“Why is it that women can’t just walk around revealing skin without being objectified and sexualized?”
This is the question Justine Latour, who graduated from Ryerson’s fashion design program last year, tries to answer through her wearable art collection, “Au Natural.” The collection is now on display at the Ryerson Artspace.
Latour, in collaboration with her friend, Eric Watters, revealed their approach to combating gender inequality and embracing the female body in an exhibition of Latour’s collection, which began March 9.
Latour says she drew significant inspiration for the project from her time studying fashion in Amsterdam. For her, the perceptions Europeans have about the human body could be embodied here in North America as well.
“We had a class called ‘Individual Identity’ [in Amsterdam], where we had to pick a topic that we were interested [in] and explore the ideas behind it,” she says. “I’ve always been interested in the female nude, specifically how we view it as a society.”
What started out as test prints for Latour’s collection flourished into a gallery. After posting a sticker of one of the prints in her house, Latour’s friends encouraged her to post more of them in various places. This led to a newfound curiosity for Toronto’s graffiti scene.
“I thought it was an interesting way to celebrate the nude in a space that wasn’t a safe gallery space … [to] force people to try and see it in a different way,” she says.
Those who attend the gallery will go home with their own original Latour stickers. She hopes they will continue to be posted around the city and spread her message.
She also credits her inspiration to the “Free the Nipple” movement in the United States, a gender equality campaign advocating for women to be able to publicly show their nipples in the same way men are.
Latour and Watters collaborated on the project in an effort to be able to experiment with something new artistically.
“There are plenty of ways to address the issues, and I think that what Justine did was done in a very elegant, formal and quiet way,” he says. “My participation with her work was to give her a new platform to showcase her way of addressing these issues.”
So far, the response has been positive. Latour and Watters agree that the messages Ryerson courses and programs have been sending to students also advocate for the importance of combatting body stigmatization and spreading body positivity.
But it’s Latour’s push for gender equality, paired with her passion for fashion, that propels this message forward, both artistically and intellectually.
“We need to start making people … not objectify [women] or sexualize them, and instead, just treat them as you would a man,” she says.
“Au Natural” will be shown at the Ryerson Artspace until April 2.