Campaign Controversy.

Controversy and advertising: this dynamic duo has a stronger marriage than most couples in this country.  The world of fashion has some of the worst offenders.  I sometimes wonder about the state of humanity.  Has our intelligence degraded to levels so low that marketing teams have to beat us over the heads with such blunt instruments in order for us to take notice?

Let’s take a look at some of the most controversial ads in fashion history, many of which have been banned by censor boards.


Heralding the campaign title Fashion Junkie, Sisley took their ad to a whole new level of inappropriate.  The ad depicts thin models getting stoned off of the suggested cocaine-white dress.  While the execution was impeccable, the message was utterly poor.  The straw-in-hand models hover over a mirrored table with a credit card cleverly placed next to Sisley’s little white dress.  Sisley’s clothing may be addictively awesome, but their cocaine-snorting, fashion junkie ad is giving a bad impression.


Tom Ford skirted an ad ban on this one by the skin of his teeth.  In response to a formal complaint filed with the ASA, Gucci defended that they were known for “brand leadership and cutting-edge imagery”.  Cutting edge?  Not exactly subtle are they?  I’m not entirely sure how this stands to promote fashion, as it appears to be a better Bic campaign than Gucci ad.  It diverts the attention from the clothing…and, it’s kind of gross.

Calvin Klein

Who made non-consensual sex such an attractive method for fashion marketers?  The “tactic” is employed all too frequently.  This image illustrates a beautiful young woman in a caged area pre-gangbang.  The orgy approach is popular for selling clothing.  However, the majority of instances include only a single woman.  I am hopeful that someone will shed some light on why it is thought that this sells a brand.


A Levi’s jeans ad…sans jeans.  I’m not sure how this promotes the benefits of wearing their jeans, but it gets your attention.  Mission accomplished.

Tom Ford

As you can see, Ford has not lost his shock value since leaving Gucci.  Are they selling his new fragrance or blow up doll?

ALL of these ads accomplished their goals and got massive attention from the buzz they created.  So, in theory they are good ads.  However, the messages and strategies leave much to be desired (no pun intended).  When the day comes for me to launch my clothing line, I can assure you subtle cleverness will take the place of overt shock value.


About Jessica Van Sickle

Aspiring fashion designer and avid style explorer. View all posts by Jessica Van Sickle

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