“We wanted to partner with an organization with an incredibly robust history of defending LGBTQ+ rights,” Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren said jointly.
Executives at L’Oréal, which holds the V&R fragrance and beauty license, dialogued with the designers.
“We had a lot of discussions about what we could do together as a brand — fashion and fragrances — really to spread the message,” said Guillaume de Lesquen, global president, international designer brand fragrances, at L’Oréal, describing it as one of love, equality, inclusion and acceptance.
The campaign, called “Free to Love, Free to Be Me,” is composed of films made by LGBTQ influencers and activists, includes drag artists Miss Fame and Tia Kofi; choreographer Ryan Heffington; dancer and content creator Donte Colley; life coach and activist Barrett Pall; model and influencer Baptiste Giabiconi; writer and activist Raquel Willis, and transgender activist Geena Rocero.
“With the guidance and partnership of GLAAD, we hope that these stories will resonate with individuals across the globe, putting us one step closer to equality and acceptance,” said the designers. “This partnership is a reflection of the brand’s ongoing effort to advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, as well as a testament to the core values that have shaped the brand since its inception.”
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For the campaign, people were asked to create spots — using GoPros or cell phones — about their interpretation of “freedom.”
“The idea was to tap into what freedom means to us — it’s the ability to be your most authentic self,” said Horsting and Snoeren. “Representation is a fundamental step when it comes to acceptance and equality. We believe that when LGBTQ+ stories are shared authentically and honestly, it creates a positive dialogue around the LGBTQ+ experience. Sharing these authentic stories is a powerful way to challenge stigma and stereotypes that permeate societies throughout the world. For us personally, the importance of advocacy work has of course been informed by our own experience as proud and vocal members of the LGBTQ+ community.
“We chose to partner with a group of talented LGBTQ+ influencers and activists, who will offer a lens into the authentic LGBTQ+ experience,” they continued. “Through these stories, we hope to amplify LGBTQ+ voices and share a message that will resonate with anyone struggling with their identity or acceptance.”
Miss Fame (née Kurtis Dam-Mikkelsen) has had a longstanding relationship with V&R, most recently as an ambassador for its Flowerbomb fragrance.
“Freedom is an evolution of self,” said Miss Fame, explaining the art form of drag was liberating and let their feminine side shine through. “Identifying as a male in the beginning of my journey through drag in my early 20s I really was able to say: ‘This is me here, and this is me here when I’m in full drag.’ But as I’ve continued to explore my femininity through the art form, I’ve discovered that it’s a lot more fluid than that.
“I am exploring my truth, and I am doing a lot of things in private to find my strength,” said Miss Fame. “Sometimes we feel pressured by society to say: ‘I have to own that title today.’ Sometimes you don’t, you’ve just got to take time to yourself and find what feels strong for you in your own bubble, with your own sacred people, where you can say: ‘I’m on a journey.’ You can take your time. Do not feel pressured or obligated to check any boxes. If we can, maybe we’ll remove the boxes, and when we’re ready we say: ‘OK, I found a place that really fits me.’”
For the campaign, the performer and activist filmed at home.
“I was pretty much captured in my own space where I live, think and oftentimes I’m talking to my husband about my fears, frustrations and celebrations — when we have a win,” said Miss Fame. “So having this opportunity to create from my home, I was a bit anxious, because I do protect my sacred place from the public. And also, I wasn’t getting into full, heavy glamour. I wasn’t going full-on Miss Fame mode.
“I was kind of revealing the Kurtis me, which I don’t often let people see,” Miss Fame continued. “I only share myself when I’m not fully glamorized when I feel comfortable doing so. That’s part of my letting-go process — it’s allowing myself to feel I’m enough even without all the embellishment that I’ve created within my relationship to fashion.”
Miss Fame used no wigs and minimal makeup to be camera ready.
“To hold a camera an inch away from my face and pan over this amazing Viktor & Rolf garment — that was super vibrant,” said Miss Fame. “It was very revealing, but maybe this is the perfect moment to be at that level. What’s the point of activism if you can’t strip it all back? Activism isn’t about how you look. It’s about how we feel, and about how we communicate those feelings.”
Miss Fame opted to wear a sheer, hot pink V&R trenchcoat with a fringe, explaining: “It just spoke to me. I’m a fan of any trench, any coat all the time because it’s gender-neutral.”
Along with the coat was worn lace pants, gloves from Miss Fame’s drag bag, glasses and thick-soled shoes.
The “Free to Love” films are to be shared across V&R’s social media platforms, for fashion and beauty, as well as on each influencer’s platform.
There are other elements to the tie-in with GLAAD. The advocacy group is helping train V&R teams worldwide about LGBTQ history and how to accurately and respectfully honor and support that community.
“That’s to make sure that everything we say and do is perfectly aligned with what has to be said today,” said de Lesquen.
There’s also a limited-edition “Pride Up” rainbow-colored bracelet coming as a gift with purchase with the brand’s Spicebomb Infrared eau de toilette. It will be given, too, to 500 of GLAAD’s key supporters and other influential LGBTQ community members.
The V&R brand is to contribute financially to GLAAD annually, while activations with organization will be launched several times throughout the year.
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