“Sex sells!” Or so the infamous advertising mantra goes – and while the debate over whether there’s any truth to this statement wages on, there’s no question that fashion campaigns, and the controversy which invariably accompanies them, have become a powerful tool for change over the past 50 years. Whether they’re setting a spark to conversations around gender inequality and the commodification of the body, or encouraging consumers to look at diversity and prejudice in a new light, erotic fashion campaigns have, over time, become representative of landmark moments in cultural history.
Last week Eckhaus Latta launched its nailbitingly sexy S/S17 campaign, subverting the glossy sexualisation of fashion advertising by creating a series of images which capture a very real intimacy indeed: real couples, having real sex. The campaign shines a light on an unblinking, modern approach to erotica – but needless to say, things haven’t always been this way. Here, we take a look back at some of the most amorous adverts to have come before – from Gucci G-shaped pubic hair, to Brooke Shields going commando.
1. Brooke Shields for Calvin Klein, 1980
In 1980, Calvin Klein cast Brooke Shields in a number of overtly sexy print and commercial advertisments, shot by Richard Avedon. “You want to know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing,” Shields muses, amongst other rather suggestive phrases, whilst laying on the floor with her crotch on full view. The advert was banned on U.S. television networks for insinuating that the young actress wasn't wearing any underwear. When asked about his marketing approach, Klein infamously stated: “Jeans are sex. The tighter they are, the better they sell.”
2. United Colors of Benetton’s Kissing Nun, 1992
Oliviero Toscani’s campaign imagery for United Colors of Benetton made the photographer world famous. His 1992 image Kissing Nun addressed the vows of celibacy that men and women entering religious orders take, and attacked Catholic hypocrisy. In France and Italy – bowing to pressure from the Vatican – the image was banned, but it remains one of the most iconic in the brand’s glisteningly controversial history.
3. Wonderbra, Hello Boys, 1993
Voted the most famous advert of all time, the 1993 campaign featuring Eva Herzigová’s billboard-sized and Wonderbra-enhanced cleavage was rumoured to be so distracting to motorists that it caused several car accidents. Shot by Ellen von Unwerth, the advert features a smokey-eyed Herzigová staring down at her chest with a smile. Whether the campaign exemplified imagery created for male or female gaze is still open to interpretation.
4. Gucci’s G-Spot, 2003
Tom Ford’s reign at Gucci exuded sex appeal. One such example of his amorous oeuvre is the S/S03 ‘G-Spot’ campaign, shot by Mario Testino, featuring model Karmen Cass pulling down her underwear to reveal carefully coiffed pubic hair in the shape of a ‘G’. Despite complaints, the advert wasn’t banned by the ASA, with Gucci arguing that it was “intended to be the ultimate ironic pun for a sexy brand in a logo-led age”.
5. Eckhaus Latta, 2017
“We live in a time where there is still tension between individualised freedom of expression (especially online) and puritanical approaches to sex that are deeply encoded in culture,” Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta told Dazed Digital of their S/S17 campaign imagery. “Real sex, after all, is beautiful.” And indeed, the images taken by photographer Heji Shin feel emotionally charged, rather than simply smutty. This is most likely due to the casting, which consists of real friends, couples and strangers sourced on Craigslist.