The Guardian


The Guardian

by Priya Elan

10 March 2021


Suitsupply is the latest fashion brand to show lots of flesh in its high-gloss adverts. The shock factor is well established – but it’s not the roaring 20s just yet. Of course, shock advertising is not a new phenomenon.

“Explicit fashion adverts can be traced back to 1980, when Calvin Klein marketed his jeans using a 15-year-old Brooke Shields,” says Prof Andrew Groves, the director of the Westminster Menswear Archive at the University of Westminster. “The more designers like Klein diffused their brand name into secondary, mass-market lines, the more they relied on controversial advertising to reach a wider consumer audience.”

Groves says that Klein’s ads became more explicit as time went on,

“reaching a nadir in 1995 with a TV commercial that seemed to be a screen test for a low-budget film. The audience’s viewpoint [was] that of the director behind the camera, so we are complicit as he asks the models about their bodies or tells them to take their clothes off. It’s easy to see why it was pulled.” BuzzFeed has described it as “just too creepy”.

However, Groves believe it won’t turn into sales.

“Suitsupply’s problem is that, whatever the ‘new normal’ might be, it won’t include a return to either orgies or wearing suits any time soon.”

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