Do You Think This Saint Laurent Ad Is Sexist?

Photo: ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images.
The fashion advertising industry knows controversy, good and bad. We highlight their wins — i.e. using different models or new-wave celebrities in progressive and game-changing campaigns — and we report on their lows, like Saint Laurent's latest campaign, which features slim models in a couple of rather compromising positions, wearing little to no clothing. If that sounds about right to you, then you're familiar with how marketing works. Or, you're wise enough to know that sex is still a selling point for European fashion houses. But Parisians aren't having it.
In several tweets under the hashtag '#YSLRetireTaPubDegradante', which translates to 'YSL, Remove Your Degrading Ad,' users call upon the label to take down its latest advertisements. The ads, which come from designer Anthony Vaccarello's debut collection for the brand, feature one model in between the two states of sitting with her legs open and crossed, wearing roller skate heels, with her bottom facing the camera. Another sees a model hunched over a stool, in the same roller skate heels, with no pants on.
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If you consider the history of Saint Laurent's advertisements, and Europe's laissez-faire attitude toward sexuality and how to incorporate it into an image, the images may not seem all that out of place. But, longstanding fans of the brand are comparing it with advertisements of the label's Golden Era, the era of Yves Saint Laurent. In one tweet, a user compares a YSL ad from 1967 to the controversial ad today, pointing out the 50-year differences between how the company represents women. The '60s saw the invention of Yves Saint Laurent's iconic 'Le Smoking' suit, and the accompanying advertisements (included in the tweet) became somewhat like posters for Paris' second-wave feminism movement.
And then there's the ARPP, the French advertising self-regulatory organisation, which wants the images gone A.S.A.P. "We asked the brand and the ad displayer to make changes to these visuals as soon as possible," said ARPP director Stephane Martin to Reuters. Adding that the thinness of the models was also of grave concern, Martin says the advertisements are a serious breach of industry-set rules that hold labels like Saint Laurent accountable for the "dignity and respect in the representation of the person." (In 2015, the label was also in hot water when its ads featuring model Kiki Willem came under fire for similar reasons.)
We've reached out to Saint Laurent for comment and will update this post when we hear back.
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