M&S celebrates Britain’s ‘leading ladies’ in new campaign

Marks & Spencer has enlisted a cast of ‘leading ladies’, from Helen Mirren to artist Tracey Emin and Olympic Gold winning boxer Nicola Adams, and photographed by Annie Leibovitz, to launch its autumn fashion ranges.

Marks & Spencer has enlisted a cast of ‘leading ladies’, from Helen Mirren to artist Tracey Emin and Olympic Gold winning boxer Nicola Adams, photographed by Annie Leibovitz, to launch its autumn fashion ranges.

The noticeably high-production value campaign, created by agency RKCR Y&R and shot in Leibovitz’s trademark style, aims to convey the retailer’s “new and confident tone of voice”. It features the leading ladies posing in different groups at various dramatic locations, including on a boat at Tower Bridge, at a London artist’s studio (which apparently sets the scene for the “rebellious yet playful London Calling trend”) and the drawing room of a traditional country house.

Under the strapline ‘Meet Britain’s leading ladies’, the campaign celebrates 12 British women from diverse backgrounds and professions. It launches on September 3 in print, online and outdoors across the UK. Shots from the campaign will also feature in ten international flagship stores.

The group of women also includes retired ballerina Darcey Bussell, Nurse of the Year 2011 Helen Allen, author Monica Ali, supermodel Karen Elson, charity campaigner Katie Piper, singer Ellie Goulding, US Vogue creative director Grace Coddington and Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of Save the Children International. According to M&S, they share “a strong sense of personal style and inspirational achievements which have propelled them to success”.

“The British have a history of being creative and pioneering and these women represent just that, says Steve Sharp, creative director at M&S. “As industry leaders in their field, [the leading ladies] make a significant difference that has seen them break boundaries, challenge stereotypes and create visionary artistic work. As the nation’s biggest retailer, we too have broken boundaries throughout our history and it’s this unique position in the marketplace that has enabled us to bring together this remarkable group of people.”

Despite this rationale, it remains unclear exactly what consumer demographic is being targeted with this group of people. In fact, the various posed tableaux seem a tad forced and contrived – perhaps not quite conveying the feeling of a Vanity Fair-esque aspirational spread.

When M&S ditched its previous group of female celebrity models in favour of conventional jobbing models last year, there were calls for Twiggy and co to return – maybe Dame Helen and her fellow leading ladies can revive M&S’s fashion fortunes instead.

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