Great art + great client =

A great creative partnership can be the route to making ads stand out from the crowd. Just ask Rei Kawakubo

Comme des Garçons, Spring/Summer 2010
From Stephen J Shanabrook and Veronica Georgievas’s Paper Surgery project, commissioned by Comme des Garçons, Spring/Summer 2010

Despite its many detractors, there is nothing intrinsically evil about advertising per se. (Online advertising is a different story but we’ll save that for some other time.) The quality and therefore effectiveness of advertising is simply down to the calibre of individuals who commission and approve it and the calibre of individuals who make it. So when graphic designers or indeed artists sneeringly describe how much they hate ‘advertising’, what they really mean is how much they hate the embarrassing, banal garbage that makes up 99% of the ads they see every day. It does not of course have to be that way. As demonstrated by this month’s offering.

I love the surreal twist. People wear shirts. Shirts crease. But let’s flip things around and show a creased person instead of a creased shirt. What a stunning visual. It’s certainly going to get noticed. Because without doubt, this will be the most impactful page in the magazine. And it makes you think. So now Comme des Garçons SHIRT Spring/Summer collection 2010 is well and truly on every reader’s radar. Job done.

But hang on, shouldn’t the ad show the product? No. Because, somewhat counterintuitively, it would make the ad less effective. That’s because it would start to look like all the other fashion ads in the magazine. So it would be less noticeable. That piece of advertising heresy has probably just lost me any marketing directors reading this. Which is a great shame, because now I’m going to discuss big logos.

This ad has no headline and no crappy endline. Just a big logo, followed by a single word: ‘shirt’, in even bigger type, to denote the Comme des Garçons SHIRT line. And what a great-looking logo it is. In the context of this particular layout, why on earth make it microscopically small, Cannes-scam-style? The asterisk/cedilla thing is particularly sweet. Of course, if the logo was some 3D abomination covered in gradients then we would undoubtedly have a major problem. But the typography certainly works. And it’s another reason why this is good advertising.

Yet despite the big logo, we all know that very few clients (or indeed creative directors), would ever approve something like this. They lack the vision and the balls.

So not surprisingly, this ad never went near a conventional ad agency. The image was created by artists Stephen J Shanabrook and Veronika Georgievas from their brilliant Paper Surgery project. And it was directly commissioned by the client. Comme des Garçons has a history of partnering artists and photographers to create their ads. Amazingly, they don’t seem to feel the need to spend months and months doing meaningless research and enduring bullshit meetings with ad agency planners. They simply work with great creative people instead. And this is a successful global brand remember. Spot the correlation?

It certainly helps that they have a genius at the helm, Rei Kawakubo. An untrained fashion designer who has a huge influence on not just the design of the clothes and accessories, but the entire business from the store interiors to graphic design to advertising. And yes, even art.

Paul Belford is the founder of multi-award-winning advertising, branding, graphic design and digital agency Paul Belford Ltd, based in London. He tweets from @belford_paul and more of his work can be found at

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