Ravaging through old magazines, desperately looking for inspiration for our Spring Summer 16 collection (this goes way back into last year - yet not as early in the year as I would like to admit…) I came across an article in Hunger magazine that has stuck with me since. In fact, I took one look at an image of her piece ‘The Property of Jo Spence’(1982), tore the page out then and there, took it to the studio the following day and subsequently pinned it to our “inspirations” board for all to see (well, all four of us).
“The British Cindy Sherman”, as nicknamed by Hunger magazine writer John Davidson in his feature on the London-born photographer, Jo Spence. Not sure whether this nickname really does her justice, but like John, I was both excited to have discovered her work yet ashamed at having only learnt of her now!
What I really enjoyed learning about Spence’s work was how herself and Dennett (Partner and collaborator) “realised we could do things as artists – radical things”, yet with a slightly light-hearted, humorous and playful edge – To actually take a stand and use their voice to question and generate awareness of these restrictions and barriers women face in society.
The results are raw, powerful and true. Its refreshing to see another women’s naked body and not think, shit i definitely dont look like that, But instead think, yeah I got one of those.... or see her piece 'libido uprising' (below) and realise how stupid I was (only a few hours ago) to slyly shuffle about in my handbag, sneakily slip a tampon up my sleeve, pull it low over my hand and casually scoot from my desk to go to the bathroom.... to do what absolutely every woman does and really shouldnt feel ashamed about. The stigmas, taboo and social expectations associated with our very natural and realistic body shapes, bodily functions and habits, and really everything about being a woman - are ridiculous.
Inspired by Spence's work we chose to explore one aspect in our Spring Summer 16 show at London Fashion Week - with models wearing revealing garments, featuring large laser cut-outs - exposing areas of the body society often deems as inappropriate or sexual, we opted to shock and comment - stop sexualising nudity.An integral figure in photography from the 1970s - Spence’s work is both pioneering yet current, underrepresented yet powerful and crucial – her work embodies ALL that we are pushing for! Her iconoclastic self-portraits ridicule outmoded gender stereotypes (check out below ‘The picture of health?’), the taboo subject of the unhealthy and ageing female body, and challenge the notions of sexuality (see below ‘Libido Uprising’), not to mention her series ‘Monster’ – a photo series on the effects of her disease, expressing not just the effects it has had on her thoughts, but on others too, with their clinical and unflattering framing and lighting, deliberately portraying the ‘”ugliness” of being seen as deeply confronting.