In the mid 1980s, the already highly acclaimed Martin Scorsese added a curious item to his resume: a minute-long commercial for Armani. While this wasn't the first time a skilled film director got behind the camera for a commercial, it was one of the initial instances of a fashion brand booking such a high-profile creator for an ad on TV. Infamous photographers were standard for a fashion campaign, but Oscar-nominated directors were a new frontier.
Fashion ads and film directors now have a long, illustrious relationship. It allows for the distinct visual flavor of a filmmaker to mesh perfectly with the aesthetics of a brand, making for a unique creation distinctly different from your standard TV commercial.
Below are our picks for the best pairings of directors with fashion brands: matches made in visual heaven.
David Lynch for Gucci
The master of the surreal has built his reputation on the one thing he can do better than anyone else: make you feel uncomfortable. And that’s just what this Gucci ad does, keeping our eyes locked on beautiful models in Gucci’s finest, dancing to Blondie in a chic hotel that dissolve into shots of dark highways. Not to mention the ominous breathing in the background.
Lynch has also created ads for the likes of YSL, Armani and Calvin Klein, but this Gucci ad has all the essential Lynchian elements of beauty, danger and pop culture locked to perfection.
Sofia Coppola for Marni x H&M
As cute as her widely seen Dior fragrance ad starring Natalie Portman was, it doesn’t get more quintessential Sofia Coppola than her short film for Marni x H&M.
You have your gorgeous woman spending multiple shots looking into the distance, an exotic locale (in this case, Marrakesh, Morocco), soft lighting, and a fleeting romance all wrapped up in a yearning new wave/post-punk soundtrack (in this case, Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music fame). The classic quirk of Marni’s prints have rarely met as good of a match.
Spike Jonze for Gap
So you’re working at Gap in 2005 and need a great ad to announce your upcoming overhaul and remodeling of your brand. You want something offbeat and attention grabbing, but it needs to be self aware enough to really pack a punch. The sum of those descriptors is Spike Jonze, whose resume of Beastie Boys and Björk music videos to Being John Malkovich is about as offbeat as possible.
The destruction of the Gap store is as high energy, unexpected, and subtly hilarious as all the director’s best work, and above all showed that Gap had a seriously classy sense of humor.
Martin Scorsese for Chanel
What do you get when you enlist one of the most acclaimed filmmakers in history to make a fragrance ad for ultimate luxury brand Chanel? Pretty much exactly what Scorsese’s been doing since the '70s. The clip has fast-paced action, sex appeal, glamour, chic suits, and a Rolling Stones soundtrack, all hallmarks of the auteur’s instantly recognizable style.
French stud Gaspar Ulliel is the perfect stand in for the iconic Scorsese alpha male made famous by DeNiro and Leo, and despite its short length, the ad covers all manner of visually alluring locales. And of course a city street, because no Marty film would be complete without a little urban grit.
Wes Anderson for Prada
Is this even an ad? Though all eight minutes of this short film are indeed centered on a sleek, yellow leather-driving suit, it rarely feels like an advertisement. But that’s just what you get from Wes Anderson, a director with an uncanny knack for creating an insanely detailed universe from his pastel-tinted imagination.
Full of snappy dialogue, apathetic quirkiness, and close ups of frequent collaborator Jason Schwartzman, it might as well be on the director’s resume as one of his full length features.
Baz Lurhmann for Chanel
Any list of fashion commercials would be incomplete without this magnum opus, an ad that is still considered one of the most expensive ever produced. Chanel threw upwards of $40 million to Baz Lurhmann, who created an ad perfectly in line with his highly acclaimed film Moulin Rouge!, even down to the recasting of his muse Nicole Kidman.
Featuring as much gaudy costuming, chirrupy dialogue and smoldering romance as his previous film, the ad has become synonymous with the same kind of decadent luxury that we associate with the house of Chanel.
Michael Bay for Victoria’s Secret
Not many of us normally associate lingerie with explosions, helicopters and speeding cars, but then again, not many of us are Michael Bay. What you would imagine from a Michael Bay and Victoria’s Secret collaboration is exactly what you get from this minute-and-a-half long saga of scantily clad women strutting fearlessly through what could be an outtake of Transformers 4.
Yet for all the macho energy around them - nothing can take away from the hyper-sensual womenswear from the one and only Vicky C.
Darren Aronofsky for Yves Saint Laurent
An Aronofsky movie can only be described as a fever dream, a cinematic experience that pulls you in, makes you feel uncomfortable, and causes you to spiral into existential doubt. The fact that he could accomplish the same in a three minute fragrance ad for Yves Saint Laurent is a testament to his gift (curse?).
Made shortly after his critically lauded Black Swan, the commercial features many of the film’s essential elements: a pulsing, red-lit club rave, clandestine romantic encounters, and the brooding, slightly intimidating presence of French actor Vincent Cassel. Smelling so good has never been so scary.
Guy Ritchie for Dior
Guy Ritchie knows how to get sensual – the man was married to Madonna for nearly a decade. But it doesn’t get more sensual than this clip for Dior Homme, an ad that we can barely imagine making it past any television censors.
Starring his longtime muse Jude Law, the clip features a fantastic lesson in phone sex for both genders, as well as a reminder that Law looks even sexier in a suit than he does sans shirt. And there are of course plenty of action shots of speeding cars – a stunt that the action-driven Ritchie can nail like no other.
Michel Gondry for Levi’s
Never in your life will you see a commercial for denim that’s such a waking, overtly sexual nightmare. But that’s just what you get from Michel Gondry, a director capable of creating dreamscapes more potent and visceral in a single short than most directors get in their career.
Not content with creating a period piece, this hallucinogenic ad transports us to a slightly off-kilter, '90s house music-soundtracked version of dirty Americana, like if painter Norman Rockwell overdosed on ecstasy while selling you jeans. But at least now we know what that tiny pocket is for…
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