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In the Interest of Full Transparency

What if our armor was made of mesh…?

Sophia Wilson
In the Interest of Full Transparency

Suit: Y/Project; Socks: Stylist's Own; Shoes: Jimmy Choo; Underwear: Commando

Claire Sullivan
Matthew Sosnowski
Miguel Ramos
Creative Producer:
Raquel Michel
Prop Stylist:
Jenny Correa
Production Assistant:
Julia Viele
Brandon Abreu
Stylist Assistants:
Odera Nkem-Mmekam & Abbey Scarborough

Clothes are like paintings: the negative spaces—where things aren’t— are just as important as where they are for defining the shape and tone of the piece. Transparent dressing is thus inherently paradoxical. It’s a trend that lets you wear a turtleneck and bare your nipples at the same time, that can be both modest in design and shocking in execution, the sartorial manifestation of contradictory coyness. But what if we added another level of paradox?

This is the question that photographer Sophia Wilson—the Gen Z phenom who has already shot for Vogue, Vogue Italia, The New York Times, VICE, Google, Nike, and many, many more—wanted to ask in her photo story exploring the trend of transparent dressing, seen on runways from Saint Laurent to Marine Serre. We think of transparent dressing, especially on women, as exposure and vulnerability. What if we could play on those usual assumptions? Can we further subvert the already subversive?

Below, I caught up with Wilson and supermodel-in-the-making Aoki Lee Simmons about transparency, undermining the male gaze, current trends, and the upcoming summer of the smallest, itty-est, bitty-est, mini-est, tiniest little short-shorts.

Dress: Miss Claire Sullivan; Underwear: Commando; Shoes: Larroude

Coveteur: The theme of the shoot was transparency. How did you interpret that?

Sophia Wilson: “I definitely ran with it. It was a collaborative experience with Ms. Claire Sullivan, the stylist, who is incredible and amazing and opened my eyes up to so many ideas and hot takes on how to push the boundaries of what transparency is. Being that Aoki is younger, we definitely didn't want to do transparency in a way that felt too overtly sexual or for the male gaze. We sat down with my creative assistant, Raquel, and came up with a bunch of ideas on how to make transparency more boundary-pushing and to change the silhouettes of what you would expect something transparent to be.”

How did you transform the idea of transparent clothes from the traditional sexualized interpretation?

SW: “We were playing a lot with layering mesh and see-through fabrics to not only make them less revealing but to add dimension to the whole shoot. At one point, we even talked about layering pieces of hair over mesh. And then we landed on this one shot with feathers under the mesh, which we'd never seen done before. Using the power suit was also such a stance of, ‘Okay, you want transparency, we're giving you transparency, but we're putting it over a suit.’ We basically thought, ‘What would people expect out of a transparency trend report shoot?’—and then did the opposite of that.”

Do you feel like you had any sort of personal relationship to this take on the theme?

SW: “My mom raised my sister and I in a household of self-love and body positivity. I think that, in turn, made me super comfortable with my body, so I'm able to play around with fashion like this. Especially growing up in New York, people walk around naked on the streets, people get changed on the sidewalk. Plus being in the industry... It's not nudist culture, per se, but it's like, you're not fazed as much by body parts showing, and instead, you embrace that and you celebrate that. For me, it's exciting to play with mesh fabrics even in my everyday life because it feels like self-love.”

Was photography something you were into from a young age? How did you get into this industry?

SW: “Yeah, I grew up going to a predominantly white school, and obviously I'm Black. And I was the only kid that lived downtown. Everybody just thought I was fucking weird. I was the only kid who was into the arts, and so I had literally no friends. I had a lot of free time on my hands as a result. I was really interested in being a photographer because I loved Instagram so much. I thought, ‘Oh, well, Instagram is a photo-sharing platform, so I might as well try photography,’ and I just fell in love with it. Long story short, I just wrote a bunch of cold emails after school one day to a billion different people in the industry begging to shoot for them.”

Dress: Issey Miyake; Bra: Agent provocateur; Shrug: Miss Claire Sullivan; Sock: Stylist's Own; Underwear: Commando; Shoes: Jimmy Choo

Do you think Instagram is helping to create a new generation of artists?

SW: “I think it's an incredibly democratizing platform, and I'm so blessed to have it. Obviously, it's a blessing and a curse. There are downsides to it. I've gotten cyberbullied before. I was on a reality TV show, and everybody saw me when I was at my lowest. But at the same time, it worked for me because now I feel super free. I'm like, ‘Well, everybody's seen me at my best and at my worst and everybody still loves me, so life's pretty good. I can't complain.’

