Models

Celeb Spawn: The New Ultimate Aspiration?

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Last week’s Met Gala was swarming with ultra-young second-gen celebrities: Jaden and Willow Smith, (17 and 15, respectively), Hailey Baldwin (ugh; 19), Lily-Rose Depp (16), and Sofia Ritchie (16), just to name a few.

Fashion naturally idealizes and fetishizes youth, and young models are absolutely nothing new: Kate Moss was discovered at 14, and Brooke Shields was also 14 when she shot her infamous Calvin Klein ad. However, the young faces of campaigns today seem to be uniformly, and unprecedentedly, celebrity offspring. This is an easy move for labels to make, as these kids come pre-coded in pop culture, but are they accurately representing their audience’s aspirations? How much advertising power can a teenager with no résumé have? Fashion houses are betting on a lot, judging by the insanely long list of recent appointments.

Willow Smith has recently been named a Chanel ambassador, and Jaden fronted this season’s Louis Vuitton campaign; Kaia Gerber, 14, just landed her first Vogue Paris cover, alongside her mother, Cindy Crawford; Lily-Rose Depp has been a Chanel ambassador for over a year; Lourdes Leon, 19, is the face of Stella McCartney’s new fragrance “Pop;” Romeo Beckham, 13, has modeled in several Burberry campaigns and his brother Brooklyn, 17, has shot them. Sophia Ritchie, Iris Law, 15, and Anaïs Gallagher, 16, and Lottie Moss, 18 are all modeling, the latter to more legitimate success than the others. These teens have nothing aspirational to their resumes like work or personal style, and some of them are only somewhat modelesque in their looks. Their aspirational coding comes exclusively from their last names, which is irritating but not illegitimate: they are able to borrow and transmute codings from their parents, and, since they are so young, fashion labels are able to mold them to fit the labels’ needs. The Beckham boys, for example, have their parents’ pop cultural relevancy and ties to 2000s British nostalgia, while Lily-Rose Depp (and probably soon Jack) can borrow from her parents’ sensibilities for French cool and American eccentricity. It’s easy. Their codes are already in place.

The highest aspiration, then, according to fashion advertisers, is neither youth nor beauty; it is cool parentage, and a built-in cultural coding. Using these kids in ads is both lazy and genius. Celebrity children appeal to several audiences: the older guard who are fans of the parents (although, is anyone actually a fan Will and Jada?), teenagers who follow the kids on social media, and millennials in between who have seen both generations in the tabloids. Situating celebrity heritage as the highest aspiration is also deeply, maniacally brilliant on behalf of brands – you can change your makeup and your clothes, but you can’t change who your parents are. This equals perpetual, unacheivable striving on behalf of their customers trying to actualize the brand’s values. Evil and elegant.

It’s important for old, storied fashion houses to stay relevant, so choosing young faces with social media presences to represent their brands isn’t surprising. But the audience to whom these young celebrity kids most appeal, 13 to 16 year olds, have zero purchasing power. Even if they did, would they buy Chanel products because Willow Smith is the face of the company? My guess is a laughable no – Karl and Teen Vogue are trying overly hard to make Willow happen. Perhaps these labels are playing the very long game? Courting ultra-young teens for a period of 10-15 years by pretending to understand their dreams and aspirations until this group does have spending power to use on these labels? If so, this is also wicked and exploitative and brilliant and I love it. My guess, however, is that it’s just a ploy for immediate relevancy with the social media set, and an opportunity to create cheap, easily disseminated assets.

Using these second-generation celebrities in ads makes total sense for labels – they’re prepackaged, recognizable to multiple audiences, and create media buzz. But I don’t think any of these kids are particularly compelling, with the exception of Romeo Beckham, who has charisma for miles. I think fashion houses would be better off scouting new, cool, young talent – look at Lucky Blue Smith and family! They are so much cooler than the other Smith siblings, and better um, adjusted. Using genetics as the highest aspiration, although brilliant marketing, is also slightly unsettling. If labels are going to use nepotism cases in advertising, they ought to wait until the kids are older teenagers and have something to their résumés, both to send a better message to their younger audiences, and to avoid a slight Eugenics-y undertone.

