We had a really insightful talk with Katarina Pepichova, Producer and Art Buyer at Calvin Klein, who will be judging our new Spotlight Awards Lingerie & Swimwear category. Read on to learn about the new approaches to lingerie photography, the changing definition of sexy, initiatives for creative women, and more.

Production Paradise: What made you accept our invitation to become a judge on the Spotlight Awards panel?

Katarina Pepichova: The diversity and the quality of your talents on your platform is rare. It’s added value with easy access to professionals in our field. It’s always an honor and pleasure to be in a jury. You feel the power of the community and sharing a set of experiences of creativity and hard work put behind the submitted work. I always feel inspired by the self-expression people are able to show to the world.

Production Paradise: You have worked for Ogilvy&Mather, adidas, Philips and now Calvin Klein: very impressive! You have experience on both sides of the industry, with brands and agencies: do you think that gives you a deeper understanding of the creative process of a campaign?

Katarina Pepichova: Having experienced both sides of the industry made me a better producer. It makes me understand the full picture. You don’t really experience the brand side working on a pitch straight 48hrs and then going directly to a client to present it without any rest and sleep. However, what’s interesting to see is how the concept of an agency is evolving through time. Most of the brands have an in-house agency full of creatives, designers, copywriters, producers – including Calvin Klein. It’s exactly the same set up as an agency. In the past that didn’t really exist. Brands used to go to the agencies for full creative support. The advantage of having such a set-up is the familiarity of the brand content. You get to know the brand inside-out. And you keep that knowledge in-house.

The tricky part is that sometimes we can get stuck in our own bubble, keep doing what works and feels comfortable. We forget to take risks. Kind of like a parent being overprotective with a child. I think it’s good to have a mixture of both. Hiring external creatives allows you to be a part of a greater creative community where you meet people from different creative backgrounds, maximising the learning curve. You would be surprised what kind of ideas/solutions can come out of random conversations. I think creative directors have a responsibility to keep the creative spark in the team.

Production Paradise: Gender bias has become more and more relevant as a topic in our culture – I think you are involved in different initiatives to have a stronger awareness about it to be able to fight it, can you tell us a bit more about these initiatives?

Katarina Pepichova: First, I got to know Free The Bid. It’s a non-profit initiative advocating on behalf of women, directors and photographers for equal opportunities to bid on commercial jobs in the global advertising. In my production process, I always include one female director or photographer in the bidding. It became a movement powered by fearless women demanding equal opportunities. Free The Bid evolved into Free The Work in 2019. It’s a curated talent-discovery platform for underrepresented creators. Another organisation is Femme Palette. It is a platform and community focused on career development for women. I’m part of this community and I’m also becoming a mentor this year to help with career guidance to junior, amazing women.

Currently, I’m working with three other amazing women on creating a platform and community that focuses on women in film in Amsterdam. We would love to connect female directors, producers, editors, whoever is involved in the film industry and create a safe, supportive space that allows sharing and collaboration.

Production Paradise: Calvin Klein is one of the big names in the Lingerie and Swimwear sector, what are recent trends in this industry you think are here to stay, and how have they changed the way these products are advertised?

Katarina Pepichova: First, I would say the definition of sexy has changed. Now it’s more about how a woman feels in the lingerie. It’s not anymore about realizing men’s fantasies. It’s amazing to see how lingerie grew up and put women’s comfort first. The revolution is all about comfort, body confidence and women themselves. One of the trends is to look natural. A lot of lingerie brands have started to embrace ethnicity and are using a full range of models. You see also un-retouched photography.

Another trend is building strong online communities often centered around body positivity, inclusivity and diversity. I’m very proud to be part of the project CK introduced last year called #CKunfiltered: bra talk. It is a film series answering some of the most popular bra queries, offering expert advice on finding the right bra, measuring your bra size at home, different types of bras and common bra-fit issues. This year we continued with the series and also introduced CK first-ever nursing bra. The bra is being introduced by two incredible women who are a mother and mother to be. It’s beautiful to watch their dialogue, their mutual support and understanding of each other. It’s just beautifully real.

Production Paradise: What sort of images would you like to see in the competition?

Katarina Pepichova: I would like to see images that tell a story that have an essence and a soul.

Production Paradise: What do you think are the main qualities (personal & professional) to look for in a photographer?

Katarina Pepichova: As I said in a recent interview, everyone can have a good iPhone or camera and you just take pictures. But in my humble opinion, if you want to be a good photographer, you need to have a foundation to build upon. Having a camera doesn’t make you a photographer. You need to build upon a foundation and then you can start experimenting on that foundation. When you get to the point that people see your images and they can recognize your signature, it’s yours because it’s your specific trademark and identity and your essence. To me that’s when you are on your way to becoming a great photographer. Also don’t try to fit it, own your talent!

Production Paradise: How important are online platforms for finding new talent? What platforms do you use to scout new photographers?

Katarina Pepichova: They’re vital to the industry. As I mentioned previously, the diversity and the quality of the creative talent on your platform is rare. However, my impression of some of the content is creatively outdated. I personally mostly use Instagram because it is the most known free platform for artists to expose their work. It’s a great networking opportunity. And you can easily spot young upcoming artists there as well.

Production Paradise: In what ways do you think Production Paradise Spotlight Awards could benefit photographers?

Katarina Pepichova: Participating in this event provides exposure that is a most welcome opportunity for many. The jury selection is diverse which promises a broad and diverse range of experts handling the process.