These days ad camapaigns have become just as much about creating a talking point as showing off nice bags and shoes. Versace's AW16 ad campaign released last week is no different. Donatella Versace enlisted photographer Bruce Weber for the first time in 17 years to create a family-centric set of images starring Gigi Hadid ,21, and Karlie Kloss, 23, alongside their imagined children and boyfriends.
A leather-clad Karlie Kloss is seen exiting a car with two children- who are definitely around school age- and a partner, while Hadid walks through Chicago holding her "son's" hand as her fictional boyfriend/ husband/ baby daddy pushes their "daughter" in a buggy. This glamorised spin on real-life is a world away from the previous autumn/winter campaign which showed models lying in the snow in animal-print bikinis.
The campaign is all about 'real life'"With my collections, I’ve been thinking more and more about the real life of Versace, and the complexity of women’s lives," Donatella Versace explains to The Telegraph of her thinking behind this campaign. "They run their own business, look after their family, travel, share time with friends, all often in the same day. I wanted to show the fullness of the Versace life in our campaign, and Bruce was the only photographer who could capture that mood."
Why it's controversialThe campaign has sparked plenty of reaction online, with many complaining that it's unrealistic to show twentysomethings Gigi Hadid and Karlie Kloss as mothers especially given that the age of children they're posing with means they'd have given birth aged 16 or younger. Meanwhile others have claimed it's racist to show Hadid front and centre with a black partner and children, one of whom is chained into its buggy- that those people "really need to get a grip. You're looking for something that isn't there."
"My name is Versace - I don’t know how to do things quietly," Donatella reasons, "that is just my blood and my family. We make a noise, shout loud, never hold back on our opinions. This is why our campaigns have always been so bold, because my family has always provoked. Life would be so boring if we all did the same thing."
Versace has always worked with supermodelsGiven Versace's long-history of working with the biggest supermodels of the day- her brother Gianni was famous for forming close partnerships with the likes of Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer and Kate Moss who would always walk in his shows- it's hardly surprising that Hadid and Kloss are the no-brainer choices for Versace now.
But Donatella says it's more about the models' integrity and attitude than just their impressive follower count and fame. "Versace is about individuality. It is about believing in yourself and showing your true character to the world. I love Gigi and Karlie because of their amazing strength of character. They are their own women who will not compromise their individuality for anyone. I wanted to create imagery that was all about their brilliant individuality."
Weber's 90s adsWhen Weber and Versace worked together almost twenty years ago, their work was equally provocative. Think- a topless Helena Christensen being touched by a male model as she takes pictures of him, mixed race couples embracing and not wearing very much and a denim campaign which shows a line up of groins pressed up against each other. In short, just the sort of thing which would still elicit a reaction now.
"Shooting our first campaigns with Bruce are some of my most special memories of my Versace life. It was a different time then, no constrictions or constraints," the designer says of how much has changed since they last worked together. "We could shoot for days, dream big, make the impossible happen. We travelled to the most exciting places in the world, such as Buenos Aires. It was in the days before digital, and no-one had cameras on their phones. It was a magical time."
Why Donatella loves GigiGigi Hadid starred in her first Versace campaign last year, and has opened and closed several shows for the house so is now a firm favourite. "As soon as I met Gigi, we clicked," Versace says of her relationship with the model. "I love that feeling when you meet someone new, and you know straight away you’re going to be friends. Gigi is a true supermodel because not only is she stunningly beautiful, she is also gracious and works incredibly hard. She is a natural supermodel, and a perfect Versace woman."
Hadid's huge following online (she has over 18 million followers on Instagram) is often regarded as a key part of her supermodel status. 61 year-old Donatella joined Instagram herself a year ago, posting her first selfie on set of the AW15 campaign with Gigi. "It was a very happy coincidence that my first post was with someone who understands social media so well," Versace explains. "So many people are scared of Instagram or social media, but it’s amazing to watch young people today and see how much it is a part of their lives. The new way that they communicate is very inspiring to me. They are so curious about the world, following people of so many different nationalities and backgrounds. Getting to know Gigi has made me fall in love with social media, and the new way it lets me see the world."