Me? I deeply, desperately want to be a part of the Lucky Blue Smith family and hourly sigh with relief that Will and Jada are not my parents. Also, if I were a Gallagher or a Law, I would have a deep Electra complex, so dodged a bullet there! I think brands might want to carefully consider the middle millennial band before slapping a teen with famous genes in an ad campaign – this is the audience with upcoming purchasing power who will be turned off by falsely precocious rich kids who know nothing about fashion or culture and are trying to capitalize on their parents’ social codings. There are exceptions, naturally, like Kendall Jenner and Georgia May Jagger, who have become extremely successful in their own right. But for the rest of them? Give me a break, and give me someone actually aspirational, in my own age bracket, like Alexa Chung or Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, or in the next, like Isabella Rossellini (famous parents, extraordinary résumé), Linda Rodin, Charlotte Rampling, Grace Coddington, or Catherine Denuve – women I can actually look up to, and not teens I sneer at. Except for Romeo Beckham. I would literally buy anything he advertises.

 

Cool Teens Appreciation Gallery feat. Romeo!!! He is so impish and charming!!!!

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Report Card: S/S ’16 Ad Campaigns

The new ads are in, and the results are not great my friends. Brands and spokespeople were mismatched, art direction was lackluster, and ads had a somber quality to them, perhaps stemming from the recent upheaval in the industry and the hit that the luxury markets have taken in China. Let’s discuss.

Ruby Rose for Ralph Lauren Denim Supply

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Oh. Oh dear. This keeps eliciting laughs from me. I know Ralph Lauren is under new management and in desperate need to project a younger, cooler image (may I remind you that Ralph Lauren is a major sponsor of Masterpiece Theatre). It’s like they watched The Grapes of Wrath  on a TV with poorly-operating antennae, put on a blindfold, and threw a dart at a young celebrity that codes for cool and edgy. This is a tragic mismatch, and the result is schadenfreudeish. The corresponding video is even worse, bringing this depression-era Madewell shopping spree to life — the only redeeming quality of the digital component is the presence of a hedgehog.

Who would be a better face of Ralph Lauren (providing there’s better art direction)? It’s tough to say, seeing how this big brand has become amorphous and bloated by offshoot lines in the past ten years. I would go for an all-American face, like none other than Lauren Bush Lauren. She’s close to the brand, yes, but she’s an accomplished social entrepreneur with ties to two American dynasties — and Ralph Lauren is all about living the American dream. And if Tom Ford can star in his own campaigns, LBL can advertise for her in-laws.

Grade: D

 

Claudia Schiffer, Cindy Crawford, and Naomi Campbell for Balmain

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This is great. It’s all the glamour and drama associated with Balmain, but without the off-putting high-maintenance flashiness. The black and white is subdued, and a nice departure from the garish colors that we’ve seen from Balmain recently, but there’s so much movement that it’s still electric — Cindy’s face and body is exquisite here.

Choosing the original Supers to font this campaign was a great move, because it capitalizes on 90’s nostalgia, and restores some sophistication to the brand after last season’s Jenner sisters ad. It’s also nice in conversation with the Balmain x H&M campaign, which featured the “Supers” of today, Gigi, Kendall, and Jourdan, whose looks mirror those of Claudia, Cindy, and Naomi.

Grade: A-

 

Assorted Teens for Burberry 

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Burberry is catering to a younger crowd with this campaign, with its choice of up-and-coming young models like Ruth and May Bell and Dylan Brosnan, its debut of Snapchat (why?), and the grittier aesthetic portrayed here with a Juergen-y high-exposure flash. This makes sense, given that Burberry’s sales were down the last quarter, and Christopher Bailey has been under pressure to prove himself as CEO. Digital innovation under his guidance got the brand to where it is today, so it’s natural that he would double down on this strategy when he’s feeling the heat.

I’m not sure this is the right tack, however. It’s incredibly alienating to more sophisticated buyers and cheapens the brand’s heritage history by making it seem young and ephemeral. Although it’s important to stay relevant to a younger demographic, teenagers aren’t the group with the purchasing power Burberry needs. They need to keep their messaging consistent with what they did in their holiday campaign, and sell aspirational, inclusive, glamorous, British sophistication, which is what they do best.

Grade: C-

 

Zoë Kravitz and Anna Ewers for Balenciaga

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Finally! Someone took my advice and put Zoë Kravitz, intriguing chameleon of cool pedigree, in an ad campaign. I love the sleepy, romantic panned out shot of the two women, but the close-up shots are empty, uninteresting, and tell me nothing about the brand.

