It's OK for intellectual feminists to like fashion

Blog title from Hadley Freeman's book The Meaning of Sunglasses : "Prada styles itself as the label it's OK for intellectual feminists to like".

The author is a bilingual fashion editor, writer and translator with a serious blog, cinema and magazine habit.

Subscribe to the Fashion Abecedaire newsletter

Twitter @FashionAbecedai

Email: fashionmemex(at)

In France, Evian banks on 1998 nostalgia

Friday 4 July, half-time during the France-Germany World Cup quarter-final. Germany is leading 1-0 but Evian has taken a gamble, rebroadcasting its 1998 TV spot featuring swimming babies. “1998, a year we dream to re-live,” the ad declares over a background of referee whistles.

With perfect and studied timing, Evian had added the video to its YouTube account on 15 June, as France played its first match against Honduras. The brand announced the campaign on Twitter on 25 June, just as France went through to the last sixteen after the match against Ecuador. The tweet said: “In 1998, our babies were swimming. What are your memories of this mythical year?”

So far, the YouTube video has been watched 158,716 times. The tweet has gathered 178 retweets and 102 favourites, with the ad picked up and commented upon independently in other tweets too - a decent though not high level of engagement. In comparison, a tweet featuring tennis player and Evian poster-woman Maria Sharapova, posted on the 3 July, has so far gathered 214 retweets and 508 favourites*.

User responses to the tweet vary: some tweeted back it was the year they were born, the year they got married, the year they saw their first gig…  Many tweeted that for them, 1998 was all about France’s win. In short, the swimming babies succeeded in linking Evian to positive emotions and often life-changing memories.

Known for its imaginative and cute TV ads that play on its trademark theme of youth by water, Evian had a great marketing idea in rebroadcasting its 1998 ad. Though I remembered the spot, had I seen it without background information, I would have been incapable of dating it. Once I knew, it was as if it had dropped me in a comforting bath.

Calling on nostalgia is nothing new in advertising. Analysing the trend last year, specialised publication AdWeek remarked: “In a study of brands that had consumers buzzing during the first quarter, NBCUniversal Integrated Media noticed that those connecting to the past resonated strongly with consumers and shot to the top of its Brand Power Index (BPI)”.

Although nostalgia is a proven advertising strategy, Evian did take a risk by betting that France would get behind its national team. After the team’s skin-of-the-teeth qualification in November 2013, 79% of the French population had a negative opinion of Les Bleus. By the quarter finals, 62% of the French population had a positive view of them. News analysis has been focusing on this regained popularity as much as they have been discussing the team’s sports qualities. This might have been a factor in Evian deciding to spend the €200,000 or so the 32 seconds spot broadcast at peak time would have cost.

As with any bout of nostalgia, it doesn’t matter that 1998 wasn’t actually as good a year as France now remembers, since the World Cup title has thrown most other events in a pink fog. In a 2010 article about “The Power of Nostalgia in Advertising” for Branding Strategy Insider, brand consultant Derrick Daye explains that “every time we remember a past event it not only evokes the earlier memory, but can re-cast the past into a more pleasing “remembered” version. Memory, thinking and feeling are an active, shaping process.” In 1998 France, unemployment in Q2 leading up to the World Cup was at 11.7%, two points higher than what it is today. The French economy was restarting independently of football, after some tough times in the mid-90’s, thanks to a strong US growth. Had France won against Germany last Friday, and gone to hold the trophy, economists agree that it wouldn’t have resulted in similar economic results because the current landscape is too different.

But that’s irrelevant to Evian’s advertising strategy because, four World Cups from now, we would have remembered 2014 as a great year for France. Nothing shortcuts memory like happiness.

*As of 9am on 06 July 2014

Posted at 4:49pm and tagged with: marketing, Brand communication, world cup, Social media,.

Classy film: Yves Saint Laurent 

I normally use the “classy film” label for any and all film reviews I post, but rarely has one been so deserving of the title. Jalil Lespert’s Yves Saint Laurent biopic, which got unprecedented access to the Saint Laurent archives, is as elegant, as high-octane and as fashionable as the man himself.

