Fashion ads mirror society; and from a psychological viewpoint, they help understand how women are depicted.
As an example, I selected two advertisements by the same Maison, Chanel and I compared them. The first ad is dated 1990 which I refer to “Ad 1”, while the second one is 2020, “Ad 2”.
Both ads have the same purpose of selling luxury accessories, but the strategic communication is different.
How do these advertisements create the allure and the emotional drive to buy the accessories? In Ad 1 the target may be either the man or the woman.
The woman is the active subject admiring the jewel she is holding in her hands. The image suggests that the man is the author of the grand gesture of giving that jewel as a present.
Despite appearing passive, the man plays a primary psychological role in how the woman has obtained the accessory. He is provoking the woman’s deep devotion towards the luxury item so that she does not even look at the observer.
The woman’s looks are impeccable. Her hair is tied up, her uniform is polished, and she wears many luxurious accessories that position her among high-status women. The message delivered is that of an extremely high lifestyle excluding the readership.
Ad 2 is a bold close-up of a woman. She is alone, she creates eye contact with the observer. But she does not look for empathy. On the contrary, her attitude is challenging and fierce, rather provocative. She represents those few people among the privé world of luxury.
The very same choice of opting for a model with Asian features makes the ad even more inclusive considering it is directed to a worldwide élite audience. She wears bold accessories that she must have bought on her own.
Her style can be summarised with the term of quiet luxury, which is an effortless type of luxury: well-crafted and of strong impact despite appearing cleaned-faced and minimalistic.
My reading of this comparison highlights the undeniable power of the woman in Ad 2. She effortlessly embodies the ideal of quiet luxury but power bursts out from her, giving those luxury jewels she wears even higher value.