PARIS — French fashion houses are playing it relatively safe with their spring ad campaigns — even if they’re spending freely once again.

Paris fashion is burning, and most companies are seeking to capitalize on it by maintaining or increasing their ad budgets. For example, Louis Vuitton bought multiple pages in many February magazines; usually, its campaigns debut in March issues. Chloé said it would up its budget by 10 percent for its spring campaign, featuring Angela Lindvall shot by Craig McDean.

This story first appeared in the January 17, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

But creatively, houses took few risks, employing star models — from Gisele to Christy; keeping sets simple, and skirting controversy in favor of clear, contemporary fashion images.

Vuitton’s creative director Marc Jacobs said he set out to do pictures with Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott that were “bold and strong” and that “looked good for today.” He deliberately sidestepped the overused terms modern and retro.

Paul-Gerard Pasols, communications director at Vuitton, declined to specify its ad budget, but said there would be an increase to reflect the strong momentum of the brand, up 15 percent in Japan last year, and to convey important product launches, such as multicolored monogrammed leather goods, a collaboration between Jacobs and Japanese artist Takashi Murakami.

At Dior, couturier John Galliano said his campaign portrays “hard-core glamour,” with Gisele Bündchen oozing attitude for lensman Nick Knight. But Galliano said he decided to “pare down” this season with bright PVC backdrops instead of the elaborate sets and computer manipulations of recent seasons. “I said, ‘Nick, let’s put the brakes on,’” Galliano said. “I believe that the overall feeling is quite sensual, yet very strong and definite.”

At Yves Saint Laurent, Tom Ford chose Christy Turlington as an example of “true modern beauty” to be shot by Glen Luchford. “You see the depth and complexity of her personality, which makes her the perfect choice for this season,” Ford said. Budgets were not disclosed.

Eric Pfrunder, head of advertising at Chanel, characterized Karl Lagerfeld’s campaign, featuring models Maria Carla and Frankie Ryder cavorting on and around the beach in Biarritz, as lighthearted and optimistic. “The idea of joy, youth and health radiates in the images,” he said. Pfrunder said Chanel’s budget would grow some 10 to 15 percent for the season. “We’re not being conservative at the moment. We keep marching ahead as we have in the past.”

Gaimbattista Valli, Emanuel Ungaro’s creative director, said the house deliberately adopted a soft, romantic tone for spring. “Now is not the time to verge too trendy or to go out on an artsy limb,” said Valli. “It’s not the time to shock anyone — we’re shocked everyday by what we see on the TV. It’s important to make people dream right now.” David Lynch’s film, “Blue Velvet,” loosely influenced the ads, shot by Karen Collins with model Liya Kebede. Valli noted Ungaro’s ad budget would be slightly up over last year.

Amelie Rouyer, advertising director at Givenchy, said the house’s budget was on par with last year. “We’re not being cautious right now,” she said. “What we want to do is build on the brand’s heritage of elegance with a contemporary twist.” Rouyer added that the house this season was integrating men’s, women’s and accessories in a single campaign. “Men’s is very important for us now, as we’re trying to further develop the business.” Mario Testino shot Givenchy’s campaign, featuring model Frankie Ryder at the Chateau de Villepreux, near Paris.

Ryder also modeled for Céline, whose ads were photographed by Vincent Peters. Lucien Goddett, advertising director at the house, said it would slightly increase its spending for spring. “In the ads, there’s an Eighties influence that was in the collection,” said Goddett. “We wanted to be sexy, but not aggressive. It’s absolutely important not to be aggressive.”

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