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The most controversial Fashion campaigns

The relationship between the Fashion industry and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), a regulatory body accountable for controlling advertising, has not been the most pleasant over the last decades. Fashion campaigns, besides having the blatantly obvious goal of advertising, serve the role of a business card for major brands. By this time of the year the first pictures of the cold season start to emerge. And there is not a better season than the current one to retrieve the most controversial advertising campaigns of the industry. Those who pinpoint them as being controversial/polemic is ASA, which has already vetoed the publication of many campaigns.

The craving for seduction, for sales and attention has prompted many brands to rely on more appealing visual means – whether through sex, social commentary or nudity. If a naked body still causes a lot of raucous in 2017, in the 70s of the 20th century, the iconic designer Yves Sainy Laurent made the decision to release its first male fragrance. In order to break with the masculine and virile image of men, so typical of the ads of that time, he let himself be photographed naked for the advertisement of the perfume Pour Homme. At the beginning of the new millennium, Tom Ford took up the position of creative director of the French Maison and, in 2002, the designer did a frontal nude shooting session with the model Samuel de Cubber for the advertisement of the M7 perfume, as a way of paying tribute to the founder of the renowned French brand. In both cases the images ended up unpublished, at least they were not issued according to what was initially conceived, since it was only possible to see the model’s torso and head. The designer’s picture didn’t see the light of day, it was only published several years later, becoming of the most iconic images of the French designer.

In 2017, the American brand Eckhaus Latta caused some controversy when his Spring campaign images were published. Mike Eckhaus said to W magazine that “it would have to be authentic” – and indeed it was. These images chocked the audience given their explicit graphic content. The intention of the designer duo was to depict sex in a true manner and not in a preconceived way. A campaign that took six months to be finally carried out, given how hard it was to find models who were willing to engage in sexual activities. The aim of this campaign was to normalise sex – regardless of any gender involved – and not to turn it into something sensational.

These were not the only examples. Speaking about Sisley without addressing this brand’s campaigns is almost a sin. In 2007 the sister of United Colors of Benetton saw one of its campaigns being banned for romanticising drug consumption. In the same year, the Italian Dolce & Gabbana was already bolstering discussions – and not for the best reasons. This time the creative duo had to face the wrath of a Spanish female organization which considered the ad to be “beyond offensive, with scenes suggesting a collective rape”, on the other hand, the businesswoman Kelly Cutrone, known for having been a television judge on the famous America’s Next Top Model, wrote on Twitter: “I think that simulating gangbangs is cool, but same-sex marriage is not. The life according to Dolce & Gabbana”.

The final verdict is to be left to the discretion of the reader, we will not be too worried about political correctness, and everything that steps out the realm of normality is already regarded as a major indecent exposure. The gallery shows some of the most controversial campaigns in the history of Fashion.

Rui Matos, 21 years old. An eternal dreamer and lover of new technologies, communication and interpersonal relationships. Fashion, art, cinema and photography have always been his great love. He studied communication sciences and wants to be a journalist. In the summer of 2016 he trained in the online version of Vogue Portugal, which he considered to be the test of fire for the decision of his future. The test has been successfully overcome and there is no doubt of it: this is the way to go.

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