Ad Archives: the Instagram account showcasing vintage print ads

Since September last year, graphic designer Halima Olalemi has been cataloguing outstanding magazine ads from the 80s, 90s and 00s on her Instagram account, @adarchives. Here, she reflects on some of her favourite finds and a time when fashion ads were more experimental…

@adarchives showcases dozens of advertising campaigns from youth culture and fashion magazines, including i-D, The Face, Dazed and Sleazenation. There are ads for Katharine Hamnett, Helmut Lang and Carhartt as well as Asbolut, Sony Playstation, The Chemical Brothers, Gola, Virgin, Rizla and Massive Attack.

As well as highlighting some great work – from provocative Benetton and Diesel ads to some stellar ones for Levi’s – the project offers a look at how much fashion advertising has changed in the last 30 years. The black-and-white imagery in Levi’s 1990s print ads and Wrangler’s lo-fi campaigns from the 1980s (shown below) are a far cry from the sleek and glossy ads we’re used to seeing in similar publications today. Much of the work showcased on @adarchives is bold, funny, gritty and provocative. Here, founder Halima Olalemi explains how the project got started and picks out some of her favourite finds…

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Paul Smith advert from The Face, October 1993 and Sony ad from The Face, April 1985. Lead image (top) Levi’s ad from The Face, November 1993
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KitKat and Nike ads from The Face (Oct 1991 and July 1990)

CR: How did the idea for @adarchives come about?

Halima: Ad Archives was something that happened through me being a hoarder as well as collecting a few magazines when I was younger (Sleazenation, i-D, Dazed etc). I re-read a few and wanted to give some way, [but] noticed how visually striking the advertising was back then. I’ve decided to hold on to them, as they remind me of a period of time as a designer when I first started noticing editorial design. I began sharing [the ads] on Facebook and Instagram and I really enjoyed the feeling of nostalgia that everyone took from them, as well as how much people kept telling me how far fashion advertising had come. As I began posting more on Instagram I had a great deal of people messaging me telling me how much the content could be used for reference or as a mood board of some sort.

I started in January 2015. I was interning at Dazed at the time and they had a large archive and a great scanner, so I used it as an opportunity to read through some old issues as well as scan some content. Then, in late 2015, I was approached by Ollie Olanipekun and Toby Evans of Superimpose studio through Instagram – they are a design studio who deal with brand positioning and creative direction, and they’ve had clients such as adidas originals, Hermes and Cheap Monday…. We decided to root through their library of editorial content, as well as add some form of chronology to what I post, as we felt it would be interesting to show the progression in fashion and advertising.

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Wrangler ad from The Face, May 1985
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Wrangler ad from The Face, September 1985

What differences do you see in the images featured on @adarchives compared to what we commonly see in fashion mags today?

Print advertising, I think, isn’t as brave. [It doesn’t] draw you in as much as some of these ads do. When I flick through magazines today, they’re all very clean, have pastel colours usually, followed by a beautiful set design.

I loved the Camper SS/AW 15 ads, as they really pushed boundaries with visuals for a footwear brand – however, in the ads from the 80s/90s era, I think there is a sense of freedom which makes me wonder what I am going to find next – for example, I’d never have expected HMV to publish an ad with a nipple in it, now or then, but to find one made it clear to me how much change there is in the advertising industry, due to a shift in time and opinions towards sexuality or politics, which goes on to affect what publishers choose to show their audience.

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Sisley ad from Sleazenation, Vol 3, Issue 3, April 2000 and Reebok ad from Dazed, Vol.2, Issue 30, October 2005
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One2One mobile ad from Dazed, December 2000 issue (left) and i-D, July 2000

What era are the ads from, predominantly?

When I started posting I didn’t consider chronology, this was something that came much later down the line and think it is a great way to share them. When I started gathering content from The Face I started from the beginning and noticed how stripped back they were – it was refreshing to just see a phone number and an address instead of a QR code and bunch of social media icons. At the moment I’m approaching the late 90s and the ads are more experimental: they poke fun and try to communicate a message about the state of society. I really enjoy finding Benetton ads as I’ve only ever seen them online, but they’re more striking in print, especially because of the era in which they were printed.

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Diesel ad from The Face, May 1995 and Camper ad from Sleazenation, Vol 3, Issue 4, May 2000

­What have been your favourite finds so far?

I really enjoy how visually striking the smoking and drinking ads are … ABSOLUT managed to use the shape of their bottle as a symbol, and where you don’t see it, the advert will use a strong visual to draw you in, [so] there’s always a consistency.

In terms of fashion-based ads, I really the Katharine Hamnett, Carhartt, Issey Miyake and Benetton ads. Narrative is important to me, and being able to use that through photography, drawing from current events or a subculture is the best way to relate to and each audiences. And they’re always really beautiful to look at.

It’s been an amazing way of learning more about brands I never knew much about, for example, Stussy…. I feel they’ve always kept this idea of becoming part of a family, or a ‘Stussy Tribe’ to make their consumers feel part of a secret society I think, and then followed with strong adverts that comment on society or celebrate a subculture. I think it’s important for people to feel, no matter what their background is, like they are part of something that’s bigger than them as a person and I think Stussy (among other brands) taps into that really well.

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Stussy ad from The Face, June 1990
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Benetton ad from The Face, March 1995

What are your plans for the project now?

I’m starting to take the project in a direction where it doesn’t just live on Instagram – I want it to become a library or point of reference for artists.

Even though the project is digital for now, I want to start thinking of ways members of public can get involved through scanning some ads, or maybe [I’ll] get in touch with some of the agencies and editorials to scour through their archive, which will give me get a chance to show more ads but from the brands themselves.

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