Let me correct this. An advertisement from Jigsaw, one of British fashion’s most mainstream, middle-market, don’t-scare-the-horses brands, has been banned for objectifying women? This is ridiculous.

The black and white picture in question shows a girl in the Berkshire countryside climbing over an old stile while wearing a pair of hiking boots, a white fisherman’s rib sweater and, as far as one can see, a brief sliver of a swimsuit. Jigsaw is accused of irresponsibility and serious offense.

Laughably, one of the points made by the Advertising Standards Authority, in handing down judgment this week, is that ‘she appeared to be out for a hike or walk in the woods where people would not ordinarily be undressed in that way’. Aha! Advertising is meant now to be reporting. Is it a bland portrayal of how people actually look or behave? No, not at all.

This image, emailed to customers as part of the brand’s Autumn/Winter Into The Woods campaign, no more objectifies women than it turns hiking boots into fetishwear. It’s a beautiful, gentle and sensitive image, devised by an all-female team and shot by in-house staff as one of the add-ons to the main campaign.

The Advertising Standards Authority has banned an image of a girl in the Berkshire countryside (pictured) that was emailed to Jigsaw customers as part of their Autumn/Winter Into The Woods campaign

The picture is captioned ‘These boots were made for walking’ — a nod to the 1965 hit song by Nancy Sinatra, which pronounced loud and clear that she was a woman capable of walking out of any situation not to her taste.

This message doesn’t portray women as vulnerable, or as an insecure sex object. It is therefore important to keep our eyes open when we see a photo as innocuous and innocent as this.

Into The Woods was conceived by Joanna Sykes, Jigsaw’s Creative Director since 2019. Sykes has a hugely successful track record in women’s fashion, particularly in clothes that resonate with grown-up, real women. After a brief stint with Aquascutum, she went to Nicole Farhi where she stayed for several years.

Farhi and Jigsaw are both brands that have provided reliable staples for women’s professional wardrobes. These clothes are not for flights of fancy but real life. Advertising is the key. It is important that successful advertising grabs our attention. This has certainly happened in this case.

The purpose of the brochure is to make people want to buy the brand or product.

We can only see so many pictures of a pair black trousers and navy jacket that we will be inspired to buy. Sykes would want to inject some emotion into the few studio shots that were included in the campaign. I believe he hoped to achieve this by creating a narrative about friends who have fun with each other. Along with pictures of half-clothed young models joyfully dancing, there are conventional pictures of them posed in whole outfits — a velvet trouser suit, a trench coat, for example.

Alexandra Shulman (pictured), who commissioned fashion shoots at Vogue for over two decades, said she didn't find the image voyeuristic or offensive

Alexandra Shulman (pictured), who commissioned fashion shoots at Vogue for over two decades, said she didn’t find the image voyeuristic or offensive

The main campaign’s photographer Sarah Blais has worked with many fashion magazines as well as shooting for clothing brands including Zara, Dior and Arket. Tellingly, she was also the 2019 winner of the British Journal of Photography’s Female in Focus award, a periodical not known for a love of sexually exploitative work.

In the bumf accompanying the shoot, Jigsaw describes the images thus: ‘A group of friends spill into the forest with a spirit of heady adventure . . . the collection explores the relationship with our bodies both inside and out, through the art of dressing and undress, revelling in freedom and self expression.’

Although you can take Jigsaw for their outrageously pretentious talk, that’s not what the ASA found them guilty. Their crime is being sexually suggestive and voyeuristic.

It’s a beautiful, gentle and sensitive image, devised by an all-female creative team 

It’s all in the eye of one. I didn’t find it voyeuristic or offensive. Two complaints were filed about the image. This is absurd.

But, more importantly, can it really be that the sight of a woman’s naked legs is so disturbing?

Where does this idea of an offensive image leave us? It’s part of the move towards sanitising our culture so anything that makes an impact, which might perturb a very few, is deemed too risky to be allowed.

Alexandra said the female team on the campaign saw no problem with the focus on the lower half of the model’s body, because there is nothing uncomfortable or exploitative. Pictured: Jigsaw clothing shop on High Street

Alexandra said the female team on the campaign saw no problem with the focus on the lower half of the model’s body, because there is nothing uncomfortable or exploitative. Pictured at Jigsaw Clothing Shop on High Street 

Since Vogue has been publishing fashion shoots for nearly two decades I can understand the reasons Jigsaw wanted this photo. In fashion terms, pronouncing a picture to be ‘like a catalogue shot’ is the greatest criticism you can make.

Photographs of the catalogue clearly depict clothes in simple, straight-forward and up-and down fashion. There is no artifact. They hope to bring a sense of creativeness to Jigsaw’s campaign with this striking image in black and white.

I imagine the female team on the campaign saw no problem with the focus on the lower half of the model’s body, nor on the partially bare bottom, because there is nothing uncomfortable or exploitative here.

The girl does not have any sexual desires, it is just natural. The reason this may have happened is because all the girls were female. Or it could not. I don’t believe there should be a blanket judgment of the male or female gaze.

As a woman however, I’m shocked that this shot could be deemed unprofessional.

It is more concerning and bleak to think that the ASA might find it unacceptable.