#XMAS2015: Burberry x Billy Elliot

Something I have had the chance to learn during my time at uni so far is that the way brands promote themselves changes not only from label to label, but also throughout the decades. There is always more to a brand than just a logo, or just a signature item, or just a name: all of these elements and more make up what we could define a brand “menu”, a sort of equation, which, when carried out well, is what will make that brand surface among all the rest and stand out on its own.

But it is the public which defines which part of this mix should have the most focus, which over time has dictated what card brands have been playing the most. For example, in the 50s and 60s a signature and a crest were what made the world go round (think Schiaparelli), in the 70s and 80s a monogram logo (think Chanel and Dolce & Gabbana), in the 90s and 2000s a dominant colour or pattern (Burberry check anyone?). And so on.

Nowadays, people have grown bored of all this. Probably because of the huge amount of information we are constantly exposed to, the multitude of products available to us in the matter of a click, the millions of new brands that try to essentially sell us the same old product and have to find a new way to present it. There are fewer and fewer amazing inventions that change our everyday life dramatically (one could argue that there are none), so it isn’t about selling the product anymore, so much as it about selling an idea, a way of life, a value. If you pay attention you will notice that hardly any TV ad focuses on the product they’re selling anymore: they tell you a story, be it about romance, about family, about trust, about freedom, about luxury – and then feature the actual product maybe at the very end.

Which is what leads me to write about Christmas ads.

Christmas ads I believe are a perfect example of this phenomenon. It is a time of the year in which almost all brands gather their creative teams to come up with a new, compelling campaign that will draw customers towards their stores for their Christmas shopping. So, what do they try and appeal to? What aspect of the consumers’ minds and souls will they attempt to communicate to? Which need will they convince you that they alone can fulfill?

I will begin with Burberry’s campaign, if solely because it was the winner at the British Fashion Awards for the category Creative Campaign.

The running theme is a celebration of Britishness (as portrayed by so many British stars to make up a whole constellation) and an homage to Billy Elliot, a British cinematic classic, recreating the film’s opening scene to mark the 15th anniversary of its release. This is clearly consistent with Burberry’s message of quintessential British heritage and tradition.

‘Billy Elliot is an incredible film full of so much joy and energy, so it was a real thrill and a great honour to be able to celebrate its 15 year anniversary through our festive campaign,’ said Christopher Bailey, Burberry chief creative and chief executive officer. ‘It was also a huge privilege to work with such amazing and iconic British talent – the cast are quite simply some of the biggest names in film, music and fashion and it was so much fun working with them all to make this special film’.

In it, 12-year-old Romeo Beckham, who was also the face of their last year’s Festive campaign, sports a classic Burberry-check scarf in red as he jumps up and down on a trampoline. He is soon joined by a dazzlingly British cast, featuring the likes of Julie Walters (who starred in the 1990 film), Sir Elton John (who wrote the music for the staged musical), Naomi Campbell, George Ezra and James Corden – all wearing some kind of Burberry trademark (Julie’s scarf has even got her initials sewn on the back). Following the music (‘Cosmic Dancer’ by T. Rex, from the movie’s original soundtrack) the ad ends with a firework-like explosion of glitter and confetti which just brings the audience back to what this was all about in the first place – Christmas time! Or, as they prefer to word it, general festiveness and celebratory feel, as the brand made it a point to call it a Festive campaign, and not a Christmas campaign, in order to include those who do not celebrate the Christian holiday.

Burberry Festive Campaign 2015 'Billy Elliot anniversary' @Thorns Have Roses

On top of all this, the campaign aims to make a charitable, philantropic gesture, in pure Christmas spirit. Quoting from the Vogue website:

The original production of Billy Elliot established a legacy of charitable support for the local community of Easington, County Durham where the film is set. Inspired by this, Burberry is making a donation of £500,000 to be split between two charities, Place2Be and the County Durham Community Foundation, which have projects focusing on reducing barriers to education, training and employment in the local area. None of the stars who took part in the film were paid for their involvement, all choosing to donate their fee to the charities as well.

My first thought watching the ad was, how are they keeping such straight faces and badass poses while being thrown into the air by a trampoline?! And my second thought was – I wanna join them!

What do you think of this ad? Do you love it or hate it? I will be writing about a few other Christmas campaigns that have caught my attention, so stay tuned if you want to read some more about it!

sources / photo credits:
The Guardian
Harper’s Bazaar

Tim Walker’s The Muse

As a huge lover of film and motion picture, you can imagine my joy when I found out that Tim Walker, one of the most world-renowned fashion photographers, has directed a short film. Naturally, I had to watch it!

This mesmerizing and haunting 12-minute short was born out of a photoshoot that the very same Tim Walker took for W Magazine, starring model and long-time collaborator Kristen McMenamy as a mermaid (a role that, as they revealed in an interview, she had always wanted to take on and he had always wanted to capture). The basis of the shoot was Hans Christian Andersen’s short story “The Little Mermaid”, which was elaborated into a darker romantic idea of a mermaid kept in a tank in her lover’s garden.


