I very seldom go back to posts once I have finished them, but I have been so caught up in the start of term that I don’t think I said everything I wanted to say about the latest set of Chanel adverts.
These adverts (and the picture quality is not great because photography glossy magazines isn’t that easy) are fascinating from the point of view of what they say about femininity. There are five elements of interest to me here:
- The space age/Barbarella-type setting. The future. The sixties space race optimism. The ultra-minimalist stripped-back space ship. Very exaggeratedly ‘modern’ for a classic brand like Chanel.
- The thigh boots which I am assured will be all the rage this year – not with me they won’t, no matter how many how to make the latest trend work for you articles I read, Shiny black thigh highs are inextricably linked with a certain sort of pre-packaged female sexualiy, often that of women in the sex trade. This is contrasted with
- The very demure little buttoned up Chanel suit with its slight evocation of school uniform with its pleated skirt, and the lady-liked restrained fascinators.
- The use of Asian models, which I think also alludes to a certain sort of sexuality, the submissive oriental beauty, geisha-ing away or working the bars in Bangkok.
- The use of very traditional women’s craft – knitting and embroidery to conote femininity and also to contrast with the space age setting. Even when we are all living in space, women will still do embroidery.
This is underlined by the use of baby sugar pink thread and yarn.
It reminds me of the phrase in Roszika Parker’s wonderful foundational text, The Subversive Stitch: ‘to know the history of embroidery is to know the history of women’. Women and needlecraft as a virtually indistinguishable pairing is the basis for this advert. Times may change, technology may advance, our lives may change out of all recognition, but women will still do embroidery and knitting with the yarns coded for femininity in their pinkness.
I think these are fascinating images, and having spent a week trying to get students to read corporate identity through pictures as well as text, I think they tell us a huge amount about Chanel and about gender identity.