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© Amy Hood
© Amy Hood

Sex, Power, and the Female Gaze: How Amy Hood Seized the Reins

Picture of Jill Di Donato
Fashion Editor
Updated: 7 December 2016
Sex, violence, voyeurism, and vintage lingerie only begin to skim the surface of a new project where art and fashion intersect. Amy Hood, former muse, model, and art director, announces her arrival as a creative director with a vision for a lurid and lascivious feminine desire. CULT CLASSIC, published by VISCOUS Publications, marks the beginning of Hood’s solo career. For years, Hood worked alongside photographer Jonathan Leder, who’s making headlines after releasing nude Polaroid photographs of Emily Ratajkowski in a book that Ratajkowski never authorized. Hood wants to make it clear that she no longer has anything to do with Leder.

After leaving Florida at 16 when she finished high school, Hood spent some time in New York modeling and teaching herself the ropes of art direction and creative production. Working with a slew of famous—and infamous—male photographers gave Hood insight into the craft of marketing in the art and fashion industries, but her ambition, talent, and persistence helped this 20-something achieve the coveted title of creative director. Culture Trip talks to Hood about the male gaze, the allure of 1970s Hollywood, and her debut solo project CULT CLASSIC (featuring models Bodhi Rose, Zanah Marie, Diandra Godiva, and Ana Corbi in lingerie by Agent Provocateur and Dainty Rascal).


 

Amy Hood By Kirsten Bode

Amy Hood By Kirsten Bode

Culture Trip: Tell me about your new book CULT CLASSIC and the process of making, producing and distributing it. Why would a fashion audience be interested in it?

Amy Hood: Upon the decision to establish a cult brand, my mind naturally budded rapidly with all these ideas and this elaborate movie-like photographic story. A queen of a desert cult of femme commissions her two top followers to embark from their commune into the Hollywood Hills and kidnap a young starlet for a sacrificial sunrise ceremony. It’s a dark, glamorous magical story of sex and violence with a twist ending and is accompanied by thought-provoking essays written by four brilliant women who probe the aforementioned theory of cult. It’s something for people to enjoy and internalize, and stretches the bellows of society’s mind.

I went out to Los Angeles to create this vision and wanted to take my team on a wild adventure. The shooting process was pretty stressful; there was a major time constraint with very specific shots key to the narrative of the story I needed. Naturally, lots of issues arose with the scale of the production, but it all came together.

Why would fashion folks be into the book? They love beautiful women, creativity, and good photography. CULT CLASSIC is well styled, including lingerie pieces by the always sexy Agent Provocateur and a gorgeous custom feather robe by Dainty Rascal, among vintage pulls.

CT: Fashion itself is somewhat of a cult, is it not? Fashion cultivates a sense of belonging, a sense of identity.
AH: Sure, and I would say the the characteristics of worship and following that are often indicative of cults can certainly be found in fashion as well.
CT: As a creative director, what were you trying to achieve in this work?
AH: [My goal was] to challenge societal norms and pursue an ideal yet fluid and innovative visual manifestation. Trying to express what I see and feel inside with the hope that it’s relatable and that it activates people mentally and emotionally [is also a goal]. I try to access the humanity in people.
CT: What attracts you to the aesthetic of Hollywood in the 1970s? How do you define that time period in terms of style?
AH: I’ve always been aesthetically attracted to the times of yesteryear. Regarding the ’60s and ’70s, that was the most appropriate or historically accurate era for the story to take place in. What’s nice about the style is that it can be both this over-the-top glam and also the barefoot flower child.
Picture 009

© Amy Hood, Creative Direction || Madison Kreiger, Photography

 