“But it's hard because I want to sit here and preach it so much, but at the same time, I understand the negative effects. Sometimes I'm like, ‘Is it possible to be an artist nowadays without the internet?’ I don't know. I wonder about that a lot. I think it's about building a really healthy relationship with the internet, where it's not all-consuming. I feel like a lot of people are very deeply addicted to the internet and social media, but I'm definitely not. I post when I need to post and then I go off the app. It feels like a very healthy, well-balanced relationship between me and social media.”

What has been your experience navigating this industry as a young black woman?

SW: “I've seen the industry change a lot over the years. Let me tell you, it is a lot better than it used to be. When I first entered the industry, I did not know any other young Black female photographers, period. Nobody was giving them a platform. It was very hard to find my people. I didn't see anybody in magazines that looked like me, and that was very discouraging. But also, it gave me the spark to want to go out there and change things for myself. I'm happy to be a part of the change, for sure.

“I definitely do see people undermining me, and I know very well that white male photographers, and older photographers, too, get paid way more than I do for doing the exact same job, and it is infuriating. But that is often the case in this world, so I take it one day at a time and try to do different things to champion my own community (which is part of the reason that I cast mostly people who look like me in my work). When I'm creating a team I definitely look for people of color, minorities, queer people, women. A lot of the time it's all women on set or all Black people or all queer people on set. It is really amazing to be a part of that change, and it creates a better environment, too.”

As a native New Yorker, are you inspired by New York?

SW: “1000%. So deeply and intensely, yes. The fashion has always been a huge point of inspiration for me and the people. My friendships and my personal relationships feed my work a lot, and also just the amount of freedom that you have. Maybe 'freedom''s not the right word. Independence, I think, is the right word. You take the subway when you're like eight years old and nobody bats an eye. It's very freeing.”

Aoki, thanks for joining us! What were your thoughts while creating these images? Any specific inspiration or energy you channeled?

Aoki Lee Simmons: “For each shot the energy was so different, the variety in every shot from Claire’s styling to Brandon Abreu’s lighting made it easy for me to slip into a new character, a new mood. Creativity is always [paramount] with Sophia’s projects, so the vibe is right there for you to dive into. I think people will really be able to see that in this shoot, we’ve got business-boardroom-power, we’ve got sweet bows and tulle gloves, we’ve got crazy proportions and moody lighting. There’s a concrete stairwell and a couch that’s basically an art piece! The vibes switch in every shot! So much goes into these final results, so I’m just happy to be part of it.”

Full look Simone Rocha; Socks: Stylist's Own; Shoes: Jimmy Choo

For both you guys, do you feel like the styles in this shoot are similar to your personal style?

SW: “Honestly, it's pretty on-point. There's nothing in the shoot that I wouldn’t wear. For reference, the most ‘me’ outfit in this is the Simone Rocha outfit. It's so beautiful. Oh my God. I would wear that every day of my life. I was audibly screaming on set when I saw it.”

ALS: “My personal style can only be described as basic, stolen from my sister, my mother, and maybe Cara Delevigne in 2016. There’s a little bit of 14-year-old-boy core in there (I do, in fact, steal my brother's socks). If I didn’t model, I’d have no clue what the trends are, which is why I value the experience so much! I love that it allows me to explore different aesthetics, be bold, be sexy, be masculine, be over the top. I take a little inspiration from work home with me every time, so you may catch me with a pixie cut and bleached brows at some point after this shoot!”

How do you get ready for shoots like these?

SW: “There's a level of intimacy in my work between me and the subject, and I always try to make sure that that comes across. I make sure that the talent is always super comfortable with me. I have conversations with them, I get to know them beforehand, I ask them their favorite music so I can blast it on set and create a really warm and inviting environment where everybody feels very happy. I have folders of a billion reference images that have inspired me. And they're not all even necessarily photography; some are just random things. And I make sure to have a really incredible team around me at all times.”

ALS: "I'm a big believer in the effects of dunking my face in ice water. If K-beauty, old Hollywood icons, and Diane de Poitiers can all agree across time, that’s enough evidence for me. It helps me feel refreshed and awake, especially since I'm not a morning person. If I have time, I love a little microcurrent. Once I’m on set, the transformation actually begins! Hair and makeup artists are called artists for a reason!”

What was it like collaborating with each other on set?

SW: “It's more fun when you already know the people on set because everybody's just geeking and having a great time. It's pretty similar, though, because I just always make sure to have a good environment on set. It is easier when you know the person already, so they feel more comfortable in front of the lens. It just makes everyone's job a lot easier. Aoki is such a sweetheart in general; she was the nicest to everybody on set. Everybody was dying after she left, like, 'Oh my God, we've never worked with such a nice model in our entire lives.' Also, shes down for anything. People are afraid to push the boundaries, but we were just so game to go crazy with each other.”

