The Portrait Series: MATCHES x Cathy Kasterine
On a sweltering summer day in a very well air-conditioned West London studio, Le Monde Béryl founders Lily Atherton Hanbury and Katya Shyfrin invited a gang of creatives to model their shoes for MATCHES with their friend the stylist and photographer Cathy Kasterine’s help. “We wanted to include people that we felt inspired by and who live interesting well-rounded cultural lives, like the brand founders,” explains Cathy. “We had film and music video director Jenn Nkiru, who received a Grammy nomination for Beyoncé’s Brown Skin Girl video. The photographer Lily Bertrand Webb, student Bliss Chapman (daughter of artist Jake Chapman and model and nutritionist Rosemary Ferguson), and writer and creative director Lily Ashley with her husband, the performer and musician Hugo Hamlet.”
LMB founders Lily and Katya have been friends for years. The two stylish women met when they worked for the art auction house Phillips and bonded over a shared interest in art, jewellery (they had both studied gemology), design and, of course, fashion. “I spent all of my time including my honeymoon in art fairs,” laughs Lily, a warm, softly spoken American who moved to London in 2006. “In those days the look was really specific. Everyone wore heels. You would walk all day long looking at a lot of art and then barely have time to change before having to go out to dinner. To be honest, it was exhausting!”
The eureka moment for Lily came at the art Biennale in Venice. “It was the extreme version of why I needed to find a good alternative to constantly wearing heels,” she remembers. “I had been walking all day long, on and off boats, on cobbled streets, and then had to go to a black tie dinner and it was raining… I just couldn’t deal with it anymore.” Lily swooped into a tiny store and bought a pair of jewel-coloured velvet Furlane Venetian slippers (traditionally worn by gondoliers and made with soles fashioned from recycled bicycle tires). “I wore black tie with the slippers that night and found myself dancing for ages, and then I wore them the next day at the art fair. They were the solution I didn’t know that I was looking for! I started to wear them with everything from jeans to work to social events.” It was only when Lily gave a pair to her teenage daughter, who had an allergic reaction to the rubber sole, that she had the idea to try and make her own interpretation. So, Lily and Katya, who had long entertained the idea of finding a project together, teamed up in 2016 and, nodding to their love of jewels, named their company Le Monde Béryl, a gemstone that comes in a myriad of fantastic colours.
Their friend the style magpie Alex Eagle hosted a small party for them in her shop and they sold out. “Then, soon after, MATCHES came calling,” Katya laughs, “and we sold out of every pair. We struggled to keep up with demand.”
Le Monde Béryl styles have that knack of being simultaneously timeless and cool and the brand hit its stride so fast that even its creators were left reeling. In the past few years, the styles have evolved, but Lily and Katya have consistently retained the classic shapes that they launched with. Their Mary Janes have been a huge hit, coming in a plethora of fabrics including velvet, silk satin, leather, linen, as have the fabulous Mesh Slippers. They have even added a few very easy to walk in heels to the collection as well as the perfect soft leather loafer.
When Lily and Katya approached Cathy to shoot their collection for MATCHES, she was only too happy to oblige. “This brand has that timelessness that reminds me of European coolness with a touch of aloof femme fatale,” she explains. “There are shades of Venetian darkness, the potential for deep and sexy sophistication, and I love that. When I buy shoes, I am looking for a trend piece mainly that will fit a styling element that I’m into. I want quality because I tend to repeat buy when I find the right shoe, even if it’s expensive. The idea is that I can wear them for years and that is the case with Le Monde Béryl. This brand speaks to a woman who isn’t obviously sexy, she is aristocratic, clever, and super beautiful.”
There were so many Lilys to remember on the shoot day and photographer Lily Bertrand Webb was first through the studio door. Used to being the one holding the camera, she had an immediate rapport with Cathy who persuaded her to dance to the ‘calm but funky’ playlist that she had created for the day. “She was a brilliant dancer, twirling around to Al Green singing “For the Good Times”, and everything fell into place. She’s so strong and rooted.” Lily admits she spends most of her time in work mode and in Cornwall, wearing “jeans and chunky boots or bare foot.” But she has a gentle femininity and a romantic beauty – Cathy called her “a Cornish surfer shaman” – which chimed well with the Emilia Wickstead dress that she wore with off white satin Mary Janes. “The whole look was so clean and pretty, I really enjoyed it.”
“We had the best day on the shoot,” recalls Lily Ashley. “Partly because London was melting in the heatwave, the air conditioning was blasting, and suddenly we could all think clearly! I met Lily at a book launch and told her like a fan that I think she is making the loveliest shoes. The ‘last’ of her shoes is brilliant and so comfortable. The design is so thoughtful. Usually, I buy my shoes from charity shops but these are worth the investment because they will last so well. I am obsessed by the black velvet Mary Janes that I wore on the shoot with the double straps. The shape is so elegant.”
Hugo was thrilled that Lily and Katya custom-made a pair of Venetian slippers for him. “I like them because Lily and I live a very cosy home life and I like to pad around in them. I feel chic when I wear them.” Lily adds: “We had such fun styling the shoes and I chose Vivienne Westwood, The Vampire’s Wife, and Molly Goddard from the MATCHES edit. They totally represent how I love to dress, playful but classic too, and I wanted to keep everything — especially the tights.”
“What I love about Lily and Hugo is how they like to weave a story into everything. You can see it just by how they position themselves in front of the camera!” says Cathy. “When I asked Lily what she thinks life is going to be like when she has a baby, she merrily replied: ‘I don't know, I think we're going to start a company.’ I asked what kind of company? She replied, ‘We don't know yet but we just know we're going to be really successful and start a brand.’ So I said, ‘We should do a picture of you as CEOs!’ It’s the shot where Lily is sitting in a chair wearing the brown suede loafers and Hugo looms above her!”
Bliss Chapman has a tomboy quality and Cathy captured her clean sensibility. “Bliss has an innate cool – just like her creative parents – and we all fell in love with her. She is funny and dry, and the Molly Goddard cardigan over a shirt and Frankie shop mini skirt that she wore was perfect with the leather loafers and socks.” Bliss was so happy with the styling. “I love preppy style,” she shares.
Another innately cool collaborator on the shoot was Jenn Nkiru. “This brand is very me! Both the heels and the flats work so well with everything I wear. I love great cuts, textures, and fabrics and this brand sits with my own personality because it has its own vibe for a confident girl.” Cathy agrees, “In front of the camera. Jenn was cool and yet glamorous, sexy, and very self-assured.” Jenn was intrigued by handing the creative reins over to Cathy who loved shooting her. “I think she enjoyed the luxury of not having to be responsible for the shoot! She also has amazing ankles and the heeled Mary Janes looked incredible on her,” concludes Cathy.
“It was such a joy to see everyone having so much fun and bringing themselves to the project,” Lily says. “From the self-styling to the way they represented themselves on camera. From cool tomboy to fiercely sexy strong woman. Playful, joyful, carefree style.”