The Survey

 

The Survey

 

Over the past few months, there has been much discussion in both the established and social media about sexual harassment allegations, the treatment of models, and the questionable road towards making a fashion image. In light of this, we have been asking ourselves an uneasy and uncertain, yet important question: ‘What is the future for sexualized imagery and nudity in the world of fashion?’ We felt that the younger generation currently involved in fashion and its image-making might be most credibly placed to answer that. So we asked them.




‘People need to remember that photographing a living being is a collaboration. You don’t own an image of someone, you share it. And by those standards, both parties need to be involved in the end product.’
Harley Weir, photographer

 

‘After seeing so many women showing themselves nude and calling for feminism, maybe it is time to find an equilibrium.’

 

‘Sexualized imagery is all about the situation. Nudity for me is quite different because you can be extremely sexual while being totally covered. Overall, after seeing so many women showing themselves nude and calling for feminism, maybe it is time to find an equilibrium. Women used to need to copy male outfits to feel in a more equal position, then we realized we were still being sexualized. Maybe the future is to actually assume sexuality, and also nudity, in a normal way and not as a provocation.’
Marine Serre, designer

‘As long as respect is maximum within the entire artistic team, no space will be left for any doubtful behaviour. I truly believe that your freedom stops when it steps on another person’s freedom. By bearing that principle in mind, the creative process of a sexualized or non-sexualized imagery should remain untouched.’
Paul Hameline, model

 

‘I cannot comprehend the notion that you have to have an unhealthy objective relationship with the subject in order to produce a sexual image.’

 

‘I absolutely think there is a future for sexual imagery in fashion. I think an image can be classified as sexual or sexy, with or without nudity, purely based on the subject looking empowered, confident and energetic. To me, this is pushing the boundary of what a sexual image is, mostly because the photographic gaze has changed as of late. Communication, knowing what to expect on set, and the subject feeling not only safe, but also excited and inspired to be portrayed in this way is very important in the creation of these images. A sexual image will always test the accepted comfort levels of the culture surrounding it. As culture changes, sexual imagery and image-making changes. Right now, that change is looking more and more positive, and I hope it continues this way. I cannot comprehend the notion that you have to have an unhealthy objective relationship with the subject in order to produce a sexual image. The issue is the people behind the images, not the visibility of the sexualized body. It is inspiring that women and men have been reclaiming their voices and speaking out against this way of working. As a woman, it is an exciting time to be thriving in a historically male-driven industry, and to be creating images of women with women for women. Saying that, I think this question should also be open to the male photographers, models, stylists, designers of this new generation. It is not us against them. There is more scope for change if we work together.’
Emma Wyman, senior fashion editor, Dazed

‘I never saw the naked body as a big deal. I think the world in which we live has too many preconceptions on what the naked body and sexualized images should look like. It is wrong to assume one’s idea of sexuality will match the stereotyped idea of it that the media are offering. I only very rarely find a fashion image sexy that is supposed to be charged with sexual energy. But who can still find this idea sexy? Maybe heterosexual and gay men who find the abuse of power attractive? Luckily for me, I don’t know many men who do.
   I think a lot of the fashion imagery created in the 1980s with nudity was about a model (female or male) portrayed as being owned, inferior and ready to please the eyes and perhaps the body of the photographer. That was the initial mistake, which led to the years of abuse that are now coming to light. I have never found ownership, domination or submission sexy. And I don’t think you’ll find many people in my generation who do. I find equality, curiosity and dignity sexy. The naked body has been in art from the beginning of art, and I think it should remain in it, but only if it is done from a place of mutual respect, interest and equality, not abuse.’
Coco Capitán, photographer

‘The main problem that needs to be tackled in the fashion industry is unchecked power and ego. I hope this is a total sea change of morals and manners on every level of the industry, and things that were considered normal just won’t be OK any more. Image content is another thing – it’s the process of getting to the image where the sexual abuse and endemic bullying culture has been happening. Sexualization in fashion and art is something else and is a powerful topic that should be handled carefully, but abuse in real life is totally different. Certainly the theme of the shoot should not dictate people’s behaviour. Beauty standards and propriety evolve naturally from the culture that they are born out of, so this will no doubt have an impact, but we’ll probably only be able to see it properly in hindsight.’
Tom Guinness, senior fashion editor, POP and Arena Homme +

