The Catskills, to me, is much more than just an Upstate New York retreat. It is where I grew up. My grandparents owned a house in Woodstock, a ranch-style cabin just off a dirt road and settled on 90-plus acres of land. My grandfather would take me on hikes — the trails were narrow dirt paths with stacks of stones (which he built many years ago) directing us left or right. He would point out where the New York watershed ran, and how those drops of water would eventually make their way to the East River.
Naturally, when Free People approached us about its latest FP Me shoot set in the Catskills, I immediately felt nostalgic. I remembered those fall months spotting wild turkeys by the pond, summers chasing frogs away from the pool, and winters waiting for my grandfather’s ok to play in the snow. To call the Catskills magical doesn’t even begin to cover it — and somehow Dylana Suarez captures that spirit in this latest FP Me shoot. Besides being a badass photog, Dylana, also known for her blog Color Me Nana, left her full-time job to pursue photography full-time – a very CULT-inspired and approved move.
Here, we have an exclusive look at Dylana’s shoot for FP Me (be sure to check out the whole shebang on Free People’s blog, BLDG25!), a series of images that are sure to inspire your wardrobe, as well as some adventurous weekend plans (who’s ready for a hike!?).
CULT: How would you describe your style of photography?
Dylana: I would describe my photography style as very natural and encapturing of the environment. The textures, colors, and mood of the backdrop are extremely important to me. I usually only shoot with natural light, just working with what is provided with me and seeing what I can manipulate with just that. It makes it a challenge sometimes, but its a fun way for me to experiment and get creative. I love my pictures to look bold yet dreamy, the colors very rich and beautiful, which is how I envision fashion to be as a whole in my own life.
CULT: How would you describe your style?
Dylana: I would describe my style as bohemian and casual, but also streamlined and classic. It’s a mix of both my California roots and my new life on the east coast. I like the blend both worlds when it comes to what I wear. Lots of denim and exotic or retro prints, but also lots of leather and sleek ankle boots.
CULT: Whose style do you admire most?
Dylana: I really admire the style of Stevie Nicks and Janis Joplin. They were true bohemians and lovers of fashion, and they followed no rules. I always make sure to incorporate a little bit of their style into my everyday looks.
CULT: When traveling for work, what are some of your suitcase essentials?
Dylana: Definitely my Canon 5D and 50mm lens, a big pair of round sunnies from Quay, a leather backpack, black leather ankle boots, a vintage denim jacket and a swimsuit because you never know when you might get some pool time!
CULT: What is the best thing about working with Free People?
Dylana: I love that I get to work with product that I feel very connected to and would wear myself, and I love that Free People has always told stories that has made me dream and think of beautiful things. I hope my work with Free People does the same for others.
CULT: Which Free People piece do you wear the most? Which Free People piece are you currently coveting?
Dylana: I always find myself wearing this Victorian-style white tunic with a high-necklace and sort of babydoll fit. It’s such an easy go-to for a night out, or I through it on over jeans for day. I always feel on point in it.
CULT: What is so special about FP Me and that style community?
Dylana: It’s so important for a brand to be fully aware of their customer and to embrace them, which is exactly what Free People does with their FP Me program. These girls who are a part of the community are all definitions of the Free People girl. They ARE the brand. It’s amazing how much they bring to the Free People experience, making it more real, down-to-earth, and totally multi-dimensional. It’s real life and all involving, a lot of what is missing from the fashion industry in general. It makes me so happy that Free People works hard to keep the communication and conversation going between the brand and the customer.
CULT: Who are some people in the FP Me community whose style you really adore?
melodimeadows – her blue hair and off beat style is so cool!
FPLavi – she’s so girly and makes me want to embrace more feminine looks.
CULT: Where did you look for inspiration for the Off the Beaten Path shoot?
Dylana: Joanna pulled some awesome inspiration for poses and styling from Western themed/outdoorsy editorials. I envisioned a tough girl who loved nature and who was seeking a path.
CULT: Any funny stories from the shoot you can share?
Dylana: Cold Spring, New York had A LOT of bees and wasps. And especially at a lot of the locations we wanted to shoot at. Our model was such a trooper, and even thought she was allergic to them, she kept her head up most of the time. There were a few moments where she had some full on freak out sessions when the bees would swarm, and got to capture some really funny faces on my camera.
CULT: Who are some of the photographers you look to for inspiration when doing a fashion shoot?
Dylana: I really love Australian photographer Brydie Mack. her work can be found on her blog, Wolfcub Chronicles. Her work is very clean and natural and open, and her focus is on the female form, which I think is amazing! It’s all very, very edgy, but still super down to earth. Guy Aroch has always inspired me to shoot in a lively way with lots of movement. I also love the work of Bliss Braoudakis and Emma Tempest. It’s funny because I look mostly to young, up and coming photographers for inspiration rather than the older photographers. I feel like the work feels more fresh and the ideas are more in line with my own.
CULT: Which iPhone apps are you obsessed with right now?
Dylana: I’m totally obsessed with VSCOcam to edit photos. It really gives you so many options! I also love the Swedish video app called Videofyme. They offer a ton of filters to use, and you can cut and edit videos to whatever length you want, and add any music you want to it. It’s a lot of fun. I have so many great memories captured on it.
CULT: What are your words to live by?
Dylana: Never say never.
Dylana Suarez, Color Me Nana
Model: Lindsay Dawson
Styled by: Joanna Rentz & Ali Kolbe