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Few designers could have gotten away with the kind of left-field lunacy that Jean Paul Gaultier brings to his new gig as the celebrity ‘creative director’ for Diet Coke‘s latest European promo campaign.

In addition to dressing up Coke bottles in lingerie, the impish Gaultier turned the assignment into a full-blown vaudeville act — complete with a gender-bending photoshoot and a series of short films featuring Gaultier as a “serial designer” stalking cute young puppets. (This is probably the first genre mash-up to combine slasher films and fashion makeovers, with Gaultier asking at the end of each film, “So, are you going to press charges?”)

But the centerpiece of the campaign are Gaultier’s three bottle designs, one featuring his signature sailor-boy nautical stripe and two inspired new designs featuring bottles dressed in corseted bodysuits (no doubt inspired by his iconic creations for Madonna way back when).

Gaultier, who is EVERYwhere in the promotional tie-ins for Diet Coke in Europe these days, brings his customary élan to the assignment (which was announced during Paris Fashion Week!). You’ll remember a few years ago he launched his Classique perfume line renowned for bottles shaped like a woman’s torso and outfitted in a corset (below). Then, too, he took that concept to almost ridiculous extremes, creating a variety of costumed bottles that became highly coveted collector’s items.

His Diet Coke (or Coke Light in Europe) campaign might be the strangest thing anyone has ever done to sell soft drinks — and certainly much more entertaining than Karl Lagerfeld‘s designer bottles from a couple of years ago — but it’ll almost certainly be a smash hit when the bottles reach stores next week.

Only downside? These goodies will only be distributed in Europe, so if you live on this side of the pond, be prepared to add this item to your E-Bay watch list.

Here’s a look at the first three episodes in Gaultier’s ‘Serial Designer’ film series. Check back with the Diet Coke Facebook page for more installments.

Victoria’s Secret Hits Bottom
Posted by richard | April 11, 2012

Victoria’s Secret is all about one thing: giving you the goods to show off your assets to optimal effect. And when we say assets we mean, of course, asses.

Wait a minute. What the hell? VS is boosting butts now?

Yes, after exhausting every possible way to amplify frontal cleavage, the lingerie retailer has turned its attention to your bottom line.

You can see the results in a daring new video to promote the VS 2012 swimwear collection. Called “Beach Bums“, the saucy spot offers an extended look at the derrières of Candice Swanepeol, Behati Prinsloo, Elyse Taylor and Magdalena Frackowiack, who can now add “butt model” to their resumés and portfolios.

It’s part of a mega-marketing push for the company’s extensive “Teeny Bikini” bathing suit line, ostensibly produced to encourage customers to mix-and-match bikini bottoms. But it’s also one of the most pervy, hyper-sexualized bits of female objectification that Victoria’s Secret has ever produced.

Beach Bums is meant to be “cute, cheeky fun” (their words), although this time VS comes closer than usual to testing the patience of censors and Republicans (you almost certainly will never see this used as TV commercial).

It also risks sparking a backlash from women’s groups and feminist advocates. The video’s explicit, fetishistic fascination with bums is undeniably sophomoric, and would probably be deemed highly offensive if VS took the same drooling, spring-break approach to female breasts. (Whatever you think of Victoria’s Secret marketing, their bra promotions are rarely this crass, typically focusing on the models and the products while leaving the leering to the imaginations of their viewers.)

One other thing stands out in the Beach Bums video: all the butts on display look absolutely identical. In fact, in the numerous shots that DON’T show the model’s faces, it’s impossible to identify the models or tell one from another. Isn’t that one of the main complaints about porn?

Lots More to Love From Free People
Posted by richard | April 11, 2012

Few fashion retailers do as good a job blending their clothing and underwear collections as Free People.

The trendy boho chic label’s FP Intimately lingerie range has always complemented its streetwear pieces beautifully: artsy prints and faux vintage styles meant to work as layering items, and perfect for a new generation of innerwear-outerwear exhibitionists. (This is the label, after all, that turned bike shorts into a fashion lingerie staple!)

So it makes a whole heap of sense that Free People has decided to dramatically boost its lingerie offerings and give its FP Intimately line the serious profile it deserves.

FP’s new collection will offer no fewer than 70 new styles — a 40% increase over what’s available on the Free People webshop today.

It will include a mix of FP branded items alongside up-and-coming boutique labels like Zinke, Undrest, Beautiful Bottoms, Jenna Leigh, One Teaspoon and Woo Under.

The collection is grouped into three themes — Cool Girl, Sexy Girl and Pretty Girl — but the Free People aesthetic is evident throughout. Expect a broad selection of bandeaus, bra crop-tops, tanks, bodysuits, boy shorts and underwear sets, all in very soft, casual silhouettes. This is no-stress gear for stylish but laid-back girls.

To kick off the newly expanded line, Free People will also launch an interactive lookbook that includes styling tips, layering ideas and more suggestions for assembling your summer wardrobe.

The new collection debuts on Monday, April 16 on the Free People website. That makes it too late for all you last-minute Coachella shoppers but sets the stage for the rest of 2012’s outdoor festival season to come.

While you’re waiting for the launch, here’s a few images from the new FP Intimately to get you excited.

Lillian Bassman: Portraits in Lingerie
Posted by richard | April 10, 2012

The current wave of nostalgia for lingerie styles of the 1950s and 1960s owes a lot to Lillian Bassman, the legendary New York fashion photographer who passed away in February at age 94.

Bassman shot many of the commercial campaigns for major brands of that era and her intimate, highly stylized boudoir portraits changed the way lingerie was both seen and appreciated.

Now, a trove of 80 of those black-and-white images, collected and curated by Bassman shortly before her death, are featured in the new book Lillian Bassman: Lingerie, released last month by Abrams Books.

To coincide with the book’s publication, an exhibition of Bassman’s lingerie prints will be on display at the Staley-Wise Gallery in New York from April 12 to May 26, and at the Peter Fetterman Gallery in Santa Monica until June 9.

Bassman eschewed the lifeless catalogue images that characterized most lingerie photography of the post-war years, focusing instead on the women in her shots and their unselfconscious sensuality. There is a narrative element in many of her portraits: small, oblique stories that hint at the inner essence of women’s lives.

Her contemporary Richard Avedon said Bassman made “visible that heartbreaking invisible place between the appearance and the disappearance of things”. The Guardian, in its obituary last month, called Bassman’s pictures “reveries about the secret lives of women.”

Bassman’s enduring legacy can be seen everywhere today.

Many of her Mad Men-era campaigns boldly showcased lingerie as fashion garments worthy of artistic presentation and meant to be displayed, not just as foundation pieces meant to be concealed and seldom seen. You can see that aesthetic sense today in the elaborate and artistic treatment of lingerie in fashion photography (both in commercial work and print editorials) and in runway shows from many of the world’s leading fashion houses.

Lillian Bassman: Lingerie is her third photo collection in book form, following Lillian Bassman (1997) and Lillian Bassman: Women (2009).

Below are selected images from Bassman’s work, courtesy of Abrams Books.

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