‘My nudity in my work, and even my sexuality, is just as empowering now as when I started. However, this comes with confidence, experience and safe surroundings. For the future of nudity in fashion, the changes have to happen behind the scenes: clearer communication, healthy collaboration, and a greater understanding of power in relationships on set.’
Mica Arganaraz, model

‘Sex and nudity have been a part of image-making since the beginning of time. Sex is a fundamental part not only of our visual language but also of human life. In fact, without it, there is no life! Images are my primary vocabulary, so suggesting that images should never be sexualized is akin to compromising my freedom of speech. We need to be sensitive to how those images are made and what we are saying with them.
   A major cause of the abhorrent sexual abuse and mistreatment of models, stems from a massive imbalance of power. Even though in recent years, things have shifted away from the days of enormous budgets with teams flying out to exotic locations for weeks on end, it is undeniable that the money in fashion and the power of certain photographers and stylists to make or break careers, is still out of proportion. This has led to some individuals being totally out of touch with the effects of their actions and unchecked by those around them. There has also been far too little regulation of the industry and protection of models by their agents. The speed of turnover of models has increased exponentially over the few years and with that, a sense of expendability that makes me incredibly sad. I think it’s fantastic that we are now having this discussion and that social media has given a voice to those previously unable or afraid to speak out about their experiences. But it is a very complicated subject and we must be careful not to oversimplify things. Primarily, we all need to make sure we are consciously part of a working environment that is safe, healthy and hopefully, fun!
   What I’ve also been forced to question is how I should represent sexuality within my work. I think fashion is about creating characters that feel modern, fresh, relevant and aspirational. I always want the models in my work to feel strong, empowered and sexy, but the question that feels most relevant to me now is: what is sexy? What that might have meant a few years ago at the peak of the ‘Victoria’s Secret era’ now seems outdated and I hope to be part of a generation of artists that can redefine what a more empowered sexuality can look like.’
Charlotte Wales, photographer

 

‘Erotica in photography can be beautiful and pleasurable, but I want the naked woman in the picture to want to be naked in the picture.’

 

‘The problem arises when a model is used as a passive tool in the creation of someone else’s vision. Erotica in photography can be beautiful and pleasurable, as long as every participant is respected as a maker and enjoys the process of making. I want the naked woman in the picture to want to be naked in the picture.’
Olya Kuryshchuk, founder and creative director, 1 Granary

‘I don’t think this is the end of nudity in fashion photography, nor do I wish that to happen, but I do hope that we can see an end to young people being coerced into it or not being consulted about it. It feels like we are moving that way. Having been a model before getting into casting, I am doing what I can to further this process and sincerely hope that it’s not just being viewed as just another trend.’
Ben Grimes, casting director

 

‘I think sometimes Harley’s pictures are super provocative, and if a male photographer is doing that, it would be perceived in a different way.’

 

‘I do think that fashion imagery is going to affected not only by the post-#MeToo atmosphere, but also by other things that are going on in the world. Everything is changing right now, is being questioned and brought to task. We can’t go on as usual. Young people in general don’t identity with the way things generally have been. Sexuality is much more fluid now, and I feel that they’re documenting that. All the kids on Instagram are half-naked. I don’t think that’s going to go away because of #MeToo. But maybe it’ll go away through the people who are working in the industry, the place where all the assets live.
   The bigger question is: what’s next? What is the future of sexualized imagery? I don’t think we are necessarily going to see less sexualized imagery, but I do think that the way in which sexuality is portrayed needs to change. We’ve already seen that from people like Harley Weir and Petra Collins, who are showing an exploratory femininity. Not derogatory, as we have come to accept as being the norm. A lot of it is also about who is delivering the work. I think sometimes Harley’s pictures are super provocative, and if a male photographer is doing that, it would be perceived in a different way. Different points of view, from photographers who are of different races, sexualities and genders, means that sexuality will be perceived differently.’
Carlos Nazario, fashion director, Fantastic Man

‘Fundamentally, fashion imagery is a vehicle for desire – for both people and objects. But nudity is not always sexual, and sexuality is not always the result of coercion or exploitation. Yes, selling a pair of shoes with a pair of tits both feels and looks retro; I have absolutely no interest in seeing images of women created with straight men, female insecurities or the Boschian hellscape that is the Daily Mail sidebar in mind. Saying that, I am wary of viewing any and all eroticism as the enemy and seeking to censor it; instead I’m hopeful that this moment will encourage regulations, so no model ever feels pressured into a shoot or situation they aren’t comfortable with, and those commissioning imagery see this as an opportunity to prioritize the perspectives and gazes of a more diverse group of image-makers. How do they explore – and queer – ideas of desire, and what does sexuality look like for them? That’s a future I’m excited to see.’
Emma Hope Allwood, fashion features editor, Dazed

