Vogue UK April 2008 – “About A Boy”

When it comes to androgynous style in fashion, few could do it as well as Freja. In fact, androgyny became Freja’s signature look for several years until her hair grew long again.

The genesis for Freja’s androgynous look began in late 2007 when she appeared at the Spring/Summer 2008 season with a newly shortened haircut. It wasn’t until April 2008 however, when she emerged in two editorials in Vogue UK (the latter being “A Stroke Of Genius”, shot by Paolo Roversi) that the look began to take off.

One look at this and it’s easy to see why. From its basic premise, Freja takes the masculine styling of this editorial to new heights. Alternating between brooding and swagger, her poses are charged with an energy that is decidedly masculine. The expression of this masculine energy extends to Freja’s hands as well; in one shot we see one hand placed into a waistband; in another shot, a thumb looped into a pocket; in others she is playing with her quiffed hair.

However, the real key to the power within these images lies in Freja’s unyielding gaze – whether directed towards the viewer or not, it is a powerful expression of strength and poise – Freja is no shrinking violet here, nor anywhere for that matter. All of these elements express themselves most powerfully in the 5th shot – Freja is slightly reclined, jacket and shirt open, daring the viewer to challenge the validity of her expression of masculinity, with just enough vulnerability to take one’s breath away.

This editorial set a precedent for Freja to be styled in an androgynous way in the years following (for better or worse) but few come as close to greatness as this. In my mind this editorial is as powerful and seductive as Helmut Newton’s iconic “Le Smoking”.

It’s beautiful to watch in motion too:

Harper’s Bazaar US March 2008 – “Brights”


(this review by special request)

In this editorial gem, Sølve Sundsbø imbues stately gowns with movement and lightness. Beautiful jewel-toned gowns are blown about, showcasing the sheer voluminous fabrics used in their making, with Freja’s dark features and long limbs providing a well-needed anchor for the clothes.

This juxtaposition of the lightness of the clothes and serious looks from Freja create an ethereal sense of beauty, with Freja depicted as a sophisticated, almost goddess-like figure. Set against the stark white background, Cortina’s restrained styling lets the gowns and Freja shine. The background beautifully frames the shapes created by the movement of the gowns and gives the images a further sense of timelessness.

This is a stunning editorial from beginning to end – it’s no wonder that one of the images from this editorial was chosen by Glenda Bailey to cover Harper’s Bazaar’s Greatest Hits book:

hb gh cover freja

(with thanks to noirfacade.livejournal for the editorial images without text)

Vogue US November 2011 – “Call In The Cavalry”

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World War I. A young man is reunited with his beloved horse. A beautifully dressed woman stares off into the distance. These two have little to do with each other in this flawed editorial that’s less of a movie tie-in (for the upcoming release of “War Horse”) and more of a thematic clutching at straws.

Visually, there’s a lot to love about the images – the sombre palette of grey/grey-blues, browns and greens evokes the melancholy mood of wartime, while the high-contrast lighting keeps the images crisp and dynamic. Grace Coddington’s choices of long skirts and sleeves (with little in the way of accessories) is consistent with the austere wartime theme, though the geometric patterned Balenciaga jumper appears glaringly out of place here – it worked better in “Midi Town”, Arizona’s Vogue UK August 2011 editorial.

However the biggest flaw of this editorial is with the direction of the two models. Granted, the film “War Horse” is centred around the story of a young man (played by Jeremy Irvine) and his horse, but Arizona is given too little to do here: is she supposed to play a woman who has lost a loved one in the war? The shot where she caresses the lapels of an army-green coat (by Dior) would have the viewer think so. The potential for this idea is never fully realised, and the lack of interaction between Arizona and Jeremy (save for one shot) leads me to conclude that we’re looking at two completely different editorials that happened to have been shot together.

Unfortunately the shortcomings of this editorial don’t stop there. The final shot of Arizona, dressed as a bride who knows her lover may never come home is rather stunning – until one realises that it looks almost the same as Sims’ own image for the current Alexander McQueen campaign.

Editorial shot:

Alexander McQueen F/W 2011-2012:

alexander mcqueen

This was the final disappointment for me in an editorial that seemed to have run out of ideas. While pretty to look at, it’s a thumbs down from me.

Chanel F/W 2011-2012 – “Cocomaton”

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I have spent many an afternoon and evening over the past few weeks ruminating upon the nature of this campaign. In fact, I found myself falling down a proverbial rabbit-hole as more questions about this campaign came to mind – curiouser and curiouser indeed! I promise to try and keep it simple.

From the setting it appears simple enough: Chanel Fall/Winter fashions set in a photobooth, accompanied by shots from the photobooth itself (photos about photos? How very meta.)

The cover, a close-up shot, highlights the text written upon Freja’s face: “Il n’y a pas de mode si elle ne descend dans la rue!” Loosely translated* it means “Fashion that does not reach the streets is not fashion!” It was here that my first questions arose: Is Chanel fashion? Is it on the streets? In Karl and Carine’s world, yes – this entire campaign is composed of Freja dressed as women of all sorts – from fresh-faced young girls with bows in their hair to grey-haired women of a certain age. Freja plays them all – the clown, the artist, the vamp, the waif – through to the downright odd (cat costume, anyone?).

