In many ways, Marc Jacobs print ads are the anti-fashion fashion ad. The natural lighting is often overexposed, and looks as if it could have been taken with a regular point-and-shoot camera, the flash bouncing off surfaces. The models chosen are usually not models models, but quirky muses who work in other professions, like White Stripes drummer Meg White, or beak-nosed indie actress Tilda Swinton. Also, these ads look like they couldn't care less about showing off the clothes. Whatever Marc Jacobs clothes are photographed look incidental, as if they just happened to be there.
One of the greatest examples of a Marc Jacobs ad is the Spring/Summer 2004 campaign, which stars older 60-something British actress Charlotte Rampling. The baby-faced Teller, a few decades Rampling's junior, also joins in on the fun of being photographed. The ads show Teller and Rampling cozying up together, as if languishing post-coitus, in a lavish hotel room.
There's one photograph in particular, showing a near-naked, chubby Teller in bed cradled by Rampling in a motherly embrace, that I find kind of sweet and bizarre. It makes you wonder if this isn't just the photographer's public display of indulging his latent Oedipal complex rather than fulfilling his professional duties. Aside from Rampling's unremarkable, beige sweater (Question: Who shows a plain sweater in a fashion ad? Marc Jacobs, that's who!), and Teller's corny white shiny boxers, there is no clothing on display here. And Teller's big-boned rump isn't exactly a selling point for going out to buy some Marc Jacobs boxers, if you know what I mean.
This ad demonstrates what I like about Marc Jacobs ads in general: they're playful, joyous, and they simply don't care. They appear more interested in showing you some interesting people playing around, rather than in actually selling clothes.
That being said, I was a bit surprised by the current spring/summer 2009 Marc Jacobs ads. For one, it features a professional model, Raquel Zimmerman, dressed up head to toe in Marc Jacobs designs. You can see the clothes very well — they're deliberately styled and on display, from handbags to shoes.
My guess is that the recession has something to do with it. The brand Marc Jacobs hasn't been doing great commercially (the cheaper diffusion brand, Marc by Marc Jacobs is usually the one that sells), and during a Recession, it has to be doing a little worse. So instead of employing little-known muses, this time, they decided to go with a professional, well-known model and set up shoots that actually show off the clothes.
I can't blame the business sense behind this decision, but I hope the real Marc Jacobs ads come back soon.
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About the reviewer
I'm a curious foodie, a devout fashion gawker, and an unrepentant print nerd. I work at one of the last mainstream commercial magazines that's still printing. Other things … more
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It was only meant to be Charlotte Rampling in the photo, but Teller couldn't resist. Why should he? He was the creative mind behind this iconic ad campaign. Shot in a suite at the Hotel Crillon in Paris, Teller cast himself as the male role, but couldn't fit into any of the clothes, except for a pair of silver hot pants. It worked out, in the end.