This is not a great way for Alexander Wang to end his short legacy at Balenciaga — this looks hastily done and doesn’t come across as a thoughtful farewell. If he were going to cop out, he ought to have shot Kravitz holding the Le Dix bag and called it a day. (Does anyone know if the label will continue to make these post-Wang? If not, I’ll need to acquire a loan immediately.)

Grade: C-

 

 

 

Tremendous Eye Roll: More on Tommy Hilfiger and Celebrity Collaborations

Save Tommy Hilfiger from himself.

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Tommy Hilfiger has announced a design collaboration with Gigi Hadid, a line called Tommy x Gigi, to debut in the fall of 2016.

Cue the largest eye roll physically possible.

Not that this is a terrible idea — it’s not. It’s just bad strategy for Hilfiger in the long run and a case of history repeating itself.

As I discussed in a previous article, Tommy Hilfiger needs to be playing the long game with his brand if he wants it to be an non-laughable, established lifestyle brand again — which, by all the evidence I’ve  seen, is still his goal (luggage, linens, and tablewear are all still for sale on his website, hilariously titled just ‘tommy.com’). His brand collapsed in a cloud of shadenfreude in the early 2000s because of two reasons — it was ultra-trendy, driven totally by logos and random-but-popular celebrity endorsers, and it was publicly owned, which meant it kept churning out insane quantities these truly embarrassing looks long after they were cool too keep shareholders happy. Tommy Hilfiger is now a privately owned company, but Hilfiger needs to guard himself against getting endorsements solely from the hot young stars of the moment, as well as relying too heavily on trendiness.

Which is the problem with Gigi. She is the hottest young thing in both fashion and Instagram culture at the moment, showing up in both ad campaigns and (more and more frequently) gossip columns. She embodies trendiness and mainstream youth culture, the very things Hilfiger should be handling with caution, instead of grabbing with both hands. He’s going to make the same strategic mistake again, and the man can’t help himself.

Hifiger could have made so many other choices of collaborators, ones that would appeal to an older audience with 1) more purchasing power and 2) previous experience with the brand in its pre-hot mess days. These might include Alexa Chung, Leandra Medine, or Solange. He could have still gone for a youthful collaborator, but someone less ubiquitous and bland than Gigi is — someone like Brooklyn Beckham or Tavi Gevinson. He’s a big art collector and could have done something with Jeff Koons, Keith Haring, or Yayoi Kusama (all of whom he collects) to do something more cerebral. But no. The most obvious, popular choice is always Hilfiger’s go-to.

What I would have liked to have seen him do most was to collaborate with another designer for a capsule collection. Gucci just announced a collaboration with Commes des Garçons on a small range of silk scarves — an absolutely brilliant move in line with the Michelesance. Hilfiger should do something similar to this, and specifically partner with a label that can boost his cool factor, like Hood By Air, Public School, or Rodarte.

There are just so many more interesting, smart, and nuanced collaborative options out there for Hilfiger than the model of the moment, and his obstinacy and short sightedness in the matter is off-putting. He doesn’t’ deserve to succeed in this venture, and who knows if he will? Will Gigi be as hot and relevant in a year, when the collection debuts, as she is now? It’s a question Hilfiger should be seriously asking himself. This line may need to move up its timeline.

Kate Spade Aces the Holiday Campaign

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Kate Spade has created another winning advertising campaign with their holiday series, starring Karlie Kloss and Derek Blasberg. A handful of others feature in the seriees, ranging from the cool, young family who own the online store Aloha Picnic, to singer Alice Smith and her very cute toddler, to serious and black-clad literary agent Anne Borchardt.

The campaign of is made up of two photo series: a whimsical up-close portrait session with shades of Wes Anderson, and a fun, spontaneous-looking session in the back of a limo, featuring Kloss in each frame.

The ads are pitch-perfectly on brand, do a lot of work while seeming effortless. Firstly, the campaign subtly challenges the idea that Kate Spade is exclusively for young white women, by including both men and women, people of color, and includes a diverse range of ages, a brand goal that was laid out in the Miss Adventure series. Secondly, the sophisticated photography quality executed by Emma Summerton makes Kate Spade look cool, less fussy, try-hard, and girly, while still maintaining its signature sense of fun.