On the real-life streets however, is a different story. The price of Chanel clothes is prohibitively expensive, thus limiting it to the spheres (or streets, if you will) of the rich and privileged. In these rarefied spheres where people wear Chanel it can be considered fashion. This understanding led me to another question: In spheres/streets where Chanel clothes are not worn, can Chanel still be considered fashion? After some thought the conclusion I came to was also yes, with further explanation. While not everyone can afford to wear the latest Chanel tweed (thereby maintaining its exclusivity), many of us can still participate in this rarefied sphere of luxury by buying other (read: cheaper) Chanel related items such as perfume, accessories and make-up – thus keeping Chanel on the streets, albeit in a different way than Coco intended (or perhaps not: there are several quotes left by Chanel that refer to perfume). The popularity of these items is indicative of the desirability of the brand – while not everyone can wear the clothes, we can still wear other things associated with the brand and feel part of the image that Chanel sells: style, elegance and luxury.

Finally, going back to the campaign: Karl and Carine have presented us with an intelligent, witty campaign that is not afraid to poke fun at itself or what is considered ‘high’ fashion (see: Freja with a Chanel boutique bag on her head – a new trend in the making?). Once again Freja does an amazing job – her poker face wants us to believe that she’s selling the clothes even when she’s dressed as a cat (thankfully the photobooth photos show us that she’s enjoying the joke as well). Throw in Baptiste’s eternal “Blue Steel” look and a Hitchcockian cameo from the Kaiser himself and you have a very fun, thought-provoking campaign.

*taken from gypsygeneration.wordpress

Link to the catalogue in PDF format: http://www.mediafire.com/?2twb6w7n98s7ktj

Chanel S/S 2011 – “A Summer In The South”

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I suspect that any serious collector of advertising campaigns would have a headache of a time doing so – chasing magazines for different images, often seeing the same two or three images over the course of the campaign season, with many images never seeing the light of day…

If only more companies would follow Chanel and collect each season’s advertising images into an attractive hard-cover book –  even if it is only available to boutiques, or sent to lucky VIPs (of which I am NOT one – I got my copy from eBay just like any other fan).

What a difference seeing all of the images together makes! While the single images looked unremarkable in a magazine, when collected together they create a wonderful atmosphere.

It would be easy to mistake the forest/garden setting for an autumn/winter campaign – however to do so would be to misunderstand Karl’s intentions. In fact, this cool, verdant setting is ideal for spring and summer – in not-so olden times, when air-conditioning was not readily available, travelling to the mountains and the forest served as the perfect antidote to too much sun exposure.

Another thing that could also be easily overlooked is how intimate the campaign is. Here, Karl has cast his favourite models: Inès de la Fressange, Stella Tennant, Baptiste and Freja. Having worked with Karl in many other campaigns we can see both the models’ and Karl’s fondness for each other, as well as how relaxed each person is modelling Karl’s vision (as well as Karl’s cheeky sense of humour – Stella hosing down a butt-naked Freja standing in a tub? How very un-high fashion.)

Karl’s photography could be described as workman-like: competent, reliable and at ease with the tools (and people) at his disposal. For a brand as established as Chanel, competence and reliability is precisely what is called for. I’m not often a fan of his photography, but this time it works for me.

Overall, I found the cool forest setting inspired and was ultimately won over by Karl’s choice of models – seeing Stella back in a Chanel ad gives me hope that Freja will also stick around for a long time :)

Here’s a link to the catalogue in PDF format: http://www.mediafire.com/?9smp4464kw5x4uy

Valentino – “Valentina”

(ED: Now this is definitely a new writing challenge for me – trying to write about an advertisement as objectively as possible.)

Perfume is quite the sensuous pleasure. By tapping into the primal sense of smell, perfume powerfully evokes all manner of feelings. It can be worn as armour for protection, as a disguise for an element of mystery, or simply for comfort and pleasure. From the sickly sweet to the brutish (or should I say, Old Spice-ish?), there is no denying that once a perfume is worn, it imparts its personality to the wearer.

So what type of personality is Valentina trying to evoke? In the commercial (directed by Johan Renck) we see Freja as Valentina, escaping from an opulent party to enjoy the smaller pleasures of close friends and rooftop parties, watching the sun rise. She is desired; called for by paparazzi, searched for by cars and helicopters. She is free; leaping from the balcony and walking around the streets of Rome. Valentina/Freja’s beaming smile shows us that she is a carefree and confident woman.

There is little of the cool, stern Freja in this campaign – instead, she shines as the warm, carefree Valentina. Wonderful – I’m sold, and I haven’t even smelled the damn perfume yet!

Official website (with interactive games): http://www.have-you-seen-valentina.com/

Spring/Summer 2012

Balenciaga, 29th of September, 2011
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Balmain, 29th of September, 2011
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Lanvin, 30th of September, 2011
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Chanel, 4th of October, 2011*
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Valentino, 4th of October, 2011*
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*Of course, I must mention Freja’s efforts to support Doctors Without Borders – she donated her day’s wages on Oct 4th to them, and was snapped around Paris in a DWB t-shirt:

(from gobackstage.blogspot)

You can also sign the petition and support Doctors Without Borders here: www.starvedforattention.org

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