Versace Explains Its “Controversial” Gigi Hadid Campaign

If you haven't seen Versace's AW16 ads, here's the gist of it: Karlie Kloss and Gigi Hadid star as yummy mummies, toting around toddlers and babies while clad in the Italian brand's latest collection. The images, which are set to appear in print magazines this summer, were shot in Chicago by Bruce Weber, making this the first collaboration between the famed photographer and Donatella Versace in 20 years, according to The New York Times. In The Times article, Vanessa Friedman notes that the campaign's setting and — with the exception of Kloss and Hadid — non-model casting (17 non-professionals total, per Donatella's count), was intended to "move from fashion fantasy to actuality, or at least the Versace version of it." It was Weber's idea to shoot in Chicago, and to "put together all kinds of very diverse families in the pictures," Versace explains. (More on that in a second.) Following their debut, the advertisements received an overall positive response — especially with the notion of two young models taking on the role of "power mums." Once the initial buzz settled, however, tons of questions (and criticisms) surfaced.
Photo: Courtesy of Versace.
At the centre of the conversation surrounding the ads is the image depicting a Versace-clad interracial family, with Hadid as the matriarch. Some praised the luxury label's decision to portray a racially-diverse family. (Kloss is also pictured presumably as a mother, with two children and a tattooed partner). On the flip side, many found the idea of a 21-year-old celebrity spawn being portrayed as the birth mother of two kids to be too far-fetched; Jezebel even took it as far as imagining Hadid as the "new mother" to the children in the photographs, as told from the perspective of the baby girl. Commenters on Twitter and Instagram were also unhappy that the latter appears to be strapped into her stroller with a chain belt. Versace, however, doesn't see it that way. When asked about the current controversy, a statement from the company discussed the inspiration behind the campaign, and what it's meant to convey: "The campaign is made of a series of tableaux, some real-life and some fantastical. One part of the story is very glamourous, almost a fantasy, a kind of dream. The other part of the story is the same people, but in their real lives. They’re on the streets of Chicago. They’re with their friends and families. The combination perfectly illustrates the relevance and wearability of modern Versace for all parts of one’s life, from the ultra-glamourous to the everyday. The images were shot in Chicago and, in classic Weber style, womenswear and menswear are shown together. Some of the campaign photos reflect a take on the modern family, which is wonderfully Weber and very Versace.
Photo: Courtesy of Versace.
"For the past few seasons, Versace have been showing collections that represent a new relevance at Versace. The collection is in touch with the way real people live in the 21st century. That's the reason why there are these two parts, because that’s the essence of Versace. Versace makes amazing clothes for the red carpet, for parties, for a special night out. But also makes clothes for the rest of your life. And the important thing is, the clothes we make for you to wear to work, or to a luncheon, or to a meeting, are no less exciting than what we make for the red carpet. The new pictures show that. Bruce is amazing at making the ordinary feel extraordinary. That’s what Donatella and Bruce wanted to say about Versace today." While the brand stressed the importance of Chicago, both as inspiration and backdrop for the ads, Racked pointed out that the final imagery doesn't paint an accurate picture of what life is like in the city, especially in light of recent reports of violence and discrimination; Mic adds that the racial breakdown of models (with only a handful of people of colour) doesn't reflect what the population of Chicago actually looks like, either. Do you think Versace got something "wrong" with its latest campaign, or do you applaud its presentation of an interracial couple? Let us know how you feel in the comments below.

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