Byline: Lisa Lockwood

NEW YORK — Prada rocks and Yves Saint Laurent’s androgynous campaign is a winner, but the majority rules that the Gap has the best ads this season, according to a spot check of fashion and advertising executives.
Asked to name their favorite fashion or beauty campaign this season — in print or TV — most cited the Gap’s magnetic but simple spots populated by young people in vests or corduroys, singing catchy tunes (“Mellow Yellow,” and “Dress You Up,”). Designers and execs cited the authenticity of the commercials, the “real people” approach and the way they all tie together through Gap’s print, outdoor, TV, web site and stores.
Prada’s outdoorsy executions on rocky terrain, Burberry’s mix of contemporary and traditional, Yves Saint Laurent’s surrealist women’s and men’s ads and the Gucci Rush colorful and passionate print ads, as well as Gucci’s Mylar insert, were other crowd pleasers.
Louis Vuitton was noted for its playful ads that show, for example, a woman’s high-heeled shoe planted on a man’s head, while Dolce & Gabbana got some votes for its Italian mama images. Cole-Haan’s newest execution of its footwear and handbags photographed in outdoor settings was also cited.
Here’s what they liked, and, as usual, self-congratulation was against the rules.

Stefani Greenfield, owner of Scoop: “One of my favorite campaigns is the new Gap one for ‘In Vests’ and ‘In Cords,’ especially with the Madonna song. I thought it was really clever. I also think the new Target campaign, ‘Hello Kitty,’ is really fun.”

Norma Kamali: “By far and away, the Gap. It’s smart, it’s great looking and it connects not only to TV and print, but brilliantly to its web site. The store and the music connect to the visual images. It keeps it connected to what you hear when you see a print ad. Nobody is coming close to that.”

Betsey Johnson: “They all seem the same, but to me, the best is the Gap TV ads. They’re hip and they’re about real people.”

Doug Lloyd, owner of Lloyd & Co.: “It’s a slim season out there. To me, the one thing that kind of stood out was the Saint Laurent ad because it’s black and white, when everyone’s doing color. It had a sleek chicness to it and had a twist with it that made it modern.”

Tommy Hilfiger: “I think the Gucci campaign is great. The clothes are as far on the edge as anyone can possibly imagine. I loved the Mylar page in some of the magazines — there was a real point of difference.”

Marc Jacobs: “I liked Yves Saint Laurent. I just think it’s nice to see the glamour that’s coming through and the way they tie the men’s and women’s together. It has the excitement of the glamour of the Seventies that Rive Gauche did. It looks right and I love the androgny. It makes it sexy and cool.”

Kal Ruttenstein, senior vice president, fashion direction, Bloomingdale’s: “One of my favorites is the Old Navy vest commercial with Carrie Donovan, and the other is the corduroys, vests and leathers from the Gap with the singing kids.”

Madonna Badger, owner of Badger Worldwide Advertising: “Definitely Fendi. I think it really feels so fantastic. It’s the picture in the middle with white borders and fabulous colors coming off the side. It feels like the 21st century to me. I love how they handled the logo. It really hit me over the head and feels like the future, not corny. Evian is another big love. It makes water into a beauty accessory.”

Bill Blass: “Abercrombie & Fitch. It’s fresh, strong and memorable.”

Diane Von Furstenberg: “I think the ads this season are nice and fresh and young. We’ve gone away from the decadent. It looks clean and refreshing and there’s a good feeling for the new season. In the end, the strongest of them is the Gap because it’s so straightforward and so direct. I think Mickey Drexler is just a genius.”

Neil Kraft, partner, Fierson, Mee & Kraft: “I think it’s pretty depressing. It’s the same thing. Prada and Gucci are doing something new, but everyone else does what the fashion photographer of the moment does. The Gap’s TV commercials are memorable, but I’d vote for Prada.”

Simon Doonan, creative director, Barneys New York: “I’m sure everybody said the Gap. The Gap is really fun, but what sticks most in my mind, putting the Gap aside — not that it [the Gap] is so great, but the penetration is staggering. I’ve been in Europe and everyone is in vests. It’s shocking how much they spend on media — I really like the Burberry ads I’ve seen so far. I like that they’re humorous and seem to be marrying the traditional side of Burberry with a contemporary take on it, with some humor. I also love the fact they use Meredith Etherington Smith, the Christie’s bigwig. They have her and Kate Moss in the same photograph. It’s genius and a lot more fun than having a slew of predictability. It has a nonchalance to it. So much out there is over-art directed and humorless and makes my teeth itch. It’s not really marketing, but self-referential masturbation. The Burberry ads are a breath of fresh air.”

Charles DeCaro, partner, Laspata DeCaro: “Prada on the rocks with a twist. I love it. It’s very bold and new and it’s visually arresting. It redefines trompe l’oeil. It’s the most exciting of all.”

