Patrick Michael Hughes Senior Fashion Editor Men's Fashion Writer
Photographed by Heji Shin
GOOMHEO's Spring 2023 campaign Dystopia Beach by German photographer Heji Shin is a modern brutalist homage inspired by classical form an marginalized youthful masculinity from the late nineteen fifties and nineteen sixties in Central Europe.
GOOMHEO is a London based, rising fashion talent, who studied in the United States and at London's Central Saint Martins obtaining a BA and MA. Her work was recognized for it's boundary breaking masculinity and intriguing use of print. Past collections have been described as "repurposed, hybrid garments, that proposed the subversive." Heo describes her designs "genderless, individualistic and brave... an exploration, challenging the conventional of what is considered to be 'normal." The fashion result often has a concentrated dose of performing identities and fluid sexuality. For the forthcoming Spring 2023 season Heo's collection's concept drew from little known Swiss photographer Karlheinz Weinberger (1921-2006). The Spring 2023 is a manifestation of her vision captured by Heji Shin, one of the fashion industry's latest in demand photographers.
The late Karlheinz Weinberger was a self-taught Swiss photographer, currently recognized for his images of marginalized teen rebels at the end of the nineteen fifties and nineteen sixties . Weinberger's rugged black and white images documented Rock-and-Roll teens —who worshiped American Western film featuring popular idols such Elvis Presley, Marlon Brando and James Dean.
His subjects had a more dogged edge than the British Teddyboy counterpart, in the rapidly diversifying post World War II Britain. This youthful iteration hailing form Central Europe struck a deeper disenfranchised cord against a homogeneous culture of the region. In many cases they were wearing spiked hair, combat boots, large belt buckles and tightly fitted denim, Rockabilly characteristics closer to the later nineteen seventies youth generations associated with working class Punk. Weinberger's photography captured their unique take on clothing and accessories such as oversized pendants made with found mortar shell casings to raw customized pieces of sheet metal emblazoned with words or images of their matinee idols.
In his late thirties Weinberger would photograph teen boys in the streets of Zürich which he often invited them to his apartment, which he shared with his mother and he partially he ran as a photographic studio. Weinberger had a distinctly Queer perspective and a unique male gaze for youth culture and masculinity. His crafted positions for his subjects to accentuate their very deliberate fashion decisions. Within his body of work, the most provocative and erotic of his close-ups images of crotches featuring the exaggerated fly closures, metal hardware and lacing bring to mind the nineteen eighties work of photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.
This classical and often erotic subtext of the male form in fashion photography is still a continuing exploration and brand expression. Looking to recent history, fashion campaigns one will find with a keen artistic eye, classically posed subjects in the later work of Richard Avedon's highly performative almost baroque studio photography for Versace The Naked and the Dressed (1998) to Steven Klein's group editorials photographed in Yucca Valley, California in 2006 to "Fistfights" with a young Justin Timberlake photographed in Montauk, New York by Bruce Weber (2004) and the 'Secret Society' of a young rock musicians and skate culture in Los Angeles photographed by Hedi Slimane in 2017.
The clothing in GOOMHEO's Spring 2023 collection imparts a classical virility seen in classical male form. The clothing has the look at times of armor, bursting corsets and asymmetric racer jacket details with a western pocket placket finishes. The details of historicism were followed through in Hoe's exceptional talent for print placement at the torso in recalling Roman plate armor and parade armor of the seventeenth century. The textile focused collection at times transforms fabric into articulated wrapping in a scale like form at the legs and at the torso. Visible top seaming and finishing lean into an Renaissance Italianate sectional inspiration which breaks the male form into highly decorative areas that are laced, strapped in and bound in evoking an coded sexual conduct. Denim was the key fabrication in a several washes and rusticated finishes. There was also a modern feel of ancient Hellenistic leather Cuirass re-imagined in a printed web like motif on a short draped white dress, perhaps a subliminal nod to the famous Mars of Todi, a bronze warrior, dating from the late 5th or early 4th century BC.
The selection of New York based artist Heji Shin as the photographer for this campaign was inspired. It's the female gaze's reinterpretation of the ancient homoerotic narrative and genre. Shin is a fashion industry artist who is noted for producing blunt and frank work. Her style is often categorized as unsettling with 'a dose of style and provocation'. The images have a center connected to conversations about the ethics of representation with an emphasis on a rising and sometimes unheard social voices. Shin is seen as an artist who comments and questions, what is it that viewers want from art today?
In many cases her work is unsettled a truly twisted artistic trope affixed in the classic art historical discourse of the ways of seeing, 'what we know but have not always seen.' Her work is exceedingly provocative, overtly sexual and even humorous at times. She is known to provoke controversy, such as her 2016 Artforum cover of a monkey nibbling on a dildo to Warhol inspired portraits of Kanye West. Big Cock 1 through Big Cock 8, is her latest full scale gallery work in 2020. These large-format photographs reveal close-cropped startling images of roosters.
In this fashion campaign for GOOMHEO Spring /Summer 2023 collection 'Dystopian Beach' Shin shows herself as part of a younger generation women artist who depict desirable male bodies, either in their own right or by way of an encounter. The current artistic feminist thesis has been the subject in significant German gallery shows exploring female sexuality and the female gaze in fine art. A common thread is, here is the man as both an object of desire and a character with agency. Heo and Shin are artist attracted to creative concepts and taboo subject matter challenging naive innocence. Their work may seem at times decidedly intimate, explicit leading to making the viewer think. The artistry also makes connections to creative heritage, legacies of male form and questions the influence popular western culture in fashion and portraiture. It's a worth while creative investment in a time where the disposable image is ubiquitous.