photographer and model emma breschi won't let archaic beauty standards stand in her way
And she won't let Mercury retrograde stop her either.
Photography: Francesca Allen
To celebrate the launch of Maison Margiela’s Mutiny fragrance, we’re spotlighting the voices and talents of bold iconoclasts. Through their creative endeavours and by speaking out on the issues that matter to them, this group are challenging archaic norms and exploring diverse concepts of identity.
Emma Breschi can dissect beauty and womanhood in a manner far wiser than her 25 years on earth might make you think. A photographer and model, the honest and thought-provoking work she’s made along the way has caught the attention of some of the industry’s most prolific titles and figures.
As a photographer she’s known for championing the little parts of people others might consider ‘imperfect’, refusing to blur or bend them to the will of an industry’s standards. And as a model, her presence as a curvaceous woman of colour, often dressed in nude body suits or nothing at all, feels like a brilliant ‘fuck you’ to anybody who ever told her that women like her weren’t meant to be celebrated in art.
She’s not the archetypal beauty queen the world usually fawns over. No, Emma Breschi is quietly switching up fashion from the inside -- someone who proves that what was once the antithesis of beauty in that world deserves to be part of the new-found norm. And by spending just as much time in front of the lens as she does behind it, she has the power and agency to make the kind of change we all desperately want to see.
Here, in her conversation with i-D, she tells us about how her journeys to and from Thailand, the solar system and her multifaceted fashion experience have transformed her into the woman she is today.
Hi Emma! How are you?
Hi! I would say great, but Mercury being in retrograde has done me dirty! Nothing I can't handle though.
I’m glad you’re handling it! To start, I wondered if you could recall the first time you felt like a fish out of water.
When I left Thailand and moved to the UK. I spent the first few years in Guildford, Surrey; it was such a dramatic change from the bustling streets of Bangkok. I remember my first day of A-Levels, walking into class and saying hello to everyone. My crazy accent definitely threw them off, and so they looked at me like I was an alien.
So you moved from the UK to Thailand, and then back here to the UK a few years ago. Did your modes of self expression -- as an artist and a person -- change with that transition?
I think that growing up on different sides of the world has given me the ability to explore my heritage in a really unique way. By transitioning between both the east and the west, I have become more comfortable with my modes of self-expression, [and they] have adapted just as I have grown as a woman. I've always been on the move, adapting to change, thrown into new experiences and cultures growing up, so it's really refreshing for me to have found my base in London for the time being. It’s a city like no other, and is booming with diversity.
As a photographer, you have the privilege of being able to frame the world around you: cut out the bad, highlight the good, or purposely highlight the negativity in order to invoke change. How conscious of those decisions are you?
The way I work is just by focusing on what I want to say and saying it authentically. I'm telling stories -- whether it’s my own or someone else's. All I can hope is that whoever's watching feels something; if what I do inspires someone to feel, then I know I've done something right. I'm a very honest person -- the kind that is "what you see is what you get". My work, I think, is pretty much the same.
You're one of the few artists in the industry who can flit from standing in front of and behind the camera and maintain respect on both sides. When did you first decide that you weren't going to be limited by the expectations of others?
I've pretty much always been a bit rebellious towards what anyone else thinks or expects of me. I'm stubborn in the sense that when someone tells me I can't do it, I'm going to do it anyway! I have definitely had my reservations about being on both sides of the camera, but I never felt like there was anything stopping me.
Do you think that society's mutinous beauty moment well and truly underway?
We're definitely making progression, however I would say that overarching divisions exist between all models in the industry. They’ve not been eradicated. On a personal level, I am no more or less of a woman than the next. ALL WOMEN ARE REAL WOMEN! I'm just looking forward to the day that we can rid this world of labels. Categorising people is sooo boring!
And what makes you feel powerful within it?
This article originally appeared on i-D UK.