For TIME Style & Design’s fashion shoot with British actors Tom Hiddleston and Michelle Dockery, photographer Jonathan de Villiers got to work on the roof of what is the tallest hospital in the world, Guy’s Hospital in London. And that wasn’t the only superlative in play: “This is, dare I say it, one of the best periods for British fashion,” says de Villiers. “There’s a whole crop of new young designers.”
Fittingly for forward-looking designers, the shoot’s concept involved time travel from the future. The photographer, who hails from London but now lives in Paris, says that the city has recently embraced its own relationship with the future: in the last decade, the city seems to have recovered from backlash against ’60s modernism, he says, and its architecture has moved in a more avant-garde direction. Much of de Villiers’ work in Paris has to do with clichés about the fantasy of the city of lights, and he says that it was fun to get a chance to engage in similar reflection about his hometown—even if its archetypes are stuffier.
“People think of London as a very traditional city with a lot of old stuff, but in the last decade there’s been a kind of re-imagining,” he says. “I think the most interesting thing to be said about this shoot is the whole question of projecting ideas about a place and how that carries through to clothes and perceptions of design.”
But for this shoot de Villiers’ vision of the future also had to conquer the present—or at least the present-day weather. Although the shoot featured British fashion designers’ spring/summer collections, it was very much winter. “It was bitterly cold at ground level, and I could see the clouds racing across the sky, and I was thinking ‘Oh my God, by the time we get up on that roof it’s going to be crippling,” says de Villiers of the rooftop shoot. “But the actors were quite game and the sun came out and everything.”
For a deeper look into that future—and a take on London from a different kind of future perspective—check out this video shot on the set: