To stay on top in the fashion industry, designers always seem to push the envelope in their advertisements—seeing just how much more they can get away with when putting out each new ad. Perhaps as a way to make their advertisements stand out, many high-end designers use risqué images to advertise their companies. The way designers see it, using sex appeal in their advertisements can create excitement for the viewers, causing them to be more attracted to the products or label advertised. If anything, their products will gain attention by displaying shocking images, making the brand memorable in people’s minds.
However, when does using sex appeal for advertising go too far? Dolce & Gabbana are Italian fashion designers that use sex appeal often as a strategy in their advertisements. Many times, their advertisements are somewhat abstract—looking more like artwork than clothing advertisements, especially due to the lack of clothing even present in the photos. A while ago, D&G released an advertisement that caused a lot of controversy. This advertisement features five men staring down at a woman in a swimsuit and high heels laying on the ground, being pinned down by a man in the center.
This image caused controversy because instead of just playing on sex appeal, the woman’s blank expression and submissive positioning while being held down makes it seem as she is being held against her will—forced into a scenario she does not wish to take part in. Therefore, many people took the image to depict gang rape. Her helpless position suggests domestic violence. There was uproar from the public with these images because these advertisements seemed to indicate that Dolce & Gabbana were promoting abuse.
Due to public opposition, D&G pulled the advertisement, but denied the fact that it was meant to represent any form of domestic violence. Stefano Gabbana in an interview said that the image was meant to “recall an erotic dream, a sexual game.” If taken this way, this advertisement goes no further than the typical advertisements that play on sexual fantasies in order to gain attention. Then again, who is to say that gang rape is not the sexual fantasy portrayed?
Looking into more of D&G’s advertisements, it becomes apparent that they play off of typical societal gender roles. Many times using some sort of sex appeal, the advertisements often depict women as submissive to male supremacy. Take for example, the Madonna for D&G campaign. This campaign included many photos that reduced women to their homemaker gender role. Washing dishes and scrubbing floors on hands and knees (in a somewhat provocative position) both make an appearance in this campaign.
The recovery from D&G’s advertisement depicting gang rape was quick—the controversy could have made the brand even more popular by giving it attention. Since obviously D&G’s advertisements do not detract from the public’s view of them as a very prestigious designer, why is it that fashion labels such as Dolce & Gabbana can put out advertisements that are sexually demeaning, yet still remain popular among consumers? Do you think that the fashion industry goes too far with sex appeal and societal stereotypes?