Vintage Sugar

Vintage Sugar -- A Period Fashion Editorial at the Old Imperial Sugar Mill

This past August, while the Texas sun kept things around 100 degrees, we shot a vintage fashion editorial in the decommissioned Imperial Sugar mill in Sugar Land, Texas.  The shoot was originally intended to publicize an ambitious fashion show that never got off the ground.  The plan for the show was to feature a sugar and candy theme. It would also include historical elements because of the historical importance of the mill to the City of Sugar Land.  The vintage editorial capitalized on the historical aspect of the ill-fated show, presenting a retrospective of fashions during the plant’s heyday till it’s close.  Roughly post-WW2 till the early 2000s.

NOTE:  Many of the better photos from these sessions were not included in the editorial.  Those can be seen in a gallery here.

model poses in 1980s attire for vintage sugar-themed shoot
Opening spread of the Elegant Magazine Editorial. Meaghann Appling poses with a lollopop in 1980s vintage dress and hair.

We shot the editorial in three full-day sessions, renting a nearby hotel room as a makeup and wardrobe staging point and shuttling artists and models back and forth. Two models and one HMUA participated in the first two sessions. And one model and one artist participated in the third.

vintage sugar period fashion editorial with a lollipop theme
From the Elegant Magaine Editorial. Meaghann Appling and Tayler Campbell pose on a wooden stair in the 5th floor of the Char House.

The site dates back to the 19th century. The two remaining buildings date from the very early 1900s and include the 9-story Char House and a 120-yard long shipping warehouse. The Char House contained extensive refining machinery that performed the last steps in purifying and completing the sugar making process.  The interior of that building is a sort of brick “Gothic” with 20-foot ceilings, brick columns, floor to ceiling industrial glass windows, and huge, menacing openings in the floors and ceilings where equipment has been removed.

vintage shoot at the abandoned Imerial Sugare mill
Brenna Smith poses in the shipping warehouse. On the left, she poses in an open cargo port, 25 feet above a concrete drive. On the right, she poses on the elevated conveyor belt. The temperature in the warehouse was oppressive. The shot on the left was made with the use of a 600mm Canon f/2.8 L lens. Special thanks to Gary Wilhide.

The warehouse building has an interior ceiling that’s over 50′ high, and features the remnants of a huge conveyor belt, exposed ducts, and large bay doors that admit a hazy light.   It also includes a set of ladders that reach guard stands near the ceiling, a feature that recalls the use of prison labor in the mill at the turn of the century.

On the first shoot day, Meaghan Appling and Tayler Campbell wore authentic clothing from the 1980s and 1960s, respectively.  Aleya Duncan, hair stylist and makeup artist created period looks to go with the outfits.

Tayler Campbell poses in a 1960s romper in the abandoned Imperial Sugar mill. Authentic hair and makeup by Aleya Duncan. Tear sheet from the Elegant Magazine editorial.

On our second day of shooting we covered the 1940s and 1950s.  Model Brenna Smith posed in a printed silk dress from the mid-1940s.  Riley Halford posed in an authentic 1950s’ cotton dress.  Both models wore authentic hair and makeup from their respective decades created by hair and makeup artist Dorothy Strouhal.

Elegant Magazine vintage fashion editorial photo
Riley Halford poses in a 1960s cotton dress wearing authentic period hair and makeup for an editorial in Elegant Magazine

Model Elodie Tusac posed in early 2000s Versace for the last segment of the editorial, posing in the Char House and near the large, steel smoke stacks that are all that remain of the plant’s power generation plant.

Vintage Sugar editorial image for Elegant magazine. Versace. Gerard Harrison
Elodie Tusac poses in 2000s Versace for the Elegant Magazine Vintage Sugar editorial

Many of the better photos from these sessions were not included in the editorial.  Those can be seen in a gallery here.

The two buildings and the surrounding acreage are slated for redevelopment as entertainment, office, and boutique hotel space beginning this June.  Special thanks to James Murnane, principal of Imperial Market Development for graciously allowing us to shoot on the site.  You can read more about this exciting development at

The sessions were photographed with a Canon 5 DS R, using Canon L series lenses as well as Art Prime lenses from Sigma.

Artist Aleya Duncan can be reached through her website at

Artist Doroty Strouhal can be reached through her website at

Models Tayler Campbell and Elodie  Tusac are represented by Revalushion Management in  Houston. They may be contacted at

Model Riley  Halford is represented by Neal Hamil and she may be contacted though the agency site at

Brenna Smith and  Meaghann Appling are independent models. Legitimate commercial inquiries may be addressed to the administrator of this site for forwarding.



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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.