“A fairy tale without darkness won’t resonate emotionally,” said the British photographer. And his fascination with the fantastic and the borderline-disturbing is plastered all over his work. It comes as no surprise that some of his biggest sources of inspiration are the sinister illustrations of Arthur Rackham and the eerie fairytales of H. C. Andersen.

Ben Whishaw (whom I already loved in Perfume: The Story of a Murderer and Cloud Atlas, and who you probably recognise from the latest James Bond movies) is Edward Dunstan, the photographer obsessed with his muse. The concept of the lost muse or inspiration and the effects that this loss has on the artist isn’t new to arts and film, and it perhaps became iconic with Fellini’s Otto e Mezzo (8½), whose veiled autobiographical tones depict an alter-ego of the filmmaker going through a “director’s block”. Just like in Walker’s short, memories and flashbacks merge with reality, and fantasies and dreams become a mean to an escape.

The artist’s consuming obsession and blinding perfectionism take over to become the central element of the short: Edward wanders aimlessly in open fields of grass lost in an empty sky; he watches footage of his muse on a loop and obsessively organises the pictures he took of her. He is trapped in his own mind, just like the mermaid was trapped in his tank. “I was as much your prisoner as you were mine,” he echoes. But there is a warning:

Legend has it that if a human man falls in love with a mermaid she will grow legs; legs that will, if she so desires, carry her far, far away from the very man she cast her watery spell upon… But what becomes of the human man, when her spell remains but she is gone?

The idea of separation is also a constant: first between his mind and the outside world, then between the present and the past, shown through bright and hopeful flashbacks; and finally between him and her, through the physical barriers of the tank at the beginning, and of the footage projected on the wall towards the end.

“His shoots, they don’t start with the clothes,” said Stefano Tonchi, the editor of W, who commissioned the original shoot. “They start with an urgency for him to tell a story”.

The short was shot on film (not digitally), with no use of CGI, and mostly silent. Part of it comes from the feeling of emptiness and alienation that the director wanted to convey; part of it must necessarily come from Walker’s solid background in photography, which, as Ben Whishaw puts it, is a much more sculptural process, it has much more to do with the body and its physicality than it does with dialogue. In fact, the only real dialogue that takes place in the film is that of the artist with the footage of his long-lost muse, caught in a perfect moment of vulnerability and grief, and exquisitely expressed through the actor’s body language.


The film is available on We Are Colony, a website that aims to provide exclusive independent films and behind-the-scenes footage with a pay-per-title policy. The special bundle for The Muse includes lots of extra interviews, hidden scripts and cut scenes and is only £2,49.


bill cunningham: a chronicle of NY fashion trends

To ease into induction week and to get into the visually-oriented mindset that we will need during our course, we started off with a screening of the movie/documentary ‘Bill Cunningham New York’ by Richard Press. The movie was a fresh and insightful view into the life of 80+ New York-based legendary photographer Bill Cunningham, a man who almost entirely dedicated his whole life to his work and passion: street style. As I watched him go about his daily routine, carefully inspect the hems of the skirts of the women passing by on the pavement, and sometimes even chase an eye-catching outfit through heavily-trafficked streets, I couldn’t help but feel utter admiration towards this man. His dedication to clothes and his talent in spotting trends as they are born among the widely-varied New Yorker crowds were beyond inspiring, especially when topped by his humility and sense of humour.

“We all get dressed for Bill.”

– Anna Wintour

His philosophy? “If you don’t take money, they can’t tell you what to do”. And he most certainly lives by it. For the sake of preserving his artistic freedom, Cunningham has rejected most of the material goods that the majority of people in our society would consider mandatory: a private bathroom, a kitchen and a closet full of clothes. His tiny flat being essentially a storage for his negatives and photographs, he spends his days by cycling through the streets of New York to spot new and recurring trends, selecting which photos to keep (very few are actually published) and putting them together to write an article on whatever trend has caught his eye. His work is his life and his life is his work.

It was also interesting to hear his opinions circa the fashion industry as a whole and the glamour and glitter that this environment is drenched in. He is clearly fascinated by it, but at the same time he prefers to keep his distance from it. Cunningham successfully made a name of himself in the fashion world even though his persona doesn’t exactly match the dazzling, gleaming socialite image: an aged man, very reserved, living the humble life, who has been wearing the same cheap blue coat for several decades, and who simply doesn’t participate in the glittering fashion events and parties that he attends as a mere photographer, never a guest. As if he were staring through a looking glass, he observes but doesn’t touch, documents but doesn’t get involved. He wants to be invisible; which is what differentiates him from the aggressive paparazzi.

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👋 Bill! #hyperlapse #nyfw

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I have definitely enjoyed watching this movie and found it to be quite the perfect start to this course. As a movie junkie myself I can hardly hide my excitement for the Film Club sessions we are going to be having on each Monday afternoon, and I look forward to finding inspiration as to how to integrate my love for movies and TV into my own visual communication concept.

“Bill on Bill” – NYTimes.com
“Why Bill Cunningham is actually the most interesting person at Fashion Week” – Huffington Post

“Bill Cunningham New York” (2010) – IMDb

photo credits:
the sartorialist