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Product Is King in Italy’s Fall Ads

MILAN — You can almost reach out and touch the clothes. As for those exotic location shoots, well, maybe next season.<br><br>Italian designers are banking on the solidity of their products to counter a feeling of economic uncertainty. As a...

MILAN — You can almost reach out and touch the clothes. As for those exotic location shoots, well, maybe next season.

Italian designers are banking on the solidity of their products to counter a feeling of economic uncertainty. As a result, their ad campaigns for fall-winter 2002 are clearly product-driven, with a focus on details and materials. For the most part, Italian ad budgets are flat for fall, although, as reported, Versace plans sharp cuts in its typically generous budget in the fourth quarter, cutting it in half to about $3.5 million, said sources. Its third quarter ad budget was flat. Despite the conservative mood, there’s no indication yet the other Italian houses are ready to cut as deeply as Versace. And a few are actually spending more: Dolce & Gabbana is getting aggressive and hiking its budget in Japan, while Giorgio Armani has increased its budget by 5 percent.

On the creative front, Armani, Dolce & Gabbana and Valentino chose group photos, offering an expanded view of their collections. And in a more practical mood, most skipped the exotic locales this time and shot at home or in a studio.

Steven Meisel elaborated Miuccia Prada’s take on sexy — Amber Valletta lounging in a silk pleated dress or focusing on a back-view of a body-hugging pencil skirt and crocodile stiletto boots.

For Dolce & Gabbana, Meisel shot Gisele Bündchen surrounded by young men watching her in various states of awe and surprise. Stefano Gabbana said they “imagined a beautiful young woman returning to her home town in Sicily.” The photos, however, were shot practically a planet away from Sicily — in California.

For Valentino, Meisel shot models Anouck, Jacquetta Wheeler, Bridget Hall, Michele Alves, Caroline Ribeiro, Karen Elson, Erin Wasson and Raquel Zimmerman in groups of six, where, in turn, each is the protagonist. The groups are arranged by themes, such as gold, black and accessories.

“The clothes really stand out in all of our lines’ campaigns,” said Robert Triefus, Armani Group’s corporate vice president of worldwide communications. “In the world post Sept. 11, people are looking for items that last, with real value and integrity, style and quality,” said Triefus. After several seasons with Peter Lindbergh, for fall, Giorgio Armani asked Paolo Roversi, known for his sepia-colored images, to shoot the ads for his Borgonuovo collection. “This was the aviator style collection and Mr. Armani thought Roversi would bring to life the Amelia Earhart, Thirties’ spirit of that look with a contemporary touch,” said Triefus. Two new models, Natasha Vojnovic and Josh Wald, were photographed at Armani’s theater in Via Bergognone.

Armani Collezioni was also shot at the theater by Aldo Fallai. “Mr. Armani is a practical man, and he’s noticed that often people spend too much on travel when it’s easy to create the scene you want in your backyard,” said Triefus.

He added that the company continues to “evolve the media mix” in tune with the current climate, advertising in The Economist, Spectator, Forbes, Fortune and the New Yorker, as well as fashion magazines.

Emporio Armani, shot by Richard Phibbs in a Milan warehouse, shows group images.

There will be an eight-page insert in the New York Times Magazine and a six-page insert in the Los Angeles Times in September. The ads will be repeated in November. Armani planned 2,000 pages for the fall-winter campaign, up 5 percent from last year.

Both Gucci and Gianfranco Ferré focused on the details of the clothes, as well. While Michel Comte shot Esther Cañadas and Michel Del Monte against the background of opulent and luxurious settings, Gucci’s creative director Tom Ford said he wanted “a more intimate mood.” Models Eugenia Volodina and Natalia Vodianova were photographed in a warehouse by Mario Testino. “This season, the mood is still strong and powerful, but the atmosphere is more relaxed and sensual,” said Ford.

For Missoni, Gisele Bündchen dons colorful patchwork coats and caps for a “romantic and dreamy woman,” said Angela Missoni. Mert Alas and Marcus Piggot shot the Missoni campaign for the third time.

Alas and Piggot also shot the Fendi campaign, with a self-assured Rie Rasmussen. Lights and styling are strong and emphatic.”