Move over sex, drugs, and rock and roll, here comes sex, nudity and fashion. Or, if I may: here it comes again + some.
You see fashion and sex have always gone hand in hand, but an utter lack of clothes used to promote clothing and accessories? Yes, sex sells, but it’s not all marketing. Rather, some key factors have come into play in recent years; all of which have become distinctly prevalent in 2009 and will affect 2010 fashion greatly.
Fashion and erotica in 2011
As 2010 opened I remarked that I believed that the role of nudity in fashion would evolve across the course of the year. As I saw it the prevalence of ‘raw’ quality photography, largely spurred on by the celebrity of Terry Richardson and brands such as American Apparel, would wane. In essence, I envisioned that the inclusion of nudity would become less gratuitous and instead work to evoke a reaction, an emotion. Fashion imagery is about selling a lifestyle, and to me the use of nudity would transition into one that sold sensuality.
On the face of it, it would seem that I was being hopeful. Nudity without meaning is still common, though nudity with artistic value (i.e. without simply being an overblown photo) is increasingly produced. Gratuitousness still occurs. But for both of these points, that lack of evolution has been top down. The industry at large is still often producing photo shoots as it was many moons ago. The tastes of those of us who consume as readers, however, has changed and evolved. Raw nudity for nudity’s sake makes less of an impact and elicits less of a response. Whereas intimate photos of a perfect body was met with awe in 2009, at the tail end of 2010 it’s more likely to see questions left asking “where is the fashion.” And the raw is the key to that sentence; when there’s an erotic, sensual or emotion edge to a photo shoot the response is far different as evidenced by the response to the 2011 Vogue Paris calendar – there’s little in the shoot in the way of fashion, but with an undeniable level of intimacy it was little derided.
So, as I update this article at the tail end of 2010, that is precisely where the role of nudity within fashion, be it in photo shoots or in advertising, stands: it is evolving. We, the consumers, have evolving tastes. We’re looking to consume fashion with meaning, photo shoots that drive the imagination. And where nudity is involved, that means erotica, sexuality, sensuality and emotion. Less and less are we being engaged by raw nudity simply for the sake of it.
Under the updates you’ll find my original take on the rise of a fusion between fashion and nudity.
Poetry in motion: the nude body as canvas (10 May 2013)
We see more of it, we want to consume more of it, and we’re certainly not bashful about it: so what has changed to make us so comfortable and expectant of nudity in the world of fashion?
‘Porn’ Photographers Weren’t Main Stream
I use the term porn in a very tongue in cheek matter; society has simply come too far for their art to be deemed ‘porn’; and I also use the term to drive a point. To older generations the work of the likes of photographer Terry Richardson is at the very least smut and (particularly his racier work), without-a-doubt, porn. But Richardson has become main stream, and with a massive following internationally there are few major names he hasn’t photographed. But when you consider the bulk of his work, it’s not that hard to realise that it wouldn’t have been all that long ago that major names would have avoided his lens like the plague.
Of course Richardson is not the first to blur the lines between fashion and the nude body; Helmut Newton perfected that art many moons ago. But Newton’s raciest work never graced the pages of any magazine. And the Internet didn’t exist to proliferate it.
‘Porn’ Wasn’t Main Stream
But in this day and age the Internet is freely able to proliferate everything, which brings us to the next big cause on the blurring between nudity and fashion. ‘Porn’, as other generations would have viewed it, has become mainstream. The likes of Terry Richardson and Mario Testino can easily shoot a high-fashion editorial and one lacking any semblance of clothing and we, the consumers, will see them both, make an association, and label them both fashion.
Advertising Was More Subtle
And with the association made, someone is going to try and make a quid out of it. Yes, sex sells but it’s also great for getting a person’s attention span. Thus, nudity and advertising has worked for years on end. But with ‘porn’ now main stream, fashion labels no longer need inference, subtlety, or even class to promote their fashion and lifestyle products; and that goes for all players in the industry, from the high-end likes of Tom Ford down to cheap-cotton wares from the likes of American Apparel.
Fashion models didn’t strip off quite so readily
It wasn’t that long ago that a fashion model was simply that: she modelled fashion. But throughout the naughties the concept of a nude model and a fashion model being two separate professions has become heavily distorted; and there’s no better example than that of Lily Cole. One moment she’s the face of Marks and Spencer, the next she’s naked in French Playboy and Paradis magazine. Yes, other models had stripped off before her:
But naked shoots of major fashion models had never been so ubiquitous nor full front, nor had there been entire magazines dedicated to the subject matter.
Which brings us onto the biggest influence of all.
Fashion magazines are dead. Long live fashion magazines.
We’ve been saying it since Fashionising.com launched:
Fashion websites will kill off fashion magazines
That said, they category will survive.
Just not in the shape of the glossies we’ve consumed over the past decades; site’s such as Fashionising.com simply mean that magazines can no longer print what to wear and new fashion trend articles and hope for readership. Even token celebrity articles will have to fall by the wayside.
And what is it that we now want from our magazines? Pictures. Big, glossy, double-page pictures printed on great stock. Undoubtedly you’ve noticed it, but several new fashion magazines have noticed the change in consumers tastes and responded; responded by delivering amazing editorials in magazines that are more like coffee-table books; responded by getting big names onto their pages; responded by pushing the envelope.
And the easiest way to push the envelope?
Find a big name in the fashion field, and get them naked. What else could so easily differentiate you between your stock-standard, monthly fashion magazines? What else could so easily make your title appeal to prosumers of fine fashion? Hence we now have the likes of Paradis magazine and the new French Playboy; both able to have big name fashion-scenesters such as Lily Cole and Daisy Lowe strip off without a moment’s hesitation, and in turn change the slant of their magazine. After all, when it comes down to it Playboy is not a fashion brand, and certainly didn’t begin life as a fashion magazine. But French Playboy has become just that: a fashion magazine by association..