The increasing number of collections that are presented annually means an influx in corresponding ad campaign imagery. In fact, there are arguably so many fashion advertisements at play at any given time that it can be quite a task to keep track of them all. With that in mind, as the year comes to a close, here are some of the most noteworthy fashion campaigns of 2016 – from ones that utilize the most controversial casting to those that are the most significant in terms of identifying a house’s new direction, and a number that fall somewhere in between.
For Fall/Winter 2016, budding fashion force Simon Porte Jacquemus enlisted the help of photographer David Luraschi and guerrilla choreographer, Willi Dorner, who is famous for installing his live body piles in urban spaces for years. Speaking of the parties' collab, Dorner said: "For me as a choreographer, it's a great joy to see that my performance increasingly finds entrance into other creative fields, such as the fashion world. The challenge in this special case was to arrange the models as an interesting body sculpture on the one hand, but to make sure at the same time that the clothes didn't lose anything from their impression."
Brandon Maxwell, who has swiftly garnered fans that include Lady Gaga, Naomi Campbell, Kerry Washington, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Uma Thurman, debuted his first ad campaign ever for F/W 2016. In as white-washed an industry as fashion, fresh voices like Maxwell – who not only celebrate diversity but actually put it into practice in a thoughtful way – are a welcome (and frankly, much-needed) addition. Maxwell’s F/W campaign – which he shot, himself, and starred Blanca Padilla, Herieth Paul, Leila Nda, Maria Borges, Ophelie Guillerm, and Riley Montana – was a beautiful testament to this.
Another in a line of firsts: Balenciaga’s F/W 2016 campaign marked Demna Gvasalia’a much-anticipated debut campaign for the Paris-based design house. The designer, who is best known for his Eastern European-centric line, Vetements, enlisted photographer Mark Borthwick and a couple of little known Vetements-esque faces (unlike his predecessors who opted for major names like Gisele Bündchen, Kate Moss, Lara Stone, Zoe Kravitz, etc.). As for the street-side backdrop, Gvasalia said: “I wanted the pieces to be shot in a real environment around where we work and live. So we shot in various locations on the streets of Paris.”
Prior to making his own debut for Fall, Anthony Vaccarello first gave fashion fans a sneak peek at his vision for YSL on the heels of Hedi Slimane’s ouster. With #YSL01 shot by new YSL recruit, Collier Schorr, Vaccarello made a statement of his own by stripping the aesthetic down so much so that the models were nearly nude. The house’s new creative director also welcomed 15 new faces for the campaign that very clearly centered on ushering in a new look, or as the New York Times’ Vanessa Friedman put it: "paring down the fuss, the better to rebuild."
Alessandro Michele has certainly made his presence known at Gucci since his appointment at the Italian design house late last year – from his sleepy sexy aesthetic to his cinematic ad campaigns. And F/W 2016 – his take on Lost in Translation – did not disappoint. In the images shot by Glen Luchford (Michele's go-to photographer since he took the reins), we follow models throughout the neighborhoods of Tokyo. Don’t speak Japanese? That’s fine. There are subtitles.
Slightly controversial, fashion fans were quick to question why Michele did not cast more Asian models in the Asian-centric campaign.
Buzzy New York-based designer Alexander Wang upped the ad campaign ante for Spring/Summer 2016 when he launched a separate Instagram page filled with polaroids of his impending campaign’s stars, coined the “Wang Squad.” From newbie model royalty Kaia Gerber (daughter of bona fide supermodel Cindy Crawford) and his usual girls, Anna Ewers, Hanne Gaby Odiele, Lexi Boling, and Binx Walton – to music stars CL, Travis Scott, and Vic Mensa, Wang’s 70+ image Steven Klein-lensed campaign and its immense build up took a top spot for the season.
Shedding its Kardashian/Jenner/Hadid-obsessed image for just a season, Balmain out did itself for S/S 2016. Instead of relying on social media stars for relevance, the Olivier Rousteing-helmed house went old school, tapping three of fashion’s all-time top models: Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer, and Naomi Campbell. Photographed by Steven Klein, the original supers proved that you do not need famous families to start trending on Twitter.
For its Series 4 S/S campaign, Louis Vuitton did not merely enlist a handful of models. The Paris-based design house, under the direction of Nicolas Ghesquière, outfitted tastemaker (or as Vogue put it, “Insta-generation icon to the Gen-Z set”) Jaden Smith in a skirt, and created Lightning, a computer generated fighter from the Japanese video game, Final Fantasy. Lensed by Juergen Teller and Bruce Weber, the campaign made waves! An anime character? Check. A boy in women’s clothes in a womenswear campaign? Check. Major attention from the fashion press? Check.
Another campaign that garnered quite a bit of attention – albeit for the wrong reasons – was Valentino S/S 2016. It was hardly a shock considering that Valentino took a lot of criticism following its African themed SS16 collection.
Starring models Alice Metza, Cameron Traiber, Greta Varlese, Kirin Dejonckheere and Tami Williams, and shot by Steve McCurry (the National Geographic photographer most famous for his “Afghan Girl” photo, which served as the magazine’s cover in June 1985), the Italian design house took it to a Maasai village between Kenya and Tanzania. Something about the combination of mostly white models in cornrows in East Africa rubbed people the wrong way, and sparked quite a bit of controversy.
And one sneak peek, Maria Grazia Chiuri's debut Dior campaign, shot by French photographer Brigitte Lacombe, and starring May and Ruth Bell.