‘We will see a change in that the younger generation is increasingly confident with its own image. They have grown up seeing nakedness every few seconds, in many diverse forms, and they don’t think much of it. I would think that going forward there will be even fewer limits to what we now perceive as acceptable, as minority groups are becoming part of the media’s focus. Sexual harassment is a violation though and is not to be confused with sexual imagery. Of course, acceptance of the latter in an extreme form has contributed to the disillusion and consequently the former, but the two can be worlds apart.
   I hope that there will be more protection from model agencies to prevent unwanted situations. But sexual images will be around as long as they are attractive. We find naked imagery attractive if it has an aesthetic that matches ours or which we can relate to. Of course, we are attracted to the human body – we are planned that way – and sex still sells! But it should be a natural and confident exchange. So what is a sexualized image going to look like? Virtual? Sensory? History has a tendency to collapse back on itself, but I would like to think that sexuality will include a more diverse range of imagery. Sexuality can be found in so many aspects of life, and this will be the challenge to embrace. There is already a greater amount of dead-meat nakedness, and less emotionally charged sexuality, and I wonder if sexuality won’t become a more sought-after skill when we are so bombarded with bulging flesh everywhere.’
Bibi Blangsted, designer

‘Women and men who are finding their voice and speaking out against the exploitation that has long been tolerated in fashion are an inspiration. Obviously, there is still a lot more work to be done. We need better protections for models, more diversity in casting, and we need to be more responsible with the body images we project to young women and men. I don’t think provocative, sexual images are the problem. The problem is the predatory behaviour of people in power and those who turn a blind eye to it. We shouldn’t start censoring the work at a time when more women are shooting than ever before. It’s our right and our responsibility to reclaim the female body and explore our sexuality in a responsible, positive way.’
Brianna Capozzi, photographer

‘It’s important to question whose sexual fantasy we are feeding. I find it sexiest when a woman in a photograph has agency and is self-aware. Clothes or no clothes. Women need to have a choice and the power to make decisions of how they will be portrayed. They need to be collaborators and a relevant party involved in the process of making the image.’
Zoë Ghertner, photographer

‘Nudity is important sometimes. Artists need to be able to do what they need to do to produce the images that they want to get. I think everything now has to be much more considered. This newer generation is more conscious of it, making sure that it is appropriate to their work, and it has to be authentic. If we are talking about fashion images, in fashion magazines and using models and nudity, at the moment, it’s a very sensitive issue. At Vogue, we do not use models under 18, and that’s really important. I don’t think you need to see young girls without their clothes on to make a good fashion picture.’
Rosie Vogel, casting director and bookings editor, British Vogue

‘The human body is highly political, we all know this. In my work, I find it important to propose images of emancipation, not domination. Nudity can be beautiful, especially when it comes to art. When it comes to the market, we have so much of this masculine point view (straight or gay) where the female body is a poor recipient of signs, lifeless. If you use nudity, at least let the models have a soul.’
Christelle Kocher, designer

 

‘I don’t want fashion to become too prudish, policed or restrictive, but hopefully people will be asking the right questions.’

 

‘Working in fashion, I often feel that a lot of the industry is caught up in a hangover from the 1960s, when a lot of men became photographers, stylists or editors in order to hit on models. I can only speak from the perspective of a photographer, but I think there’s always an inherent level of exploitation when making an image with a person as its subject. The power dynamic is always going to be uneven: the photographer has the final say in how someone is portrayed.
   I don’t think that nudity or sexualized images will become obsolete in fashion, but I do think that people will expect context and a justification for nudity in an image, especially when it’s made by a man. As an example: why is this male photographer shooting a young model with her top off, when it’s a jeans campaign? I don’t want fashion to become too prudish, policed or restrictive, but hopefully people will be asking the right questions, and it’ll become harder for those who seek to exploit to get away with it.’
Eloise Parry, photographer