CT: Do you feel like the time period we’re in right now is summoning the 1970s? Back then, to fight the power, people argued the revolution will not be televised.
AH: Stylistically we are summoning from all periods. An interesting addition of technology is to have access to visuals and clothes from every era, so you can pick the direction you prefer. Hopefully, this helps people to feel more individualized in a highly populated technological and social battleground. It’s funny that you hark back to the revolution not being televised when now everything is so documented.
CT: What do you say to people today who choose to go against the grain?
AH: It becomes more and more of a challenge to be in disagreement with popular opinion,  mostly due to social media, which can be so rapidly and loudly judgmental, but simultaneously gives individuals a platform with which to express themselves and their ideas. I have always been pro-individual thought. If we all thought and spoke the same, all had the same perspectives, then what’s the point?
© Amy Hood

© Amy Hood, Creative Direction || Madison Kreiger, Photography

CT: How can women own their sexuality and be powerful at the same time?
AH: By existing within their sexuality but not be solely defined by it. Allowing it to suit them within their own lives, interests, and characteristics, and doing what makes them feel comfortable and sexy as opposed to feeling pressured to act, dress or embody [something foreign]. “Sexy” is generally not the main attraction in a powerful woman. She’s usually smart and funny and clever and talented and capable and eloquent and musical and strong or whatever it is that gives her spark. That sexuality becomes, then, a trait amongst many.
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© Amy Hood, Creative Direction || Madison Kreiger, Photography

CT: How can women claim power within the fashion industry as objects of desire (because I think they can)?
AH: Fortunately the fashion industry is pretty female oriented. Fashion loves sexy. You have to insist on the powerful part.
Picture 001

© Amy Hood, Creative Direction || Madison Kreiger, Photography

CT: How can women gaze astutely at the world and at the same time be objects of the male gaze? Or is the male gaze bullsh*t?
AH: I think the male gaze is a sort of a generalization. I mean, sure, when appealing to men, certain skin exposure and proportion seems to be the most successful. But there are all kinds of men with different ideas of what sexy means, and women with their individual ideas and everyone else in between. [The male gaze] is becoming altogether a more secular gaze, something which is probably pretty tricky for commercial fashion to advertise to indeed.
© Amy Hood

© Amy Hood, Creative Direction || Madison Kreiger, Photography

CT: How would you define the female gaze?
AH: Sexy for the sake of feeling the entirety of one’s womanhood. “I am woman, hear me roar… Me-owwww!”

 

© Amy Hood

© Amy Hood, Creative Direction || Madison Kreiger, Photography

CT: How does CULT CLASSIC dismantle the male gaze?

AH: By not seeking it. Men will always want to peek even if you’re not being deliberate in appealing to them.
© Amy Hood

© Amy Hood, Creative Direction || Madison Kreiger, Photography

CT: Tell me about your experience working with Jonathan Leder.

AH: While I’m primarily self-taught, Jonathan [Leder] taught me a lot about how the industry actually works and gave me a crash course in marketing and photography. He’s not a good person; he was very destructive to me and the various relationships we had. He left me with nothing when I worked for years building this company by putting all of my ideas into it. But he always had this industry and marketing know-how and I took that and got more creative and human with it.

CT: Tell me how the two of you started the company [making art books].

AH: I was living in Woodstock, New York with my ex and business partner [Jonathan Leder], when a local store owner gave us a box of vintage pin-up [that were sold] under the counter mags. We found several that were in this 5.5x 8.5-inch format and thought,  “Now that’s a great little design.” It was naughty and relatively inexpensive to produce, and that’s when we decided to make Fetishisms Volume 1. I designed it and have been designing, art directing and producing books ever since.

© Amy Hood

© Amy Hood, Creative Direction || Madison Kreiger, Photography

CT: What advice would you give to aspiring creative directors?

AH: It ain’t easy kid. If you want it you’ve got to work for it constantly. You’ve got to be resourceful, determined, and decisive with a natural creativity or it won’t work. And simply refuse to see giving up as a remote possibility.

Purchase CULT CLASSIC online at VISCOUS Publications for $36. Distribution in fine boutiques, coming soon.

CULT CLASSIC  will be available for purchase on December 8, 2016, at the art show, CAUCHEMAR, where Hood will exhibit print work.

RSVP: cauchemar.splashthat.com

CULT CLASSIC includes essays by Stacey Mark essays by Laura Mcklaw Helms.