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Here’s a fun assignment: browse through the 130,000 pages of Playboy magazine and give us a short list of your favorite pictorials.

Sounds like a dream project for teenage boys, but it takes on considerably more weight in the hands of some of the world’s most creative artists and designers. That’s what Playboy has done as a way of introducing a new iPad app that contains an archive of its vast catalogue.

The newly contrived Playboy Commission asked 11 cultural heavyweights to plow through its back issues and tell the world how the magazine’s work inspired and affected them. The commissioners include such names as Simon Doonan from Barney’s, design team Vena Cava, filmmaker David Gordon Green and Jeremy Scott.

One of the most revealing submissions, for our money, came from Sarah Shotton (right), creative director of erotic lingerie superbrand Agent Provocateur and the designer of some of the industry’s most daring, taste-changing lingerie styles of the past decade. If Playboy changed our attitudes (and appetite) regarding sex, it’s fair to say the Agent Provocateur played a large role in bringing that new liberalism to the undergarment industry.

Not surprisingly, Playboy had a profound influence on Sarah’s upbringing, education and design aesthetic. From her schoolgirl crush on a Twin Peaks star to her hypnotic obsession with Mugler’s vision of women, Sarah connects the dots between her exposure to Playboy and her later professional endeavours.

Here’s what she had to say about the most influential material from Playboy over the years, and how it impacted her work. A fascinating insight.

Sherilynn Fenn, December 1990
“I remember when Sherilyn Fenn posed for this issue of Playboy as I somehow got my hands on a copy. At the time I was 15 years old and obsessed with Twin Peaks. I was at an all-girls boarding school and we all used to sneak into the attic after lights were turned out to watch each episode. Audrey Horne was probably another reason I am in the job I am in. I found her addictive – with her 1950s Monroe hair do and her bob socks and her manipulative sexuality. It was probably then that I realized the power of a women’s sensuality over men. We all wanted to be her and of course we all would practice for hours to twist cherry stems in our mouths in a similarly provocative manner! But we did it for our own amusement, not for boys. This cover story is special for me as it brings back these nostalgic memories. I love the way Sherilyn has been photographed so that she looks so empowered. The pictures are demure and ladylike but also sexually charged.”

Thierry Mugler’s ‘Sex Couture’, January 1999
“Thierry Mugler has always been a big inspiration for me. I love the way he made women look. I think he made women look iconic and sexually empowered. He celebrated women’s curves and with his amazing tailoring skills made beautiful sculpted pieces that defined and accentuated the female form. I started working for Agent Provocateur the same year this Playboy came out. I have a copy of it in my studio and I can’t tell you the number of times it has been referenced for inspiration. I love this shoot because it is Mugler through and through. I love how surreal it looks and the use of styling within the set. The girls look slightly android like with there uniforms of black Mugler Jackets, suspenders and stockings.”

Marilyn Monroe, December 1953
“This it where it all began for Playboy. Marilyn Monroe has to be one of the most iconic sex symbols in history. I love that the nude images of her inside are of her more as Norma Jean than Marilyn. I watched a film on her life story when I was very young and remember trying to saw one of the heels off my shoes to get the famous wiggle. I love the sentence in the write-up about her: Marilyn shatters whole rows of beer steins with a single, seductive look. It’s an all-powerful line I’ll remember all my life.”

Cindy Crawford by Herb Ritts, July 1988
“I love the pictures Herb Ritts shot of Cindy Crawford; the cover is mesmerizing. For me, Cindy was the most iconic super model of the late 1980s early 1990s. With her wholesome glow and jaw-dropping body, it was Cindy who made curves possible in the world of fashion. I love the simplicity of these shots, paired back from fancy lighting and effects.”

Bonds Girls, November 1965
“Well the cover says it all really. James Bond Girls. I love how strong this cover is with her hair blowing behind her as if she were an agent in action. To be a Bond girl in that era, must have to be one of the best jobs ever. You are beautiful, intelligent and a professional seductress. Plus you get to wear great gowns. But most of all, you get to roll in the hay with James Bond.”

Posted in Agent Provocateur

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