The film starts shortly before Saint Laurent took over at Dior (1957) and ends with the Ballets Russes collection (1976). Two decades of revolutionising fashion and giving more power to women through the way they dressed. But also, two decades of drugs, alcohol and tumultuous love.

Packing 20 prolific years into 110 minutes was risky. At times, Lespert walks a very fine line between cramming short, almost cameo appearances by all the Saint Laurent legend-makers (Betty Catroux (Marie de Villepin), Loulou de la Falaise (Laura Smet), Karl Lagerfeld (Nikolai Kinski), Anne-Marie Munoz (Adeline D’Hermy) etc.) and lacking depth and substance.

Guillaume Galienne, who plays Pierre Bergé, Saint Laurent’s partner in business and in life, explains that Lespert first described the story to him as inspired by Amadeaus. He wanted to “show the creative process through a couple, through a love story”.

Despite hints of Saint Laurent’s fashion process, including a scene showing him create his iconic Mondrian dress, and hints of Bergé’s business genius, the core of the film is the Saint Laurent-Bergé relationship.

Everything has been written, especially by French media, about both men. At the French Institute UK film première, most questions focused on the contemporary perception of Bergé, who’s renowned as being a bit of a bastard.

But this isn’t a film about the Bergé of the 2000s, the political man and the guardian of the YSL legend. This is a film about the Bergé from the 50s through to the 70s, a man who always walked one step behind his partner and who then barely figured in the YSL public story. Gallienne, whose father did business with Bergé and whose mother dressed in Saint Laurent, acknowledged that he was not fond of the character at first but developed a tenderness for him as production went on.

"This is a story about how you love - and live with - a genius. The guy [Saint Laurent] comes home and he’s just had sex with half the planet, he’s a manic depressive and he’s high on cocaine… but they loved each other, not for who they wanted the other to be, but for who they were", he explained to the Daily Telegraph fashion editor Lisa Armstrong, who was at the French Institute.

As well as characters, Lespert namechecks numerous iconic YSL moments: La Vilaine Lulu, the comic book about Saint Laurent’s devil alter ego; his erotic drawings; the launch of Rive Gauche, the first pret-a-porter brand; the Ballets Russes collection…Anybody can see the film and enjoy it, but some background knowledge will help understand how significant some of it is.

This is one of the reasons why I find Entertainment One’s decision to release a dialogue-less English trailer surprising. So far, coverage in the UK has been dominated by fashion publications, or for broadsheets, reviews written by fashion editors. Outside France, where Saint Laurent is a cultural must-know and the biopic reached nearly 1,000,000 tickets at the box office in two weeks, this is unlikely to be a film people go see because they happen to be at the cinema at the time it is showing. I doubt trying not to scare viewers away with subtitles will change that.  

Choosing to advertise the movie with a silent trailer means people will miss out on Pierre Niney’s absolute accuracy in reproducing Saint Laurent’s particular way of speaking. To nail it, Niney worked with a voice coach for five months.

He also trained with a physical coach, a necessity since over the course of the film, Saint Laurent goes from the good looking designer posing naked for the launch of his first fragrance, Pour Homme, to a man puffed up by drugs and struggling to walk.

Saint Laurent is seen sketching dresses a few times. Lespert was adamant Niney would have to be the one doing the drawing on screen. For five months the actor, who says he “sucked” at sketching, took lessons with a former Saint Laurent collaborator, a woman who worked with him in his last years as a couturier.

The film received full backing from Saint Laurent Paris and the Kering group (the brand’s current owner). Last October, Hedi Slimane, current YSL creative director, shot Niney for a feature in Le Figaro focused on Yves Saint Laurent. Niney was front row (next to Lespert and Bergé) at the Spring/Summer 2014 menswear show. The house dressed him at the Césars awards in February, and likely for most of the film promotion - although suit credits are hard to find.

Earlier this month, Niney released a three minutes short for Yves Saint Laurent Beauté, La Nuit de Pierre Niney (last picture). It highlights, in black and white, his vision of a Parisian night, from the Comédie Française to the bar Montana through the Tuileries. The short is part of a series of nine films broadcast on French TV in March. It is a nice attempt at marketing story telling around the men’s fragrance La Nuit de l’Homme.

