Abercrombie & Fitch & Zizek
March 17, 2013 2:20 AM   Subscribe

In 2003, Abercrombie and Fitch approached Slovene philosopher and culture critic Slavoj Žižek to write ad copy. The results were odd. (And NSFW.)
posted by Rinku (66 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by Rinku at 2:21 AM on March 17, 2013


... I don't get it.

Maybe that's for the best.
posted by Xany at 3:15 AM on March 17, 2013


I don't get it either, but I do appreciate the imagery.
posted by MT at 3:20 AM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Does Žižek even know (or care) what Abercrombie and Fitch do?
posted by Mario Speedwagon at 3:29 AM on March 17, 2013


Not the first load of old wank he's been associated with, to be fair.
posted by Abiezer at 3:38 AM on March 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm probably one of the last people on Metafilter to discover this, but I find this kind of softcore pornvertising creepy as all hell. Unfortunately I am not deep enough to understand if
Žižek phoning in some generic platitudes to go along with the naked clothes models is a good or bad thing.

This is one of those cases where being an overweight slob with no dress sense pays off - I am 99.5% confident I have never given money to the people that produced this.
posted by Dr Dracator at 4:22 AM on March 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


Seems like a strange way to sell clothing.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 4:32 AM on March 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm constantly riding around on a horse nude with a dog on the back. Glad to finally know I'm not the only one!
posted by selfnoise at 4:43 AM on March 17, 2013 [8 favorites]


But a smart way to sell Zizek's blithering.
posted by chavenet at 4:43 AM on March 17, 2013


i remember when people standing next to each other and the human body weren't creepy because doing everything by internet hadn't fucked up my ability to be around people yet

this is not a joke, i can actually feel these two ways of thinking clashing in my mind
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 4:49 AM on March 17, 2013 [10 favorites]


The only successful sexual relationship occurs when the fantasies of the two partners overlap. If the man fantasizes that making love is like riding a bike...and the woman wants to be penetrated by a stud, then what truly goes on when they make love is that a horse is riding a bike...with a fantasy like that, who needs a personality?

what.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:00 AM on March 17, 2013 [11 favorites]


Hmmm, k, Bob. What are "Two shallow style-driven frauds that seem like polar opposites but that in fact go together perfectly?
posted by spitbull at 5:03 AM on March 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


The horse-riding-a-bike couple may have no need for a personality, but you've got to admit that throwing a dog into the mix does kick it up a notch.
posted by drlith at 5:04 AM on March 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


Looks like Slavoj has been reading Les Liasons Dangereuses again.

If I were a university administrator, I might keep a slightly closer watch on some of his undergraduates.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:17 AM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Google image search of a horse riding a bike. Less exciting than I was hoping.

It always cracks me up to see middle age women with their young teen daughters carrying softcore A+F bags.
posted by jonbro at 5:21 AM on March 17, 2013


C'mon Metafilter, I know you can do better than this. While the collapse of the dueling modes of advertisement and social criticism into an incoherent singularity is certainly titillating, our failure to treat it seriously is a scathing self-indictment.

Attending directly to Slavoj's commentary on the necessarily synthetic representation of the human form, this is a demand that we confront our own spectre as an agent of mediation. Are we not, ourselves, the dog riding the horse of the internet?

Woof, woof.
posted by mek at 5:22 AM on March 17, 2013 [21 favorites]


Žižek is a weirdo. A&F have been in hot water befor. Thongs to 'tweens...
I do want that V.W. not interested in any of the models. Got what I want at home....
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 5:23 AM on March 17, 2013


I do want that V.W.

I took a longer, harder look at the car than anything else in the ads. I don't think there's any Wolfsburg in whatever that thing is.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:39 AM on March 17, 2013


TUPPER LAKE TROUT HATCHERY
posted by telegraph at 5:45 AM on March 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


This post feels exactly like what I imagine my cat must experience in the dead of night when he's slowly, patiently extracting a six-inch long hairball from his guts and leaving it on the floor.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 5:52 AM on March 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


So what, exactly, am I meant to want to buy after seeing this? A Golden Retriever trained to smoke Gauloises?
posted by Kitty Stardust at 5:58 AM on March 17, 2013 [9 favorites]


So what, exactly, am I meant to want to buy after seeing this?

Text? If reality is constructed via ideology, then reading the copy will construct reality as well. And no doubt, undermine Capitalism, in this case embodied in A&F. Ironically, A&F are trying just as hard to reduce the revolutionary thought of Žižek to a commodity, the counterbalancing pressures of the ideologies result in a reality where perplexity rather than desire is dominant, leading the reader to neither buy nor refuse to buy but to merely wonder what the hell is going on.

