NEW YORK — Whether its to spur on new business or keep the momentum going, dress and suit firms are advertising more aggressively for fall to support their brands.

The decision comes at a time when advertising giants such as Calvin Klein, Guess, and Tommy Hilfiger from the U.S., as well as many high-profile Italian labels announced advertising budgets would be flat with last year. Some are even down, as is the case at Versace, who slashed its budget by about 50 percent, as reported.

Ranging from a firm headed in a new direction, an exotic collection that deserved a far-off locale or the simple statement of a house announcing their return to the advertising arena, the result for fall is a mix of esoteric images and simple luxury. For many of these medium-sized firms, the ad budgets are small — anywhere from $50,000 to $1 million — so they pick their target audience carefully.

High-profile brands such as Carolina Herrera, Bill Blass and Oscar de la Renta — each of which says it’s experiencing a growth spurt — all placed ads in Vogue, W, Harper’s Bazaar, Town & Country and V, except for Herrera, who chose In Style over V. Also, Blass will run an ad in French Vogue to promote the brand’s newfound European flair.

De la Renta’s fall collection was full of Eastern European influences, so when the company selected Deborah Turbeville to shoot its campaign and found out she would be teaching a photography class in St. Petersburg, to Russia it went.

The majority of the campaign was shot in one room of the Stieglitz Palace, which is now an art school, amid the backdrop of 18th-century tile stoves and other furniture from the same period. Creative director Adam Lippes booked ballerinas from Russia’s Merinsky Ballet Theater, as well as local models, in a campaign that showed the clothes in a true environment, he said.

"This season, we talked and really didn’t want to be so product-oriented as we have been in the past," Lippes said. "The clothes dictated the shoot, and with the fur hats and elaborate gowns, it all felt very Russian."But heading East was not as easy as the group had anticipated. Lippes said there were originally five locations planned for a several-day shoot, but the plan was cut short since Russian customs seized the collection. After five days of negotiations, the two parties reached an agreement to get the clothes out for only 24 hours, so the Oscar de la Renta team had to shoot the campaign in one day.

Further, after shooting at the Stieglitz Palace, Lippes said they planned to change locations and head to the Yusopof Palace. On the way there, their bus got into an accident and they ended up shooting the rest of the campaign on the edge of a park.

"It was not a normal big photo shoot. Catering was not there," Lippes said. "But it was a really great experience of going to a foreign culture and seeing the models and their beautiful features. St. Petersburg is really a center for culture, so it all seemed to make sense."

The selected shots were printed on handmade paper through a Polaroid transfer process, which gives them an antique quality. Lippes said the advertising budget remained the same as last year and the images will appear in the August and September issues of W, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Town & Country and V in three- and four-page inserts.

Herrera’s fall ad campaign will run in September books only. In the simple-chic style that is Herrera’s signature, Sean Gleason, who previously shot Herrera’s bridal campaign, created a single image featuring a gold lamé coat. The coat is worn by Malin Persson, the same model who wore the coat in the fall runway show. Malin and the coat were the first look during the runway presentation.

"We talked about the concept and we all felt strongly that the first outfit that opened the show should be in the campaign," said Damiano Biella, creative director at Carolina Herrera. "It translated the whole collection, and the coat was one of our bestsellers."

Since Herrera has not advertised for over five years, Biella said he wanted the campaign to be straightforward, adding that it walks a fine line between being product and image driven."It was important to come out with a strong message. We wanted to go with one image, the same image in all magazines," Biella said.

While Biella would not disclose figures for the campaign — shot in New York using New York-based ad agency ModCo — he said the company has plans to be more aggressive with advertising in the future to reinforce its optimistic climate.

Meanwhile, a 30 percent advertising budget increase at Bill Blass resulted in a slick campaign inspired by vintage photos from the Fifties and Sixties shot by Steven Klein.

For David Lipman, chairman of Lipman — the advertising agency who produced the shoot — model Jacquetta Wheeler carried out the juxtaposition of classic and modern that was apparent in the clothes.

"It was elegant chicness," said Lipman. "It was all based on classical photographs from the Vreeland days of Vogue. It’s very couture inspired, and Jacquetta has the class and the coolness to carry it off."

The campaign features six simple poses of Wheeler — standing, sitting or kneeling — in front of sparse gray walls that look like drying cement. Different versions include piles of antique-looking rugs and a vintage oversized brown velvet chair.

Lipman said the campaign budget was about a $1 million altogether and created seven executions for the ad, such as a six-page blockbuster in Vogue and four single pages running consecutively in V. Although Blass has no distribution in France, Lipman said the ad in French Vogue is important to push the image of what the brand means.

On the flip side, smaller ready-to-wearfirms such as Diane Von Furstenberg, Nicole Miller and Reem Acra chose a more grass-roots approach to fall ad plans by supporting retailers through local advertising in efforts to drive up sales.

At Von Furstenberg, the company’s image-driven ads will continue in Gotham magazine. It will also continue advertising on taxi tops this fall, which feature a Warhol-esque sketch of Von Furstenberg’s lips or eye. Going into 2003, marketing director Maureen Cahill said the company will continue advertising with Miami’s Ocean Drive magazine.

"At this point for us, because we are a smaller company and we don’t do any large advertising, with the taxi ads in New York you reach a broader audience," said Cahill. "It’s a great way to get our name out without spending a lot of money on national ad campaigns."Cahill also said the company will continue its free postcard ads with Max Racks, which can be found throughout Manhattan bars and restaurants. The postcards feature a small map of Manhattan’s meatpacking district, with pink stars locating the Von Furstenberg shop, as well as other designer’s boutiques and neighboring galleries.

"Everyone loves the little maps," Cahill said. "It promotes the neighborhood as a whole and speaks a lot to marketing the brand. It’s fun, reaches the people and is a little unusual."

Known for her exotic and elegant bridal ad campaigns, Acra chose to promote her evening line in the August Anniversary issue of W magazine in a co-op ad with Neiman Marcus.

The simple color shot of a backless dress set against a dark background was a departure from the crisp black and white images that Acra normally creates.

"Sometimes, in the middle of the year, we decide to advertise," Acra said. "If we have money on the side, we decide where to allocate it."

Acra also said that the ad budget for 2003 will be increased by 50 percent, since the designer plans on opening her first store before the end of the year. The bridal campaign starts shooting in a few weeks, Acra added. That campaign is slated to run in Martha Stewart Weddings, In Style, Elegant Bride, W, New York Magazine and The New York Times.

For Nicole Miller, chief executive officer Bud Konheim said he plans on continuing advertising in 2002 with local magazines such as Ocean Drive, New York Magazine, Angeleno, Hamptons and Gotham.

"We have backed off the expensive one-shot national advertising," Konheim said. "For the price of one page, we can get into all of these local magazines and we have a direct response to our local retail. That means more to us right now.

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