It’s a cool and sunny spring day as Kelly Mayhugh is in her element, hovering over a piece of plywood that will later become the set for a shoot featuring both Kelly and the latest collection from R13. “I really enjoy creating things,” she says while thoughtfully mixing several shades of paint together to create the perfect denim-like hue. “At the same time, I like things to be done the right way.”
Mayhugh may have moved to New York from Lexington, Kentucky, to model, but her interest in photo shoots has always extended beyond the barrel of the lens. A few months ago, she began working at 11th Street Workshop on set design and fabrication. Simultaneously, she left her modeling agency and cut off all her hair. “Throughout my career as a model, people constantly told me that they just didn’t know what to do with my hair. Cutting it off felt really liberating because I did it for myself, not to please other people,” she explains, adding that she’s actually gotten more modeling work since the chop.
Now, Mayhugh juggles modeling with set design and production, often working together with her photographer boyfriend Ryan Slack. To showcase her growing skill set, we spent the day with her as she conceptualized and created a custom set, all the while showcasing R13’s Spring 2017 collection, as Slack photographed the process.
“I just learned how to do an acrylic wash on plywood on the set of another shoot. I thought it would be a great way to add a little color and dimension to the denim in the shoot without distracting from the clothes. I mixed blues with a little bit of yellow, black, and white. Then I watered it down, brushed it on, and washed it off. The results are a really light wash on the wood.”
“We wanted to do a really minimalist set, but one that had depth. I love the furniture that Jason has at Other Times—lots of mid-century modern.”
“We love the coffee at Space Craft so we reached out to Howard the owner about catering our shoots, and they started doing it for us. He’s so great, and his coffee is the best in the neighborhood.”
“I dress comfortably and wear a lot of black. I need to move around a set easily. R13 is really similar to my personal style. I wear a lot of denim and leather; I have a vest that I’ve been studding myself. My brother owns a punk record label in Kentucky and very much grew up in that world.”
“I was always pressured into dressing more feminine despite being a tomboy. I tried really hard, but it never felt right. Actually this look from today’s shoot is totally how I’d rock a dress—with a shirt underneath.”
Slipping onto her custom set to pose in the day’s final look, it’s easy to see that Mayhugh—whose eyes softly illuminate on camera—is just as much in her element in front of the lens as she is hands-on behind the scenes.