Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Dolce & Gabbana: Do These Advertisements Go Too Far?

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?


  1. I think that clothing designers do sometimes go too far with their advertisements. In the Dolce & Gabbana ad here, I find the one model second from the right to be especially disturbing. While it does not seem like the other models are going to step in to stop the abuse that is occurring, this model in particular, with his hands on his hips, seems to be approving and supportive of the actions in the center. When it gets to the point where the audience is more concerned with what the models are doing than what they are wearing, I think it becomes clear that the company’s goals are not being met. Not only are they portraying an abusive situation, but they are also suggesting that such abuse is a positive thing. For companies such as Dolce & Gabbana, who have a far-reaching impact with their advertisements, it would be better for them to use their power to send messages against abusive relationships, rather than promoting them.

  2. I don't see how this could be anyone's sexual fantasy unless it is one of gang rape. If I had seen this photo in a magazine or website, (which I hadn't up until this point,) I would have been completed taken aback. It would have definitely caught my eye, but not in "ah, what an abstractly beautiful photo Dolce & Gabbana did." However, like the saying goes, "Bad publicity is good publicity." I don't purchase from Dolce & Gabbana very often, but I can't be certain that if I came across a clothing or perfume I liked by the brand, that I wouldn't buy it for the mere fact of boycotting this ad. Thus, by catching my eye but not swaying my intentions on buying of their brand, Dolce & Gabbana very well succeeded in promoting their brand.
    Nonetheless, I agree with Allison: "When the audience starts being more concerned with what the models are doing instead of wearing", there may be a problem. Ultimately, what is Dolce & Gabbana trying to communicate? That by buying their products, you'll be able to have your sexual fantasy of raping someone? What kind of ad wants to say that? I understand having to be ahead of your competition and always being that much more innovative, but when ads becomes controversial, they need to be toned down a bit.

  3. I think the interesting thing to take away from this is actually the comment by Stefano Gabbana that the image was meant to “recall an erotic dream, a sexual game.” The fact that these dominating male / submissive female gender roles supposedly portray an erotic dream insinuates that these gender stereotypes have permeated our minds, entering our dreams and fantasies without being questioned. To be honest, I know that this image is probably the way a lot of people see sexual gender roles and imagine them in their minds. It is extremely sexist yes, but very realistic. As long as this continues to be the norm in our minds, we will never break free from these gender stereotypes that have been ingrained in us since birth. The second someone is actually surprised by the content of this image, and not just outraged, we will know we have made progress towards debunking stereotypes.

  4. I honestly wondered why clothing companies always posed half naked people on ads. I mean they're trying to sell clothes so I would think they would put more clothes on them. I think this just goes to show how unnecessary the whole idea of sex appeal as showing more skin is in the clothing industry. You can still be sexy with clothes on. As for the poses trying to market sexual fantasies, I still don't see how this is helping sell their products. The only thing it really does is objectify woman as objects of sexual fantasy. It's sad and upsetting that companies have to stoop that low to sell their products.

  5. Dolce and Gabana probably had controversy in mind when it was making this ad. It's the ad that was meant to catch your eye and make you feel something. Unfortunately for them, it made enough people angry at them to pull the ad. But the ad did its job and brought attention to them.
    The subjecting of women in their ads is something they can do without, but if they would sell more with it, they will do it. It's not only them. Fashion designers in general believe that the more skin that a models shows, the more the bottom line for the company grows. And we as consumers keep proving them right time and time again.I would like at least once them showing a female doctor and trying to make her sexy. That would not only show creativity on their part, but they would send out a message that woman don't have to be stereotypes to be sexy.


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