(EN) Brains are the New Beauty


(EN) Brains are the New Beauty


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It’s not uncommon for fashion brands to choose rail-thin models or zeitgeist-defining It Girls to grace their ad campaigns.  But when French fashion label Céline anointed revered 80-year-old author Joan Didion as their latest brand ambassador, the choice raised a few eyebrows with style pundits (and among Botox-reliant fashion set, it’s no small feat to raise an eyebrow!).  Photographed by Juergen Teller, the ad features Didion on a couch, her face obscured by oversized sunglasses, wearing a gold pendant and black turtleneck. Free of make-up, she’s full of poise.

The image not only generated publicity, it tapped into a set of signifiers about Joan Didion – intelligence, austerity, maturity, coolness – that echo Céline’s brand values. Céline’s creative director Phoebe Philo has carefully crafted a chic-sleek aesthetic for her brand. Her clothes are sophisticated, stark and lauded for their precise designs. Steadfast in her vision for the brand, Philo’s decision to have Joan Didion front the 2015 campaign has proven to be an inspired one. In partnering with the iconic author, Céline has enhanced its own image, bestowing the fashion brand with a cool-by-association hipness.

Just as Céline was unveiling its new poster girl, Calvin Klein was trumpeting the arrival of its latest underwear model, Justin Bieber. If Didion is an aspirational figure signifying intelligence, grace and sophistication, Bieber personifies an entitled, spoiled brat who exists in a showbiz bubble. In contrast to Céline, Calvin Klein’s approach seemed dated, a desperate throwback to Mark Wahlberg’s 1992 campaign of toned torsos and black-and-white images.

While Céline toys with our expectations and challenges advertising norms, Calvin Klein fashions the tried and true.

(Photo Credit: Céline)

Paul Calder

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