Nicole Farhi: The British designer singled out Mario Testino’s ad for Gucci printed on transparent paper with a page of silver metallic behind it. “The image is punchy and sexy, and I love the process — the transfer on transparent paper with the silver paper behind it.”

Barbara Dente, partner, Dente & Christina: “I don’t think it’s a great season for ads. I don’t think there’s anything very original. I liked Rush by Gucci because I think it caught the emotion, and of course, Calvin. He always comes up with something. I like his CK Jeans. I think he’s always right on the cutting edge. I still love the Louis Vuitton ads. They have a great look. I think they’re clean and modern and make you stop.”

Todd Oldham: “I like the Prada and the Miu Miu campaigns, the surreal quality and the hyper-reality aspect of the photography. I like how they’ve styled the models, they’re very glossy and shiny, which makes them even more unrealistic.”

Sam Shahid, owner of Shahid & Co.: “I love the ads for It’s of the kid watching a guy throw up in a trash can. It’s hysterical. It brings your attention to it. I also like Louis Vuitton’s campaign of the shoe on a guy’s head. I think the Gap is still doing some good stuff, especially the vests campaign with the Madonna song.”

Richard Kirshenbaum, chairman, Kirshenbaum, Bond & Partners: “I like three things. I like the Evian campaign. It creates a vibrant image for the company. It’s not a fashion product, but a fashion statement. I’ve always admired what Louis Vuitton has done. What’s so interesting about the brand is they’ve been able to take a brand that’s been around over 100 years and keep it cutting edge. They’ve done a great job from an image and product point of view. I like the Gap TV a lot. They’ve done a great job at being able to sell by focusing on a product and keeping it fresh.”

Isaac Mizrahi: “I love the Gap just because it has much more to do with things other than fashion than it has to do with fashion. It acknowledges the whole world. It’s ‘unfashion,’ not ‘anti-fashion.”‘

John Bartlett: “I think the one that struck me the most is the Gap campaign on TV, especially the ‘Mellow Yellow’ one for corduroys. It tells you everything, without needing to say anything.”

Peter Arnell, chairman, Arnell Group: “I adore the surrealist approach that Yves Saint Laurent did with the mask. That is absolutely fantastic. It really is a great campaign and it’s got this androgyny thing going. It’s fantastic and sexy, and shows where you really are, your face to the world. There are some really powerful messages going on.”

Mike Toth, owner, Toth Brand Imaging: “I love Kate Spade’s stuff. I just think it feels American and modern. How do you take a bag like hers and define it. I love the fact that they take it to suburbia. I love that the bags are part of the landscape.
“I also love Burberry. I like what they’ve done in terms of branding. I really like Cole-Haan. It’s just a fresh way of looking at footwear. It’s black and white, clean, beautiful and tasteful. There’s just enough background to know where you are, but it doesn’t fill in all the blanks and is done tastefully.
“Dolce & Gabbana rocks, with the old fat ladies, the Italian mamas. It’s done with the video cameras. I love the story. It’s an engaging story. It feels kind of modern, but looks back on its Italian heritage. I also love the Gucci Rush stuff. It’s bold and powerful and its passion stops you.”

Cynthia Steffe: “I’ve been watching Dolce & Gabbana for a couple of seasons, and I particularly like what they’ve been doing, especially this season in black and white. Last season it was a kitschy campaign with room settings. They’re always very much about human relationships. You look at the story being told and try to figure out what it means. This time it’s black and white in a season of color. There’s an Italian mama wearing black lace talking over a clothesline to Giselle who’s wearing Dolce & Gabbana. It’s very old world, but it has very digital images, as well, mixing a modern sensibility. A second one shows the mama lying on the couch and her daughter giving her a big kiss.”

Jill Glover, president and owner, Jill Glover Creative Services: “I have to say Banana Republic is having its defining moment. They’ve come into their own. It’s charming and irreverent and conceptual. The way they illustrate a product and its attributes. They employ great writing and photography and the casting is ‘right there.’ Their whole strategy, through their TV, outdoor and print, achieves good brand recognition. The whole campaign feels solid and unified and moving forward.
“I also love Levi’s with Lauryn Hill. Things that connect the product to the culture in a meaningful way. It describes the Levi’s lifestyle.
“I also love Cole-Haan. I think the way he places the product in certain situations defines the Cole-Haan personality and lifestyle. It really stimulates the imagination. I liked Gucci’s use of metallic in its insert. I also like Ralph Lauren’s Collection campaign. I think the photography is beautiful, the product looks incredible.”

Carrie Donovan: “I can’t think of any ads that were so outstanding. Everything’s seemed sort of subdued this time.”