A new campaign with filmmaker Anton Corbijn goes back to the brand’s seductive Soho roots – creative director Sarah Shotton tells us moreAgent Provocateur
Since it was created in 1994 – by Vivienne Westwood’s son Joseph Corré and Serena Rees – Agent Provocateur has been all about encouraging the women who wear its designs be both powerful and playful. Working her way up from a shop assistant in 1999, Sarah Shotton became creative director of the lingerie brand in 2010. Since then, her goal has been to transform an essential everyday item into something that is special – and of course, sexy too.
For the latest campaign – the first since the brand became under new ownership – Shotton has gone right back AP’s alluring roots, recalling the grit of Soho where it first opened back in the mid-90s. Enlisting photographer and filmmaker Anton Corbijn to shoot the images and accompanying film, the clip features models Magdalena Frackowiak, Élise Crombez and Abbie Fowler, and sees the girls playing pool in an underground bar while men watch from behind a glass screen. OK, we know it might sound eyebrow-raising, but the joke’s definitely on the voyeurs in the end.
The collection itself takes inspiration from the empowering history of the brand, with the aim to find something that could work for everyone. Here, we speak to Shotton about her career, the changing landscape of the lingerie industry and where she finds her inspiration.
Do you remember your first bra?
Sarah Shotton: Well yes, but my first ever bra wasn’t very exciting – it was simple triangle bra from Marks & Spencer. It didn’t fit and I remember being really disappointed about it. Since I can remember, I had a hard time finding a bra that fits and is beautiful at the same time. I think that is what drew me to designing underwear. My most memorable bra as a teenager was a wired three-part cup bra in electric blue satin and lace. I loved the fact that you could see it underneath my school shirt, as it was so bright!
What does femininity mean to you?
Sarah Shotton: Empathy and womanliness. It’s that softness in the way you approach something, the way someone moves and dresses.
“I think the modern feminist wears a bra and doesn’t burn it! The most important thing is that we are able to choose how we want to look and what we want to wear” – Sarah Shotton
How about sexiness?
Sarah Shotton: Sexiness is not about beauty, it’s about confidence and attitude. It’s about being comfortable in your own skin.
We’ve recently seen a massive rise in ‘feminist’ lingerie brands. How do you think the world of underwear is changing?
Sarah Shotton: Well there are much more lingerie brands available now than when Agent Provocateur first started. I think the modern feminist wears a bra and doesn’t burn it! The most important thing is that we are able to choose how we want to look and what we want to wear without external pressure or a man’s idea of sexiness. It’s about wearing underwear for ourselves and nobody else.
Why should every woman own a great set of underwear?
Sarah Shotton: There is something deeply empowering about a beautiful set of lingerie under your clothes, it is your little secret and you can decide whether you can choose to show it off or not. Underwear is the first thing you put on every morning, it sculpts your body and defines everything that goes on top.
You recently posted quite a mega moodboard – can you talk about some of those inspirations and how female strength plays a role in what you do?
Sarah Shotton: I always build a mood board before I start working on a collection and this is the one I’ve used for the Agent Provocateur AW17 season. It features an army of women from historic warrior characters, Hajime Sorayama sexy robots to my favourite on-screen females such as Tina Turner in Mad Max, Linda Hamilton in Terminator and Mila Jovovich in The Fifth Element.
I wanted the collection to be strong and feminine with 1950s inspired shapes. There are many pieces in Rayna and Mila ranges that pull in the waist and really accentuate the hips but at the same time have a masculine twist to them.
What inspired this film project? How does it express what AP is about as a brand?
Sarah Shotton: Following recent changes at the brand, I thought that it was time to go back to our roots and remind everybody what Agent Provocateur is really about. I wanted to create something that had a timeless feeling, was a bit gritty and provocative. I felt that it also needed to feature a group of strong woman with different looks and attitudes.
What drew you to working with Anton Corbijn?
Sarah Shotton: Anton has been a fan of the brand since it has opened in 1994 and used our product in some of his films in the past, so he had pretty good idea what he wanted to do with this project. We talked at length about the collection, our mood boards and characters I was inspired by Leeloo from The Fifth Element, Tina Turner in Mad Max and Patricia Arquette in True Romance. We’ve agreed that the film needs to appeal to both men and women as well as provoke emotion and debate. He then went away and came back with the script we all loved, that how the video was born.
Watch the director’s cut of the campaign film here