Are you feeling the Valentino SS16 Kenya ad campaign?

Masai Woman
Masai woman" by javic - Flickr. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons.

Earlier today we were reading an article published on the website The article is titled: Bridget Foley’s Diary: Valentino’s African Sojourn

The article starts out:

If you were lucky enough to have been there, you remember it. You remember the power of the clothes — their intricate, captivating graphics. The communal swell of emotion. The wonder-upon-exit that led Karen Katz to note, “This is why we’re in fashion.” (source link)

Valentino’s SS16 ad campaign was shot in Amboseli National Park in Kenya by photographer Steve McCurry. We saw some of the pictures and we’re not sure we felt particularly wowed. Could just be our basic selves getting in the way of our ability to appreciate the awesomeness. But in a way it seemed to us that the two themes did not belong together. There is something a little incongruous seeing conventional models in Western style clothing posing against a rural Kenyan backdrop with Maasai people visible in the shot but not the focal point of the picture. It’s like clashing themes each taking away something from the other so that at the end of the day neither stands out the way it should.

If we were among the Maasai people with cameras we would want to only be capturing images of their traditional clothing and accessories. Valentino makes nice things to be sure; but we’re far more interested in seeing and learning about the garments and accessories being worn by the Maasai people in the background. We’re more intrigued by them and their attire than by the foreground models. Everybody already knows about the fashion and style of Western culture. There’s only so many things you can do to a Western Style dress to make it different and interesting. We’re sure that is one factor that makes the location of a photo shoot important. You want to shoot your pictures some place interesting and visually appealing; but we don’t know about choosing a location where the people who reside there have a style of dress that is so striking with so much more history and interest value.

Valentino Spring Summer 2016 ad campaign shot in Kenya by Stephen McCurry
Image – Stephen McCurry

Not that any of it makes a difference. The shoot was done where it was done and we’re probably the only people on the planet who aren’t particularly awed and wowed by the pictures. We’re sure everyone involved was happy to take part in it. Everyone got paid and that’s what it all comes down to at the end of the day. We’re just not convinced a fashion ad campaign is the appropriate avenue via which to achieve Valentino creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli’s stated goal of delivering a message of tolerance and the idea of beauty via the interaction of different cultures. We’re not even sure what he means exactly because the idea of beauty certainly isn’t challenged in the ad campaign.

The photographer, Stephen McCurry is quoted as saying about the campaign:

“The idea of these pictures is to take the viewer on a journey. The clothes were inspired by African motifs, so to take the shoot to Africa and show how these things interact and, this connection of the clothes, the models, the environment, the local people; I thought it was a great endeavor.”

We didn’t really get a sense of interaction at all. Did you?

Featured image of Maasai woman – “Masai woman” by javicFlickr. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons.


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