GETTING TO KNOW CURATED BY GIRLS, THE FREEING FORCE TACKLING GENDER NORMS WITH NIKE
Standing in for yourself and others with the things you believe in has become a quest tackled by more and more creatives in recent months – especially when what you believe in still is restricted by parameters and rules carefully constructed by society and media over years, but ready to be torn down like walls, making room for an ever floating, free new space for all to explore – like ideas of femininity and womanhood. Looking beyond beauty ideals, gender norms, and clichés connected to identity, Berlin based art collective Curated by Girls is a driving force in creating visibility for artists and their progressive ideas of female empowerment, often not only overlooked but consciously excluded by the art world and society in general – queer, non-binary, at-ease with themselves.
Founded by curator and musician Laetitia Duveau, Curated by Girls displays new takes on femininity through art and photography, both on- and offline. “I want to be there for the under-represented individuals, the outcasts, the misfits. Society has imposed a way, an ideal for so long, but this is finally changing,” Laetitia says of her goals, “To me, female empowerment has to do with freedom more than anything else. As women, we feel underestimated, underrepresented but we feel that way in a society that is profoundly sick. I would want women to really make a change. Less ego, less selfishness and more respect for each other.”
For her collective, the native French chooses artists who consciously celebrate all body types, sexual orientations, ages, and most importantly: a positive approach to all of these features. That way, she has established Curated by Girls as a go to platform for discovering artists going beyond the known to reflect feminism. “I don’t care for rules when it comes to society, life, gender, love….who made those rules anyway? I run a platform about diversity, so obviously, I am open to what’s around me! I am influenced by the good things, by beautiful, meaningful things. And I don’t judge, I respect.”
Prejudices, especially the ones connected to being a woman – and what being a woman today means in the first place – are the topics Laetitia particularly questions and rethinks, specifically because they have also affected her on a personal level. “I have to face them almost everyday. It’s hard to be strong. I am a musician myself and was mentally abused by a crazy manager pretty fast. I understood I would have to face cruelty, abuse, jealousy and pressure but I never wanted to be corrupted! I have the right to be myself, as a woman, as a person. It’s little steps everyday that make you stronger. It’s a tough world we live in. And you have to play life! You can’t just stay seated at home waiting for things to happen. For me sport is a lifesaver. It’s a very good way to chase negativity out”.
That’s why for her newest project she teamed up with Nike to showcase how the definition of femininity is being pushed forward today, fitting with the brand’s quest to give voice to empowering athletes and women to inspire others in overcoming boundaries and embracing their individual strength. Nike celebrates this through the Beautiful x Powerful collection which is set to showcase the facets beauty and confidence hold as well as the Cortez which is one style of the collection. Coinciding also with the Nike Cortez’s 45th birthday happening this year, the brand and Curated by Girls asked stylist Saskia Jung, model and blogger Julia Dalia, and Material Magazine’s very own online editor in chief and senior editor Marieke Fischer to highlight their approaches to womanhood and interpretations of beauty. Creative directed and captured by Berlin based photographer Eylül Aslan in a series of pictures that artist Lucy Dyson turned into eclectic collages, the shoot stays in line with Curated by Girl’s artistic approach to identity, adjusted to each of the women’s personalities.
Beyond that, the pair also collaborated on a video series with German Vogue that debuted last week, running under the theme “Gender Revolution: Beautiful x Powerful“, and including another set of boundary pushers: non-binary editor Hengameh Yaghoobifarah, transgender artist Lyra Pramuk, as well as Laetitia. Investigating our perception of gender and femininity, the campaign proposes the question of what beauty and strongness currently mean, a period where categorizations and strict definitions feel like a relict from the past, and the future like a time that’s to be shaped by the empowering women of today. Not letting themselves be restricted by certain roles established within society, but ready to create new ones free from prescribed attributes to begin with, Hengameh, Lyra, and Laetitia are set to embrace their personal uniqueness. Because if beauty can be described as one thing, it would be that it certainly is not singular.
A freeing view, also shared by Saskia, Julia Dalia, and Marieke of Curated by Girls’ and Nike’s first collaboration. “We should try and not let ourselves be negatively influenced by what most of media proposes. Every religion should be welcomed instead of building walls. Hate isn’t the answer to anything, but an open heart and solidarity are”, Saskia explains that quest. Julia Dalia adds that for her the road towards acceptance doesn’t just lead to others but also herself: “Starting my own blog, being myself in front of a camera, wearing my afro, being vulnerable and able to speak about my deepest feelings have all been things I just recently learned to be confident with. I realized: All these parts of me need to get out – and I should be able to embrace them”.
This progressive take on self-expression is equally supported by Marieke: “The ideals imposed on us by media, for example, are there to be questioned, to be transformed into our own ideas of beauty. Sadly it still mostly is the outer appearance, the superficial beauty that dominates our self-confidence”. Beliefs that become equally as evident with their chosen homebase Berlin, a city that perfectly reflects this freed take on femininity and identity. “People make Berlin interesting. Its beauty comes from the people. People make the city present”, Laetitia sums up, “I feel very free here. Free to explore, free to create”. And with personal creation often being directly linked to one’s experiences and surroundings, it’s no wonder also Curated by Girls feels like mirror to the city.
“Most of the time art is the reflection of what society is and speaks out against its flaws. Women’s voices are not less interesting! Curated By Girls’ philosophy is to give a voice to any creative mind whose message is profound and meaningful. These projects for Nike are a feel-good way to fight for equality. It’s time we free ourselves from the known. People need to understand that they have to live in the moment and at the fullest”. For Laetitia, that moment consists of women staying true to themselves and fully embracing both their strengths and their weaknesses, an open mind that overcomes gender prejudices, and prejudices that cease to exist in the first place.