12 Iconic Provocative Fashion Campaigns

Have we outgrown the age of sexy advertising? In The Cut's recent profile of Tom Ford, the magazine deemed the famously risqué designer as "over sex, seeking emotion." Earlier this summer, University of Illinois researcher John Wirtz reviewed nearly 80 advertising studies and concluded that sex appeal had zero correlation with propensity to buy products. In other words: sex didn't sell. And in early 2017, global publications looked around an increasingly political world and concluded that activism had replaced sex as the new ruler of marketing imagery.

While the concept of "socially conscious advertising" quickly brings to mind unkind memories of Pepsi's failed protest campaign with Kendall Jenner, traces can also be found in the world of fashion. After all, Stella McCartney's latest campaign was shot in a landfill, and Balmain's spring/summer 2017 campaign had protest undertones with megaphone-waving models.

Still, let's not be too quick to sound the death knell. Eckhaus Latta's spring 2017 campaign captured models mid-coitus (like, for real), and its website soon crashed under a barrage of clicks. So clearly, our penchant for the provocative remains.

For a retrospective at the sometimes titillating, sometimes controversial, and always iconic ads that got the whole world talking, click ahead.

Eckhaus Latta's spring '17 campaign is basically a "sex sells" mic drop — it features real couples (casted from where else but Craigslist) having real sex. Shout out to the photo editor who created the perfectly placed pixilation.
Before Tom Ford was all about emotion, he was busy sowing controversy with Gucci ads like this one, which was designed jointly with Carine Roitfeld and shot by Mario Testino. The pièce de résistance? A Gucci G, carefully shaved into model Carmen Kass’s pubic hair.
Yves Saint Laurent posed nude for his own label, Pour Homme, in 1971. Shot by French photographer Jeanloup Sieff, the controversial image marked the first time a perfumer appeared in his own ads.
In 1980, Calvin Klein shot a denim commercial with then 15-year-old Brooke Shields. The campaign became notorious with a single, now universally known tagline: "You want to know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.“
In 1994, Eva Herzigova demonstrated the prowess of the WonderBra. Popular legends assert that the giant billboards led to traffic jams and car accidents as drivers became distracted by all that décolleté.
A decade later, Calvin Klein faced critics for using underage models. Here, 17-year-old Kate Moss leaned up against Mark Wahlberg to create an advertisement that ushered in the controversial heroin chic style.
Modern day Calvin Klein still demonstrates a commitment to controversy. This spring '16 upskirt shot drew protests, buoyed by the tagline: "I flash in #MyCalvins."
"Be Stupid" might not be the smartest tagline, but the carefree spirit captured in these photos epitomized Diesel's youth culture.
American Apparel's aesthetic was rooted in early 2000s, hipster sex appeal advertisements frequently shot by ultra creepy photographer Terry Richardson. Amidst a wave of photoshoots that could easily double for Free the Nipple billboards, this ad stood out for depicting a tights-clad model masturbating.
Terry Richardson reached peak creep in these 2007 ads for Tom Ford cologne, which were banned soon after their release in Italy.
This 2007 Dolce & Gabbana shoot is one of the most controversial fashion campaigns of all time. Critiqued as depicting gang rape, it was banned online and in print.
These images may be designed to sell Alexander Wang's new denim line, but model Anna Ewers' pants-down pose obscures the style. In this case, it's definitely all about sex.