Figure 1: Jimmy Choo Advertisement vs Pantene Advertisement

What is the power in a story? A story can transport us from reality; when we read a book, or see a film we loose ourselves in the story, we forget the ordinary of everyday life and allow ourselves to dream. Advertising has known for years the power of the story to sell dreams and the no other industry does it better then fashion.

The Late 1980s saw the field of fashion photography shift in what could be seen as its core consumer driven function in a move away from the individual detailing and display of the fashion garment towards a more holistic portrayal of contemporary ways of life. By emphasising an interest on characterising a scene as opposed to simply fashion it made clothing subservient to narrative. Through the true-to-life images designers could employ a dramatisations that played to a reverence for voyeurism that lured young crowds whose fundamental visual perspectives were TV and film. (i.)

To understand some of the conventions that differentiates the fashion image against other advertising images its best if we compare the differences between two. Lets compare the aesthetes and functions of the Jimmy Choo handbag add against something as simple as a shampoo commercial (figure1).

Firstly we should discuss the obvious difference in products and that is the difference in price. The shampoo product costs $5 to $10 while a Jimmy Choo handbag cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. Secondly, its function: shampoo is a daily necessity that offers practical benefits to millions of people whereas the multi-hundred-dollar hand- bags are considered discretionary items marketed for consumers who hold the social position to support such a purchase. The handbag does not offer any obvious practical benefit over an equally functional $50 bag. Alternatively, though the shampoo and its packaging may exhibit good design, it is not an everyday art object, while fashion clothing often is (ii.).

Now to the subject matter. We can see in the shampoo ad a single model positioned in an ambiguous space. The model is there to highlight the results of the product. She is surrounded by the text that includes a separate individual product shot. Alternatively In the Jimmy Choo ad we see an Amazon figure in a leopard-skin swim-suit; a man in a tuxedo floating in the pool, seemingly lifeless, flames burning between the woman’s legs; and the handbag being fished out of the water with a pool hook. The space these characters exist is defined and one way to think about the image is to see it as a moment within an ongoing narrative. The image provides the necessary components to construct a plot and develop characters, which is constructed very differently from the Pantene shampoo ad. There is no text other than the brand, no verbal claim, not even a product identifier. (ii.)

What we see is that the very construction of the fashion ad is to play on this idea of narrative-transportation in the same way film does. A fashion photo is a unique opportunity to add well-considered, fresh details to narratives of desire with beautifully manipulated precision. Selling a story rather helps consumers forget about the price and buy into the dream and not just the individual product.



ii.Phillips, Barbara J. J. and Edward McQuarrie. 2010 Narrative and Persuasion in Fashion Advertising. Journal of Consumer Research