Trend Watch: Musings on Fashion Advertising

Page through a fashion magazine—any fashion magazine—and up at the front, in prominent position, as well as scattered throughout the issue, you’ll see the ads of the major advertisers set out page after page, or even more typically in pairs or larger sequences of images. This is a place where the observant reader will be inculcated with the deep pocket advertisers’ views of what is beautiful and what is chic.


The messages take disparate views of fashion, and yet the repeated presentation of specific styles cannot help but capture the attention of the readers.


Here are a few of the notable ad campaign themes currently running in the major fashion magazines:


  1. Sexy-Elegant. J. Mendel is doing an elegant version of the Hollywood-style icy blonde, and Scarlett Johansson is luscious as the current face of Louis Vuitton.
  2. Sexy-Trashy. The Bebe ads are perhaps the most consistently blatant of the lot.
  3. Cute and funky. Juicy Couture with its pastel-dyed and bewigged animals is a great example, as is the anime trend from Japan.
  4. Avant-garde. Perhaps best personified by Prada, which often utilizes what the French call jolie laide, or “ugly beauty” and advances the idea of geek chic. This season, Prada’s dresses are full-skirted floral print dresses worn with loose, disheveled hair, a much prettier, more wearable trend than the short shorts and satin turbans of recent vintage.
  5. “Stepford models” – live mannequins staring with a zombie-like expression, seen in the current Dolce & Gabbana ads. Similarly, Dior’s platinum blonde model sometimes bears the hint of a real live smile, but her strange, stooped posture seems unnatural and can be off-putting.

You may find any or all of the above ad campaigns compellingly appealing or completely appalling.


With some exceptions, you will find these ads do not feature jewelry, for the obvious reason that these ads mean to sell clothing, not jewelry. Why then, am I encouraging you to pay attention to these ads?


What these ad campaigns accomplish is to create wide recognition of what is being touted as the latest fashion. Some of the brands appear to be directed to a wide audience; others have a specific, more targeted customer demographic in mind. Some women will choose to adopt a particular look head to toe; many more women will creatively adapt a look to accommodate their personal taste and their budget. And yes, jewelry is an appropriate adjunct to almost any given style, as you’ll readily see in the fashion spreads in these same magazines. 


From a broader perspective, these ads also serve as arbiters of taste. Even if a particular look is too young or too old for a particular customer, she will likely still be able to recognize that the look is a current one. A featured look may not be age-appropriate for the mother, but she may find it charming for her daughter.


The trends embodies in the ads are not static, of course. They are constantly changing. I encourage you regularly to take note of what is being promoted to women in the fashion publications by the major advertisers because their influence on fashion is a fact of doing business for jewelry retailers.


Use these ads to assess how your inventory relates to the current trends. Which designers you carry or designs you create follow the trends, and which trends do they follow – elegant, cute, avant-garde? How might you accessorize the ensembles shown in the ads? Which earrings, bracelets, necklaces, or brooches might add a personalized touch for your customers?


Love ‘em or hate ‘em, these ads set and relentless promote current styles. Use the ads as a tool to help you identify and ultimately to satisfy the jewelry wants and needs of your fashion-savvy customers.