Chanel, with both the face of Chanel No.5 Audrey Tautou and house muse Anna Mouglalis appearing in biopics about its founder, respectively in Coco avant Chanel and Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky, had a similar brand and cinema tie in in 2009.

Niney is the Jennifer Lawrence of French cinema: an actor in his early 20s, heralded as a genius by his more seasoned peers, who can do no wrong and who fashion houses would really like to partner with. As the luxury sector tries to redefine the celebrity game, making sure there is something beyond a contract and money tying a house to a name in the public eye, cinema seems to be a good way to ingrain affinities in the collective consciousness.

Not that it is anything new. Yves Saint Laurent himself took advantage of it. His collaboration with Catherine Deneuve was immortalised in the career-defining Belle de Jour, which he created the costumes for, ensuring the names Saint Laurent and Deneuve would forever appear together in almost every single fashion report about either.  

Posted at 11:21am and tagged with: Classy film, yves saint laurent, Brand communication,.

You’re not just buying new clothes, you’re buying a kit which will motivate you to go to the gym, is Avenue 32’s promise this first weekend of 2013.

For any purchase from the Lucas Hugh Activewear range, the multibrand online store offers a complimentary exercise class with Barrecore Chelsea.

Considering most press around New Year’s resolutions focused on how unlikely you are to stick to them, this is smart cross marketing from Avenue 32 and Barrecore Chelsea.

It projects the idea buying clothes is the indispensable first step towards a fitter body, all the more that the email subject line, “Free fitness class with Lucas Hugh purchase”, highlights the sport rather than the clothes.

It also takes the guilt out of buying new, full-price clothes, something which, right after Christmas and in the middle of the sale, isn’t necessarily the best financial decision. Yes, I did just spend £90 on a logo tank top but heh, I got a free workout out of it!

My main issue with the idea would be that limiting the offer to a Chelsea club can be off-putting for the Avenue 32 subscribers who don’t live in London, but their mailing list might be so London-dominated it makes sense.

Posted at 5:00pm and tagged with: email marketing, Brand communication, online shopping,.

Conan O’Brien called it “nonsensical ramblings”, Saturday Night Live parodied it and Tumblr has got its own Fuck Yeah! Inevitable Brad! page. Brad Pitt’s Chanel No 5 ad is probably the actor’s most criticised film to date, far ahead of Troy, The Mexican and Mr & Mrs Smith. Yet this very pan is what has made the ad so successful.

Immediate reactions to the ad ranged from the mocking to the lukewarm with the actor, rather than Chanel, bearing the blunt of criticism. Reviewers are questioning the rationale of the move in terms of image and career for Pitt, only a few wondering whether its quality can affect the French fashion house. The industry seems more worried by the EU threatening to ban tree moss, a key perfume ingredient, for being allergen, than by Pitt’s performance.

Early reviews focused on Pitt’s shifty gaze and the intensity of his delivery rather than the ad script or Joe Wright’s direction. Media outlets which would normally have little interest in Chanel kept reporting the story because it attained the holy grail of 2010s marketing: it went viral, supported by a strong media buy. People made it theirs, embracing the asset in their own way.

For a brand like Chanel, which has in the past taken strong steps to protect and enforce its trademarks such as a full page ad in WWD warning editors against the inappropriate use of the term Chanel jacket, there seems to have been very few, if any, cease and desist letters. The fashion house is letting the buzz run its own course, which is the only way to sustain it. Would Chanel have preferred the short to be lauded as an oeuvre d’art of cinema and marketing? Probably, but it wouldn’t have had the same result. Having a go at the perfect professional, perfect husband, perfect dad is an integral part of the Jolie-Pitt narrative played out in media outlets, and with its less than perfect ad, Chanel has gotten itself on that bandwagon.

By hiring a name with brand power equal, if not above its own, Chanel has not only generated interest and earned media beyond the fashion sphere, it has taken an insurance that its most lucrative and best known product would be left unscathed. It’s too early to see which effect the ad is having on No 5 sales in the key Q3 festive period but in terms of online success, Chanel is one step ahead of its competitors in the Christmas ad race.

