Nigel Barker is having a moment with New Zealand right now. The photographer, furniture designer and former America's Next Top Model judge has just become the new face of Kiwi wine brand Invivo Wines, taking his love of New Zealand and his favourite home-grown tipple to the US market.
“I love good wine and ever since I first tasted Invivo I was hooked,” says Nigel who sparked up a friendship with co-founders, Tim Lightbourne and Rob Cameron. Tim and Rob then spent the next five years sending their wine to Nigel for his personal consumption — some of which was halted by Customs.
“I am looking forward to introducing the US to Invivo as long as I manage to save a few cases for me — I can’t go back to smuggling it into the country again,” says Nigel, who'll feature in campaigns to help Invivo stand out in the US market.
As for a future wine collaboration? “I would call it NB for Note Bene the Latin for Note Well. Oh, and Naughty Boy. As Graham [Norton] has already made a fabulous white [for the brand] I would like to make a delicious red, I think diversity is important,” he says.
As well as his new role for Invivo, Nigel also talked to us about the future of fashion, social media and photography.
Where do you draw inspiration from on a daily basis?
Everything, from the weather, politics, my kids to everything I see and read. I think it's important to stay tuned in to what happens, not just in the news but in your backyard. Every morning the first thing I do is make a cup of tea and wander around my garden looking at all the plants and flowers and noting the small changes each day brings.
What is your view of the fashion industry right now in regards to diversity?
It is far more diverse, but that isn't a huge accolade as we started in a very sterile and monochromatic space. The good news is we all have the power to demand change through social media. Shows like ANTM paved the way for diversity by including models of a variety of sizes on TV and we always cast a broad selection of contestants of ethnic diversity too. There is still a long way to go, but we have to demand it, the fashion industry is a mirror of society and reflects what we want to see. It's a business, so if they think models of diversity will sell because we will buy then the industry will change.
How does social media affect the fashion industry?
Social media is the single largest movement to change the fashion industry in history I believe. Since the beginning of the fashion industry it has been designers, editors and photographers, who have picked models to be on the cover of magazines, star in advertising campaigns and to be our muses. Now because of social media, we the people are deciding whether we like somebody by following them and liking their images, posts and pages. There is a reason the new crop of supermodels are social media stars, we put them there. Why do you think Kim Kardashian and Kanye West were put on the cover of US Vogue? Anna Wintour could see that they were in vogue already. Social media has removed the guessing of who might be popular and what could work.
Are you a fan of using social media?
Yes, I thoroughly enjoy it. I know there are many photographers who feel threatened by social media apps like Instagram but personally I am thrilled that there are now over a billion people taking photos albeit with a phone. Imagine if children were never given pencils, we wouldn't have half the artists or authors we have today. So by giving people a phone with a camera on it and a platform for them to show off their creativity, it has allowed millions to express themselves.
What do you think is the future of fashion photography?
As long as we wear clothes there will be a fashion industry and as long as there's a business it will need to be photographed and filmed. It certainly seems that video is playing a larger role now but change is good and exactly what fashion has always been about.
What else are you up to at the moment?
There are several charitable organisations I collaborate with including the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, the Make-a-Wish Foundation and the Humane Society International to name but a few. I've spent the last decade making documentaries for these and various other charities, trying to use my expertise at telling stories with imagery to showcase these great foundations' work and missions.
What's in store for the rest of the year – aside from enjoying some Kiwi wine?
I have my second collection of furniture coming out later in the year called NB2 with Art Van Furniture inspired by my city life. It's a modern collection with beautiful simple lines unlike my first collection NB1 which was based around my bohemian and eclectic upstate home inspired by my world travels. Oh, and I'm building a tree house. The kids think it's for them but really it's a love nest for the wife and I, the perfect place to enjoy my Invivo …