‘Integrity and freedom of expression.’
Kozaburo Akasaka, designer

‘I feel fashion is changing, even at a slow pace, with nudity and sexualized imagery. There are now more hijab-wearing models and there is more model diversity, but I still feel there is a long way to go. Exploitation is so common in the fashion industry and more diversity at top positions is what’s needed to change the content of sexualized imagery.’
Nicholas Daley, designer

‘It will not be about exploiting sexuality, it will be about challenging the binary construction of sexuality.’
Julia Lange, casting director

‘Nudity in fashion is so problematic, since if you put aside all the creative aspects of a fashion image, you are essentially using someone’s body to sell products. I do think that with the younger generation of image-makers, the way the body is viewed and represented in fashion is changing. I hope that we’ll be able to leave behind the culture that profits from objectification, as fashion imagery undeniably has an effect on the cultural gaze. I’m not against nudity or sexuality in fashion – we’ve done plenty of shoots presenting nudity and a broad spectrum of sexuality – but I think the context the images are being shown in, the intent of the photographer, and the consent of the model are extremely important. It has to be for the right reasons. For me, shooting nudes is about trust, permission and awareness of the subject. I think a lot of it comes down to creating a safe environment for everyone involved on set. If you see someone using their position of power for sexual exploitation, speak up.’
Tati Lëshkina, photographer

 

‘If the female body, and especially the nipple, is liberated from censorship, it’ll be normalized and celebrated as the beauty of female autonomy.’

 

‘There will always be a place for female nudity in fashion photography. As a woman and a model, I feel that under the right circumstances a naked woman can be an expression of female empowerment. If the female body, and especially the nipple, is liberated from censorship, it’ll be normalized and celebrated as the beauty of female autonomy. The questions we need to ask are not only about the production, but also society’s reception and consumption, of fashion imagery.’
Jess Cole, model

‘There are certain principles that should be upheld within our industry. These include consent, awareness of the gaze, and regard for structural inequalities, among others. These are principles we always try to abide by and listen to others about. As individuals we have been very lucky not to have experienced these issues first-hand. We believe it is important to listen to and amplify the voices of those who have experienced such issues.’
Stefan Cooke & Jake Burt, designers

 

‘Fashion transitioned into a new era where our art is no longer judged only by the beauty of the images, but also by the integrity of its makers.’

 

‘Fashion transitioned into a new era where our art is no longer judged only by the beauty of the images, but also by the integrity of its makers. We as creatives have the power to channel art through the human body, but we also have a moral duty to ensure this is done with the utmost respect for the dignity and well-being of everyone involved in the creative process.’
Katie Burnett, stylist

‘It’s not about being a prude and thinking that there should be absolutely no nudity, no sensuality, no sexuality in fashion photography, of course, but about looking at the makers of these images and trying to figure out what the message they are trying to convey is. And it’s not just about having women creatives versus male creatives either, as women can be just as good as men in serving the patriarchy. It’s proof enough to look at the current wave of female photographers, who are not shy about showing the female body in all its beauty and in all its imperfections, who are not afraid about showing women in all their different facets – alone, with friends, crying, masturbating. It is almost a tender gaze, an understanding gaze, that results in images that can still be polarizing, that can still be provocative, but that in no way exploit the young women involved in creating them. It’s not enough to say that you are for women, and for women’s empowerment – the proof is in the images.’
Laia Garcia, deputy editor, No Man’s Land

‘When I walk into my darkroom at the beginning of the day and learn that I’m sharing the space with only women, I feel relief, joy, more motivation and less stress.’
Joyce NG, photographer

‘I get really excited when I spend time or work with young people – like late teens or early 20s – because it seems the facades of superiority that are associated with traditional fashion image making are almost non-existent. It feels like reading and creating an image has become about its content again and less about adhering to this hierarchy.
   If we get all these assholes out of the way – all these self-important exploitative egos – and we are all participating in the image-making process in a way that feels great for ourselves and everyone else on set, then perhaps the creation of fashion imagery will once again be a creative thing. And, most importantly, the exploitation of someone just won’t have a place anymore.’
Sharna Osborne, film maker

