'It works because it's Louis fucking Vuitton': Adland's take on the latest fashion ads

Fashion houses rarely turn to ad agencies for their campaigns, yet the style and imagery they use is rich inspiration for creatives. So what does adland think of the latest crop of fashion ads?

Elisa Harca

Chief executive and co-founder, Red Ant Asia Hong Kong

There is a lot of theatre in this ad. You feel like you have gone behind the scenes of an immersive theatre production, having a sneak peek of what’s to come, and you certainly want to see more. The clothing rack is a fun touch – you get a sense that the brand is daring, bold and suitable for someone who wants to make a statement. It makes you want to look at it again – as it’s a bit bonkers and radiates fun.  

Jorge Andrade

Associate director of design, The Many

Hard flash photography with crisp whites and blacks give this ad a contemporary yet effortless and almost candid look. The art direction features a marble-esque patterning and avant garde silhouette. The model’s cinched waist frames her body and helps offset the drastic shaping of the shoulders and the skirt. The stylist balances out the colours through the use of black leggings and simple but elegant black boots. Red accents can be seen throughout – the purse and random garments in the set help piece the whole look together. The red lips, electric-blue hues and magenta eyeshadow create a great colour story and enable the outfit to live in harmony with the set.

Vicki Maguire 

Chief creative officer, Grey London

How batshit crazy is Louis Vuitton? If anything signals that the 1980s won’t go away, it’s leg-of-mutton frill, a pixie boot and a half ra-ra. If the make-up doesn’t scare you to death, the fact that it’ll be hitting the more affordable shops soon should. It shouldn’t work but it does because it’s LOUIS FUCKING VUITTON.

David Kolbusz

Chief creative officer, Droga5 London

Seems like Nicolas Ghesquière is feeling the pressure from Virgil Abloh coming in and changing the brand’s menswear offering. This is a pretty bonkers, youthful campaign for a brand that has more often than not oozed conservative luxury in its communications. Crazed, colourful, gender-bending and even a bit lo-fi, I would give this somewhere between a Z and an M on my generational rating scale.

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Jorge Andrade 

Saint Laurent depicts an effortlessly cool and nonchalant attitude through the use of black and white photography and minimal styling. The model, Jamie Bochert, is showcased front and centre in an asymmetric and figure-fitting black dress. The cut of the dress gives her an air of contemporary elegance, which is tactfully stylised with a single bangle to help add to the asymmetry. The styling on this ad gives us reassurance that Saint Laurent is a very well-established brand and does not need to go the extra mile with styling to establish itself as a category leader. It is also really owning a fashion staple: the little black dress. Saint Laurent’s campaign works beautifully in black and white because the styling itself is monochromatic.

Elisa Harca 

This is a simple, classic and elegant aesthetic that encapsulates the brand in an element of mystery. It’s sophisticated, subtle and not trying too hard. You definitely feel that the brand has exceptional tailoring and is classic, with a bit of an edge. The model choice really lends itself well to this mystic as she sits well in the rock-chic genre. However, as the ad is so simple, I feel it is missing some storytelling.

David Kolbusz 

I feel bad shitting on Saint Laurent because Anthony Vaccarello’s hands were tied when he took over from Hedi Slimane. How do you do your own thing when a figure as towering as the former Dior wunderkind forces YSL to overhaul its entire operation to suit his very specific aesthetic? He’s keeping the torch lit. Good for him. I give this ad a chastened Duff McKagan, who chooses sobriety after the unexpected death of Scott Weiland, his Velvet Revolver supergroup bandmate.

Vicki Maguire 

Another reinvention. I’ll ‘fess up to having in the past proclaimed that it’s not Saint Laurent without Yves. When they dropped the name I thought it was sacrilege. Oooh but these ads are cool. Jamie Bochert, a good 20 years older than the models you normally see. A musician with the best don’t-fuck-with-me face I’ve seen for a good long time. Bitten nails, white space. Ridiculously cool logo. This just stops you in your tracks. This is going to be the autumn of opulence: colours, textures and high-end streetwear. Then this drops as the perfect antidote. How can something so classy look so punk (a question I’ve often asked of myself)?

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David Kolbusz 

Points for trying something different. But it feels a little bit like a streetwear brand in a high-fashion publication trying to feel like a streetwear brand appearing in a high-fashion publication. I’ve never loved Fear of God. It’s always felt derivative of other brands "doing" derivative – Hood By Air, Off White – and double derivative is where I draw the line. Until it gets to triple derivative. And then I’m on board again.

Jorge Andrade 

Jeremy Lorenzo’s brand, Fear of God, has grown at trailblazing speeds in US markets. Popularised by A-list celebrities such as Kanye West, Gigi Hadid, Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Future and Travis Scott, this luxury streetwear brand has made an impact on current fashion trends, most significantly athleisure.As powerfully as the brand has risen, it’s making a statement with its advertising. I don’t think we’ve ever seen a fashion brand use a simple outfit of the day selfie for a two-page spread in Vogue.

The brand clearly knows its target audience, grabbing the attention of hypebeast millennials (think Fairfax and Melrose in Los Angeles), who aim to achieve an effortless look reminiscent of streetwear culture. 

