Case Study: Tom Ford

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It seems that advertisements that suggest violence or sex are eerily effective when it comes to generating consumer interest as well as controversy. This is especially true when it comes to the photographs of Tom Ford’s fashion campaigns. Tom Ford is an American fashion designer and film director who gained instant prestige and fame for his turnaround of Gucci and of course his own fashion label.  The Gucci campaign, which got the whole worlds kickers in a twist, featured a woman with a G shaved into her pubic hair. Scandalous! Ford is certainly not afraid to be outrageous which is clear when it comes to campaigns for his own fashion label.

When Ford released his menswear collection in 2007, he cultivated an extremely outrageous, sexually driven yet admittedly stylish advertising campaign to depict it! Shot by Terry Richardson, the female models are seen fully naked, albeit beautiful make-up, styling and heels whilst the male models are dressed in sharp suits. The males are often seen dominating the women whilst women are reduced to their breasts, legs, bums and vaginas to sell Ford’s products.

In addition there is also crotch grabbing, a naked woman doing some ironing and a guy in a suit giving a naked woman a full body massage. The colour red is echoed throughout the campaign thus evoking ideas of passion, blood and sex. Women’s lips darken in colour and become thicker during sexual arousal, which is mimicked through all the girls depicted wearing a glorious red tint on their lips. The model’s complexions are tanned, blemish free and shimmering, evoking ideas of sweat, youth and heat. These images are certainly sexy but much more disturbing elements are cultivated within them: inequality, sexualisation, violence and objectification.

Strength and power are reinforced in Ford’s images by the inequality of nakedness between the sexes. The women are always naked whilst the men wear sophisticated suits. This offers a stereotypical and narrow view of both men and women. The women are deemed the weaker, more vulnerable sex: objects of desire. The women are naked but always with a full face of impeccable make up and polished nails. This shows how that even without clothes women are expected to accentuate their faces for the males’ pleasure. Men meanwhile are deemed powerful, strong and stylish, accentuated through their domineering gestures towards the women and their lack of nakedness. Thus, the inequality of nakedness reflects the inequality between the sexes within society and encourages the patriarchal as a positive.

The images also insinuate violence and stereotypical gender roles. Even in the make-up ads aimed at women, the presence of a male hand on a neck, or rugged face peering behind, all give the impression that the man is still in control. The use of make-up is to please and make women more attractive for men reinforced by the presence of the man in the image. It reinforces that men are always watching and judging. In order to be beautiful and grab a mans attentions one must buy the products and emulate the look demonstrated by the model.

In another image a male is lying on a sofa and a glass containing what appears to be alcoholic is presented on a silver platter beside him. This evokes the impression that a woman, although unseen, is fulfilling her duty by attending to the man’s needs by serving him a drink. This echoes the stereotypical 1950’s depictions of male and female relationships, where the man is dominant and the woman submissive. This is also evident in the image of the woman doing the man’s ironing, a stereotypical female duty.

This repetitive representation of stereotypical gender roles and traits I feel is to blame for society’s casual acceptance of the sexualisation of women, which trivialises acts of violence and nudity. The women in every image of Tom Ford’s campaign are sexualized and dehumanized. Women are reduced to body parts to sell his products, portrayed as being sexually available, seen exclusively through the male gaze. Tom Ford’s campaigns are ideal examples of how fashion advertisements reinforce sexist, stereotypical and unrealistic depictions of both feminine and masculine identities.

The images below were banned giving their derogatory nature. 1 was banned everywhere whilst the childishly provocative ad from 2008 was banned in Italy. You so sure sex sells Ford?

Reference:

Business Insurance (n.a) 9 Controversial Ads That Overshadowed Their Product [online] available from <http://www.businessinsurance.org/9-controversial-ads-that-overshadowed-their-product/#sthash.RXdqr8sF.dpuf> [24 February 2014]

Trend Hunter (2008) Naughty Menswear Ad [online] available from < http://www.trendhunter.com/trends/tom-ford-menswear-ad> [24 February 2014]

Sharp For Men (2011) The Most Scandalous Fashion Ads Ever [online] available from <http://sharpformen.com/culture/fashions-most-controversial-ads/> %5B18 February 2014]

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