With nudity, of course. This is A&F.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:08 AM on March 17, 2013 [8 favorites]


I cannot imagine this is not a joke. If this is serious, I love the world more.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 6:11 AM on March 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wow! The Sears Catalog has really changed!
posted by QueerAngel28 at 6:11 AM on March 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


I wish this was a commercial. And I wish it had been filmed by Werner Herzog.
posted by Fizz at 6:16 AM on March 17, 2013 [10 favorites]


I...kinda liked it.

The text made the images, otherwise silly, into something interesting. Although it was hard not to fall into the mode of thinking the models all vacuous pretty people—which is an unfair assumption, and at length has led to the intrigueing proposition that they are all themselves philosopher-poets imbuing each pose, in a stunningly muted way, with a deep and still understanding garlanded by a thin, tanned sheen of affectation.

I know the fashion in this thread has been parody, but I'm being totes serious right now.
posted by adoarns at 6:50 AM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


BURMA SHAVE!
posted by John of Michigan at 6:51 AM on March 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


@adoarns

for what it's worth, I was being serious too
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 7:02 AM on March 17, 2013


I am by no means able to wax philosophic in the context this needs but I do have a few observations...

Principally... So this is what happens if you hand a guy that has sort of an avant garde look at philosophy, social commentary and design a stack of abstract photos and you ask him to analyze their greater meaning and provide some quasi relative commentary about what the pictures mean... I think it is better he just got the photos and wasn't present at the shoot or the additional direction might have really gone off the rails....

Secondarily, I'm glad this was sans urine.

Lastly, At least they didn't have Roman Polanski directing the photo shoot.
posted by Nanukthedog at 7:14 AM on March 17, 2013


The only successful sexual relationship occurs when the fantasies of the two partners overlap. If the man fantasizes that making love is like riding a bike...and the woman wants to be penetrated by a stud, then what truly goes on when they make love is that a horse is riding a bike...with a fantasy like that, who needs a personality?

You know those sites where you give somebody a description & they draw that for you? We've had it posted here before, I'm sure. I really want to give this to one of those so I can see a horse riding a bike. That would be awesome.
posted by scalefree at 7:16 AM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was confused most of the way through, until I reached the blank page near the end. That really pulled it all together for me.
posted by scalefree at 7:17 AM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Reached via telephone in Ljubljana, Zizek told Ideas, ''You've got me there. I spent literally 10 minutes on this assignment, just free-associating. I was in theoretical despair!''

But Zizek bristled at the suggestion that there was anything unseemly about an internationally renowned intellectual writing copy for a clothing catalog. ''If I were asked to choose between doing things like this to earn money and becoming fully employed as an American academic, kissing [EXPLETIVE] to get a tenured post,'' he growled, ''I would with pleasure choose writing for such journals!''
Heh.
posted by delmoi at 7:22 AM on March 17, 2013 [10 favorites]


Google image search of a horse riding a bike. Less exciting than I was hoping.

Me too, sadly. The fantasy was better.
posted by scalefree at 7:23 AM on March 17, 2013


wut
posted by colie at 7:36 AM on March 17, 2013


No one's commented on the Silver Spectre II being in these shots?
posted by leotrotsky at 7:46 AM on March 17, 2013


Next up, Porno Adorno: "I never imagined it would happen to me, but I found myself erecting truth amid the general untruth."
posted by Abiezer at 7:50 AM on March 17, 2013 [11 favorites]


Pretty sure that first female model is actress Malin Akerman.
posted by ColdChef at 7:59 AM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Looks like it is her.
posted by ColdChef at 8:04 AM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Seems like a strange way to sell clothing.

Seriously, we're still doing this? The A&F catalog is selling a lifestyle, one which says teens who shop here are the kinds of people who have lots of naked fun times with their friends and, after the naked fun times, put on our jeans. That everyone in the catalog is naked actually emphasizes when they're not, which emphasizes the clothes.

