ABOVE, FROM TOP: Rickard Engfors models the Callisto, Orce, Sappho and Hecate from Panos Emporio.
AST AUTUMN IN GÖTEBORG, I was chatting to Panos, founding
designer of Panos Emporio, about
his latest range. He was visibly excited about the conceptUnlimited
Lovewith its positive message. In a year of war and in the
wake of the Anna Lindh assassination, Unlimited Love seemed like
a breath of fresh air that the world needed.
This is not the theme to the core Panos Emporio
range, which continues, but a brand-new swimwear line. The idea
is simple enough: love is the strongest weapon humankind has. It
remains a constant regardless of race or creed. It transcends the
artificial boundaries imposed by man; it is unrestricted. Most importantly,
it is at once expressed by everyone and belongs to everyone.
Inside the swimwear is a poem written by the designer
himself. It refers to Sappho (c. 630 BC),
one of the earliest writers of female homosexuality, and Aphrodite,
the goddess of fertility and love, embracing all nature. These evidently
play on Panoss Greek heritage, but the range goes far further.
| In countries like Sweden, where homosexuality and cross-dressing are not as visible in the mass media, Engfors expresses more of the limitlessness that Panos intended
As we drank coffee, Panos relayed that this was
about something deeper and internal within all of ussomething
that was inexplicable. But the opposite could easily be identified:
xenophobia and homophobia as its obvious antithesis, but more subtly,
the groupthink that emerges in society as governments tell people
what is good and what is bad, and the fear of taking a stand on
issues close to ones heart.
But more than all that, Unlimited Love has a central
message of individual empowerment for the global good. If individuals
realize that they can love, then they possess a power that is boundless.
They then have the capacity to do anything, including changing the
world for the better. It is a credo that Panos himself has learnedand
he is clearly upset when people do not live their full potential.
He sees some of that in his everyday life and in the years that I
have known him, he has attempted, often succeeded, in chipping away
at the institutions that tell us we are limited.
The question of why someone loves is never
to be asked, because it can not be answered, he explained.
So how does one express Unlimited Love in a campaign?
Last Thursday, Panos Emporio shocked Scandinavia by announcing that
Rickard Engfors, Swedens
best known cross-dresser, would be its signature model. Engfors follows
a line of beauties: Victoria Silvstedt, Traci Bingham, Janina Frostellso
his selection came as a surprise. The phones went hot in the regionall
while illustrating that Panos himself had no limits about his choice.
But the message has far wider implications, including
global, personal ones. The negativity that Panos spoke of is institutionalized
in so many countries: governments seeking power, telling people
how limited they are without them. They create dependence; they
create doubts in their citizenry. It is a foolish process: what
nation could possibly survive when its citizens do not live to the
greatest of their abilities?
The choice of Rickard Engfors then becomes vitally
clear, more so than MAC Cosmetics
choice of Ru Paul several years ago. In countries like Sweden, where
homosexuality and cross-dressing are not as visible in the mass mediaand
when the former is seen, it is often in more stereotypically
camp situations (Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, known in
Sweden as Fab Five, was a recent hit)Engfors expresses
more of the limitlessness that Panos intended.
When I get the question of why I have chosen
Rickard for this project, said Panos, I cannot answer
that question, since this collection is based on true feelings.
There is no answer to be told.
Effectively, Rickard Engfors, who has been limited
by narrow-minded elements in society, has been freed by
nationalindeed, internationalexposure. So far, that
strategy seems to be working: a
full page in Aftonbladet on Friday and plenty of radio
coverage. And if Rickard can be free and limitless, if he can dress
in a range of fetching swimwear, then what excuse have we not to aim
for the stars and accomplish our greatest dreams?
I wish that this message [of] Unlimited
Love will be a milestone. [It is an] important issue
that mankind has struggled with for thousands and thousands of years,
love. Let everyone experience love in their own way.
In an exclusive to Lucire, Panos told
us, Its nice today that men are used like women in advertisements.
Now its time for men to be free!
They [the public] start to see things now in many different ways and that was my goal. Lucire
hopes that he has accomplished itthe world needs an end to those worthless societal prejudices.
Jack Yan is founding publisher of Lucire.
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