Asked whether the company would make any changes to its product catalogue in light of criticism from the Trade Ethical Council against Sexism in Advertising (ERK), CEO Panos Papadopoulos replied, "absolutely not".
”We're often criticized in other countries for being overly restrictive. If anything, our catalogue is too conservative," he told The Local.
ERK has issued the company with a formal reprimand for the titillating nature of some of the pictures in Panos Emporio's latest product brochure.
"In a lot of the pictures in the catalogue, the models are posing in a way that leads one's thoughts to sex rather than bathing," ERK wrote in its ruling.
The council added that not all of the suggestive pictures could be viewed as discriminatory on the grounds of gender. But, "the fact that certain pictures are taken in an indoor environment reinforces the allusion to sex, as does the fact that the model is portrayed lying down in provocative poses."
“The woman's body is used in these pictures as an eye-catcher of a sexual nature with an insufficient correlation to the product being marketed,” wrote ERK.
Explaining the decision to take swimwear shots indoors, Papadopoulos said that the Poison collection, one of four collections featured in the catalogue, was inspired by subcultures and heavy metal music.
“Presumably they think we should only include images taken by the waterside. But we shouldn't need permission from anybody to take photos in a black-walled environment if this matches the philosophical idea behind the collection,” he said.
Papadopoulos, who founded Panos Emporio in Gothenburg in 1986, said the company's catalogue went out to around 30 countries globally, including the Arab world and large parts of Europe.
“There has not been a single negative reaction from any other country,” he said.
“I'm sorry there are people bothered by this but at the same time there are certain question marks. It's often the same people behind these reports time and time again,” Papadopoulos added.
ERK is a self-regulating, private body that has existed since 1988. The organization bases its decisions on the ICC International Code of Advertising Practice, but has also added three supplements of its own to the ICC's Article 4 dealing with sexism.
ERK's rulings are non-binding, but companies often agree to adhere to the council's rulings.