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The Medium Is The Moschino

Sultry poses have never been part of a Moschino advertising campaign. Renowned for being satirical, political and provocative, Franco Moschino used his company’s advertising to present what he cared about, whether it was saving the environment,...

Sultry poses have never been part of a Moschino advertising campaign. Renowned for being satirical, political and provocative, Franco Moschino used his company’s advertising to present what he cared about, whether it was saving the environment, saying no to drugs or showing off his gym-toned body.

Considered a pioneer of the offbeat, Moschino pushed the boundaries of how fashion was presented to the consumer.

“His ideas were great for the times,” said photographer Stefano Pandini, who worked with Moschino on his advertising campaigns from the late Eighties until Moschino’s death in 1994.

“The fashion world was more conservative back then and he was completely new. His idea was to make fun of the fashion world through his pictures but it wasn’t just this — it was something deeper,” said Pandini.

Some believe the reason Moschino’s campaigns were appreciated was because they weren’t about fashion. In fact, they were revolutionary at the time, and set the stage for many more recent “social cause” advertising campaigns, from brands like Benetton, Kenneth Cole, Diesel and others. While not all subsequent “cause” campaigns were on the same wavelength, Moschino’s certainly broke the ice, and got the public thinking about fashion linked with causes or controversy, say observers.

A Diesel executive characterized Moschino’s ads as “groudbreaking for the time.”

“Diesel’s have been controversial, too, but for different reasons — for Diesel it was all about irony and sarcasm and playing on that,” he said. “I think Moschino was saying something different. Moschino was always perfectly in line with his company and always on the side of provocation. Diesel is more on the side of stimulation and irony and inspiration. Diesel’s ads give people the freedom to interpret the communication. Moschino’s were always tough.”

Tom Savigar, director of trends for London-based forecasting agency Sense Worldwide, said fashion brands often make mistakes in advertising.

“A lot of fashion companies get advertising wrong by styling the whole advertisement around the garment — which they see as the center of the world, but they don’t promote aspiration. That’s where Moschino was different,” said Savigar.

Pier Alvise Bragadin, who was creative director for the advertising agency J. Walter Thompson and is a professor of copywriting in Milan’s Academia of Communications, agrees.

“It is difficult for advertising people, who live and work with strategy, synergy, target, benefit and the reason why, to understand completely the fashion world. Print fashion advertising is usually a very simple photo of a model with just one word. Moschino wasn’t like this. I’ve always liked the Moschino advertising for the outstanding originality and creativity, often kitsch — so kitsch…that’s chic! — but above all, for the constant strategy staying faithful to the wanted image, and synergy of the Moschino messages in any media,” said Bragadin.

The designer handled the creative direction of the advertising from the beginning, and the campaigns were shot by an in-house photographer under his guidance.

Moschino’s current creative director, Rossella Jardini, said the ads were solely the designer’s domain.

“For the advertising campaigns, Franco was thinking by himself, in his head. He had a clear idea of what he wanted,” Jardini said, “so he became a photographer and shot lots of pictures after that.”

The designer himself also figured in many of the company’s campaigns, starting in 1985, when he donned a cowboy hat and jangly gold earrings.

Moschino wore a blond curly wig for the company’s spring 1989 campaign. He starred in a picture for every line — wearing fishnets for Moschino Tights, sandals for Moschino Shoes, plaits for Moschino Junior and a piece of heavy rope on his muscled chest for Moschino Ties.

“The Marilyn Monroe wig campaign was intended to shock a little bit, but he wasn’t interested in how people reacted. It was a moment of his life when he felt very handsome and he was physically very fit,” said Jardini.

Photographer Pandini, who took those pictures, said he would never forget the shoot.

“We did the wig shoot one day in the studio in October 1988. We had been taking pictures of models and the clothes for a couple of days and then Franco decided he wanted me to take a portrait of him, and he brought out this wig. At first, I thought he was joking.”

Following the shoot, Moschino took pictures of the company’s employees, including the kitchen ladies, and insisted on styling everyone. Jardini was the only one allowed to dress in what she wanted.

Then came the statements. Moschino began to drive his advertising with slogans like “Stop the fashion system” in spring 1990, and featured a model with a question mark painted on her back for fall 1990. This was followed by a spate of campaigns with pictures of baby seals under the tag line “…and me?” and such declarations as “say no to racism!” and “No to violence!”

After Moschino’s death, advertising remained in-house. HIV awareness was promoted alongside Cheap & Chic. Jardini said that at the time, the advertising was a problem for the company because no one knew what to do.

“After he died, the campaigns became the most difficult thing to approach because it was his arena,” said Jardini.

Eventually the advertising was handled by French agency Publicis et Nous from spring 1999 until spring 2002.Publicis et Nous continued in the same vein as Moschino’s past campaigns with black-and-white shots of models holding picket signs stating “Will fashion be the new opium of the people?” and “Health warning: Fashion abuse can cause fashionitis.”

Then came a definite turn toward glamour in 2000, and with it, an injection of gloss and color and modeling by Helena Christensen and Devon Aoki.

Those ideas are set to move forward, as the house has enlisted Mario Testino to shoot the campaign for fall.

“Mario never knew Franco but he thinks in the same way,” said Jardini. “Franco was a unique person who still has this ironic presence in the fashion world — people who never met him said he had something special.”