The Louis Vuitton ad pictured at left was banned in Britain by the Advertising Standards Agency for being “deceitful.” The image depicts a woman sewing a handle with a caption reading, “The seamstress with linen thread and beeswax. A needle, linen thread, beeswax and infinite patience protect each over-stitch from humidity and the passage of time. One could say that a Louis Vuitton bag is a collection of details. But with so much attention lavished on every one, should we only call them details?”
The ASA deemed the ad deceitful because it misleads the consumer into believing that Vuitton bags are handmade by strange, elf-like women as part of a medieval guild… If only. Vuitton bags are actually made by machines, with seamstresses probably helping out a little bit along the way.
Granted I learned everything I know about advertising from Mad Men, but I find the Vuitton ads work. They communicate to the consumer about a product on a basic level; instead of seeing Lara Stone sprawled in a dirty field (a fantasy for some, a mess for others), consumers are met with text and imagery they can relate to.
How the ads are deceitful isn’t precisely clear. In no way do the ads implicitly state that the product is handmade. The ad only says that there are seamstresses and that Vuitton bags are made from luxury materials with attention to detail. This story in the Daily Mail sums up the dispute:
Bosses at Louis Vuitton told the ASA that its ‘artisans were trained over many years to be able to carry out the various activities involved in the creation of one of their accessories’ and said the models in the photos were ‘instructed’ how to pose by experts. Bosses at the fashion house admitted that sewing machines were used as they made the items ‘more secure and (were) necessary for strength, accuracy and durability’.
But ASA bosses found that Louis Vuitton were in breach of the truthfulness clause, saying it ‘considered that consumers would interpret the image of a woman using a needle and thread to stitch the handle of a bag in the ad to mean that Louis Vuitton bags were hand-stitched’. They also found that the advert featuring a wallet being made would also lead people to believe it was almost entirely hand-crafted.
The ASA said that although Louis Vuitton provided it with evidence that many ‘hand-crafting techniques’ were used in the production of the bag and wallet, it fell short of what was needed to prove the products were made by hand.
Of course, Brits tend to be a bit more aggressive than Americans about policing advertising and they take a very literal approach to policing claims made in “adverts.” Which is great when you’re talking about calorie claims, miles per gallon and other things.
But it misses the point when it comes to fashion.
Isn’t the point of advertising to get the consumer to believe a lie without completely lying to them? Fashion advertising is all about lies, from the photoshopping and idealized models, to the crazy locations and scenes that are completely unrealistic. But that’s why we love it, right? I don’t want to open a magazine and see the reality of people in Crocs and fanny packs eating at McDonalds.