‘We shouldn’t be scared to portray sexuality or include nudity in imagery we create, as long as it’s carried out in a non-exploitative manner. But no one’s worth can any longer be measured only by their sex appeal, which suggests their sexuality is separate from their personality and dignity. Our dysfunctional society shames us for being sexual, and we’re shown ad campaigns which glorify passivity towards sexual abuse. We need to evolve the culture and not shy away from being sexual, but own it ourselves, and know our worth without being desired by others. We need to stop continuing to reinforce current gender stereotypes on future generations, and instead create work that speaks for equality and diversity. That will help to reinforce the economic empowerment and break down the socioeconomic restrictions female and non-binary individuals face, for example, when reaching for high positions in politics or other businesses.’
Anna Pesonen, stylist and fashion editor

‘For the most part the discussion on harassment has been about the process of harassment and questionable behaviour involved in the making of the image, but not the imagery itself. I think as long as subjects are presented as ‘available and willing’, as they so often are, then I see this as a problem that won’t go away. Within fashion, yes perhaps everyone is terrified to misbehave (for now at least), but within society in general I think it will remain a problem.’
Marc Hibbert, photographer

‘I hope that taking preventive measures in order to avoid sexual abuse in a working relationship will not censor empowering female imagery. The current questioning of female nudity demonstrates how it still seems to be only associated with sexual objectification. What’s happened could make for stronger investment in young models’ independence and protection: guidance to build stronger self-confidence through better agency and parental supervision.’
Linda Engelhardt, editor-at-large, Marfa Journal

‘The issue here is not just the male gaze, but the perceived value the male gaze generates for itself when it is endlessly regurgitated by young male photographers who think they are the next Nobuyoshi Araki. The result is inevitably stifling, dull and hyper masculine, and it contributes nothing of interest to fashion or to the lives of women themselves. Time and time again we’re told that this kind of work has value because it is cool, or irreverent, or subversive, but in the present day we are ready for sensitivity and novelty rather than stale patriarchal notions of cool. A moratorium might in fact be the hard reset that our very souls need.
   So then: how would fashion imagery feel if it were made by women exclusively? I think of the photographers Lina Scheynius and Kava Gorna, whose work is at times wholeheartedly erotic and sexual, and yet does not feel prescriptive or regimented. When I look at their work, it feels separate, new and open: a lot like sex and love and nudity can make me feel in my real life. And no poor up-and-coming model had to pour milk all over herself under desensitised flashbulbs in a West Hollywood studio to get there.’
Ana Kinsella, writer and editor

 

‘I don’t think wearing massive dungarees or dressing like a man or making yourself an asexual being is the answer.’

 

‘Nudity is the most beautiful state of a human – fragile and strong at the same time. In my opinion the problem is not nudity or sexualized imagery in itself, but the way these images are used. Using nudity in order to sell things degrades the body, makes it into an object, and usually asks for a certain unreal perfection of the body. In a world where men have ruled on all levels (and still do), women have always been the object and not the subject – the one to look at, not the one looking. I think it’s important that women show their vision and, if possible, not one created by men for many years. We need to find our own language of portraying beauty, sexuality and nudity.
   I don’t believe female sexual empowerment comes from sexualizing yourself in uncomfortable outfits, rubbing oil on your body, making an orgasmic face and showing the power in this way. In my opinion you are still displaying a male fantasy. I also don’t think wearing massive dungarees or dressing like a man, and making yourself an asexual being is the answer. The thing is that there is not yet any female language that originates from honest female thoughts and fantasies, and which have not been corrupted by years of male-led visuals. I do believe women are busy discovering this language, and I think that’s where the challenge lies – to demand and create space for this female language in today’s world, in art, in fashion, in everything really. In other words, trying to see what it is to be a woman in a visual world without comparing to or rebelling against men, and so show a new vision without being a victim.’
Janneke van der Hagen, photographer

‘It is all about intention and a level playing field. When we collaborate with stylists, models, and photographers, everyone is in it together, with pure intentions. Nobody’s opinion is above another, and nobody’s concern is below. Working in a collaborative way with all parties is the only way that a group can make any kind of image that expresses its concept without the risk of offence or exposure.’
Michael Halpern, designer

‘In the current climate, we need to consider whether what we are doing is positive for all parties involved and the industry as a whole. We should all think about two things when the subject of sexualized imagery is concerned. 1. Is nudity or sexualized imagery necessary to communicate what we want to say with this project? 2. Is the subject an adult and entirely comfortable with what they are being asked to do? If not, don’t do it. It really is that simple. Nobody should be placed in an uncomfortable position when they come to work. Often we are dealing with very young subjects, new to the industry and their well-being is our responsibility.’
Gary David Moore, stylist

