Fashion: a world where logic is eclipsed by magic

It's Fashion Show season so what can advertising learn from the creativity on display?

By Elliot Leavy

Today marks the end of Milan’s Fashion Week and in many ways it was different to any that came before.

Not only was there no leopard print in a Dolce & Gabbana show, but this year’s international fashion weeks have seen a rise in metaversal experimentation.

As Domenico Dolce said: “Because of our age, we are outsiders”, alongside Gabbana who added that, “the metaverse is for a different generation, but we are curious about it. You have to try and understand what is new”.

Indeed, it is the curiosity and courage with which fashion approaches creativity that it is best known for. Which is why we asked advertisers and marketers what advertising can learn from this form of expression.

Vicki Maguire, CCO, Havas London

I remember when I first got into advertising, I’d got a fashion background but the creatives I worked with universally dismissed fashion adverting as fluffing, lacking an idea. A new generation now lead the way and we’re lagging behind. Fashion is treating the metaverse as their new catwalk, NFTs as their calling cards and we’re left looking like last seasons stonewash. If we can take anything from fashion is its fearlessness. Experimentation is fashion's lifeblood - when we’re at our best its ours too.

I can see Central St Martin's from my agency window. The future looks rosy, with a hint of aquamarine.

Harjot Singh, global chief strategy officer, McCann

Sensational and sublime at once, creativity in fashion teaches us how to be current and enduring in the way we can draw from culture to land in culture in the most expansive way.

To be simultaneously elitist and populist in the way an idea shapes up and shows up in the world is a superpower that few have mastered like the creative stalwarts in fashion have.

If there is one thing we can all learn from creativity in fashion it is to appreciate and value the role craft plays in captivating us.

In my observation, creativity in fashion is about being unrelenting in the pursuit of elevating and expressing a clearly defined stance and point of view through meticulous craft and exacting taste; all brought to life in the most thoughtfully curated platforms, channels, and contextual settings.

It is about commanding attention and creating desire with a visual vocabulary so precise and so enticing that it can taunt us and soothe us at once. It is about applying creativity in a way that draws you into a world where logic is eclipsed by magic, showing us how to sell a dream, seducing us with an indispensable sense of possibility that defies reason - he possibility of what we might be capable of if only we had those shoes or that coat.

Laura Jordan Bambach, president and chief creative officer, Grey London

The start of Fashion Weeks - Milan, London or New York - signify a season of eagerly awaited new starts. It is all about experimentation and the ways in which fashion is forever adapting year on year.

The most successful fashion houses are those which stick in people’s minds. They do this by coming from a different place, one of lived experiences, of authenticity and one that is always pushing to be different and stand out.

Advertisers, of course, try to stand out by approaching creativity from that same place, but, unlike fashion, they don’t often have clients to answer too.

However, just because we have a message to put across, that doesn’t mean that we should be afraid of failure, nor does it mean we should shy away from challenging the public and putting our own values out there. In fact, great work arises from such tension, and even better work is work that best brings clients on the journey also. Our industry could learn from that swagger of the fashion industry, that is not afraid to fail.

Ultimately, advertising needs to indulge more in that spirit of experimentation. It needs to not be afraid of failure, and have a lot more of "and why not?" rather than "and why?" attitude.

Mark Boyd, founder, Gravity Road

Fashion and advertising are closer than we think.  The same kind of commercial creativity and the music, art directors and production partners we enjoy are often the same.  

It is the cadence of the garment industry that is different.  We’re a reactive creative business.  A brief drops in and the shape of the problem and solution is already being defined by the client.  The creative rhythms of fashion are perhaps more regular with four seasons a year and working seasons two years out.  There is a greater period of upfront creative freedom, for flourishes and outlandish leaps before buyers excerpt their control.

Fashion references are very different and always fun.  I was at a raucous dinner once with some esteemed designers assuring me that the catwalk revolved around eleven key references:  Tron, gypsies, pirates, Mad Max, Grey Gardens and I have disappointedly forgotten the rest.  I’ve kept looking at collections and there is some sense to this.

I think fashion is often a sharper art and has lots to admire. Being both creative and client, the creator of the product binds medium and message tighter together to create ideas that often explode into culture. The bonds of film, screen and celebrity are far closer and fashion creatives are master collaborators. The modern fashion  creative director has become a cultural magician. Alessandro Michele has long been on our Gravity Road hire list for global creative chairman, though he seems to be on a tear himself.

James Kirkham, chief business officer, Defected Records

The rise of Jonny Banger and his Sports Banger fashion brand is a brilliant microcosm of the cultural universe right now, and therefore a great example for advertisers to learn from. This cannot be about wafer thin targeting of an audience, but instead combines real insight of real people and their real passions In this very real world we’re in.

There’s perfect context for his last fashion show, described as a ‘diabolical mix of sportswear couture, techno and organised chaos’. Such a blend simply couldn’t be more appropriate for our time; We’re in the biggest cultural crossover we’ve ever seen. A mad, sprawling primordial soup which fuses fashion with rave culture, sports apparel, open-world gaming, and street art.

Each passion fuels and twists the last, with the mind-bending results spat back out onto channels and platforms wherever best suits audiences. That might be leveraging meme culture on socials or gate-crashing London’s most exclusive of fashionista events.

Brands and advertisers who recognise the creative opportunity of this complex universe and embrace the chaos will be the ones that succeed. Sports Banger used to be the counter-culture and sub-culture alternative. But as our consumption of alternative cultures increases, so these subversive subcultures become the mainstream. And I think our industry will be all the better for it, too.

Brands like Luzozade have now followed in the footsteps of Slazenger (where it all began for Maison De Bang Bang). They’re bold and brave enough to collaborate with a brilliant observational eye. Politically astute but often incendiary too, it is a ‘people’s’ brand with a position against all that is wrong with the establishment whilst producing with real craft and originality.

It is hugely arresting, often comic, exhilarating and super smart, full of witty references to the madness of our times. Where fashion was once out of reach, Sports Banger’s blend of the mundane and the everyday vernacular instead show a lesson to advertisers on the importance of being bold and audacious.


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