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IT’S RAINING MEN: It seems Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce can’t help irking someone’s sensibility when it comes to ad images.

After being criticized in their past ad campaigns for showing blood and knives and depicting a barely dressed woman pinned to the floor by a group of men, now it’s time for their fall campaign to be in the eye of the cyclone. Shot by Steven Klein, the pictures feature a crop of female models in skintight dominatrix clothes, metallic belts and whips, surrounded by naked models in statuesque poses.

The critique this time, according to a spokeswoman, is that men are portrayed as objects. The set is similar to the futuristic-cum-seductive backdrop.

“Since these images have offended someone, we want to stress that we wanted to represent a strong and dominatrix woman, as is today’s woman. It’s the vision of a dream more than reality, where the whip symbolizes women’s power and where the naked models refer to a classic beauty inspired by Michelangelo,” said Gabbana. “We wanted to place this artistic reference above everyday reality, but there was no intent to be vulgar or offend anyone’s human dignity.”

Speaking of the image of men, the two designers are featured in the September issue of Italian GQ talking with editor in chief Michele Lupi about fashion, men and their fast-changing whims and style. “[Men] are more self-confident, calm and do not fear showing their feelings or a more feminine sensibility. They are less interested in emulating the traditional and formal models, as in suits with hankies,” said Gabbana. “Contemporary men prove their freedom by exceeding the formal and strict rules which used to give self-assertiveness.”

Dolce and Gabbana styled the cover shot by Klein with a silver bikini-clad Gisele Bündchen and the fashion spread with David Bailey.

The designers’ stint is part of a restyling project, began by Lupi in November when he joined GQ. It led to a 13 percent ad page increase in the first quarter of this year compared with the same period the previous year.
— Alessandra Ilari and Francesca Vuotto

This story first appeared in the August 30, 2007 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

NEW RECIPE: Bon Appétit turned 50 last year, just in time to come under the knife — but only a little. Last spring, Matthew Lenning was installed as the magazine’s first design director. “He’s a protégé of Fred Woodward, the design director of GQ,” said Bon Appétit editor in chief Barbara Fairchild. “As far as I’m concerned, you can’t get better than that.”

Since appearing on the masthead in July, Lenning already has made a few tweaks to the magazine’s typeface and made things, in Fairchild’s words, “easier to read.” More changes are expected, but magazine editors — and their publicists — dislike the word redesign, with its implications of a broken machine. To wit: “There’s nothing that we’re worried about or need to fix. I just thought it was time to add this position and have the magazine have a freshening.” And again: “We’re going to be just doing things that are very much of the DNA of Bon Appétit, and shouldn’t really raise too many eyebrows.” In the first half of this year, Bon Appétit’s newsstand sales were down 12.3 percent, though total circulation was flat and ad pages were up 6.1 percent. — Irin Carmon

BRA BANTER: Instead of long, seductive looks into the camera, à la Victoria’s Secret, Playtex Intimate Apparel is taking the humorous approach in its new multimillion-dollar ad campaign, playing up “the girls,” and no, that doesn’t refer to the women wearing the bras. In a commercial for the Playtex Secrets bra, one phrase just about sums up the whole campaign: “When the girls are happy, I’m happy.” Vicki Seawright, marketing director at Playtex, said the campaign — the most comprehensive in its history — speaks directly to the consumer by playing up how “real women talk amongst themselves.”

The campaign is also unique in its allocation of ad dollars, with more emphasis placed online than ever before. This includes working with YouTube and American Greetings. Ads also will be aired on TV and published in magazines, including Glamour; O, The Oprah Magazine, and In Style. “This campaign represents Playtex’s new approach to reaching women,” said a spokeswoman. It also means Playtex more than doubled its online spending in this campaign versus previous ones. Seawright declined to provide specific figures, but offered that the campaign’s Web site will include sending “Girl Talk” e-cards, a virtual bra fitter and submitting videos of personal bra stories. If only Jane magazine and its “Guide to Boobs” were around to see this now. — Amy Wicks

PARTY TIME: The Wall Street Journal’s newfound fascination with fashion — or at least the ad dollars it offers — shows no signs of abating. The paper, which last season held a bash in Milan, this time round will kick off New York Fashion Week by partnering with Alek Wek to host a cocktail party Tuesday to fete her book, “Alek,” which chronicles her journey from former Sudanese refugee to international model. Wek also has a collection of handbags and is the new face of MAC Cosmetics. She decided to do the book after traveling back to Sudan three years ago. “I had to relive moments that weren’t so pleasant,” Wek said. “But I thought there were stories here that needed to be brought to life.” — A.W.

ROOM WITH A VIEW: It isn’t only business newspapers eager to tap into the fashion mother lode. Take the shelter category, where some magazines are now proclaiming themselves style or design titles rather than the more limiting “shelter” moniker. Still others have made the full-court press on fashion advertisers by publishing special “fashion” issues. The strategy has in part helped Elle Decor, which publishes an annual October Glamour issue, grow its ad pages 22 percent through June, to 462 pages. This year’s issue, on newsstands Sept. 14, features the homes of Milly’s Michelle Smith, who said she knew her Madison Avenue apartment was perfect “when I realized the Christian Louboutin shop was right across the street”; Gilles Mendel; Valentino’s Charlene de Ganay; Josie Natori, and Carlos Miele, whose sleek downtown spread was shot by Elle’s Gilles Bensimon. The fashionable subjects were accompanied by ads from new advertisers including Estée Lauder, Prada, Tod’s, Bottega Veneta, Cole Haan, Dior and Etro. The October issue is Elle Decor’s second largest since 2001. But Elle Decor isn’t the only one hopping onto the bandwagon: The September issue of Domino also had a fashion theme with the likes of Marc Jacobs, the duo behind Libertine, Kenneth Jay Lane, Alberta Ferretti and Bella Freud. So who copied whom? — Stephanie D. Smith

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