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Agent Provocateur Makes Retail Sales Work Seem Sexy
Posted by richard | September 8, 2015

If my first boss ever wants to round up his ex-employees to pose for a pinup calendar, I’ll put aside my concerns about sexploitation and go along with the fun. Unfortunately, I don’t really think there’s much of a market for softcore shots of former loading dock boys who have gone soft around the middle.

Agent Provocateur doesn’t have that problem, as demonstrated by its fall media campaign which shines a spotlight on its own sales clerks.

The face of the campaign is British retro-pop singer Paloma Faith, who worked at AP’s Soho boutique in London a decade ago. But she’s really just a stand-in for every ambitious, upwardly mobile and impossibly gorgeous shop girl who ever donned a pink uniform and terrified customers at one of Agent Provocateur‘s rosy-scented boudoir-like stores.


The campaign was photographed by Alice Hawkins, another former AP staffer, who also contributes a few Polaroids taken from her days behind the till, including some revealing shots of AP’s creative director Sarah Shotton (above) who, yes, got her start on the shop floor too.

The colour-drenched campaign shows off select styles from AP’s fall collection, called Knickers Forever, and which debuted last month with a separate photo lookbook featuring models cavorting in store stockrooms and in AP’s famously head-turning shop windows.

It’s a beautifully realized marketing concept and, as always, there’s some sly messaging beneath the glossy surface.

For starters, the campaign offers a twist on the typical aspirational paradigm that drives fashion marketing — the idea that shoppers will covet the lives and lifestyles of a brand’s models. AP’s campaign turns that concept around, making lowly retail clerks the object of attention, fascination and even desire. Men will want to shop there; women will want to work there.

The very notion of a lingerie brand cashing in on the sex appeal of its workers — and feeding speculation about their private lives — is bit audacious and in some places would be downright scandalous. Consider, for comparison’s sake, the example of Victoria’s Secret in the U.S., whose store workers sued their employer this summer to force an end to the soul-crushing practice of on-call scheduling.

Working for Agent Provocateur, meanwhile, is as much a lifestyle as a job — and a highly sought-after entry point into a glamorous fantasy world of endless erotic possibilities. And, as the new campaign implies, it can also be a stepping stone to future professional success.

Both Paloma and Alice, the company notes in its press release, “went on to achieve international fame in their respective fields but never forgot their days in pink uniform.” AP, meanwhile, is backing up the main media campaign by using some of its current (and real) shop girls in social media promotions.


The effect of all this is to encourage curiosity, and even envy, around the entire corporate culture of Agent Provocateur (and of course drive traffic into its stores). It’s probably also going to mean a flood of applications from job-seekers once all this gets around.

And while most young women will never get the chance to work in what AP calls “the sexiest shops in the world” they can have the next best thing by purchasing some of those lacy lingerie sets. In Agent Provocateur‘s unique universe, those pink shop dresses might look good on a resumé for a few lucky souls, but fancy knickers will always be part of the essential uniform of ambitious career girls everywhere.

Here’s the rest of the new campaign, which was photographed in AP’s Broadwick Street store. For North American readers, Paloma Faith won’t be as familiar as she is in the UK, where she won last year’s top female singer award at the Brits and where she is about to take on a new gig as celebrity judge on the UK version of The Voice.


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