If you haven't yet heard of Canadian Expat Petra Collins you might have missed the Time magazine article she was featured in, the Adidas commercial she directed or the Levi's one. Maybe you missed her contributions to Vogue, Elle, Dazed & Confused, and L'Officiel magazines. Without really noticing, you may have walked past her face in the Calvin Klein ad campaign she was featured in, or the Gucci one. Maybe you live under a rock, inside a cave or under the sea, or maybe you just have to ask a teenaged girl, who knows.
Born and raised in the big smoke, Collins briefly studied photography at the Ontario College of Art and Design before establishing herself in New York City. Like Aphrodite rising from the foam of the ocean, Petra has emerged as a trendsetter of the contemporary art world and fashion landscape. Her prolific signature aesthetic, brimming with pastel colours, hints of teenage nostalgia, neon-lit discotheques and windows into a 16-year-old girl’s utopian bedroom realm, have cemented her status as a fashion hallmark and go-to it-girl.
If you’ve slept on Collins’ blooming repertoire of photography, short films, mini documentaries, commercial projects and collaborative shows, you might’ve just missed the zeitgeist shaping the contemporary art and fashion landscape. Her recent controversial cover-shoot [for Wonderland magazine] with former Disney celebrity, Zendaya, being her latest headline grabbing addition.
The Canadian icon’s keen eye and sense of girlhood has made her a muse to creative projects everywhere; coming under the wing of Gucci’s creative director and designer Frida Guannini, as a source of unique inspiration. A recent music video directed for infamous Canadian ‘Call Me Maybe’ singer, Carly Rae Jepsen (again, you may have to ask a teenaged girl for context), features bubbly teenage girls pouring out their heartache over their ‘Boy Troubles’ in the midst of sparkling, neon backdrops and glitzy shining sets. This Toronto native didn't set out to conquer the world though. Instead, her ability to understand the condition of the modern girl; her musings, concerns, worries, and obsessions, has led the world to her.
With the launch of her recent book ‘Babe’, featured in New York Time’s top 25 books of 2015, Collins has climbed to the top of the artistic world of New York and established herself as an international icon and a voice for girls everywhere. ‘Babe’ is a visual trip designed to entice you into the culture of everything girly without the obligatory overt objectification. Through the legions of followers who seem to connect with the artist on a personal level, Petra seeks to defy the relentless culture of perfection and its pervasive idealized sense of beauty. She’s able to depict how real girls fit into the model of consumerism; taking artistic license on how this model (as she suggests) was never designed for them, but instead aims to dismantle the vital sublime energy she defines as girlhood.
“I’m used to being told by society that I must regulate my body to fit the norm. They are ways to connect with an audience, to start discussion, and to create change. I’m used to seeing women being degraded and shamed for what they look like. Even the most powerful women in the world are measured by their appearance and constantly ridiculed for it. If the Internet mimics real life then there is no doubt that real life can mimic it.”
As an artist, Petra cultivates her own zeitgeist and through it, she is able to capture the minds of notable trendsetters, including the editors of Vogue as well as Frida from Gucci. Through her artistic practice, Petra has been able to sift through the spume of the advertising and artistic world of New York; and in the process has interpolated the conversation on womanhood. Through her vision, she’s gained the ability to explore a completely alternate, albeit pastel-coloured, terrain.
Defined through a tongue-in-cheek approach that expresses an ephemeral realness, Ms. Collins is also able to joke about being boy crazy and everything that comes with it; lipstick and makeup, acne, the colour pink etc. For this Canadian powerhouse, the world is her oyster; the only thing is she's quite happy being the sea.