by Brittany Eccles; Model, Amber Witcomb for Elite Toronto/Want Management.Dress and boots, price upon request, Louis Vuitton. Tights, $20, Falke.

Model Amber Witcomb and Creative Explorer Benjamin Shine Collaborate

"I’ve never seen work quite like Ben’s,” says Amber Witcomb. "It’s so incredibly timeless and beautiful. I’m sure I’ll always remember it once my modelling journey is over."

FASHION commissioned Benjamin Shine to create the one-of-a-kind tulle portrait for our 40th anniversary cover. Shine has worked with the likes of Riccardo Tisci (when he was at Givenchy) and John Galliano (at Maison Margiela),  but this was the first time he had collaborated with a magazine. When we asked him whether he described himself as an artist or sculptor, he replied. “I don’t want to be boxed in by those labels. I think of myself as a ‘creative explorer.’”

Shine, who is based in London, England, spent the day with us on set in New York and used images of Witcomb to create his portrait. “I strive to transcend the technique and capture a sense of the person,” he explained. “Amber emanates a quiet and timeless strength, and her facial silhouette is captivating—it’s  Grecian Pre-Raphaelite.” 

Shine discovered his talent for painting with fabric when he studied fashion at Central Saint Martins in London. He began creating sculptural pieces and artworks, but he didn’t use tulle until over a decade later. “I remember noticing how the sunlight fell on this crumpled ball of tulle in my studio,” he recalled. “I was intrigued by the way it exposed the pleats, and I wondered if I could manipulate the fabric to create a recognizable image.”

His technique is time-consuming, and the medium is unforgiving. Once he moulds the fabric with his hands and bonds it to the canvas with an iron, it can’t be undone. The portraits, which appear to be floating, have a poetic lightness to them. “Working with tulle is so different from other media I work with—like marble, glass and steel,” he said. “It’s literally kind of there and not there, which gives it a unique spiritual and ethereal quality.”


But how does it feel to be immortalized in one of Benjamin Shine’s portraits?

Amber Witcomb is accustomed to being photographed, but the 23-year-old model was a little taken aback when she learned that Shine would be creating a tulle portrait of her for our anniversary cover. “I’ve never seen work quite like Ben’s,” she said. “It’s so incredibly timeless and beautiful. I’m sure I’ll always remember it once my modelling journey is over.”

That journey started three years ago when her agent, Sean Penhall of Want Management, scouted her at a music festival. “I noticed this tall avatar flower girl walking toward me,” he recalled. “I knew right away that she was special. I remember saying to her once she signed that she’d be my first star, and, sure enough, she was.”

The British-born, Canadian-raised model has walked all the major runways and shot campaigns for Céline and Burberry. “I think the Burberry campaign is my favourite memory thus far,” she said. “When I saw the campaign on billboards in London, New York and Milan, it was surreal.”

Landing her first magazine cover with FASHION was also surreal. “I feel incredibly humbled,” she said. “For me, the special moment will be seeing my family and friends in Canada pick up the magazine. It’s a massive milestone in my career!”

Witcomb, who has a degree in media and communications from Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont., also read the Lord Byron poem “She Walks in Beauty” for the fashion film created for this shoot. “I’m a romantic myself, so this poem resonated with me,” she says. “It’s incredibly beautiful to read aloud.”

More Style