ALS: “Sophia is incredibly impressive to watch at work. She is the perfect team leader and represents the next generation of fashion in every way. There’s efficiency, vision, and every aspect of old-guard style professionalism, and this girl gets the shot every time. But it’s also a collaborative, supportive, empowering environment, and so fun. We work fast and yet nobody feels rushed! She has a strong but flexible vision and everyone is so encouraged to chip in and share their ideas. She really draws the best out of everybody and makes them feel welcome to contribute. It’s like Empowerment City on her sets!”

What style trends are you particularly excited about for this summer, if any?

SW: “Mini shorts. Tiny, little, itty-bitty mini shorts. So short that your parents would freak out. So short like they could be underwear. Mini, tiny, little, mini, itty-bitty shorts.”

ALS: "Bikinis! I adore swimsuits and I’ve been very into body jewelry recently. I’m a surfing, hiking, rock-climbing California girl at heart. I always say I wish the modeling world had some warmer year-round, beachier hotspots, but for now, NYC, Paris and Milan are where I need to be for work, so I’m just happy it’s summer. When I can’t be on a beach I’m big on my Ariat cowboy boots—Texas bestie approved! I wear them with whatever I'm wearing because they break in so well and as I said, I’m a big walker. I only recently noticed they are interpreted as such an intentional fashion statement in NYC! But hey, maybe they are. Interpret away. people!”

What current style trend do you think people are going to regret the most in 10 years?

SW: “I think maybe cargo pants—big, baggy cargo pants. I'm not in the mood for those these days. All those weird TikTok trends, people are going to look back and be like, ‘We were so cringe.’ Oh my god, there's so many, actually. Going too Y2K, people are going to be like, ‘What was our obsession? This is very bizarre.’"

ALS: "Literally nothing! I could bring my mom any picture from before I was born and she’ll laugh and go ‘I thought it was cute at the time.’ The people who lived through Y2K just look at the resurgence with good-natured humor, and I’m sure we will look back on our wilder choices the same way. No regrets!”

Catsuit, Gloves, Face Covering & Hat: Miss Claire Sullivan; Nipple Covers: Agent Provocateur; Socks: Stylist's own; Shoes: Larroude x Altuzarra

What style will you defend having in your closet always no matter how the trends change?

SW: “Loafers. I'm a huge loafers girly. I always have been. I feel like they're perfectly masculine and feminine at the same time. Also, bright colors, bandanas—not normal bandanas, but vacation bandanas, like vintage Issey Miyake bandanas. And kitten heels. I know they’re going to go away, but you will definitely have to pry them out of my cold dead hands. I'm not getting rid of mine ever. Also my tiny mini shorts. I don't care, when it turns to winter, I'm still going to be wearing these but with tights under, so be ready.”

ALS: "I will always love my collection of bootcut and flared jeans. They fit my height perfectly and are a timeless piece that I believe every tall person should have. My love for these jeans is here to stay!"

What is your favorite New York summer activity?

SW: “This doesn't really count, but going upstate. My friends and I, we take road trips upstate and chill on rocks and swim with the fishies. In the city, sometimes we play soccer and it's really cute. We go on people's rooftops. I like hosting people at my house. Just running around the city and getting into trouble.”

ALS: "In the words of Kendrick Lamar, ‘We outside!’ I walk everywhere, I’ll walk for hours; I walked home from the Oscar de La Renta runway show two days ago at the Bronx Botanical Gardens. If the sun’s out, so am I. New York and Boston winters really taught me to cherish the good weather while it lasts. I love playing beach volleyball down at Domino Park, or I’ll trek to Rockaway Beach when I have the time. So far it’s shaping up to be a busy summer, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for some warm oceanside travel jobs. Even walking to and from fittings, shoots, and castings is more fun now that it’s warm.”

What are you most excited about for this summer?

SW: “Everybody's been saying it's the summer of love, and I'm very in love right now. I have the best boyfriend ever. He fucking rocks. He's so supportive of me all the time, and I just love him to bits and pieces. We live a very amazing life, the two of us, and it's really beautiful. Spending summer with him is my fave. He has a gallery near my house, so I stop by in the middle of the day while he's working and just chill. The other day, he set up a movie night for me at the gallery. Literally, it was Carrie, which sounds fucking crazy, right? But first of all, I've never seen it, which is insane, and second of all, now it's my favorite movie. He knows me so well. It was perfect. Life is great.”

ALS: "I'm keeping an open mind and looking forward to the unexpected! If my first full year living in NYC and modeling has taught me anything, it is that making rigid plans is a little pointless, so you’ve got to learn to love the spontaneity of it all. That attitude can bring incredible experiences, and I’m excited for more! It’s also helping me shake a little of my natural type-A personality off, so that’s been fun.”

Style Editor: Camille Freestone / Art Director: Smiley Stevens/ Managing Editor: Hilary George-Parkin / Casting Director: Yasmin Coutinho / Executive Producer: Marc Duron / Shot at The Standard, Highline
Special thanks to Glaze Teriyaki and Baba

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