Claire Drennan Look Book: Offbeat is Upbeat!

Claire Drennan Look Book: Offbeat is Upbeat

Back in October, Claire Jarvis, the owner, founder, and creative force behind Claire Drennan Knitwear asked if I would do a look book fashion shoot for her new line of neck wear.  An assignment that involves photographing a bunch of knit ties may not sound interesting to you, but then you may not know Claire.

I’ve known Claire for a little over a year.  We both have space in Canal Street Studios. Her studio is crammed with skeins of yarn in all colors, numerous inscrutable knitting machines, samples of complex and beautiful knitted fabrics she’s designed and made, and Leela — the little white poodle Claire brought back from Chile — ergo her Chile Dog.

Unlike a lot of artists, Claire’s creativity never seems to stray into the dark.  Her colors and ideas are as sunny and bright as she is. And her ideas for marketing reflect an offbeat sense of humor, even a touch of zaniness.

Invoking the Divine Chartreuse

The project Claire designed for me would have just that sort of offbeat and upbeat tone. To complement the soft pastels of the ties and scarves we’d be shooting, Claire created a nicely textured chartreuse background. She also found an old fiberglass satellite dish about 48″ across that she painted the same color.  That was our set.  The model would stand in the concave dish and pose against the background … and try not to lose his or her balance or break the flimsy dish.

To complete the chartreuse vibe, Clair had purchased white cotton jeans and button down shirts and dyed them chartreuse. But Claire hadn’t just dumped the jeans into a vat of dye. Invoking a secret process she learned from an Inca mystic weaver high in the Chilean Andes, she carefully graduated the intensity of the chartreuse so that it faded as it rose towards the waist, where it met the perfectly matched chartreuse button down shirt. She accented this base outfit with a pair of lavender slip-on sneakers. It takes some imagination, and some confidence, to put a combination like this together. (See the pic above.)

The Cloud Ties

With the Divine Chartreuse invoked and the gods firmly on our side, it was time to shoot.  First up were Claire’s ties.  I have always been a big fan of ties.  My first tax-paying job was selling men’s accessories at . . . drum roll . . .  Sears . . . where I sold all sorts of classy $1.49 ties, clip-ons included.  That wasn’t enough to turn me away from those colorful little accent pieces, and at the height of my old office life, I amassed a hundred or so ties from folks like Zegna, Stefano Ricci, and Brioni.  But not one Claire Drennan. You probably don’t have one, either. You should.  Here’s why.

Knitted ties have been around a while. With their squared-off tip and rich textures, they stand out from the vast silk majority.  Claire’s are particularly nice.  The woven “cloud” pattern is beautiful, unusual, and precise.  The ties are well-constructed. They’re made of cotton. That gives you some additional cleaning options if you dip it in your gumbo!

On a more stylistic note, they form a nicely symmetrical triangle if you use the popular 4-in-hand knot.  See above. And they return to their shape after hours of wear much better than do silk ties. I know, because I wore one of these ties around the studio all day. Perhaps most important, this is a small, indeed exclusive, production item.  You aren’t going to bump into anyone else wearing one of these cheerful ties.

Claire’s Badass Scarves

After the ties, which are all-season accessories, we moved into some definite cold weather wear — long, luxurious, warm scarves.  These scarves, which are about 7 feet long, are gorgeous.  Employing a larger variation on the cloud motif Claire used in the ties, the scarves come in three different color combinations.  In addition, they have different but complimentary patterns on each side.  You’ll see how this works in the photos below.

My personal fave is the grey/black one.   If you have a black full-length wool or cashmere greatcoat, you need one.  But the dark blue and light blue are terrific, too. Put on a ski sweater, a pair of jeans, wrap the dark blue scarf around your neck and head down to the bar at your favorite ski lodge for some spiced hard cider. And, there’s a cool little hat to keep your head warm, or just make you look like a renaissance painter.

All-the-Ways Infinity Shawl

The shoot wrapped up with the most creative piece of all. Claire’s infinity shawl is a shawl made of a generous, wide loop of soft, stretch cotton knit, with cleverly designed arm holes, that can be configured in ways as limitless as your imagination.  This  is the one “women only” piece in the collection. (Lots of other women’s fashions in Claire’s other collections on her site.)  It’s versatility is pretty much impossible to describe, you just have to see it.

That’s about it.  Special thanks to Ryan Hogue, from Beaz Talent for great work as our male model.  Thanks also to Kim Adams, a good friend and brilliant artist for modeling the Infinity Shawl.  And of course, thanks to Claire Jarvis, a/k/a Claire Drennan, for the opportunity to work with her and to photograph her beautiful designs.

You can find Clair Drennan’s online shop at

Technical notes:

I lit this shoot with two 60” Octoboxes  placed 4-5’ from the models and arranged at roughly 45 degrees from the camera point of view.  Initially, we thought to light the background separately, but we achieved good exposure for the model and the desired color density in the background by using two primes, only. That arrangement also created a greater sense of depth through the resulting light intensity fall off  and slight foreground to background gradient.

Photographed with a Canon EOS 5DS R; Canon 24-70 f/2.8L. Color calibrated in Lightroom with X-Rite Color Checker Passport. Final edits in Photoshop CC.


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About Gerard Harrison

With over 30 years' photography experience, Gerard is the owner and founder of Image Theory Photoworks, a fashion and fine art portrait studio.