Should this Saint Laurent Ad Campaign be Banned?

Earlier this month, there were calls for France’s advertising watchdog to ban an advertising campaign from appearing on the streets of Paris.

The campaign, for luxury fashion label Saint Laurent, appeared on posters scattered around Paris during fashion week and just prior to International Women’s Day.

The images sparked outrage among Parisians, feminist groups and others on social media, who claimed the images were degrading to women and may even “incite rape”.

Here are some of the controversial campaign photographs, taken by Inez & Vinoodh:

I’m so desensitised (thanks internet!) that these images don’t shock or disturb me (which is a little bit disturbing in itself). Provocative ad campaigns are nothing new in the fashion world (this isn’t even the first time a Saint Laurent campaign has been banned).

I do agree, however, that these images are inappropriate for a billboard campaign, which is designed to be seen by the general public, including children.

People walking around a city don’t have a choice in whether they see billboards or not. Parents don’t have a say in whether their kids see billboard images on their way to school, for example.

And these Saint Laurent images don’t exactly send an empowering message to young girls. Nor are they likely to foster a culture of respect for women among young men (though you could argue there are very few fashion campaigns that achieve either of those things).

Context is important for these sorts of images.

The average person walking down the street wouldn’t know the intent behind these images or how they’re supposed to be interpreted. To anyone who’s not a fashion follower, these images can’t look anything but misogynistic.

The right context for these images is in the pages of a fashion magazine. The reader of a fashion magazine has an expectation that they might see provocative images but they view these images in the context of the selling of fashion.

Fashion followers are familiar with Saint Laurent’s brand: young, grungy, edgy, pushing the definition of high fashion and the boundaries of good taste. Viewed in the context of this brand, these images make a lot more sense (though still deserve to be questioned)

saint_laurent_fall_winter_2015_2016_collection_paris_fashion_week8
Runway looks from Saint Laurent’s Fall/Winter 2015-16 collection

I can’t help but wonder if this wasn’t all just a publicity stunt and the team at Saint Laurent knew the images were inappropriate for a billboard campaign but they wanted the campaign to be banned, or at least to stir up controversy, which it certainly has done.
Or it was an experiment: Saint Laurent once again testing boundaries.

Whatever it was, I don’t think it was an accident.

What do you think the brand was trying to achieve with these images? Did they succeed?

Do you agree with the ban? Can a fashion photograph ‘incite rape’?

To what extent do fashion images affect the way society sees and treats women?

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4 thoughts on “Should this Saint Laurent Ad Campaign be Banned?”

  1. What an interesting story. I completely agree with your statement “The right context for these images is in the pages of a fashion magazine.” I wouldn’t blink twice if I came across these images whilst flicking through the pages of a fashion magazine. But I don’t think they’re suitable for billboards or public spaces.

    I can see why many people would be upset by these – in particular, parents. I agree that the images should be banned from public spaces. Fashion images play a huge part in influencing young women and teenagers, even younger. I dislike seeing provocative images in public and in teen and general reading magazines. They give the wrong idea and messages to impressionable young minds and without context, can do a lot of damage. Unfortunately this is almost the norm now and it seems to be a competition as to who can come up with the most provocative and shocking images next.

    I fail to see the creativity and ‘art’ in relying purely on innuendo and sex in fashion photography. It actually makes me skip past it and pay no attention to the article or clothing.

    A good read, thanks Kirra.

    Cheers,
    Angela

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much for taking the time to read my post and for adding your thoughts! I totally agree with you when you say it’s like a competition between some brands to see how shocking/provocative they can be. These sorts of images might not affect us as adults, as we’ve seen it all before and we can formulate a critical, informed response to advertising images but for kids, I do think they can be dangerous… and even adults can internalise messages from advertising without realising it… even if we are informed and critical, if we are repeatedly seeing hypersexualised images of women..that has got to be having some effect on how we, as a society, view and treat women.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember the day the giant crutch shots appeared on massive flags at Spencer st station er sorry Southern Cross station. Massive Vaginas and Penises barely disguised by the underwear they were advertising. I am not interested in seeing someone else’s packed lunch and camel toes no matter how trendy they might become. I was completely releived the next time I stepped from the train to see the images had been replaces with actual packed lunches of food. It distresses me that advertising wants to focus on body parts in such a way and consider it demeaning to the people being photographed and insulting to the product. I strongly agree with your sentiment that “People walking around a city don’t have a choice in whether they see billboards or not. Parents don’t have a say in whether their kids see billboard images on their way to school, for example.
    And these Saint Laurent images don’t exactly send an empowering message to young girls. Nor are they likely to foster a culture of respect for women among young men …”

    While we are bombarded with such images it is difficult to fight the sexualisation of our world.

    Like

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