There’s no denying that sex sells, and we can’t really blame fashion houses for taking advantage of that. However, there’s a fine line between sexy and degrading. Many people think Yves Saint Laurent just crossed that line with its new ad campaign.
The brand plastered images across Paris advertising designer Anthony Vaccarello’s debut collection for YSL, featuring models in submissive positions. Not to mention that they are scantily clad and extremely thin.
One image features a brunette model sitting and leaning back with her legs open and crotch to the camera, her face peeking out from behind her thigh. She’s wearing a fur coat, fishnet tights, and roller-skate stilettos. Another shows a girl bent over a stool, with her butt high up in the air and her head down on the stool. She’s wearing a polka-dot leotard and the same roller skates. A portion of her torso seems to be purposely erased, which doesn’t make the message being transmitted seem any better.
France’s advertising “watchdog” said it had asked the French fashion house to “modify two ads from its latest campaign, after receiving 50 complaints that they were ‘degrading’ to women,” according to Reuters.
“We asked the brand and the ad displayer to make changes to these visuals as soon as possible,” Stéphane Martin, head of France’s advertising authority, told Reuters. He said the ads were a “serious breach of rules set by the advertising industry to maintain ‘dignity and respect in the representation of the person.’” They were also concerned with how thin the models were, because of the “impact on fashion-conscious teenage girls.”
In 2015, France made a major move to combat this issue, when France’s health minister, Marisol Touraine, announced her support of the country’s efforts to make it illegal for advertising agencies to use models who have an underweight BMI.
Martin described the ads as “porno chic” to the Daily Mail.
The hashtag #YSLRetireTaPubDegradante — which translates to “YSL, Remove Your Degrading Ad” — has blown up with users across the globe, asking the label to revoke these promotional pictures.
— Dorothee Citerne (@DCiterne) March 6, 2017
— titi marie (@tititimarie) March 6, 2017
— Camille Bullot (@hello_camille) March 6, 2017
— Estación Urano (@Ur_Station) March 7, 2017
— Katy Storm (@KatyStorm_) March 7, 2017
— Serena Colombo (@serenacolombo) March 7, 2017
— Geraldine Mattens (@GMattens) March 6, 2017
— almost perfect (@Frenchie_Karyn) March 4, 2017
One user, Merete Buljo, pointed out that YSL has taken a big step backwards from 50 years ago. She shared side-by-side images of the current controversial ad campaign and YSL’s 1967 smoking jacket ad, which became a poster for Paris’s second-wave feminism movement. The older image depicts a strong woman who DGAF, and the other, well … you get the point. In comparing the two, there’s reason to be concerned that this is how YSL views women these days.
— Merete Buljo (@MereteBuljo) March 4, 2017
Images from Reuters showed female protesters outside a YSL shop with signs reading, “Sexist.” France’s leading female empowerment group, Osez le Féminisme (Dare to be Feminist), is also joining in the fight against the ads. A spokeswoman for the organization, Raphaëlle Rémy-Leleu, described the ads as “extremely violent,” according to Reuters.
“It ticks all the sexist boxes,” Rémy-Leleu said. “The women are objectified, hypersexualised and put in submissive positions. How do they think they will sell anything today [to women] with that? But you have to ask if that wasn’t intentional, that this was all about creating a scandal so we would talk about them.”
Martin wonders if it doesn’t have something to do with Vaccarello, stating that he may have “gone too far,” according to Daily Mail. “We have a rather young designer known for his rather ‘specific’ looks.” Martin speculates that maybe Vaccarello didn’t realize the effects these ads would have.
This isn’t the first time YSL has been in hot water for its ads. In 2015, England’s Advertising Standards Authority banned a YSL ad that appeared in Elle UK because the model looked too thin. Of course, this isn’t the only brand that has had its ads pulled. In 2016, campaign ads for Gucci’s latest cruise collection were banned because of the “unhealthily thin” models.
We’ll know whether or not these ads have gone too far on Friday, when the advertising ethics jury rules on the complaints and decides whether to ask YSL to withdraw the ads.
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