by Silke Friedrich

You are flipping through a fashion magazine and your eyes wander from the cover of the magazine through pages of advertising campaigns by major fashion labels and your eyes land on a summery fashion spread. A model walks on the beach in a white swim suit, barefoot, wrapped in a light beach towel blowing in the wind just like the model's hair...

Now close your eyes and imagine how the photo was taken. The set of this fashion shoot, who is present, the team etc. What and who do you see when you look behind the camera pointed at the model?

A look behind the camera - and at ourselves

Female Fashion Collective looks behind the camera of renowned photo productions - on the one hand from a professional perspective, as a member of the fashion industry, on the other hand from the perspective of its target group, as a consumer.

Because if we want to have a debate about the dominant structures in our industry, we have to start with ourselves and question ourselves. Ourselves, as creatives and part of the industry, and ourselves as consumers.

How firmly is the image of the white male photographer behind the camera anchored in our minds when we put ourselves in the above-mentioned situation? And how does this influence our ideas about the model and the photo, the result of the photo shoot?

How many stereotypes do we interpret into this scenery - how firmly anchored is the image of a white model with long hair or a sexualised image of women? In other words: How little diversity, how many clichés do we have in our own minds?

Yet one's own idea of a photo shoot is only a fragment of a dynamic that extends across the entire industry - and which has far-reaching consequences for the self-image of women.

Fashion is considered an instrument of self-expression, it serves as an expression of personality, one's own type and style. We have the freedom to decide how we dress for which occasion. Nevertheless, we must ask ourselves how and by what this supposed freedom has been shaped over the years, if:

  • ...over 81 percent of the covers of leading women's magazines, but also indie fashion magazines are photographed by men
  •  ...and VOGUE even tops this statistic with a male quota of 83.3 percent in the last 10 years.
  • ...of 132 advertising campaigns of global womenswear brands in five years only 5 were shot by women and...
  • ...88 percent of the top photographers represented by the top agencies are male.

In a world for female consumers, men are the directors

What influence does the fact that the majority of top fashion brands have their womenswear campaigns staged by male photographers, and thus female needs from a male perspective, have on our purchasing decisions? To what extent do collections developed by a male head of design, which in turn are staged for the cover of major fashion magazines by male photographers, influence our perception of fashion?

What role did the years of staging certain stereotypes as a consequence of the "male gaze" play in the development of women's self-image - and what role does it still play today? And what influence do we have on the fact that far too little women hold top positions in the fashion industry - neither in fashion photography nor in fashion design?  

Far too few women hold top positions in the fashion industry

The Female Fashion Collective has set out to highlight the prevailing imbalance in the fashion industry with statistics and facts. We want to create an awareness and space for thinking about the status quo – and create starting points for reflection on what we have learned. The dominance of the male-dominated view of women, of what they have to wear and how they have to be. The (initially) logical consequence can only be one: to give the "Female Gaze" an equal space in the future. Thus, Female Fashion Collective sees itself as a platform featuring role models in our industry, role models - female, male or diverse - and talents on the rise to inspire a shift in perpective and more diversity in the depiction of what women should & could be.

For us, the focus on the female perspective is not the alternative to the male perspective. It is but one step towards a more significant change of direction, towards an "Enlightened Gaze" - unprejudiced, respectful and above all one thing: inclusive.

Now change your perspective once again. Close your eyes and imagine that you are back on the beach, on the set of the fashion shoot, behind the camera: a woman. The model - in a white swimsuit, barefoot, wrapped in a light beach towel, fluttering in the wind - walks towards the camera... 

What and who do you see now?

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