Month: March 2016

Spin Class: Dior and J-Law in the Post-Raf Era

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I never thought this day would come. The day when I say that Jennifer Lawrence not only looks great in Dior’s new Mario Sorrenti-shot ads, but also actually looks like a fitting representative of the world’s premiere luxury fashion brand. Has hell frozen over? Apparently not — Dior’s marketing team has just finally realized they should play to JLaw’s (relative — let’s not get gushy) strengths, instead of putting her into an archetypal mold that doesn’t fit. Let’s first recap the long and tragic history that is Dior: the JLaw Years.

Jennifer Lawrence became the face of Dior in 2012, when Raf Simons took over the label. This was a terrible choice for both parties. It was a bad move for Dior because Lawrence is unsophisticated and too relatable, with her “down to earth” lifestyle choices and penchant for crude humor and childish antics — this is the woman who engages in walrus pantomimes with chopsticks and wears jackets with “perv” emblazoned on the back. Dior, as one of the most elegant and storied fashion labels, needs a spokeswoman who embodies their sophisticated values — I loved what they did last spring with Rihanna, who, while not Grace Kelly, still fits the bill because of her impeccable fashion instincts and comfortability in her own skin, and adds an appealing edge to a label that can quickly get too feminine. The Dior partnership was a terrible choice for Lawrence (aside from the 7-figure payday) because it’s locked her in to Dior for all red carpet appearances until 2017, which doesn’t suit her in the least — she hasn’t looked good since the 2011 Oscars where she wore the blood orange Calvin Klein.The contract has robbed her of the chance to form any kind of sartorial identity and confuses her cultural coding — she’s photographed cracking open beers with bottled water caps and wearing double denim one minute, and looking awful in a frilly cupcake mess on the red carpet the next. It’s a complete mismatch for both parties.

Unless you can spin it, which is what Dior has done for this season’s ad campaign, to great effect. These ads are about laid-back glamour, which is much more Lawrence’s speed. She looks chic and refined, (in a borderline Olsen way — I can’t believe I’m saying this) and finally looks comfortable as the face of the brand, bringing a warmth to the photos. This campaign capitalizes on her approachability while still situating her as aspirational, (the placement behind the bags and couch visually helps with this) instead of trying to cast her as a Hitchcockian ice queen like Raf did during his tenure, a role that didn’t fit her and made her look wan and deeply uncomfortable.  But in these new ads, Dior and Lawrence have hit a sweet spot where both of their brand codings are in synch — easygoing-ness meets Parisian chic — which makes this campaign not only work, but succeed exceptionally well.

A mismatch, especially a contractual and expensive one like this, doesn’t have to be the end of the world if both the brand and the representative can be strategic and thoughtful about where their Venn diagrams overlap. I hope Dior can keep this momentum until they can get a more natural fit for their brand, (2018, please come quickly). But in the meantime, dare I say…I look forward to see how they meet this challenge? I never thought I would be capable of uttering those words, and yet here we are. That’s the power of good marketing, I suppose.

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