MILAN, Italy - Every once in a while, we notice the media -- all kinds of media from blogs to arty fashion mags to the mainstream press -- talking about the same topic in a contemporaneous burst of discussion. In the past few days, the talk has been about men's underwear. Or rather, the advertising campaigns behind this burgeoning business segment. Not since the 1980's and Bruce Weber's campaigns for Calvin Klein have we seen so much media interest in men's underpants.
Tim Blanks explores the subject at length in VMAN's Fall/Winter 2007 issue in The History of the Male Supermodel. And, according to an article in today's International Herald Tribune, men's underwear is big business.
Two Italian fashion brands are trying to get in on Calvin Klein's underwear action using sexually-charged photos to heighten awareness of their presence in the market.
Last week, the Giorgio Armani press office in Milan sent us photos of David Beckham's new advertisement for Emporio Armani Underwear towering over the intersection of via Cusani and via Broletto in Milan for Men's Fashion Week (this might explain why everyone is talking about it). But Robin Givhan of the Washington Post debates whether the sexually charged images are objectifying men while still other sites choose to debate the use of visual enhancements in the ads.
In an interesting reversal of roles, it's almost like the underwear ads are defining the overall visual image of the Emporio Armani brand, including it's face. Is Mr Armani saying that David Beckham is the ideal brand ambassador for Emporio Armani, or is it just a way to get increased attention on a small business by exploiting international celebrity?
Not to be outdone, Dolce & Gabbana are also getting in on the underwear action with a David of their own. Their underwear business has grown 12% over the past year and is bound to take another leap after the high-profile release of a D&G style sexed-up calendar featuring David Gandy, whom VMan is referring to as the new male supermodel.
The calendar has been distributed to Editors at Milan Fashion Week and Horacio Silva of The New York Times says everybody in Milan is talking about it while The Times of London's Carol Midgley gushed unabashedly about it in her article, calling Gandy the Modern Renaissance Man. While some of the images are even a bit too saucy for the BoF, you can find them all here on the internet site the D&G have set up for your viewing pleasure. These guys know how to make a campaign work and work and work.
Given all this hoopla, perhaps its not a surprise that, according to Reuters, Burberry is also considering moving into underwear. Seems like Christopher Bailey, Burberry's Creative Director, has been taking notes on the Italians' latest PR coup.
Photos courtesy of Giorgio Armani and Dolce & Gabbana.