The model can be seen wearing a long, drapey black shirt (made popular by Lorenzo himself) paired with grey joggers and black runners. These simple pieces are contrasted with the heavy accessorisation of a gold chain and watch. He is simply standing in what seems to be a casual, everyday space, making Fear of God appear relatable, regardless of its actual price point. 

Vicki Maguire 

I love this. I love the shonky layout. I love the chopped-off head. I love seeing a pair of amazing trainers against a swirly carpet. It shouldn’t work, but it does. An ad that fucks with layout from a brand that fucks with fashion. Look at the subtle unsubtle placement of those Nike collab boots. All Nike, no tick. A brilliant and elegant way of saying I don’t give a shit.

Elisa Harca 

I love the way that this ad forces you to flip the magazine like you flip your phone. It’s very eye-catching because it seems like an unstaged selfie. It makes you look twice, as you aren’t sure whether it’s an ad, editorial content or something else. It clearly shows that this brand has a laid-back attitude that fuses street style with luxury, which is the epitome of today’s modernity. It’s a brand of now – it’s the new luxury.

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Elisa Harca 

I like the fact that this ad has quite an ordinary setting because it makes the brand feel approachable. The image on the right seems like a candid travel shot, in which the viewer can see themselves, whereas the shot on the left reminds us that it’s still fashion-forward, aspirational and not mainstream. The styling also cleverly shows how the brand is embracing sportswear and comfort, while at the same time exquisite tailoring and design elements. The sportswear and approachable-yet-aspirational vibe is a good way to appeal to the younger luxury consumer. I notice that a lot of brands are placing more than one ad in the same magazine. This makes me feel that they are seeking to present multi-layers to diverse audiences, which one ad couldn’t serve. 

Jorge Andrade 

Balenciaga was one of the first fashion brands to make the dad shoe a fashion statement. Under this Fall 2019 campaign, the brand is once again being experimental by playing with upscale athleisure and giving it an unexpected turn by pairing it with geometric and gold-accented leather boots.  It’s the ideal union of comfort wear with an upscale fashion twist, captured by what appears to be two couples perfectly in sync. The simplicity of each setting accentuates the sharp, form-fitting silhouettes. We also see a different take on autumn colours through the use of cool tones, such as turquoise, navy and grey. The ad is both classically modern and almost futuristic at the same time – the outfit of the woman in grey taps into a drapey and almost utopian look.

Vicki Maguire 

Top marks for this. They’ve gone from oligarch hausfrau favourite to East End Chinese fashion student must-have. If I were 30 years younger, I would have blown my grant on last season’s trainers. Who says a brand can’t reinvent itself? However, as much as I love fashion I wouldn’t be seen dead in Balenciaga’s boots.

David Kolbusz 

Demna Gvasalia continues his trolling of the fashion industry and the world and I couldn’t be more on board. This campaign feels a little too "here are some clothes" for my tastes but sometimes bluntness works when every other ad in the magazine is trying so hard. I give this ad a shrug and a sigh; a half-hearted clap that awakens a sleeping security guard at Lane Crawford’s Hong Kong flagship store.

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Vicki Maguire 

This is where my prejudice comes in. I don’t like ads from brands I don’t like. Sorry, not sorry. I’d rather lose myself in the visual ridiculousness of a Prada ad, than remind myself that the 1980s are back with a bit of ripping and a black and white tank top. You see, I’m going straight to the clothes again, because that’s what you do.

Elisa Harca

Gen-Z vibes here. In the more mass-/younger-market publications, we can see Chinese brand D’zzit using more texture and a collage effect, which, in marketing in China, feels quite akin to the trendy WeChat layouts we see. Here, we can assume that D’zzit approaches its advertising from a digital-first mindset, whereas some of the luxury/bigger brands will still approach their print creative from a big out-of-home perspective. 

David Kolbusz

This one proves that perhaps we’re not so culturally different from the Chinese after all. Because these look like fast-fashion ads. And that’s what D’zzit is. Chinese Top Shop. I give this a nine on my Google Translate scale.

Jorge Andrade 

The abstract tears in this ad suggest that it is a compilation of three different photos. However, the monochromatic colours and similar patterning of the outfit make it seem as if it is a single execution. The use of mixed media in this ad includes a heavy range of patterns that contrast between grunge and modern. The ad becomes even busier through the use of set-propping and garment patterning. However, the purple accents in the composition (as seen on the make-up and halftone effects) help unify it. For a US audience, this styling could be a tad eclectic with the overlayering and heavy mix in patterns.

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David Kolbusz

Nine times out of 10 Alessandro Michele gets it right. He feels light years ahead of the curve, and whatever he puts in front of your eyeballs is a marvel. In the moment, every new offering seems so perfect, so obvious. His vision comes fully formed. But then once in a while he puts Harry Styles in tailored suits and you’re, like: "What the fuck?" The surfing vibe here feels like a bit of a damp squib to me as well. Like he doesn’t really know how to fetishise the sport properly. But maybe that’s why you have a fully dressed model in the foreground. Maybe the awkwardness is the point. And maybe once again he’ll be proved right in the end. I give this a 20/22 on the vision scale.

