Picking up more or less where yesterday’s post left off, the flip side of H&M’s ability to produce incredibly refined looking clothing for low prices, is this vital role that styling plays in how we read the value in what we see, and how much poor styling can bring down truly lovely clothing. I know that sounds like a mouthful of justification for connecting two posts. I do think the connection is there. But the main inspiration for today’s post was a Chanel ad that I came across yesterday. I was blown away when I saw it — knew I had to blog about it — because I couldn’t get over how cheap it looked.
Generally, Chanel’s photography and ad campaigns are exquisite. The images themselves are so refined, that it’s hard not to think that you desperately want the clothes.
The last two are from the Spring 2012 apparel campaign. At the same time, however, Chanel has launched a campaign for the new Boy Bag featuring Alice Dellal. In the photograph below, from the Boy Bag campaign, Dellal is wearing the same skirt as in the photograph above, and yet the impact couldn’t be more different. The Boy Bag campaign was shot by Karl Lagerfeld and tries to play upon Dellal’s signature “punky” or “rocker” style. More than anything else, the look makes me think of Madonna in her Material Girl days. Is that really the impression Chanel is going for? It doesn’t seem to me remotely compatible with their target market sector.
In fact, my second thought was that these could easily be ads for Forever 21. There’s nothing wrong with Forever 21. It’s kind of awesome in its own way. But a necklace is $4, an evening purse is around $20 as is a sweater. The Chanel Boy Bags retail for $3,000 and up. So I’d think Chanel doesn’t want customers getting confused and thinking they’re supposed to pick one up at Forever 21. And it’s not that the bags look cheap. But styling in an advertisement plays an incredibly central role in how the customer understands what she is being sold.
The irony is, while Chanel’s photography is exquisite and Forever 21′s photography is pretty low budget, Forever 21′s styling is actually much more editorial looking. And yet, even with its cute ads, it seems like the power of brand wins out at the end of the day, and no one doubts the value, quality or price point of the merchandise sold at Forever 21. But the Chanel Boy Bag campaign does honestly make me reexamine the taste level of the current Chanel style. It seems like a good impression is much easier to lose once you have it, than it is to gain when you don’t.