‘In our common visual landscape, where interpersonal relationships hover around paid promotions interspersed by calendar reminders, Instagram influencers and sexualized fashion campaigns, there can be no single perspective on representation that doesn’t in some way threaten to flatten another. Nudity in the eyes of the model, photographer or art director may have one meaning, but that meaning is skewed when the same image is served as an ad to 14 year olds. White female nudity is empowering to some and oppressive to others; black female nudity is crucial to some and fetishized by others. There is as yet no substantial way of cementing context around images online. The platforms are corrupt, but for now we live on the platforms. Or rather multiple representations of us do, swimming through a kind of voyeuristic soup. There’s no real position I can grasp onto when everything’s so slippery with meaning and meaninglessness. Try to be as cynical as possible about the work you make and see. For now that seems to be the only option.’
Bertie Brandes, co-founder and editor, Mushpit

‘There’s a place for every type of image as long as it’s achieved responsibly.’
Alice Goddard, stylist and founder, Hot and Cool

‘There is less nudity within the fashion sphere than there was. It is clear that the industry is now more focused on girls’ personalities than their sexuality, and fashion brands and designers are now turning their content towards creating compelling stories that reveal the ethos and lifestyle of their brands. There is a wave of new, empowered women, such as Petra Collins and Tavi Gevinson, who are spearheading this change. They own their bodies; they are not afraid to voice their opinions and are refusing to be seen as stereotypes.’
Fanny Zakrisson, head of image, Premier Model Management

‘Nudity and sexuality have always been a part of the vocabulary of visual arts, and it would be very sad if this became considered taboo. The recent scandals in the fashion industry have rightly shone a light on exploitation, and as creators, we need to actively preserve the rights of the models. It should be every person’s own decision if she or he would like to contribute in such imagery, and it shouldn’t be based on power games or serving higher interests. The industry is responsible for a new standard towards safeguarding, transparency and support. Nudity is a form of freedom and self-expression that can empower. We need to consider more closely the lens through which we create and view this type of imagery.’
Ali + Aniko, stylist duo, fashion directors, Pleasure Garden Magazine

‘Sexualized imagery has always been a part of human history, not only in the fashion world. People have been portraying nudes since forever and with today’s technology, there are even more ways to depict the human figure. I hope that nudity will be widely accepted in the future, too, and hopefully we will learn to love one another no matter what shapes, sizes 
and colours we encounter.’
Daniela Kocianova, model

‘The human body is an incredible canvas for expressing ideas or feelings, and fashion is a powerful medium through which we paint that canvas. The types of stories we tell through fashion imagery and how we come to tell them has never been so important. We are starting to see a new generation of creatives who are changing the nature of fashion imagery, so I think the future holds a lot of potential for truly interesting explorations of the relationship between people and fashion. Now is the time for the whole industry and media to evolve.’
Rejina Pyo, designer

‘It’s so important that our current questioning and addressing of these issues transcends and endures beyond any passing trend or movement. I think nudity in fashion imagery should never be and never feel exploitative – it’s just unacceptable. There are ethical ways to deal with complex subjects like nudity and sexuality in imagery without resorting to unethical behaviour, exploitation and misconduct. It comes down to empathy between all parties involved in the image-making process. It’s the responsibility of all of us working in the industry to make sure this improves, to set better expectations and to keep each other safe.’
Katie Roberts-Wood, designer

‘I think the discussion has been more about the exploitation of power, rather than the nudity itself. It’s great that the issue has been brought to the surface, and we should all be sensitive with the people we are working with (not that I haven’t been!). But I don’t see why this movement should limit creativity and I don’t think this is about making the subject of nudity a taboo.’
Hanna Moon, photographer

‘The body has been capitalized on as a sexual object to enhance the fantasy to consumers. Sex drive is an innate desire that should be explored through fashion imagery, because the form of the body and fashion design go hand in hand. It should be created and handled with freedom, precaution and responsibility, so that all parties are comfortable. There should be audits on shoots to begin implementing procedures and standards.’
A Sai Ta, designer

