‘With effort and enthusiasm, anything you imagine can come true’. That would be the best conclusion of what has been ‘Panache’, a concept that emerged as a modest high school project, a graphic design proposal for the ICT subject at the Spanish School in London, and eventually became a real project at the Saatchi Gallery a few months later. The author of this artwork, Ms. Sofia de la Cruz, is currently attending the second and final year of the Science Spanish ‘Bachillerato’. She and her teacher, Ms. Lucia Buceta, describe how a school project transcended the classroom boundaries to become a reality in one of the most prestigious and visited art galleries in the UK.
“Panache is a French original word whose meaning in English expresses quite well what this project was supposed to be: ‘A stylish, original, and very confident way of doing things that makes people admire you’. When the project came to life at the Saatchi Gallery, that was exactly what happened, people attending the private view of Known Unknowns were staring as if we were celebrities, and shooting images of us. Some were taking occasional selfies, maybe they thought we were part of the exhibition”. But that’s just a little story. In fact, the goal of this project that merges photography and fashion art direction is closely related to gender equality. “It is about deconstructing’ gender roles, all those social rules, taboos and stereotypes that make an outfit socially acceptable or not for a man or a woman. Just as children’s toys influence gender roles in boys and girls, something similar happens with men’s and women’s fashion. Coco Chanel helped to free women from the slavery of dress by introducing and adapting to female fashion elements traditionally associated with men’s clothing. And not because of that women have lost their femininity, but on the contrary. Current designers such as Palomo Spain do the opposite proposal, so that men can wear elements of women’s fashion while still being masculine. However, this process has not yet reached the male mentality, not even the youngest. My proposal is that this rethinking of `female’ and `male’ fashion that already exists on the catwalk should also be part of the everyday life of ordinary people. For example, here in the high schools, so boys can choose clothes and accessories they like without being questioned”.
Who are those ‘Panache’ boys and girls?
“That’s also one of the most interesting and surprising aspects in the project. Looking at the result, anyone from the outside would believe that these are professional models, but they are not. They’re my schoolmates themselves. When the work was shown in class, all the students at the 2nd year of ‘Bachillerato’ volunteered. There was a draw and eight students, four girls and four boys were chosen: Anna Abellan, Ruth Guillem, Bianca Misiti, Laura Diaz, Telmo Meana, Alejo Andrade, Alvaro Entrenas and Matteo Betteli. These colleagues have been a crucial part in the result, they have performed brilliantly and have felt part of this project. I think they had a lot of fun too. But I am sure that if it had been others instead, they would have done likewise well. People enjoy it when they have the courage to overcome their ‘barriers’, when they dare to challenge stereotypes and social roles. Overcoming conventions makes us grow, to become freer. And when you feel you have freedom, it gives you confidence, it makes you happier”.
How did ‘Panache’ get to the Saachi Gallery?
“This project was born for my 2nd ‘Bachillerato’ ICT class. They are a group I know in depth and I was sure they would achieve their best results. So it was. Because of the quality of the works, I decided to get in touch with the Saatchi Gallery, where I had previously worked, to find out about its possible projection there. In recognition of the work done by Sofia De la Cruz, the gallery made an invitation to eight members of the group to attend the private view of Known Unknowns on Tuesday 20 March. The photographer as well as some of the students who had been a model in her previous work attended the meeting. The photographic session began at 7 pm. and lasted about two hours. It is therefore the result of an excellent project to which I was able to expand its horizons through the Saatchi Gallery”.
What would you highlight about this project?
“This is a brilliant piece of work that we have been able to enjoy because of its quality and personality. Sofia is a very gifted student, with a great expressive capability and a peculiar way of looking at the world. In addition, she stands out for her professionalism and for her huge capacity for work. This project is not only a break with the gender roles but also a commitment to beauty not linked to stereotypes”.