When Betsy Johnson reached out to us about her latest project, the moment the images landed in our inbox we were in awe. NAMILIA’s latest campaign is one of true strength; putting female empowerment at the forefront, reclaiming the narrative of the female gaze. With porn-start Asa Akira fronting the campaign, we knew something special was on the horizon, and it’s safe to say they truly delivered. Inspired by the concept of Asian Power, the shoot takes inspiration from traditional references and is set in motion by Betsy’s rebellious and curious eye. We chatted with the creative director about her journey with this campaign and as an artist exploring ‘sexy-ness as freedom of choice and expression not for male validation’.
Your work is super diverse and eclectic; could you tell us a little bit about your creative journey up to this point?
I guess my creative journey has mostly been a reflection of the things I don’t like around me, ponderings of life experiences, imbalances etc. My work is a lot about rebellion or highlighting things for discussion or personal experience, picking out a story and telling it back to the people who need it in whichever medium suits. I spent the past 2 years since graduating working on various creative projects in various capacities as a multi-disciplinary artist/ creative director, whatever you want to call it, and absorbing other roles integral to the telling of the story, e.g., directing, styling, casting etc.
This project is a true collaboration made in heaven! What was it that initially drew you to the campaign and inspired you to get involved?
I’ve been working with Namilia for almost a year now, collaborating with them for campaigns and their recent runway show. I only like to work on projects with intent and Namilia are so forward-thinking and want to use their work to push narratives previously ignored to the forefront in the loudest possible ways, its why I love working with them. Their ethics align with my own and that’s really important to me. When Nan approached me with the show and campaign, I was really excited to get stuck in, we we’re sure how everything would be received but the response exceeded our expectations.
Where does the inspiration for this shoot come from?
I think what’s interesting is to take elements from different worlds and place them into a fashion context and watch the worlds interact with each other. I wanted the campaign to ooze fashion and luxury with the flavourings of Namilia’s core aesthetic signifiers but elevated into a high fashion context.
The loss of the female narrative within porn was also explored in this project, how was it working with Asa?
Porn is stereotypically taboo in society and only ever communicated in fashion through a specific lens. To bring sex, elegance and luxury to an image and the incredible Asa fronting the campaign felt like an honest representation of sex in fashion, she killed it. Asa is a total powerhouse. Enough said.
Finally, what do you hope for the future of the female gaze, female sexuality and the opening of this narrative?
It’s a difficult dichotomy, nudity and sexuality in imagery as female empowerment vs validation, it’s a conversation that’s constantly evolving and being pushed but with censorship of the female body being so rife on social media, it’s hard to tell if we are becoming more or less accepting of female nudity, female ownership and choice. I hope women will become less objectified and we can begin to recognize and practice the publishing of sex, nudity and sexy-ness as freedom of choice and expression not for male validation. Everyone needs to just relax a little, sex happens, are we in the 40s ….