From Chic to Shock : the porno chic phenomena in Luxury.

“Luxury is not the contrary of poverty but of vulgarity”

This famous quote from Chanel illustrated well the concept on what Luxury brands built their image. It is true, when you think about luxury products you probably associate words like glamor, class, prestige or elegance. Those represent the criterias upon which Luxury brands built their reputation. The luxury brand communication must transpose those criterias in order to convince the costumers that the product is « haut de gamme ».

And yet at the beginning of the 2000’s, some brands tried to break those rules, using codes in their publicity that are extremely far away from the classical ones; the porno chic was born. The porno chic is usually defined as a trend that affects the Luxury advertising, using shocking and degrading representation of women and drawing a narrative violent message. Porn and Chic, two opposite words that yet made a big noise in luxury industry.

So how did such a trangression in the classical codes appear?

Carine Roitfeld and Tom Ford

Carine Roitfeld and Tom Ford

Well I think first that it is due to the context of democratization of television and movies that allows sex and violence to become common in our daily life. Moreover, luxury industry at that time was very competitive and the brands, because they belong to the same universe, have to be more and more innovative in the way they promote their products. Those two elements reunited, it just needed someone to pull the trigger. It is not actually one but three people that made possible the rise of porno chic in luxury : Tom Ford, Carine Roitfeld and Mario Testino. The story began in 1995 in Gucci when Tom Ford became the creative director. He decides to bring the stylist Carine Roitfeld and the photographer Mario Testino to his team. Those three initiated the porno chic trend with the Shocking Gucci campaign of 2003. The publicity puts in performance a guy kneeling down and taking off the panty of a woman, revealing her branded waxing ; G for Gucci

Gucci 2003 campaign

With Tom Ford, Gucci became an active brand in porno chic. But many others followed, Yves Saint Laurent, Dolce & Gabanna and even the prestigious Dior ride the wave of porno chic.

In those publicities, the product is not the central attention anymore. Sometime we don’t even understand what is the product (cf Gucci image). The porno chic is not selling a product but more about offering a sensation, a new experience. The goal for the brands is to shock or at least provoke the attention of the viewers. They are aware of the consequences and bad buzz it can create. But they totally assume it because they know it will increase the awareness of the brand.

More than ten years after the birth of porno chic, luxury industry has operated another shift. The context has changed and nowadays the Brands returned to a more classical tone and just few are still using porno chic in some campaigns.

The proof that in advertising  like in fashion, something that is trendy one day can become has-been the day after.

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