Posted at 1:44pm and tagged with: chanel, Brand communication, advertising, marketing, cinema,.

  1. Go on the Sandro French site
  2. Sign up for the newsletter
  3. Open up the sign-up confirmation email
  4. Despair over the brand’s issue with PHP coding and French accents

Sandro isn’t the only fashion brand struggling with PHP and HTML coding issues however, its French origins combined with the fact this sign-up email will be most customers’ first inbox contact with the brand means the company needs to sort it out.

Posted at 7:57pm and tagged with: Brand communication, email marketing, technology, sandro,.

France might have dropped off the top 20 most competitive countries in the world, according to the World Economic Forum, but the French language still holds its own when it comes to shifting fragrances. Proof is, Juicy Couture’s TV ad for its latest fragrance, La Fleur, told with an accent as French as its name.

Yet Juicy Couture is one of the least French brands in fashion. Born in Los Angeles in 1997, it made its name with Gothic bum writing on velours tracksuits before being bought by Liz Clairborne, an American fashion group, with its fragrance licensing operation ran by Elizabeth Arden. The company tagline, “Made in the glamorous USA” proclaims its American roots. 

You won’t find French either in the La Fleur fragrance, beyond its name (La happens to be the acronym for Los Angeles as well as a French article). Russian model Sasha Pivovarova fronts the campaigns “depicting the mischievous, the fun-loving side” of the Juicy girl, according to LeAnn Nealz, Juicy’s president and chief creative officer. To describe the new juice, Nealz calls on words which have been used in the past à propos French style, including “romantic” and “ever-chic”, but they have been so overused by now they barely have a nationality. This is a purely marketing French accent which doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the brand image.

Posted at 3:00pm and tagged with: Brand communication, Perfume, france,.

Unity of storytelling across platforms, retail, social media, bought and earned media is every content manager’s holly grail. One voice, one message, one brand: no matter how the customer interacts with the brand, s/he must live the same experience under different angles most adapted to each channel.

With its Autumn/Winter 2012 campaign, French luxury brand Louis Vuitton is aligning its advertising with its show, its store opening events, likely its window display merchandising and its online content and collaborations.

Last March, Vuitton recreated a train station and steamer train in the Carrousel du Louvre, in a nod to its Art of Travel tagline. For the A/W12 ads, Steven Meisel shot models in what looks like the inside of the train. Vuitton has also taken the Louis Vuitton Express to Shanghai for the Plaza 66 opening. In between, the brand invited photographer Todd Selby aboard “to cross Europe and Asia from Paris to Shanghai” (, for a journey documented in photo and video on The only thing missing is an ad hoc social network crowdsourcing Vuitton customers train experiences.

Fashion shows always direct the feel of the season for a brand, but rarely has one impacted advertising so much. Generally, especially considering many brands still go for the traditional, models walking between rows of chairs, catwalk format, the only things from the show seen in ads are the clothes. Vuitton always throws high octane runway stunts showing off its financial means, creative spirit and imposing itself as a leading luxury brand: the previous two seasons saw carrousels and lifts take the stage, yet the advertising featured an ice cream parlour and cars.

Vuitton’s budget, prestige and press support mean it can adopt innovative behaviours, such as live-streaming a show on Facebook in 2009, when fashion still thought social media scary, early and other (luxury) brands follow. Expect a flurry of runway-inspired adverts, either featuring the same props or the same location as the shows in the coming seasons.

Posted at 4:58pm and tagged with: advertising, Brand communication, louis vuitton,.

"View the Blake Lively video at" calls Gucci on its new fragrance Gucci Première magazine advert. For its new fragrance release, with a name nodding to its most expensive, semi-couture Gucci Première collection, Gucci chose the social over the branded, the free-for-all comment over the safe environment of its own website.

Over the past two years, social networks have played a growing role in Gucci’s marketing strategy. The Italian company is one of the top three luxury brands across most social channels, including in China, yet its You Tube activity and fan base has so far been behind. Its Gucci Official channel totals under 4 500 subscribers, its Gucci Parfums just over 3 000, but quadruple the number of video views, suggesting a printed call to action referring to a website, even without QR code, can be effective.

