It’s been a great week! In case you didn’t know, Gucci dropped an ad for their latest Guilty fragrance campaign featuring Jared Leto and Our Lady of Lo-Fi, Lana del Rey. I have it admit that it’s pretty good – a fresh and fun Instagram-filtered romp through vintage Los Angeles. With Courtney Love also making a surprise appearance, this is one of the most celebrity-studded perfume ads I’ve seen in years.
Maybe that’s why I can’t stop obsessing over it?
Full disclosure: I love perfume ads. I think they’re under appreciated in the film world. Part of me feels like this is a controversial statement. For one, I don’t think that fashion as a whole is as widely accepted as art like film is. I also understand that most people wouldn’t consider shilling for luxury brands the same as an auteur making a film. But the two industries are, and always have been, intricately linked.
Think about how many fashion brands tap celebrities to be part of new campaigns – like Emma Stone for Louis Vuitton or Jennifer Lawrence for Dior or Kristen Stewart for Chanel. Let’s not forget that those lucrative fashion brand contracts and stunning one-of-a-kind haute couture dresses go to the biggest stars, so with film industry status comes luxury designer status as well. Several designers have worked as costume designers for films – Coco Chanel, Alexander McQueen, Rodarte. Silver screen icons used fashion and style to cement their status as film stars – Katharine Hepburn, Jean Harlow and Marilyn Monroe come to mind immediately.
Sometimes fashion brands ask top tier film directors to helm their commercials – Baz Luhrmann for Chanel No. 5, David Fincher for Calvin Klein’s Downtown perfume. Perfume ads are especially intriguing because they’re often shot on such big budgets in such highfalutin ways that make them ripe for parody – whispered nonsensical lines, quick edits, no discernable plot or story. But the impressionistic tone and impeccable styling is what I find so alluring. They’re selling a mood, an idea, in about a minute. If that’s not considered creative filmmaking, I don’t know what is. So why aren’t we analyzing the hell out of perfume ads the way we do short films?
Getting back to Gucci Guilty, the ad was directed by Glen Luchford and creatively directed by Alessandro Michele. It was actually shot last year, which makes sense if we all remember the Met Gala and del Rey’s and Leto’s stunning (and slightly campy) garb that really took the theme to heart (pun intended). Leto has been the face of Gucci Guilty since December 2015 while Lana has been wearing Gucci regularly and publically since the spring of 2017. It feels like this has been in the works for a while, but the timing is also interesting since she just dropped another single from her forthcoming album Norman Fucking Rockwell. Will we see more high fashion Lana as she promotes the album? What will the cover look like? Only time will tell.
I would love to psychoanalyze the hell out of this video, but we are provided with context that the
ad film presents “individuals who live and love outside social conformism”. Personally, I’m more interested in the casting of Lana and Courtney Love. These women really do embody the outside the status quo feeling that Gucci is trying to convey.
When she first hit the scene, del Rey was unilaterally ripped apart after an unfortunately bad live singing performance on SNL. She was deemed a fraud – a rich kid using Daddy’s money to make a singing career. Love, similarly, received backlash for a host of things from admitting to drug use before realizing she was pregnant to the malicious claim that she had Kurt Cobain killed. It’s an open secret that the music industry is sexist – perhaps more sexist than the film industry, if that’s even possible – and the backlash that women receive when they finally make their break is nothing short of extraordinary.
But, as legends tend to do, both women are still standing and thriving. Lana has solidified her reputation as pop music’s outsider sad girl with a number of critically acclaimed albums and singles while Love has made a comeback in both film and music and seems to have a happier, healthier and more stable life.
For me though, this ad still comes back to Lana. The clothes may be Gucci, but the vibe is total del Rey. When she first came on the scene, Lana’s look was very much derived from the late-60s with the big bouffant hair, mini dresses and thick eyeliner. And while she’s taken a more natural look leading up to her new album, this Gucci ads brings us back to the look that came to define del Rey. Here she is, back with her big beauty queen hair and winged liner preening against a rumbling rock n roll sound that feels like Americana distilled into a single track. She’s decked out in costume jewellery and diamonds, claw nails in a red drop top. This ad is as much Lana as it is Gucci. And I, for one, am here for it.