Saint Laurent told to tweak ads deemed 'degrading' to women

Activists holding a demonstration in front of a Yves Saint Laurent shop in Paris, France.
Activists holding a demonstration in front of a Yves Saint Laurent shop in Paris, France.PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS • France's advertising watchdog on Monday said it had asked French fashion house Yves Saint Laurent to modify two advertisements from its latest campaign after receiving 50 complaints that they were "degrading" to women.

One of them 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 advertisements caused an uproar on social media, where people called on Saint Laurent to withdraw them. The complaints were brought to the attention of the advertising watchdog, the Autorite de Regulation Professionnelle de la Publicite, 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," said Mr Stephane Martin, the authority's head.

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

The authority said most of the complaints were from people who saw the images as "incitement to rape".

Mr Martin said he was not sure Saint Laurent's female clients "would like to be associated with these images". In fashion advertising, "we had a similar type of porno chic a decade ago and here we have it coming back again, which isn't acceptable", he added.

He said the fact that the models featured in the advertisements 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 it was not the first time Saint Laurent had crossed the line.

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

This time, the subtext of the images was "extremely violent", she said.

"It ticks all the sexist boxes. The women are objectified, hypersexualised and put in submissive positions. How do they think they will sell anything today 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."

Saint Laurent, part of luxury group Kering, was not available for comment.

The advertising ethics jury, a body tied to the Autorite de Regulation Professionnelle de la Publicite and independent from the advertising industry, will rule on the complaints on Friday.

The ethics committee can ask Saint Laurent to withdraw the advertisements if it decides there are grounds for the complaints.

The label had made its name by putting women in men's tuxedos, in step with the rising feminist wave of the 1970s.

In 2015, Britain's Advertising Standards Authority banned a Saint Laurent advertisement that featured a very thin model whose ribcage was showing.

Mr Martin said the latest campaign had been created by Saint Laurent's in-house team. The label's new young Belgian designer, Anthony Vaccarello, who is in his 30s, flirted with bad taste in his first two shows for the brand and ramped up the sex factor.

He marked his arrival at the label last year with a raunchy advertising 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 yesterday, he gift-wrapped his models in tight, shiny leather mini- dresses.

"We have a rather young designer known for his rather 'specific' looks," Mr Martin said. It is possible that "in this rather closed world, with its specific codes", the label did not realise the effect the advertisements would have, he added.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2017, with the headline 'Saint Laurent told to tweak ads deemed 'degrading' to women'. Subscribe