Despite making YouTube its Première marketing central, Gucci doesn’t feature the fragrance content prominently. You need two clicks to reach the Lively video, available on a different tab and which has reached over 320 000 views in three weeks. The landing page is all about Flora by Gucci, with an experience offering everything from a short advert to wallpaper downloads and the Story of Flora, from motif created for Grace Kelly to perfume launched by Frida Giannini.

We’re in the early days of the fragrance launch, with the Blake Lively ad acting as a teaser, and new content will no doubt be released in time to retain fan interest, building up to Christmas gifting opportunities. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Flora You Tube experience replaced by a Première one during Milan fashion week to coincide with the show. I haven’t smelt Première yet but it feels more wintery than Flora, which benefited from a massive push amongst the lighter, floral summer fragrances.

The magazine advert only promises the Blake Lively video, not heaps of content, yet advertising one content, but forcing a different one on the customer, seems counter-intuitive. 

Posted at 5:48am and tagged with: Brand communication, advertising, gucci, Social media, You Tube,.

A universal tale of finding yourself with Jungian traits and multiple variants worldwide, the Brothers Grimm’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has been re-imagined by Hollywood twice over the past six months: Mirror Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman. With its "Miroir, Miroir" email sent early July, Chanel is keeping with the trend and banking on how the story echoes in ourselves to increase opening rates.

The entire email copy references fairy tales. The subject line refers to a (likely incorrect, depending on the translation) Snow White quote so engraved in popular culture finishing it is not necessary for the recipient to know this email is about beauty. The call to action invites the customer to go through the mirror, a possible reference to Alice in Wonderland, another tale with a looking-glass at its heart. The email ultimately links to a short film teasing the upcoming Rouge Allure lipstick line, “lips red as blood” being one of Snow White’s three key beauty attributes.

The film, where “crystals become makeup and reveal kaleidoscopic beauty”, is more science fiction than fairy tale, India-influenced rather than set in the German forest. According to, inspired by the “something Indian” in the new lipstick, Chanel creative director of makeup Peter Philips looked at Karl Lagerfeld’s Paris-Bombay and “a specific mirror-embellished coat” to direct the short. India is a popular inspiration for beauty brands at the moment: Clarins, Boucheron and NARS have all released wide-reaching lines rooted in the subcontinent. Yet the Chanel email copy follows the decidedly Western angle of Snow White.

Pictures: Top picture, Miroir miroir, Chanel email July 2012; Photos 2 and 3: Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen in Mirror Mirror, Relativity Media 2012; Photos 4 to 7: Charlize Theron as the Evil Queen and the mirror in Snow White and the Huntsman, Universal Pictures 2012

Posted at 8:35pm and tagged with: Brand communication, Classy film, beauty, chanel, email marketing, karl lagerfeld,.

This morning, I bought a terrier graphic cotton t-shirt because I had seen it on Emma Stone and liked it. I even liked the way she styled it so much I’m planning to pretty much reproduce her whole outfit. Considering the acknowledged influence of celebrity dressing, this isn’t exactly breaking behaviour, yet it is for me. The bright patent leather corset belt I used to accessorise every single navy and stripy dress with has been my drawer’s favourite every since Cheryl Cole wore it.

Yet for some reason, my reaction to what Emma Stone wears is different. Like most people, I first discovered her two years ago in Easy A, my top “film I wish I had seen as a teen”, and I have since watched every film she’s featured in. Not only does she sell me movie tickets, she also sells me magazines, UK Vogue, US Vogue and Teen Vogue this month which, considering the only publications I buy these days are Foreign Affairs, Monocle and the Harvard Business Review, is quite something. I find her a very talented actress, like the sense of humour and wit she displays during interviews and like her collaboration with stylist Petra Flannery. Although she’s 14 centimetres taller than me, I live under the delusion that what she wears would suit me too, a delusion strengthened by the fact her default outfit in street style pictures seems to be close to my favourite jacket-top-skinny jeans. So that’s how Emma Stone sold me a t-shirt, and got my eyes on a few more she wore during The Amazing Spider-Man promotional tour.

Posted at 3:21pm and tagged with: Brand communication, Classy film, Vogue, celebrity dressing,.