Yves Saint Laurent told to modify ad campaign after uproar in France

A new publicity campaign featuring painfully thin models in "degrading" poses for the French fashion house Yves Saint Laurent sparked outrage on March 6, with calls for it to be banned.
A new publicity campaign featuring painfully thin models in "degrading" poses for the French fashion house Yves Saint Laurent sparked outrage on March 6, with calls for it to be banned.PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (REUTERS/AFP) - France's advertising watchdog on Monday (March 6) said it had asked French fashion house Yves Saint Laurent to modify two ads from its latest campaign after receiving 50 complaints that they were "degrading" to women.

One of the ads features a reclining woman in a fur coat and fishnet tights with her legs spread wide and the other shows a model in a leotard and roller skate stilettos bending over a stool.

The ads caused uproar on social media where people called on Yves Saint Laurent to withdraw them.

The complaints were brought to the attention of the advertising watchdog the Autorite de Regulation Professionnelle de la Publicite (ARPP), which then asked the label to change them.

"We asked the brand and the ad displayer to make changes to these visuals as soon as possible," ARPP head Stephane Martin told Reuters.

He said the ads were a serious breach of rules set by the advertising industry to maintain "dignity and respect in the representation of the person".

Martin also said the fact that the models featured in the ads were very thin was also a concern because of the impact on fashion-conscious teenage girls.

France's leading women's group, Osez le feminisme (Dare to be Feminist), called for the campaign to be pulled, saying this was not the first time Saint Laurent has crossed the line.

It had previously raised hackles with another campaign that used "a very young hypersexualised woman", said spokesman Raphaelle Remy-Leleu.

But she said this time the subtext of the images was "extremely violent".

"It ticks all the sexist boxes. The women are objectified, hypersexualised and put in submissive positions," she told AFP. "How do they think they will sell anything today (to women) with that?

"But you have to ask if that wasn't intentional, that this was all about creating a scandal so we would talk about them," Remy-Leleu added.

Saint Laurent, part of luxury group Kering, could not be immediately reached for comment.

The advertising ethics jury, a body tied to ARPP and independent from the advertising industry, will rule on the complaints on Friday. The ethics committee can ask Yves Saint Laurent to withdraw the ads if it decides there are grounds for the complaints.

Ironically, Saint Laurent made its name by putting women in men's tuxedos, a gesture that chimed with the rising feminist wave of the 1970s.

Britain's advertising watchdog banned a Saint Laurent ad two years ago that featured an overly thin model whose ribcage was showing.

Martin said the latest campaign had been created by Saint Laurent's in-house team, and questioned if its new young designer Anthony Vaccarello had not gone too far.

The Belgian creator has flirted with bad taste in his first two shows for the brand in which he radically ramped up the sex factor.

He marked his arrival at the label last year with a raunchy ad campaign, with one model wearing nothing but Saint Laurent earrings and another shot from behind with her legs spread and leaning over slightly.

For his Paris fashion week show on Tuesday, Vaccarello gift-wrapped his models in tight shiny leather mini-dresses while his debut collection featured a dress that exposed one breast.

"We have a rather young designer known for his rather 'specific' looks," Martin said.

It is possible that "in this rather closed world, with its specific codes, that they did not realise" the effect the adverts would have, the regulator added.