Elisa Harca 

Gucci always tells a story in its content – and this doesn’t disappoint. I love its multilayered scene; each time you look at it, you discover more treasures. And in this ad, we see some hidden gems – in the way of QR codes. With the prolific use of QR codes in China, a lot of brands are smartly including them to let their readers access deeper content – be it a mini programme, a video or even just their main WeChat account. Leveraging print to drive to digital is fairly commonplace in China.

Vicki Maguire

I love Gucci’s sense of humour. Seriously, it has one.It’s not the Paddy Power sense of humour we often see in ads, but this isn’t a tabloid. It’s fucking Vogue. This campaign reminds me of those wonderfully inappropriate and culturally naive shots Vogue used to run in the 1960s, where a stunning model would be standing in an impoverished township in impossibly luxurious clothes apparently borrowing some beads. Batshit crazy. This Gucci ad is in that vein but without the cultural insensitivity. I love it.

Jorge Andrade

The juxtaposition of a euro-inspired high-fashion outfit against an everyday California surfing scenario makes this ad rather eye-catching. The mustard coat with accent maroon gloves and matching glasses allow the model to over-accessorise without feeling eclectic. On closer inspection, the zebra-patterned shoes, striped accent purse and heavy pearl necklace give this look a more-is-more type of feel. The use of low-res photography gives the feeling that this was shot on film, captivating a candid feel, with dogs, and the surfers going about their day, in contrast to the perfectly styled model. Her placement in the scene reinforces Gucci as a high-class, unattainable brand to the everyday millennial.

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Vicki Maguire 

Look into my eyes. Buy the bag. Repeat. This is looking a bit old-fashioned. Rich, fat, opulent – the rest of us might be worried we’re heading for recession, but not Prada. No, it’s happy to sell you a white leather bag that, because it goes with nothing, will weirdly work with everything. Hmm, I seem to be talking myself into this.

Jorge Andrade 

Prada’s Fall 2019 ad gives us a focus on accessories such as the daisy bracelet and the minimal but elegant white purse. Although you’d usually expect a field photograph to be bright and poppy, Prada gives us a stylised and high-end take on a garden; it almost feels like a modern Alice in Wonderland. The featured model is wearing a contrasting dusty blue dress – a colour that I’m completely obsessed with and that has been extremely popular this season. The white purse and the red lips create a beautiful and harmonious colour palette that helps provide a contrast between the model and the backdrop.

David Kolbusz 

Quite a restrained, tasteful campaign, given how avant garde the collection is this season. I’d even call it misrepresentative of the in-store experience, which is all bonkers knits and prints that bring to life the Universal Studios monsters of the 1930s in surprising and delightful ways. I’d give it an eight when measured against Barthes’ hermeneutic code.

Elisa Harca 

This ad uses texture in an interesting way. It almost feels 3D and as if you could potentially step into an Alice in Wonderland story. It is as though it’s speaking to a young, wistful consumer with its elements of escapism. It invites the audience to suspend their disbelief and expect something different or to discover the brand for the first time.

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Elisa Harca 

Stella McCartney cleverly uses all her communication media to share her macro world point of view. Not only is this image stunning and stands out from a lot of other brands with its iconic nature elements, it also invites readers to find out more, and clearly positions the brand at the heart of the future movement for sustainability, without being too preachy and still very fashion forward. This ad makes me think more deeply about what I am seeing and buying – it’s a subtle nudge in the right direction.

Jorge Andrade 

At first glance, Stella McCartney portrays a dream-like environment: lush, rolling hills and pastel-blue skies. Amber Valletta is juxtaposed with fluffy alpacas in a beautiful faux fur coat. A Moroccan-esque belt cinches the waist, enhancing her silhouette. Also at first glance, this is just another high-end fashion ad. However, as you dive deeper into the messaging, you realise the campaign is taking a stand on climate change – supporting the Extinction Rebellion movement – showcasing Amber and the alpacas as "a cast of change agents". In this ad, the alpacas are models themselves, carefully selected for the role they play in fighting the climate crisis.

Vicki Maguire 

I have a problem with Stella. I’m trying to buy into it, but I just don’t get it. In the era of climate crisis, action is important. I know I should admire her for trying to be an ethical brand and saying that eco can stand next to high-end. I just wish it hadn’t got to the point where we were looking at a multi-coloured crochet belt – priced at £300 – to prove that particular point. So there we are. I’m judging these as a punter. These are ads you devour with your eyes. I’m soaking them in visually and I’m drunk on the opulence. They exist outside the normal realms of advertising. Good or bad – they’re all batshit.

David Kolbusz 

Ms McCartney was trading in ethics before ethics became fashionable. So while this doesn’t feel startlingly new for the brand, it does feel genuine. Had a lot of other labels tried this approach it would have smacked of zeitgeisty opportunism. Side note: her Beatles capsule collection from this season is a treat. Especially the more abstract pieces. This particular ad gets a nine on my brand purpose scale, with one point removed for being a print ad. But that doesn’t necessarily mean I like it. Understand?

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