There was a time when fashion and beauty were the poor cousins of the advertising world. Magazines like Vogue soaked up hundreds of millions of dollars in ad spend from high end fashion labels like Chanel and Valentino and second tier houses would vie to sit close-by. It was a closed-loop and, other than the odd wonderfully odd Harvey Nichols ad - you wouldn't ever see them represented in advertising award shows.
The editors of fashion magazines had a potent influence over what would be featured in their pages - offering editorial and curatorial credibility to trends and styles; making and breaking the careers of designers. Campaigns could be fanciful and elegiac - models balefully posed like starved prisoners or bizarre and boisterous.
Spreads might contain a fashion-story but, rarely, any kind of cogent narrative. No logic or pesky persuasion (mostly because fashion defies logic).
There was - and is - a code. Those in the know, the cognoscenti, understand and the fashionistas simply went along for the ride; enjoying the fact that they didn't have a clue what was going on, but unwilling to confess it (ironically - a variation of the emperor's new clothes syndrome).
As an adman from way back I've always been bemused by fashion. I love its bonkers 'otherness'. I find documentaries like The September Issue fascinating anthroplogies to the unapologetic world where crafts and commerce collide.
I like the risks that designers have to take in the endlessly inflating world of haute couture - since seeing a museum show of Viktor & Rolfe in Melbourne a while back I have an even higher regard for the high-wire that is high fashion.
Like every industry, fashion (and luxury goods generally) have been disrupted by the internet. The massive premium charged by leading fashion magazines could finally be offset by building owned media assets like websites in the early days for the digital shift - then audiences could be grown directly via social media. (Of course major media brands and their editorial caché remain important, but their power and influence has been diluted).
So, it interests me to see that the Cannes advertising festival is to offer a major showcase to the world of fashion - read the DIgiDay report here. The organisers, quite correctly note the rise in innovation in the fashion sector and the descent of 'conventional' advertising tropes.
In a sense the Cannes festival is a canary in the mineshaft. On one hand the organisers sniff an opportunity to flatter a new category of entrants to compete for awards - and a new wave of conference attendees, willing to descend on the seaside town to hob nob and posture (I think the fashion world will feel right at home).
On the other hand, one significant aspect of the fashion world's modus operandi is to question the value of logical narrative in promotion.
In the Insta era - does it matter if there is a 'reason' to pay attention other than being amusing or different or simply beautiful? - an existential form of communication?
It is because - well, …it just is.
Chanel - Objectifying while implying a liberated spirit?
D&G - covering the bases (diversity) and making a hash of it (#Intsa integration)
ZARA - seasonal fashion story - though that's not the real story… influencers and ambassadors are where it really happens…
This blog is a notepad of contemporaneous and sometimes extemporaneous thoughts about creativity, strategy and ideas.