by DAVID BAZNER / 04.28.2015

featuring amber valletta by DNA / photography by GLEN LUCHFORD

PradaARTGL FDM40x30-CMYK copy

Fashion advertisements exist to play-up the fantasy effect of the brand to which they belong. A product of the imagination they serve as a stimulant to the mind, a conglomeration of references that beg the viewer to dive deep into his own past.Emotional connection is crucial to their success and is most readily achieved through points of inspiration that operate as points of connection — film, celebrities, works of art, and songs from days-gone-by come together to form a place of common ground, a perfect balance of familiarity and longing.There’s no denying a longstanding relationship between fashion and art, fashion Photography Credit is no new thing, but highly produced ads with high profile creative direction is a phenomenon that can be pinpointed to the nineteen nineties. As the world’s financial capitals reaped the benefits of market booms, the global demand for high fashion continued to rise.  This was at a time when it was becoming increasingly clear what toll AIDS took when it claimed so much of the industry’s top talent. From a human perspective it was a time of mourning, but within the confines of a capitalist system, business called for innovation and so came ad campaigns informed by the world at large—just as Vogue could no longer rely on the faces of models to grace its covers, neither could fashion advertisements rely on a one dimensional brand image.This marked fashion advertising’s shift away from couture catalogue shots of expensive clothes against plain backdrops and into the realm of cinematic narratives. Steven Meisel’s portrayal of la Dolce Vita featuring Monica Bellucci and Isabella Rossellini for Dolce & Gabbana in ‘92, Herb Ritz’s sculptural take on Christy Turlington for Valentino in ‘95, and Nick Knight’s recreation of a an Orient boundJayne Mansfield in’97 are just a few examples of how times were changing. There was a need for new perspectives, for people who could grow the emotional appeal of brands and breathe new life into established labels.It was a period primed for young talent like Glen Luchford, whose images informed this piece, who came to be widely known at age twenty-five after taking a compelling portrait of Stone Roses frontman Ian Brown. One of those black and white snapshots one might find incredibly moving without being able to articulate why. Void of elaborate aesthetic devices, Brown’s eyes, cheekbones, and mop top hair, call to mind a particular time and place through a combination of poignancy and elegance to give the viewer just enough information to know he’s looking at the line of beauty between rock and grunge. Luchford’s visual sensibility soon captured the attention of fashion’s key players, leading him to eventually land a contract with Prada for the house’s SS’97 campaign alongside creative director David James and model Amber Valetta. A project that’s proven its influence as recently as 2013 when Giles Deacon showed a dress emblazoned with one of the images as part of his spring collection.In the age of brand as religion, the production and presentation of high fashion advertisements requires a level of intuitive thinking on par with that of the filmmaker. Today the world operates with such speed and technological force that ads can no longer focus solely on the product at hand. Now, it’s imperative that there be a storyline that takes the viewer beyond the garment, one that demands the same amount of attention as that of a movie projected onto the big screen. In Luchford’s case, this meant inspiration drawn from David Lynch’s Blue Velvet, and perhaps a touch of high brow tragic beauty borrowed from Delaroche’s floating corpse in La Jeune Martyre. Such cultural touchstones give rise to a body of commercial work that manage to reach beyond fashion’s guardrails with outstretched arms, extending an invitation for all who see to take part. The same method was used in the house’s FW’97 campaign through scenes one could define quite succinctly as “film noir.” An angelic figure lit to life from a sea of black, the unclear fate of a damsel peering through a peephole, and a murderous grand finale unite the photos under a fatalic umbrella replete with equal amounts of style and thrill.His work achieved such narrative effect that it played a central role in the Museum of Modern Art’s first exhibition dedicated solely to fashion Photography Credit just a year after its run date. It was intended to explore a new kind of visual vocabulary, one where, in the words of curator Susan Kismaric, “photographers and advertisers responded to the changing commerce of fashion by abandoning descriptions of the season’s silhouettes and hemlines to tell stories about contemporary life.” If clothing is, in fact, a direction reflection of what’s happening in the world, then it ought to be given the context to match its clout. Though there are some who might think that the clothes can hold their own, that no extraneous pomp and circumstance is needed to give an exquisitely designed dress its proper weight, there just simply aren’t enough of them to keep the lights on. As parents have come to expect more to an art museum than just art by way of children’s activity days and killer gift shops, so to has the fashion consumer come to expect more from a fashion advertising by way of entertainment with popular appeal and cultured roots.Fashion advertisements created by talent like Glen Luchford have brought the business of commodified utilitarian goods that much closer to the world of art. Surely not every lux campaign will have a place on the walls at MoMA, nor should they, but we’ve reached a point where we can no longer afford to look at images as objects of virtue. The healthiest and most fulfilling approach to fashion advertising is one that honors the power of face value and the visceral reaction it commands from within. At the front of this magazine you will find two images of Valetta, taking up pages of what would be prime ad space. In one she wears a nude dress at the bow of a boat and in the other, she stands poised in a foggy wood. Flip back and ask yourself: What stories do they tell? Do they make you take a moment before turning the page? And, if you didn’t know what Prada was before seeing them, are they enough to help you understand what it is? Think of them as being put there for your eyes only, and if they give you something, bring up a feeling, or answered any of the questions you asked yourself, then they’ve done their part.Fashion brands, at least those that fall under the jurisdiction of a multinational, are dictated by what the global market commands. With that, commodity value is leveraged over emotional value, making the dreamers – the artists like Luchford – all the more necessary. Advertising with artful effect must continue. If such a technique ceases to exist then so to does the argument that the clothes we’re looking at are anything more than just clothes.

Prada2-CMYK copy
Prada-NO-5 copy

Ad-Age | MONROWE Magazine

Photography: Glen Luchford
Featuring: Amber Valletta