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Before we embark on our journey to Silicon Valley to scout our latest fashion shoot inspired by the backdrop of the newest and most modern work environment, I have an idea in my head of what the Google headquarters might be like. It turns out, I later learn, I had no idea what we were in for. Before we left, I had already done some research looking up images of this "Internet University," which have included the many luxuries I am about to witness. But what I haven't seen is the effect it has on the "Googlers." My first impression is that it reminds me of a true college campus. Since I didn't go to a university with a campus, I am even more intrigued. This particular Saturday afternoon, the sprawling grounds are seemingly empty. I get lost in the fantasy of it all, quickly becoming distracted by the idea of running into a school crush — ahh, college. Without our lovely host, Claire Stapleton, guiding our tour, I would have been lost amidst the sleep pods, massage chairs, padded rooms, and my own daydreams of dating a wealthy computer geek. After our trek through, we return to the hotel overwhelmed and go over the genius ideas that our photographer, Neil Kirk, has for documenting our model and the Google-Plex.
The combination of early call times and jet lag hasn't been fun, but I was totally looking forward to shooting today. It's Sunday, so luckily we didn't run into a lot of traffic on the 405 to Silicon Valley. Once at Google, you need a card key to get in any building and rooms inside, so our own security officers met us there. Google is a pretty serious place, especially since they are constantly working on tons of new projects and ventures around the Internet. What a perfect place to portray the new modern woman taking over the world! One of our first shots included seven of the female vice presidents at Google (opens in new tab).
We chose seven unique white suits for these great, powerful Ozzes to showcase. They definitely knew what they liked as well, as they all headed straight for a pair of Manolo Blahnik or Chanel heels to accessorize. As far as getting everyone in one place at the same time, it was the most stressful shot, given we had to coordinate with everyone's equally busy schedules. Some were flying off for business meetings while others had taken the time away from family to join us for a few hours on what otherwise might have been a relaxing Sunday. Despite the stress-free surroundings at the Googleplex, there is always work to be done. Even today, the campus was surprisingly inhabited by employees: Some pounded away on their laptops while loading dirty clothes in the company-provided washing machines, and others loosened their sore muscles from the gym by setting up office in massage chairs.
After the first shot with the VPs we spent a productive day shooting Britni, our model, in some interesting locales — on top of electric cars, relaxed in a sleep pod, or being serious in a wacky cubicle (opens in new tab). So ends our first day. Just one more to go on Monday, but this time, the campus will be bustling and full of employees!
I've predicted we'll get the real experience of the Google lifestyle today since it's a weekday and, I'm sure, a busy day for all the Googlers. Turns out, I was right! Upon arriving on-site the energy was already different and buses arrived every minute. Yes, buses. They literally bus the Googlers in from the city to work, cutting down on traffic and pollution. (How green!) I definitely felt the college campus vibe today was a bit overwhelming and exciting — like it was my first day at school. At breakfast time, wow, let me tell ya, I walked into one of the cafeterias, and the buffet-style setup was filled with every type of breakfast item you could dream of. As a total breakfast-lover, I was in heaven. I felt a bit nervous and confused amongst the chaos of everyone finding their geek-chic clique and enjoying their meal, likely while discussing codes or something. I quietly took my plate back to the set to play with YSL frocks instead. One of our first shots of the day was a group shot outside showing off the motorized scooters Google also offers to the employees. Neil, our photographer, has asked me to be in it, as a Googler!!! Yes! At least for one shot, I got to act the part of a world so foreign to me, yet intriguing! I don't know how well I pulled it off, though; I definitely brought my New York flare to Silicon Valley!
While shooting outside, everyone went about their business pretty much undistracted while they literally walked around with laptops open in hands, typing with one while talking with Bluetooth headsets in their ears! I kept wondering what would've happened if they tripped and fell. Nothing slows these employees down, and why should it with how well they are taken care of? The employees even have a full gym and trainers provided for anytime they need to take a break and release some stress. We decided to focus on the lap pool while an available time slot is ready for us. Apparently the two pools are booked up every day. Meanwhile, I realize, back at Marie Claire, I rarely leave my cubicle ... and if I do, it's to busily style in our fashion closet! The two lifestyles could not be more different. We then decided to recruit a trainer to jump in the lap pool and begin his workout while we shot. He happily accepted. I was hoping he wouldn't (another excuse for me to jump in a shot and enjoy the experience of a lap pool!). I'm hardly athletic, and rarely exercise, I'm afraid to admit. The opportunity would have been a huge challenge!
So our shoot wrapped. I will never forget my two days on a different planet deep within Silicon Valley. I now understand what it takes to be a Googler: a lot of hard work supplemented by the best amenities a company can offer, providing the incentive for ultimate dedication. We may imagine them as a bunch of playful West Coast "Internet hippies," as we've seen in some movies; but they are just as serious as what we decide to wear during Mercedes Benz Fashion Week!
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