Photographer Delali Ayivi and set designer Bubby Nurse both graduated from London College of Fashion last July. Just two months later, with the mentorship of the TOAST creative team, they collaborated to create vivid sets and compositions, and cast the model. Their resulting images offer a vibrant energy and fresh perspective, bringing our Spring Summer ’21 collection to life.

Speaking to Delali and Bubby after the shoot, we discuss navigating the world of fashion photography and set design as fresh graduates during a global pandemic and why on-the-job mentoring is so valuable as they begin their journey in the creative industry.

“We’re both very similar in the way we work,” explains set designer Bubby Nurse. “On the photography side, Delali brings so many great references when planning a shoot and I like to build around those with ideas for painting and creating the sets. We’re friends and have studied together so working collaboratively works really well for us.”

“We were given so much freedom to create for this shoot,” adds photographer Delali. “We wanted to create sand sculptures to go with our backdrop and were keen to have really bright colours. The TOAST creative team were really open to trying our ideas,” adds Bubby. “Having the team there to support and teach us a lot of technical things was absolutely amazing,” says Delali. “Bubby and I have always had to do our own lighting in the past and it was amazing to see the outcome with professional lighting.”

Delali started photographing friends and family as a way to express herself creatively. Her visual references for this shoot stemmed from pictures taken back Lomé, elements of which Bubby then crafted into the set. “Delali will come to me with an idea and usually I’m thinking how on earth are we going to do that? For this shoot, the floor was drawn from Delali’s inspiration images of walls with a sandy texture at the bottom,” explains Bubby. “I can show Bubby a picture and from that we can have active discussions about the look and feel of a set. She’s amazing at mocking something up and taking these ideas further,” adds Delali.

Bubby carved sand sculptures out of recycled foam before applying layers of paint, sand and concrete, which she admits was “an experiment that worked out really well.” The backdrop was created out of canvas, a fabric they prefer to use rather than traditional flats, both to avoid wastage and for its mottled texture. “Everything we do with the set design is very DIY and we try to ensure our materials are all sustainably sourced with as little waste as possible,” says Bubby. “I know that with set design especially, it often ends up being thrown away afterwards. That’s why we work on canvas for our backdrops rather than flats. We really like the texture of the material and how, once it’s painted, it makes the image feel more three-dimensional.”

The canvas was painted a bright azure blue, a colour that lifted the collection, highlighting the deeper indigo pieces and balancing the fiery saffron accents in the accessories and summery whites staples. “At TOAST, we strive to enrich and educate our community and that includes the creatives we work with,” says shoot producer Katie Callaghan. “We recognise how daunting it can be starting out in the fashion industry and wanted to support and empower Delali and Bubby on this shoot. By giving them creative freedom, they brought a fresh perspective to our collection without losing the rich texture of our own brand voice. As a brand, we want to continue nurturing and shining a light on emerging talent such as Delali and Bubby, driving positive change within our industry.”

Images by Delali Ayivi.

Set Design by Bubby Nurse.

Model: Coumba at Anti-Agency.

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