Wednesday, June 15, 2011

LV’s swamp ambition

Today Thursday, June 16, 2011, Page 6, Entertainment
Source Website:
Stephen Armstrong, THE GUARDIAN,, 04:47 AM Jun 16, 2011

PHOTO: Angelina Jolie stars in Louis Vuitton's new campaign.
Today Thursday, June 16, 2011, Page 6, Entertainment

What is the luxury label saying by featuring Angelina Jolie in a Cambodian swamp?
THE new Louis Vuitton campaign is odd. The bag company has always sent expensive photographers to beautiful places to shoot gorgeous vistas. This time round it's Angelina Jolie sans makeup in a wooden boat in a swamp.

"People are not used to seeing Angelina in this situation," vice-president Pietro Beccari told Women's Wear Daily. Which is sort of true.

The ad was shot by photographer Annie Leibovitz in Cambodia and we're all pretty used to seeing Angelina in that neck of the woods. There was Tomb Raider 1 and 2, obviously, then founding an animal sanctuary and picking up Rath Vibol from an orphanage in Battambang to become the boy we all know as Maddox Chivan. I think Beccari meant that we haven't seen her without make-up.

The response has not been one of unguarded rejoicing. Some have argued that if you travel upriver in a very poor country with mosquitos and ferocious river beasts threatening your life and sanity, you might not want to take a £7,000 (S$14,000) bag with you. Perhaps using poor countries as the backdrop to show off your luxury goods isn't in the best possible taste?

All the same, it's hard to be mean to Jolie. She did give a tidy chunk of the pay cheque - reported to be US$10 million (S$12.3 million) - to charity. And all the caring celebrities are doing Vuitton's Core Values campaign these days.

Why? As the Wall Street Journal explained when reporting how poor old Louis Vuitton had two ads banned by the UK's Advertising Standards Authority for implying they were handmade when they weren't, luxury brands' emphasis on worthiness, authenticity and history is an advertising trend that has emerged in the post-economic-crisis period.

Experts say there is evidence that consumers favour labels with a rich heritage because they are seen as more enduring. Hence Gucci's ongoing Forever Now campaign using black-and-white photographs taken in its Florence workshop in 1953 by Foto Locchi.

Heritage is moot. After all, Vuitton financed Petain's Vichy government in the World War II, with Henry Vuitton one of the first Frenchmen to be decorated by the Nazi-backed regime for his loyalty and efforts for them.

To be fair, Vuitton has no truck with fascist sympathisers these days. The company supports a huge list of charities - all fashion brands do, explains Colin McDowell, who is curating Masters Of Style, Peroni's exhibition of Italian fashion advertising at Somerset House in London.

"It's all part of the illusion that we're doing someone somewhere some good when we pay £7,000 for a bag."
By Stephen Armstrong, THE GUARDIAN,, 04:47 AM Jun 16, 2011