Kloss and Blasberg are the real stars of the campaign, though, and what a brilliant pick– the two are best friends in real life, and their chemistry and giggly rapport is evident. Using Blasberg, in particular, was an inspired move, and I can’t fathom why he hasn’t been used in advertising before now. At 33, Blasberg has written and edited for nearly every major fashion publication in existence, consulted for labels from H&M to Chanel, published two books and is currently doing a stint at Gagosian Galley. Handsome, witty, and seemingly close friends with everyone who’s anyone, Blasberg is something like the Andy Warhol or Oscar Wilde of today’s fashion set. He’s a stellar choice for the ads because the audience wants to be friends with him, have a career like his, and can’t help but having a bit of a crush on him.

I love the idea of men fronting womenswear campaigns if the brands are in perfect alignment, like Blasberg’s is with Kate Spade’s. Brad Pitt for Chanel No. 5 was a miss, but the highest profile man-for-womenswear ad to date. Men can be an even more powerful visual rhetoric for a womenswear brand than women can – the kind of man you want to be with can intensely reinforce the kind of brand you want to wear. Eddie Redmayne for Burberry will appeal to some women (me) much more than a random oiled-up Versace guy, and vice versa. I hope to see more of this. Tom Hiddleston for Belstaff! Harry Styles for Gucci! Bill Murray for Kate Spade! The possibilities are endless.

Tommy Hilfiger and the Case for Reissues

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Last week, Tommy Hilfiger and MyTheresa rolled out a capsule collection of 90s-inspired, logo-heavy reissue pieces. All of the nine pieces available have, smartly, been updated “with innovative fabrications, luxe fabrics and modern silhouettes,” including scuba material and longer-line crop tops and sweaters that look chic. sporty, and, even – yes, shockingly – European.

This is brilliant brand strategy for Hilfiger – for the short term. It comes at the perfect timing, at the peak of 90s nostalgia; and the collaboration with MyTheresa gives it a cool, youthful, and Justin O’Shea-approved feel that it wouldn’t have if it were partnered with say, Net-A-Porter, or god forbid, Hilfiger’s old stable, Macy’s. Suki and Immy Waterhouse front the campaign, which is a good, but random choice, as they are not exactly the postergirls for American sportswear – they are much more at home bloodlessly modeling Burberry and Muberry and the like. The collection’s price point is surprisingly high, with the least expensive item, a bandeau top, coming in at €130, which is certainly too high for the 16-21 year-old Instagram users and Waterhouse fans who would be desperate to get their hands on a bit of the 90s that they, albeit briefly, experienced and are now painfully wistful for.

But nostalgia pieces won’t do in the long-term for Hilfiger and it will tempting for him to ride the 90s-00s throwback train for the next two to three years without planning for his long-term brand strategy – which has in desperate need of redefinition for some time now.

The last few years at Tommy Hilfiger have been a schadenfreude nightmare, full of strained efforts to revitalize the label with a string of mismatched cool, young celebrities and try-hard, themed runway shows. Mr. Hilfiger ought to position himself as the Kate Spade of preppy American staples, and not keep trying and failing to be the zeitgeisty-cool designer he once was. Instead of targeting millennials, he should cater to an older crowd, the men and women who grew up wearing his label in the 90s and 2000s, who are looking for something sportier and more fun than JCrew and Brooks Brothers, and less tragic than Tory Burch. There’s certainly room in the marketplace for this kind of label, and lots of people hoping that Hifiger succeeds – he just needs to stop playing the short game and stop resting on the laurels of his once-popular name.

The reissue model for fashion is brilliant, though, and I’m surprised more designers haven’t seized the ‘heritage’ PR and marketing angle that is so ripe for the picking. It’s also an incredible chance for the average shopper to own a real piece of brand history – not a fast fashion take, a knockoff, or a vintage item in middling to poor condition. Fantastic reissue pieces are what fashion consumers want, but labels must be thoughtful about the pieces they choose to reissue. Few items in classic shapes, like the Mark Cross “Grace” overnight bag (a reissue of the suitcase Grace Kelly carries in Rear Window) and the Max Mara 101801 camel coat are perfect examples of reissues done right, while Topshop’s recent archival rollout achieved only middling success because of the wide range of available pieces, apparent randomness of selection (online voters were the culprit – a nice idea in terms of democracy, but not in terms of profit), and un-updated designs. Other major labels need to get in on the reissue game. I can only begin to fathom the kind of hysterics that might break out in the fashion community if Dior decided to reissue a limited release of 1950s and ‘60s cocktail dresses, or if Saint Laurent released some updated accessories from the iconic “destination” collections. People would lose their minds. Snap to it LVMH and Kering – there’s a rabid market out here for your labels’ classics.