The Genteel
February 28, 2021


Barely covered supermodels of the ‘90s. Source:

Vogue might seem like the epitome of class and high society, especially with Anna Wintour and her Chanel skirt suits at the helm of the title in America. But across the Atlantic, the European iterations of the magazine are a little less traditional - particular when it comes to nudity.

Last month, Vogue Germany published an editorial featuring the infamous - and often controversial - Miley Cyrus. The legendary fashion photographer, Mario Testino - whose previous clients have included the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge - snapped Cyrus, with several of the shots featuring her bare breasts. The images made their way across the pond to a horrified reception from many.

 Image from Miley Cyrus’ February
Vogue Germany photo shoot.

Images like these are nothing new to Vogue Germany. If a reader was to be drawn to an issue for a reason other than the recognisable face of a young starlet, they'd quickly realise that nudity is commonplace within European fashion magazines. Vogue Italia is the same in this regard - there may well be just as many nipples in an issue as Prada handbags.

American-born Zadrian Smith lives in London, and is the founding editor of PETRI(E) Inventory 66 - a publication dedicated to the iconoclastic stylist, Ray Petri. It is an incredibly unique magazine that aims to maintain the artistry in fashion, and is no stranger to nudity. Smith speaks with The Genteel about why exposing the vulnerability of the human form helps make PETRI(E) Inventory 66 what it is, and discusses why other publications prefer to keep it covered up.

The Genteel: Why aren't you afraid to feature nudity in PETRI(E)

Zadrian Smith: Nudity is intrinsically human. So, I don't understand why one should be afraid to showcase it. However, I do appreciate that discourse on body culture in different societies across the world differs and what is acceptable in one culture may not be the norm in another. There is often a debate around the idea of showcasing nudity in publications that are available for consumption for the masses, but if someone is uncomfortable with nudity and its presentation, the solution is simple: don't look.

TG: Do you think being based in London and distributing mostly to European countries is a big part of what allows you to be uncensored in this way?

I think this generation is celebrating their body and in doing so, are not as ashamed as previous generations to show it.

ZS: I think that for the most part nudity is becoming a more accepted norm in our culture. For instance, in America you have the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, which is not necessarily full nudity, but it's pretty darn close.

I think this generation is celebrating their body and in doing so, are not as ashamed as previous generations to show it. I also think that nudity within the microcosm of fashion is far more accepting and less shocking, as say the nudity you might find in pornographic media. One must consider the ethos of nudity and the emotions behind it, but this is open to interpretation and reception by the viewer.

TG: How does this lack of censorship add to the artistry of your magazine?

ZS: PETRI(E) does not have any advertisers, which serve as a shackle to many glossy magazines preventing what they are able to say and display in their pages. By getting rid of this external factor the only censors on PETRI(E) are the contributors themselves. There are no limits, the point of the publication is to be as vulnerable and honest as possible.

TG: Clothing, of course, is something that covers up the body. How does uncovering part of the body change the reaction that an image evokes?

ZS: When there are no clothes in an image, the focus is completely changed. The image becomes less of a material image and more of an image that focuses on the human body and the emotions embedded in the image. I can think of one model (Naomi Campbell) who has utilised nudity to her advantage showcasing her as a confident, strong, vulnerable, sexy and humorous nude.

Image from PETRI(E)’s homepage. 

TG: How do American audiences respond to PETRI(E)?

ZS: This is a difficult question to answer, because it's hard to garner your audience's perception with a launch issue. However, all copies in America sold out.

TG: Are there any American magazines that are less careful to limit nudity?

ZS: There are several American publications that feature nudity: V, W, Visionaire, Interview.

TG: Do you think European audiences are more comfortable with nudity in fashion magazines?

ZS: I know several Europeans who despise nudity in a publication and I could say the same about Americans. It's a matter of taste and cultural perceptions and acceptance. This doesn't only go for nudity, but for several other taboo elements of our culture including sexuality, gender and race issues as well.

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