For more, please see the Marxist philosopher whose words are superimposed on the catalog.
posted by Apropos of Something at 8:07 AM on March 17, 2013 [9 favorites]


A & F was really hitting on all cylinders ten years ago, offending teens' moms. Remember those Chinese Laundry shirts they had for about a second before yanking them off the shelf?
posted by carsonb at 8:32 AM on March 17, 2013


In the Spring of 1999, the Family Learning Channel commissioned animator Don Hertzfeldt to produce promotional segments for their network. The cartoons were completed in five weeks. The Family Learning Channel rejected all of them upon review, and they were never aired.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:35 AM on March 17, 2013 [12 favorites]


I've been listening to the podcast On Taking Pictures all weekend, and the hosts frequently complain about fashion photography. Key to their critique is the notion that fashion photographers, in general, treat their models as a conduit for clothes, rather than true subjects. If true, that disposition has a bunch of problems both ethically (perhaps treating models as objects leads to anorexia) and aesthetically (art to sell things? ignorance of dynamic subjects? etc.). A&F enters that discourse by presenting models without clothes, completely confounding those expectations. Does that make the A&F catalog counter-cultural? Well, no, not really: the irony of commercial art is that any participation in the artistic dialogue, even a complete rejection of what comes before, is still designed to sell you something (Were the makers of the VW Lemon ad saying something profound and new about postmodern aesthetics, or were they just trying to sell you a car?).

Enter Zizek. One of Zizek's implicit claims (may well be explicit somewhere, I'm not an expert) seems to be that because such narratives and counter-narratives constantly surround us, and because in a capitalistic society the motive of all those narratives is suspect, the only true liberation from them is not to fully accept them or fully reject them but to exist with them and remain conscious of them. Consciousness without obsession, one way or the other. Critical theory and nudity or, as Zizek calls it, a truly modern synthesis.
posted by Apropos of Something at 8:36 AM on March 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


This is so much better if you imagine this intellectual being asked by a corporate sleazebag to help sell t-shirts and the response is this crusty old guy saying "yup, sure." He then cashes their check and provides to them a commentary on their drek that they do not themselves see as an insult.

I mean, come on folks - look at pages 72-78, where you have this fake ass pictorial attempt to show us love or lust or wtf ever and to get teens to buy jeans so that they can be a part of the models' aloof, perfect world...

Then WHAM, on p. 79, the commentary, which follows many other mocking pages that describe the subtext of A+F - how love is not naturally known, it must learned (like through the clothing catalogs, except he uses the school analogy in his text because the first few pages have guys wearing hipster glassses and he can't resist mocking that):

IF THERE EVER WAS A HAPPY COUPLE, THIS IS ONE. THE FIRST LESSON OF LOVE TO BE LEARNED AT SCHOOL: DO NOT LOOK INTO EACH OTEHR'S EYES! ONLY BY IGNORING EACH OTHER CAN A COUPLE LEARN TO ENDURE EACH OTHER AND, EVENTUALLY, TO BECOME AWARE OF THE OTHER'S PROXIMITY.
posted by Muddler at 8:57 AM on March 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


These are creepy, but not as creepy as the Calvin Klein child porn ad campaign (link to video). OTOH they're also kind of interesting and beautifully done and they make me uncomfortable. Which makes them interesting as art, but dubious as ad campaigns.
posted by Nelson at 9:24 AM on March 17, 2013


For no very convincing reason I want to link to SCTV's classic Poocharé commercial now. (Yes, that is Eugene Levy).
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:30 AM on March 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


The history of the A&F Quarterly magazines.
posted by ericb at 9:47 AM on March 17, 2013


Love it or hate it, A&F Quarterly grabs young people’s attention
Even though the Quarterly is intended for college-age readers, and customers must show proof they’re over 18 to purchase it, critics say copies are landing in the hands of middle- and high-school kids who also wear the store’s label.

The publication has raised an outcry from concerned parents, including calls for boycotts, and the ensuing media coverage and First Amendment discussions have fanned the flames of the debate, making the publication so interesting it sold out.

Maybe it’s time for less fanning and more marketing perspective for the consumer.

Negative publicity may be promoting rather than hindering Quarterly sales, says Laura Moran, director of Prophet, a San Francisco firm specializing in brand-driven growth.

“Many young consumers aspire to be like their older counterparts – the people in the ads and the people working in the stores,” she says. “That puts A&F in a prime position to grab a substantial portion of the Generation Y consumer dollar.”

Less than half of the Quarterly involves merchandise for sale, but A&F spokesman Hampton Carney says that is the point.

“It’s almost incidental that clothing is offered. It’s more of a magazine and it’s treated that way in the planning and theming,” he says. “It’s meant to be entertainment.”
It's brilliant -- controversial, seductive and aspirational 'lifestyle' marketing targeted at a demographic of people wanting to be current, cool, and 'with it.' "If I wear this brand, its look-and-style, I can have as much sexy, happy fun as those kids!
posted by ericb at 9:59 AM on March 17, 2013


Pictures are appalling, but it seems that the writer used the occaion to make fun of a bunch of philistines - and earn some easy money.
posted by nicolin at 10:02 AM on March 17, 2013


This is brilliant – how a simply rumination can completely change the impact of the imagery. The text is so rational and directive, that the imagery seems banal and inconsequential.

