Report Card

Report Card: F/W ’17 Ad Campaigns

1201454.jpgRaf Simons’s first Calvin Klein ad is a perfect mission statement for a new era.

This season’s spate of advertisements is, largely, absolutely fantastic. So fantastic, in fact, I went back and forth about including an exclamation point in this paragraph, but decided not to deploy one for reasons of self respect. The quality label-ambassador pairings we see this season perhaps reflect a deep thoughtfulness about brand identity in a time of industry upheaval—communicating a brand’s meaning is more important than ever when designers are playing musical chairs and consumers are saturated with digital media. Here are some of the high achievers.

Jude Law for Prada

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I love this. I love this so much that I would wallpaper my apartment with it, regardless of my deeply held opinion that Jude Law is the platonic ideal of human beauty. This minimal shoot by Willy Vanderperre nails the essence of Prada: practical, intellectual, and offbeat. Law lounges contemplatively amongst sand dunes in an array of unfussy and tailored shirts, pants, and even sandals (my rule about men in sandals—that it should never, ever occur unless one is an Olympic swimmer or any other type of water sports professional— is null and void when it comes to Prada, they of ugly-chic splendor). Law, despite actually being the most handsome man in the world, is the perfect choice for Prada, as both actor and brand are at interesting stages of their lives.

Law, now in his mid-40s, is taking a variety of unusual and supporting roles, rather than the typical leading man parts, including in Anna Karenena, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and Genius. At his Times Talk last June, he spoke to this shift as being both more natural than calculated and that collaborating with interesting directors is his main criterion when considering roles. So too, is Prada at a moment of transition. No longer the ‘it’ brand of the moment, Prada is reconnoitering the rapidly-evolving fashion landscape quietly, and perhaps in a reactionary way. Miuccia is carefully observing and pointedly not participating in the conversation around the turbulence of the designer revolving door, see-now-buy-now, and co-ed clothes, which, in a way, is reflective as the label’s status as a true luxury brand — not having to cater or pander to anyone or any trend in particular. She continues to produce quiet, sophisticated, and interesting clothing, almost as if to please herself. She will make large changes to brand strategy when she’s good and ready, but not before a great deal of consideration.

This collaboration is sublime; an alignment of artistic renaissances. and making old favorites current ones.

Grade: A

Charlotte Rampling for Loewe

This is a magnificent pairing — the most unusual and enigmatic actress of the twentieth century posing for Loewe, a recently-revived Spanish luxury label helmed by wunderkind Northern Irish Jonathan Anderson, known for his interesting silhouettes, proportion play, and gender-bending designs. Anderson is himself somewhat inscrutable, and his designs mercurial — some more intellectual, others more commercial — and entirely avoidant of the celebrity PR circuit — one rarely seen his clothes on a red carpet, and when one does, they’re on fellow sublime weirdo Tilda Swinton. Rampling, exceedingly private and dismissive of Hollywood, is the perfect face for the brand; a real meeting of the minds between designer and muse. I only wish this Jamie Hawkesworth-shot series was more visually engaging, and more suggestive of a narrative — a more fleshed-out setting would do the trick. The dark palette, too, makes it easy to visually skip over if one doesn’t have Rampling radar. Perfect casting, unremarkable execution.

Grade: B+

Art for Calvin Klein

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Raf Simons loves contemporary art. As demonstrated in the excellent yet ungrammatically titled documentary Dior and I, he frequently visits museums and galleries in search of inspiration, and has both collaborated with and referenced the artist Sterling Ruby while at Dior, and in his eponymous menswear line. I was curious to see what the first Calvin Klein ads would look like under Raf — he’s not one for cozying up to celebrities in his personal life or casting them in ads unless contractually obligated, yet Calvin Klein is, historically, a celebrity-driven brand, particularly in its advertising.

Instead of famous people, Simons cannily casts art by Andy Warhol, Richard Prince, and his bff Sterling Ruby in starring roles in the Willy Vandeperre-shot campaign, letting the paintings and their artists take center stage. Still, he plays with Calvin Klein tropes of denim, underwear, and young couples, giving them subtle, modern updates; the result is a little cleaner and a little more European. With the fun and accessible choices of art and the classic branding motifs, Raf acknowledges the label’s pop-cultural roots, but reframes them in a restrained way that is much more ‘him.’ This is a great first ad campaign under the new rule. I am so excited to see what’s to come, and how art will factor in in both the clothing and the advertising. Basically I hope this becomes an empire of Jil Sander.

Grade: A+

 

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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-

 

 

 

Report Card: Holiday Ad Campaigns

Tis the season for holiday ad campaigns! Stars! Mistletoe! Enthusiasm! Here’s the how they stack up.

KATY PERRY H&M

Katy Perry for H&M
Oh. well. Okay.
I cannot fathom with any part of my intellectual consciousness why H&M chose Katy Perry to front this campaign. She irrelevant at the moment, without any new material, and has basically been off the media grid for months. Adele would have been a smarter choice, and would have caused an absolute sensation if she have appeared in the ads in spite of her media-shyness. Sadly, we are instead saddled with Perry posing with candy, yet again. I like the bold black, red, and white color scheme, but that’s the only thing this series has going for it.
Grade: D
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Leandra Medine for Fossil
This is a brilliant choice by Fossil. By choosing someone famous for being in fashion to front the campaign, Fossil is sending a signal that they know what’s relevant in fashion culture, which will cause fashion-forward people to look twice at what they thought was a nonbrand found only in outlet malls. Leandra is someone known for her personal style, which associates individuality and personalization with Fossil, and not just tragic leather goods and watches.She’s shrewd, sardonic,and authentic, and you can guarantee she wouldn’t do this campaign if she didn’t believe in it, adding another layer of credibility. Wear fossil, become a chic, witty, fashion businesswoman? I’ll take it.
Grade: A
Fred Armisen & Carrie Brownstein for Old Navy
Old Navy, in a move of unutterable genius, tapped Portlandia duo Fred Armison and Carrie Brownstein for a holiday short videos. I thought Old Navy was ready to be stuck with a fork when its CEO left to helm Ralph Lauren, but they have, with this casting choice, reinvigorated their relevancy with awareness of the cool, informed, media culture and a sense of humor. Will this help Old Navy compete with fast fashion? Well there’s the problem — Old Navy’s content isn’t good or fashionable enough to really do damage to fast-fashion chains, who clearly don’t rely on advertising to sell their clothes  (see evidence above). It will, however, get Old Navy back in consumers’ consciousness. What they really need is a cult item that will get people back in stores, like their early 2000s flag tees or mid 2000s madras craze, and then integrate cool capsule collections and a fast fashion business model, at least in part, to keep them there. But at the moment, this is a great step in the right direction.
Grade: A+