Does Sex Still Sell? A Look At Fashion's Most Provocative 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.

More from Designers

R29 Original Series