Byline: Miles Socha / Robert Murphy

PARIS — “Everyone wants to look sexy; they don’t like to look a frump. That doesn’t sell.”
That’s John Galliano describing the images he and Nick Knight did of a sweaty, greasy-stained Angela Lindvall for the Christian Dior spring campaign.
But he also summed up the French designer campaigns. Everywhere are bare backs, partially exposed breasts and provocative poses. Even buttoned-up Hermes is showing a bit of skin this season.
Still, houses insist they’re not resorting to basic instincts and a simple sex-sells formula, insisting their campaigns depict women in full command of their sexual powers and asserting unmistakable confidence.
Galliano, for example, stressed that the antics of models Lindvall and Amy Wesson, who pose with Dior’s “Cadillac handbags” in a vintage car, were meant to look very natural and believable.
As reported, Dior actually shot four mini-campaigns to coincide with the deliveries and window displays of different aspects of the collection “so you’re not seeing the same image right until the bitter end of the season,” Galliano explained. “And it gives more coherence.”
“Sexy, provocative, powerful and glamorous” are the words Celine’s Lucien Goddet, director of communications, used to describe its campaign. “It’s definitely sexy, but the woman is powerful, too,” he said.
The studio shots by Michael Thompson feature model Karolina Kurkova in a variety of sultry poses, including one of her leaning way forward in a strapless dress.
There is plenty of skin at Louis Vuitton, too. “The campaign reflects the brand’s strong identity with travel,” said Gianluca Brozzetti, president of the house. Shot by Patrick Demarchelier in Paris, New York and Milan, the campaign shows models wearing outfits from the spring collection in recognizable sites in each city. Behind the models are outdoor ads showing the models hiding their nude bodies behind a Vuitton bag.
“It’s about modern nomads,” said Brozzetti. “And it’s the first time it combines our traditional leather goods products with the ready-to-wear. It’s a new direction for the house that we intend to continue: featuring leather goods and clothing in the same image.”
Elsewhere, images range from playful to voyeuristic.
Chloe designer Stella McCartney again enlisted photographer Taryn Simon, shooting model Melissa White on a beach in Harbor Island with a group of horses, echoing the prints on many of her clothes. “The concept of the campaign was simply to reflect the attitude of the collection: sexy, powerful and humorous,” McCartney said.
The campaign for Emanuel Ungaro’s top line, shot by Mario Sorrenti, references “Last Tango in Paris” and depicts a woman alone in an empty apartment. Giambattista Valli, Ungaro’s creative director, said the femininity on display is “intimate, natural and real” and the photos are supposed to evoke the personal sensation of silk on skin.
The Givenchy campaign, shot by Annie Leibovitz in Nashville, springs naturally from the collection’s masculine-feminine theme and has model Jacqueta Wheeler playing the male character in mannish suits while Annie Morton is all coy in frothy, sexy dresses.
But some houses downplay the sexy factor.
“It’s not about sex. It’s about self-confidence,” said Nathalie Gervais, creative director of Nina Ricci, whose black-and-white spring campaign highlights back-baring and ultrashort dresses.
“To play with sex appeal in an outrageous way lacks depth. It’s more about a woman being seductive for herself rather than the other.”
For the second season running, Karl Lagerfeld shot Angela Lindvall for the Chanel campaign. And even if there is a sexy edge to the photos, shot digitally in Biarritz, Eric Pfrunder, director of fashion image for the house, said that was not the principle message the house was trying to convey.
“It’s more about a young, modern woman who can feel and look great in the clothes. The sexy side, I don’t really see it. It’s more contemporary than that: a woman who is beautiful but also powerful and in control.”
Hermes director of house image, Stephan Wargnier, said its spring campaign was based on “the meeting of our products with the natural elements.” And even if the campaign features a little skin, Wargnier was quick to point out that they are not overtly sexual in nature. “Sexy is not a key word in the Hermes vocabulary,” he said. Instead, he pointed out, photos taken by American photographer John Clang were designed to communicate movement. “We are more interested in expressing the sensual side of the products, their quality, than sexiness.”

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