13 May 2019

Gucci Beauty’s New Campaign Challenges Perfectionism

Creative director Alessandro Michele is lending his exuberant, multi-layered aesthetic to a newly minted cosmetics range. The first drop—a 58-piece lipstick collection—rewires Hollywood glamour to suit his idiosyncratic vision of beauty. Gucci Beauty’s campaign shots are the perfect antidote to the airbrushed shots we’re usually exposed to - but why has it become such a talking point?

Since the creative director’s surprise appointment in 2015—Michele designed his debut men’s collection, replete with pussy-bow blouses and fur-trimmed mules, in an abracadabra five days—his magpie world has sparked a collective fever dream. (It has also doubled the brand’s revenue in four years, with 2017 bringing in a reported $7.1 billion.) When whispers of a Gucci makeup revival started swirling, the mind reeled with far-flung possibility. What kind of eye shadow goes with a poet-haired man wearing gilded ear cuffs?

Lipstick ads tend to follow a certain narrative: Conventionally beautiful model with a conventionally perfect pout swipes on lipstick and smiles wide, revealing a conventionally perfect set of symmetrical white teeth. But for its first-ever campaign, Gucci Beauty went in a different direction with 26-year-old singer of Brooklyn-based punk band SurfbortDani Miller as its face. Miller's teeth are imperfect: Some are twisted, some tinted yellow, and there are large gaps between her two front teeth and her canines. Nevertheless, the campaign image — which is styled to mimic makeup ads from the '80s — features a close-up of Miller smiling wide, with a shock of red lipstick surrounding her toothy grin.

The series of close-ups, shot by Martin Parr, features models Achok Majak, Mae Lapres and Ellia Sophia alongside aforementioned Dani Miller. Alessandro Michele, creative director of Gucci has said of the campaign, “The idea is to create a representation that is close to reality with a humanized point of view, however seemingly strange. But the strangeness is human so it’s beautiful.” It’s clear he isn’t concerned with the normative ideas of perfection, but are people ready for strange beauty? Responses vary from support of the widening horizon of mainstream beauty to outrage and cringing. Gucci’s marketing team have even come under fire for using the guise of diversity to create a money-making media buzz. 

The creamy formulas (there are three: richly pigmented Satin, sheer Voile, and tinted Baume) carry a whiff of powdery violet, like the candy-store pastilles. Even the shade names pay homage to Hollywood legends, including Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, and Jean Harlow, whose title role in 1931’s Goldie (together with Michele’s lucky number) inspired the line’s signature color, 25 Goldie Red.

The '80s-inspired campaign is an homage to Michele's off-kilter sensibilities and penchant for quirk; it's meant to communicate that "makeup should not mask, but rather exalt, flaws and make them part of the language of beauty," per press materials. There is also an accompanying campaign film, shot by Chris Simmonds, which draws on the same vintage aesthetic and encourages the audience to be "bold, bright and beautiful," via a voiceover.