SPRING: THE CREAM OF THE CROP

Byline: Lisa Lockwood / Karen Parr

NEW YORK — The Europeans touched a nerve this spring.
In an informal poll of creative directors, designers, retailers and apparel executives, Prada was cited most frequently as the “favorite” campaign of the spring season, followed equally by Valentino, Louis Vuitton and one U.S. company, Kenar.
Executives cited the mood and intense colors of the Prada ads shot by Glen Luchford; the slick and surreal quality of the Louis Vuitton ads, the richness and opulence of Valentino with model Amy Wesson, and the gender-bending surprise element of Kenar, featuring Linda Evangelista.
Honorable mention goes to Gucci for its sensual images and Levi, Strauss & Co., which was cited for its clever TV spots. In one, a guy and a girl are on an elevator and are fantasizing about each other (from dating, marriage to childbirth in a flash) and when the elevator opens, they’re exhausted and go their separate ways.
Here’s what media-savvy folks had to say about their favorite campaigns this season — excluding their own.
Paul Gigante, founder, Gigante Vaz Partners, a New York ad agency: “I think Prada’s doing a good job of moving beyond their previous offbeat celebrity campaigns. The photos and the look of the brand are starting to be closer to what the clothes are like. The ads are more intense, and there’s more drama and emotion and just the right look.”
Simon Doonan, senior vice president of creative services, Barneys New York: “There are only so many ways to shoot a frock, and unfortunately, the bulk of what’s out there is overly pensive and lacking in concept.
“I like the Valentino ads, which I assume were inspired by Balthus paintings. The color was great, they were very arresting and creepy in just the right way. I love the shiny faces and crinkled hair. There was clearly a concept there, although the men’s wear took a back seat.
“Dolce & Gabbana wasn’t bad. They seem to have gotten more in touch with their Sophia Loren-Sicilian je ne sais quoi.”
Susan Lazar, designer: “I thought Prada was beautiful. It looked fresh and new. It was nice to see color being so strong — the intensity of it. It was gorgeous and so powerful.
“I also liked Cerruti [with Kate Moss]. For me, it’s what draws you in. The simplicity, beauty and freshness attracted me.”
Sam Shahid, partner, Shahid & Co., a New York ad agency: “My favorite was Prada. I think it’s so beautiful, sensual and romantic. I also liked some of the Gucci ads, and Louis Vuitton was really eye-catching. I also liked Calvin Klein’s sunglasses and khakis ads. I like the coloring of it and the photography by Craig McDean.”
Steven Alan, owner of two Steven Alan boutiques in New York and a showroom bearing his name: “I think probably the Prada ads. Those are very effective. Because she [model Amber Valletta] had a certain sex appeal. It was a smoky background, like a dewy kind of atmosphere. It seems like there are more artistic interpretations of the models and clothing instead of the traditional advertising that you would see in those cover girl shots.”
Barbara Dente, partner, Dente & Cristina, a New York ad agency: “I liked the Kenar ads with Linda Evangelista kissing herself. It caused you to notice it. I also loved Valentino. It’s that very rich and opulent ad shot by Steven Meisel with Amy Wesson. I just thought it was very beautifully done and very different from any other advertising.”
Ned Ambler, casting agent, Ned Ambler Pictures and Casting: “The most amazing thing I’ve seen for a couple of months was the full page insert for Valentino in the New York Times — it was something like 20 pages — with Amy Wesson eating the fruit. That was genius. I love the Gucci, Mario Testino ads. But the Valentino was just so ill and the fact that it was 20 pages of an ad was just the most outrageous thing.”
Ed Taussig, group creative director, Grey Advertising: “There’s so little good stuff out there. But two things I really liked. I liked the Gucci stuff. Finally, they’ve grown into their haute Eurotrash image. It finally captures the essence of that ennui. It’s beautifully shot and very moody and I finally get it. The return to Studio 54 is complete.
“I also liked Linda Evangelista in the Kenar ad when she’s male and female. What it is is the essence of narcissism. It makes you stop and do a double take, and let’s face it, that’s what fashion advertising is primarily for.”
Sharon Segal, owner of Fred Segal, Los Angeles: “I thought the Levi’s TV ads were really great. The guy in the operating room, when everybody’s singing, and the other one where the guy and girl are in the elevator, and they flash to what the guy’s thinking, and then to what the girl’s thinking, and then they go their separate ways.”
Ellis Verdi, president, De/Vito Verdi, a New York ad agency: “I really like the Levi’s commercials best, especially the elevator spot. I always like advertising where there’s a surprise. It gave a great surprise. What I don’t like is another pretty face, or a cheap trick in order to get attention, like Candie’s. The bottom line is to drive home a strong idea and concept, and the surprise gives you memorability.”
Norma Kamali: “Louis Vuitton. I love that kind of lighting, it had a glowing kind of thing about it. It was unique and different.”
Betsey Johnson: “We’re planning on major advertising, so boy are we watching the ads. My favorite was the new Louis Vuitton ad of that blonde-banged girl. What’s interesting is that Vuitton, whose ads I can’t remember at all, are getting exciting, but holding on to their classic image in a colorful way.
“The styling was great and the model looked real, but unreal. Her stance was very strange; she had that high polished, almost fake mannequin look. It was slick, polished, but had a surrealism. It was like a surreal Magritte fantasy. Apparently it’s due to the photographer, Inez Van Lamsweerde.
“I’m just tired of all those happy people smiling and laughing in ads — or strange people. All those people who are either like, ‘We’re having fun,’ or either, ‘I don’t care’ — those ads look old to me.”
Allen B. Schwartz, chief executive officer and designer at ABS: “I thought Tommy Hilfiger was terrific. I liked the youth represented in a lifestyle, athletic, clean-cut way. It was hip, athletic and fashionable. It represents young people who can be in a Ralph Lauren ad when they grow up. It brings a credibility to the fashion business and doesn’t shock your soul.”
Donny Deutsch, president and ceo, Deutsch Inc., a New York ad agency: “Nobody has broken any new ground this year. Two years ago, Prada and Gucci got very hot, and then Donna Karan did her image thing. But now it’s a continuation. There are no striking new fashion statements, so no new fashion creative. It’s a real overall blah.”
Alisa Bellettini, executive producer of MTV’s House of Style: “I love the Polo ones with Naomi and Tyson, because you can actually see the clothes — and they both look amazing. I like to see clothes in an ad and very rarely do you see clothes anymore.
“I like the Hermes ad with the woman crouched down with the baby tied to her back with a scarf. That photo is really beautiful, and it’s cool on their part to show their scarves that way instead of the traditional way.
“And I always love Kenar. Linda Evangelista is the best model in the world.”

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