‘My ultimate fear is that the current social climate around sexual harassment may have the potential to stifle sexually liberating imagery in the media. This is exactly the opposite of what we need to see in the world. While a great deal of the work I do as a designer is overtly sexual, it is entirely representative of younger queer individuals claiming their sexual identities, rather than being forced into hyper-erotic imagery that makes them a target for sexual abuse. I do think that change needs to happen in this industry in order for the veil to be lifted all the way. In terms of allegations specifically within the fashion industry, we have only seen the tip of the iceberg. But rather than taking sexuality out of fashion imagery, I feel it is up to a younger generation of liberated individuals to create an image of sexual identity that is empowering instead of endangering.’
Neil Grotzinger, designer

‘I think we’re talking about power politics and bad practice perpetuated by systemic gender inequality, rather than sex or nudity. That’s why the conversation about #MeToo extends so far. It’s a cultural problem. And it’s a problem in which the balance is tipped towards men. But this has prompted people with commissioning power to evaluate their positions. So I hope that what we’ll see is the amplification of female voices and a more level playing field. Perhaps we’ll shift into the age of the female gaze after decades of being made to see fashion through a male lens. And that might allow for nuance in our interpretations of nude images. Because nudity doesn’t have to be about sex. More diversity in our industry might make that more explicit.’
Sara McAlpine, fashion features editor, Elle

‘Our society is dominated by the objectification of women, and the fashion industry has unfortunately played a part in it, despite the fact that the audience and the target customers of fashion brands and media are more often than not female themselves. Those in authority and in control of how women are portrayed in fashion, like creative directors, photographers, editors, marketing executives, often see women with the male gaze, and intentionally or not, perpetuate and enable the sexualization of women. As this phenomenon continues to prevail in mainstream fashion, despite the recent allegations, it is more important than ever for the younger generation of female creators such as myself to use our voices and shift the narrative on women’s roles in today’s fashion industry and society at large.’
Andrea Jiapei Li, designer

‘Why have young women been portrayed by old men for so long? I think there is a very clear connection between all of the abuse coming to light and the old-fashioned system of misogyny in image-making. I am excited about ushering in a new era of photography in which women are no longer boxed into the male gaze, but are in control of representing their own body and sexuality with freedom and autonomy.’
Clara Balzary, photographer

‘Nudity is not the problem as such – there is a lot of nude imagery that is empowering to the subject and others. Let’s not forget that a lot of people have fought to be able to pose naked or express their sensuality without being perceived in a certain way for a long time. We don’t want to go back in time or allow this to become a conversation focusing on conservative views. This conversation has to be about respect and a fight against the misuse of power.’
Nell Kalonji, fashion editor, AnOther

‘As women in the industry we’ve lived through a patriarchy, and therefore have a deeper understanding of what it feels like to be the object of the male gaze. We have to delve into the meaning and semantics of an image even more than before; it is simply our imperative, our duty. Why is this teenage girl topless when we’re trying to sell clothes? Why is this male art director dictating the terms of exchange? Does this child feel comfortable, and how can we ensure the safety of models in this hierarchical structure within which fashion exists? Making images is inherently intimate but we have to ensure those intimacies don’t cross the line and art doesn’t become the excuse for predatory or abusive behaviour.’
Charlotte Roberts, co-founder, Mushpit

‘If we have the power to make people feel something through an image, then what is it that we want people to feel? I personally feel inspired to create images that are not only timeless and emotional, but also soft and don’t trigger a sense of negativity or sexuality for the sake of it. I find the movement of female photography right now to be quite powerful. The voice women are able to have in this industry is now being seen and heard differently. Because of that, I think there should be a sense of freedom in the way we as women want to express ourselves, as men have always had that freedom to an extent in fashion. I think imagery will shift now that women are the ones taking the pictures.’
Bibi Borthwick, photographer

‘We need to do everything in our power to protect vulnerable people from sexual harassment. It’s clear that things have needed to change and it’s brilliant that they are. As to how it affects the imagery we’re all creating, we need to be very careful. As a society, we’ve never been more body conscious. Notions of identity are changing, and photography is at the front of this debate. It’s important that while we moderate the processes and productions much better, we don’t stifle photographers.’
Tom Johnson, photographer

‘In the history of art and fashion, there is a long tradition of nudity centred around ideals of beauty, sexuality, and the celebration and politicization of the body. I think that these issues coming to light within a climate that allows them to be addressed does not necessarily mean that there is no place for the future creation of these images. Rather it can and should act as the impetus for the responsible and positive creation of these images moving forward. I think that this absolutely entails restrictions on age in terms of how young people are photographed, a diversity of representation, and a transparency in terms of usage across the board. Most importantly however, I believe it is about the respectful treatment of all involved.’
Matthew Adams Dolan, designer

