Can advertising disguise itself in revolutionary trappings?

Can advertising disguise itself in revolutionary trappings?

From the sans-culottes to the yellow vests... every citizen movement has its look. Brands gladly appropriate these dress codes loaded with meaning. Or not. Is revolt always easily absorbed into advertising? A Seenk agency opinion column.

We could write a story of revolt from the point of view of clothing. What do the pants of the sans-culottes and young women of May 1968 have in common? The scarf that conceals the faces of the Sandinistas and the Palestinian keffiyeh? The miniskirt, the red cap, the yellow vest, the Black Panthers’ beret, the Guy Fawkes mask of Anonymous and Occupy Wall Street, François Ruffin’s football shirt in the National Assembly? These are all the clothes of anger. The event of revolt activates the garment’s potential of communicating a message: it becomes a sign of disobedience. Its use, which was reduced to the triangle of protection-modesty-finery, now stands for other motivations: from now on, the clothes of anger conceal, mark out and bring together. Clothes become a language, an object of communication. They become a symbol of rebelliousness.

When revolution becomes on-trend

Subsequently, the garment does not communicate in the same way. It no longer sends a message, but inspires another form of communication, relying on its symbolic load to inspire the consumer. Thus, we see the arrival of clothes whose meaning has been discharged of the indignant effervescence they once had: these are the clothes of post-modernity. Inspired by the revolutionary attempts that regularly suspend the course of history, we see them evolve on catwalks and in commercials. As Loïc Prigent explains: "We love to reclaim the aesthetics of revolt".

The appropriation of the memory of May 68 by the fashion industry on the fiftieth anniversary of the event is an illuminating example: Sonia Rykiel brought out the "Pavé" bag [in reference to the pavés, e.g. the cobblestones that May XNUMX would rip out of the street to use as projectiles], the Dior show took place against a backdrop of protest posters and Gucci declared to be "#DansLesRues," [in the streets] with a commercial by Glen Luchford.

The only thing left of the event is the primal liberating energy: youth, exaltation, rebellion, insolence. Fashion depoliticizes and ditches the polemic.

Miniskirts and the French malaise

Which leads us to wonder: are certain anger movements more "brandable" than others? May 68 is fundamentally sexy, a creative and libertarian revolt whose slogans are poetic, whose demonstrations are filmed by Godard and Marker and whose posters are designed within the School of Fine Arts.

Will the movement of yellow vests know a similar posterity? His place is no longer boulevard Saint-Germain, but the roundabout, symbol of "the French malaise", namely the Champs-Elysées, a luxurious representation of consumerism and capitalism. Its emblem is no longer the miniskirt, symbol of the liberation of desire, but the high-security vest, characteristic of the motorist and symbol of distress. The issue is no longer liberation, but the impoverishment of the periphery. Those who march are no longer young idealist students, but "resistant Gauls", "yellow with rage", animated by what Bernard Henri-Levy describes as "sad, deadly, nihilistic passions". The energy remains, but in the form of a radical and desperate impulse, neither punk - another very “brandable” figure, often mobilized in advertising - nor poetic. But quite another thing.

What is it then, in movements of revolt that attracts brands? Captivated by the living, breathing mass, by the whipped-up energy of refusal, by those bodies that say "no!", brands couldn’t possibly disagree on the potential of such an image, so conducive to the thrill of collective emotion.

Read the article on DNA. Words by Seenk agency’s strategic planning team.