Beau Scarlett-Pitt’s thesis collection video starts with a Robert Plant growl and culminates in a George Michael bum wiggle. Titled She’s So Heavy, the collection subverts the male gaze, presenting her man through the eyes of a powerful, sensual woman who “leads him to explore and attempt to grasp the execution of her sexual demeanour as well as his own.”
This power flip is defined by rock ‘n’ roll archetypes: the Alan Vega motos, the Michael Hutchinson louche shirt, tight leather pants – unzipped, à la Iggy Pop – double denim and crooner suits. Dripping in the energy of female pin-ups found between the pages of vintage porn mags, the collection lookbook becomes a calendar, with each look given its own month.
Throughout each medium, Scarlett-Pitt creates a narrative through character development that allows her and those she dresses to manoeuvre within the intersectionality between identity, sensuality and sexuality. With a deep-nod to rock and roll and its formative aesthetics, Scarlett-Pitt acknowledges the feeling of entrapment that plagued those women who chose the unconventional, while recontextualising today’s world in which men are now ironically the inhibited ones as they remain unaware of the liberation that comes with vulnerability.
Lindsey Okubo: Hey Beau, your collection oozes this rock ‘n’ roll energy and I’m curious to know where this inspiration began?
Beau Scarlett-Pip: My dad’s a big AC/DC fan so I’ve always kind of aligned myself with that area of music. I was also obsessed with BBC Four music documentaries in my teens – still obsessed – which, for me, provided a springboard that led to discovering new things and helped me build my own references. I’ve always wanted to be a part of the music scene but knowing that I’m not really musically inclined, I wanted to get involved in another way and found that I could create an image to immerse myself within the world I admire so much.
Fashion first came to me through dance at a very young age – I was always slightly more interested in the costumes than the routines. Performing built an attachment to music and fashion as an intertwined entity. After interning in Paris, I found that there was an authenticity in creating something from your own point of you and I felt far more confident putting myself into my work.
LO: ‘Authentic’ has become such a loaded term as a necessity of sorts within branding and marketing language. The meaning has really become muddled and it’s almost more a feeling than a statement, how are you defining it?
BSP: The starting point for the collection was these 70s and 60s pornographic magazines that I came across in the back of a van at an antiques market. The colours and characters were just so rich, I could see their stories played out in front of me. It painted a final image in my head that channelled my connection with them and also their desire to express their sexuality. I wanted to show them through a different medium in which I could emphasise their creation in terms of how they were placing themselves. I wanted to show them through a different lens, to emulate the feeling and energy of irreverence that I drew from these women within the magazines. It’s this feeling that was the inception of the collection and culminated in the creation of the calendar.
Lindsey: And in this idea of building characters, you’re also envisioning their point of view and there’s probably a lot of empathy that comes into your practice as well.
Beau: Yeah there’s an inherent feeling of empathy that fills me when I’m looking at these women because at the time, a lot of these women were cast out for being affiliated with the porn industry. It’s not unrealistic that these women probably felt confined to societal condemnations that completely opposed the joy in exercising sexual freedom and self-expression. I wanted to give these women a new voice to challenge taboos in sexual identity and to convey the fact that it’s okay to own this identity.
“The starting point for the collection was these 70s and 60s pornographic magazines that I came across in the back of a van at an antiques market.”
LO: It’s interesting because even today when we are so ‘liberated’ by traditional standards, there’s still a feeling of being trapped by societal expectations.
BSP: It’s a thing that always crosses my mind especially with the censoring that happens on Instagram but also recently in applying for jobs. I feel like I have to sometimes present myself in a certain way and can’t be my true sexy self when I want to be. It translates to the bigger picture of asking who we are allowed to be in front of people and for what purpose? In a way, these women had to choose between one path and another. When they chose the path they did, they couldn’t walk back. You look at Linda Lovelace who spent only a short time in the porn industry and it haunted her whole life thereafter. These thoughts were very present in my mind along with the fact that not all of these women would have felt safe and so I really wanted to be careful with how I portrayed certain influences. It wasn’t just about taking inspiration from these women, I wanted to honour them.
LO: The definition of care is also something that’s really interesting, because when it comes to women, there’s this notion of wanting to preserve our womanhood and to feel safe while also allowing distance from its traditional orientation in order to feel empowered.
BSP: If you feel safe within your identity, that’s a massive thing. There’s a certain extent to where you just can’t give a fuck, you have to embrace yourself. There are so many anxieties now, especially for women and you have to ultimately protect yourself for every eventuality that might happen, but wearing my sensuality on my sleeve makes me feel strong and helps me get through the day.
“I enjoy the dynamics of a power play with the end result being that the man can never match the woman.”
LO: Right, and embracing your sensuality is even a learned process. There’s this duality as a woman to embrace sensuality while also not being boxed into being a sex symbol of sorts.