‘It comes down to empowerment over objectification. The nature of nude or even sexual imagery is not the issue here. It is the power structures within the industry that enable harassment, mistreatment and objectification, gender roles and stereotypes that are no longer relevant in imagery. There is an undeniable shift happening. People want to see equal representation, respect and empowerment for everyone in fashion. As fashion professionals, we need to consider how to produce imagery that achieves this and responds to changing ideas surrounding gender, sexuality and nudity. It’s also important to recognize that images depicting nudity do not need to be sexualized, but can be rather a celebration of connection, form and beauty.’
Tom Van Dorpe, fashion editor, V Magazine and V Man

‘I think that the revelation of these stories and issues creates more opportunity in the future for image-making like this to be practised with a greater awareness and respect to the people involved. Hopefully shining a light on these aspects can only lead to a better and more sensitive practices.’
Phoebe English, designer

‘In a world where far-right politics are gaining momentum, I think it’s important not to adopt an increasingly conservative approach to both nudity and sexuality. Anti-abortion campaigns in the USA are making headway, supporting politicians who change legislation to make it harder for women to be in control of their own lives. Equally, in Poland, women are fighting for their rights. In this age where sexualized imagery to sell products is rife, including to women themselves, let’s not try to control it, but instead champion nude imagery that celebrates the female form (and the other 112 genders now identified in 2018, according to Google) without showing it in a sexual context. I think the suggestion of nudity (like an ankle in Victorian days) is more provocative in a visual world where nudity is gratuitous.’
Madeleine Østlie, casting director and founder, AAMO

 

‘When is nakedness a symbol of vulnerability? When is it inevitably sexual? And when is it a sign of innocence and freedom?’

 

‘Talking about nudity is so complex and ambiguous. When is nakedness a symbol of vulnerability? When is it inevitably sexual? And when is it a sign of innocence and freedom? I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all solution. Women’s bodies seem to cause debate whenever and however they are revealed inside and outside of fashion. Perhaps rather than talking about nudity, we should refocus the conversation on the intention and process behind the images that we create. To some extent the whole world has become victim to a certain level of desensitization with regard to our actions and their impact on others, including animals and the environment. So in that sense I think it is very important for those of us working in the creative industry to set an example, find ways how we can shape a positive evolution via the images we produce, and by re-evaluating the way we treat each other and any living thing in the process.’
Lena C. Emery, photographer

‘I am very excited about the shift that we have seen happening over the past few years and which doesn’t seem to be slowing down. The allure of sex and the nude is as old as time, but it has been dominated by the male gaze and we are seeing now a questioning of notions around the representation of femininity, the female form and the role of women in society.
   Where previously there has been objectification and simplification, we now see women in decision-making roles and as image-makers changing and challenging that narrative. They are creating art, imagery, designs and products that are by women for women, and in the long term this will create a more balanced and multifaceted output, environment and society. Overall, this is a really exciting time for creatives, because they have the opportunity to explore the human psyche in a modern and changing world, and to communicate what that world will look like. I believe it will really crystallize great art and image-making and separate it from the mediocre as creators continue to work harder to understand and represent this brave new world through their work.’
Charlotte Rey, editor and co-founder, Campbell-Rey

‘The naked female form is beautiful and should be celebrated and I do feel nudity in fashion can exist, but that paradigm has indeed shifted. For too long, women have been used as a voyeuristic prop for the desire of males and we must see this end. This, along with many males who came out to tell their stories, symbolizes how it should crucially be the choice of the model. Their image should most definitely be in good taste and not for frivolity and fetishization of the subject.’
Lynette Nylander, writer, editor and creative consultant

‘My first memory of making a judgement of my own appearance according to society’s norm and gender appeal was telling my mother that I didn’t like my passport photo at the age of five. I wore a high-ruffled collar shirt and I had a short bob haircut. I longed for wavy long hair and I asked my mother when could I start wearing spaghetti-strap dresses. I think all images in the fashion world have been sexualized throughout history. Of course, then I grew up and found different complexities behind girls being objectified, and conversely, girls sexualizing their own image. My wish is that over time girls would learn to have the courage and dignity to see their own beauty. Flaunt it if you got it, but only by your own consent and liberty.’
Anaïs Jourden, designer