When French novelist Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr observed that the more things change, the more they stay the same, he probably didn’t have the amusing antics of Pamela Skaist-Levy and Gela Nash-Taylor in mind.
Known for the playful clothing and maximalist ads they created when they helmed Juicy Couture, the line they founded in 1996 then sold to Liz Claiborne Inc. in 2003 for over $50 million, the designing duo is transporting their irreverent style and sensibility to Millennials in the Internet age. On Friday, they’re launching the first marketing campaign for their year-old contemporary brand, Pam & Gela, in Times Square — all in a digital format.
“In the day when we started Juicy, there was no e-tail, there was no online, it was all magazines,” Nash-Taylor said. “Digital felt like today. You can make it move and come to life with a road and a motorcycle and clouds and oceans and moving eyes.”
Shot against a green screen under the direction of Sophia Banks and lasting long enough for someone stopped at a traffic light to watch, the 30-second video pumped with animation and visual effects follows models Jessica Morrow and Jessica Gomes — the blonde and brunette doppelgänger of Nash-Taylor and Skaist-Levy, friends for 27 years — as they ride a motorcycle in Tencel track suits through the desert and skateboard in their underwear and faux fur coats. Of course, the women who can be credited (or blamed) for bringing velour back in fashion when they were at Juicy included pants in the squishy fabric in the video.
“It’s our story,” said Nash-Taylor, summarizing the film’s script as “two best friends, not apologizing for who they are and having a great time, a little rock ‘n’ roll and humor and definitely California sunshine.”
It’s fitting that the campaign’s tagline is “I’m not sorry,” which first appeared on the brand’s T-shirts, muscle sweatshirts and cashmere sweaters sported by celebrities such as Emma Roberts, Mindy Kaling and Ellie Goulding. “We first did it as a spoof. It was like Juicy on the butt,” said Skaist-Levy.
Emboldened by other feminists, including Amy Schumer, who parodied women’s habit of being overly apologetic in her Emmy-winning comedy show, Skaist-Levy said, “We wanted to support that idea that women don’t need to apologize that much. We’re not sorry.”
“Neither is Hillary Clinton,” added Nash-Taylor, before giggling at her own joke about the Democratic presidential candidate’s e-mail snafu when she headed the U.S. State Department. “It’s just what we think is funny and fun.”
To rally young women to be themselves, they’re encouraging fans to post photos tagged #imnotsorry. The best one wins a free Pam & Gela wardrobe, delivered over the course of a year.
Skaist-Levy and Nash-Taylor don’t play by anyone else’s rules. Last spring, they plastered posters promoting the opening of Pam & Gela’s e-commerce business all over Los Angeles, alongside ads for Seth MacFarlane’s “Ted 2” comedy and Madonna’s “Rebel Heart” album, as if it were a Hollywood event. After introducing their first post-Juicy venture, Skaist-Taylor, for fall 2012, they revamped the line with a new name and lower price points. While at Juicy, Tim Walker photographed ad campaigns that featured elderly ladies in pastel-colored hairdos, a tattooed dude wearing half a ballgown next to a giant perfume bottle and a woman leaning against a pink zebra on the beach.
For Banks, who was a founding partner in influential fashion boutique Satine and cofounder of contemporary line Whitley Kros, the test for getting the job was making dinner conversation with Skaist-Levy and Nash-Taylor about girls skateboarding in high fashion. “We knew that anyone who could talk about this would direct our piece,” said Skaist-Levy.
The ad is scheduled to run in Times Square through March with a brief break for the New Year’s Eve festivities. Skaist-Levy and Nash-Taylor had so much fun at their first green screen shoot — they produced enough material to make 10 videos — that they envision more digital plays in the future.
“We had to dial it down,” said Skaist-Levy. “We wanted to go even more crazy.”