BSP: It’s definitely still an ongoing process and I’m constantly learning from my own sensuality. It makes me think of the film Sucker Punch when Babydoll is kicking-arse in these different fight scenarios and she has her game face on, but there isn’t so much of a hard exterior, and that almost makes her more of a threat. It’s her soft front that protects and nurtures her at the same time. For me, it’s really about knowing that strength within sensuality is about the confidence you feel and in turn the adrenaline rush you experience from it. Being a sex symbol, for a woman, used to take over your entire identity, whereas I feel male sex symbols had a lot more freedom to be more than that. Now, I feel we are experiencing a shift where the box that female sex symbols are put in is turning into more of a pool you can dip in and out of.
LO: In the process of designing, you flipped this dynamic on its head in a way where you have the man embodying all of these female qualities that resonated with his own eroticism.
Beau: Yeah, so like, in order to be with this woman, in his mind, he has to be her, but he can never really match her sensuality. Female sex symbols are generally known for less clothing and amazing bodies and the men are usually more covered, more trapped within their clothes. This feeling of entrapment is why I wanted to work with different aspects of a man’s wardrobe to infiltrate it with this kind of feminine sexual power. I wanted to embody him trying to discover a new part of himself. I enjoy the dynamics of a power play with the end result being that the man can never match the woman.
LO: Were there any discoveries that you had while designing and interacting with male peers that lead you to this idea?
BSP: Well, even with the trousers, for example, they are all quite slim cut to emphasise the beauty of a shapely leg and during fittings, the model’s reaction was that of pleasant surprise because they gave him a beautifully sculpted arse. He looked in the mirror and was like, “Wow,” he was almost scared. I fed off this sense of men discovering more about their bodies during the making of this collection. I made this cropped tank top and they were surprised at how good it looked despite being like, “I would never wear that sort of thing.” All of these varying emotional reactions caused me to question if it genuinely made them uneasy or if it was a good kind of scary where it was something to lean into and experiment with.
“Jeans are a very sexual object to me, people treat them like a second skin.”
LO: As a young designer, do you feel like there are enough platforms and outlets to represent and present your work?
BSP: I feel like a lot of people try to say they champion young talent when they actually don’t respect it in the way that it should be. A lot of people pick up on a few hot new things and rightly so, but they get plugged a lot and it’s the same names going around. I’m not sure if it’s laziness, but a lot of people don’t really look that hard for creatives who haven’t got a big Instagram following. It’s hard to get noticed, and then that becomes another pressure of its own, making you begin to question why no one is seeing your work. Sometimes it can be a task to convince yourself that your work is worth it, that it’s great, that you did it for a reason, you did it for you. I think there needs to be a lot more outreach from publications or initiatives taken to have a bit more diversity in the age range of talent featured. People feel if they haven’t ‘made it’ in their youth, they’re never going to make a dent in the industry. You have to look at your life and read it with context instead of at face value when you’re judging success by the things you have and the things you don’t. We have to reevaluate what success means because thinking of it in terms of this mass scale isn’t a sustainable thing and it breaks people.
LO: Right and there’s a difference between success and fulfilment. To go back to your collection, it has like this sexual energy but there is also this interesting duality between fulfilment and pleasure but the latter doesn’t mean the first.
BSP: Yeah, so looking at the collection, the act of teasing was something I really wanted to convey. The tease comes in by tantalising the senses with heavy musical influences by Lou Reed and Jim Morrison, they helped us get into character. When you’re teased, you are in a way being led to be fulfilled. When you see something you like, you do feel fulfilled in that sense and so it becomes about picking these moments like they were carrots dangling in front of you.
LO: You’re not fulfilled unless desire was created first and the act of sustaining desire is a tricky thing.
BSP: Yeah for sure, it’s that initial attraction and that initial sense of fulfilment that comes from imagining how things are going to go, playing things out in your head.
“….wearing my sensuality on my sleeve makes me feel strong and helps me get through the day.”
LO: Right and then you engage, you connect but what makes a connection? There’s an implicit sense of longevity to it, it’s sustainable intimacy.
BSP: Yeah, as I was creating imagery around a whole vision that referenced the past, I realised that I didn’t want to keep up with a modern trend, it was more about reactivation and making that connection there. The jeans in the collection are made out of old Levi’s and I find the underlying connection of the person who used to wear that pair and the new user very erotic. Jeans are a very sexual object to me, people treat them like a second skin. To take and reuse these jeans that different people wore to make a new pair feels like rebirthing it into an almighty jean made up of all these sensual references.
I do a lot of character work when designing for anything and it’s essential for me to know that character inside and out by combining sound and image to help me shape my ultimate muse. I have to get into their head, to know how they feel. How they’d dance to a certain song. Who their loves are. What they desire. There’s a certain intimacy to that, for sure. Just knowing the power of your intimacy, as well as the sensuality you convey and the sexuality you feel when you’re in touch with the latter two, it’s the Holy Trinity. Experiencing the journey of getting to know and understand how these things move with you through your life is truly amazing. I think in my head, whoever wears my clothes really feels that internal rhythm with themselves and then as soon as the clothes come off, they’ll still be that person. Being able to change characters or a look is more just representative of the comfort you feel with yourself and these looks become tools for self-discovery.
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