If the point of the imagery is to sell products by selling sex, he has done a brilliant move at questioning the placement and positioning of sex within society. Rather then using philosophy to sell sex, this campaign now uses sex to sell philosophy. And it's all done very tongue in cheek, to the point where a lot of it becomes much less sexual if his thoughts are contemplated.

Very well-played.
posted by nickrussell at 10:37 AM on March 17, 2013


WELCOME TO THE BACK-TO-SCHOOL SALE OF THE REAL
posted by gompa at 10:51 AM on March 17, 2013 [13 favorites]


A&F really like their threesomes, don't they?
posted by New England Cultist at 10:55 AM on March 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


Negative criticism summarized its American run (1997–2003) as "soft porn" and racy. There were numerous lawsuits and boycotts focusing on moral and religious grounds which included the National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families, the American Decency Association, and the Focus on the Family organization.

they seem to have lucked out in terms of enemies
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 11:36 AM on March 17, 2013


Any campaign that gets people talking a decade later is doing something right.
posted by roger ackroyd at 11:42 AM on March 17, 2013


The text is so rational and directive, that the imagery seems banal and inconsequential.

Hmmm? Text? What text?

Oh .... okay, sure. Ya, I'll have to have a look at that, later.
posted by Twang at 1:08 PM on March 17, 2013


Needs more Das Ding tshirt
posted by rudster at 2:04 PM on March 17, 2013


Has anyone reproduced the text without the images so I can read it in public?
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 2:05 PM on March 17, 2013


A&F: the clothing you can't wait to get out of
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:01 PM on March 17, 2013


I have never been in one of their stores. It seems that they play music in them. I imagine it is probably club-type electronic dance music. I may be wrong about that, but I doubt it. Anyway. I know a guy who got a job for this company as a systems administrator. He says they play the very same music as is played in the stores, all day, every day, in the office.
posted by thelonius at 5:13 PM on March 17, 2013


Has anyone reproduced the text without the images so I can read it in public?
Here you go - Abercrombie & Fitch Quarterly, Back to School 2003.
posted by unliteral at 5:25 PM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't care what you all say. I liked Slavoj Zizek before, but now I love him. His analysis so starkly elevates the absurdity of the photographs that by the middle I was laughing hysterically at each new picture.

Back to school thus means: Forget the stupid spontaneous pleasures of summer sports, of reading books, watching movies and listening to music. Pull yourself together and learn sex.

By the end I was expecting to see clothed men with their flies open and their schlongs hanging out.

No way to escape sex -- even in pure mathematics, it will haunt you: How much energy is released when two bodies hit each other? Or is it that pure mathematics is much sexier than sex?

Fucking genius!
posted by rhombus at 5:29 PM on March 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


i still can't get over how much less prudish and distant ad copy seems from back then

it's probably silly to blame everything becoming creepy and cold on staring into an iphone all day long, but it sure doesn't seem to help anything
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 5:35 PM on March 17, 2013


Well, if you liked that, you might like this and this.
posted by benito.strauss at 5:51 PM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Thus means: Forget the stupid spontaneous pleasures of summer sports, of reading books, watching movies and listening to music. Pull yourself together and learn sex."

If he's taking the piss, this is genius.

"The only successful sexual relationship occurs when the fantasies of the two
partners overlap. " There's a great panel in a Sandman comic that graphically illustrates this.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 8:19 PM on March 17, 2013


This is one of those cases where being an overeducated slob with no dress sense pays off

But enough about Žižek, tell me about yourself.
posted by tallus at 8:34 PM on March 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't know why, but it was strangely captivating. I read every word. That's rare for catalog copy. I'd say they did something right by hiring him.
posted by candasartan at 12:06 AM on March 18, 2013


"ANOTHER LESSON TO BE LEARNED AT SCHOOL: NOT ONLY UNDER OUR DRESS ARE WE ALL NAKED - WE ARE TRULY NAKED ONLY UNDER OUR CLOTHES. IF WE ARE SIMPLY WITHOUT DRESS, WE ARE NOT REALLY NAKED - THERE IS NOTHER LESS EROTIC THAN NUDISM."

Žižek channels Sam the Eagle?
posted by homunculus at 12:48 AM on March 19, 2013


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