In The Know: The Difficult Relationship Between Sex and Fashion


Or a few examples of how sex has been used by fashion for brand building

When it comes to fashion, being provocative is what seems to work best. Funnily enough the less you wear in an ad, the stronger the media impact.

No matter whether you are an emerging fashion label or establish brand, sex doesn't discriminate.  Fashion simply appeals to the innate desire to make yourself more attractive to others.

The relationship between sex and fashion is an old one. Brands have successfully used provoking, controversial, sexual campaigns for years, building entire brands upon them. 

Take the example of photographer Oliviero Toscani. His career was largely based on portraying social issues in a visually striking way, often resulting in making the viewer feel somewhat uncomfortable.

Some of his most notorious campaigns feature a priest and a nun engaging in a forbidden kiss, a black woman breastfeeding a white child and a family looking after their son dying of AIDS in a hospital room.

A considerable number of his campaigns ended being censored in several countries often condemned as inappropriate and not suitable for children. 

Calvin Klein's campaigns are another example of a whole brand built on being daring, sexual and borderline inappropriate.

One of their first campaigns is also considered one of their most provocative, featuring a 15 year old Brooke Shield stating: "Nothing comes between me and my Calvins". Another featured youth at an old -school casting being asked uncomfortable questions, which rumour has it had the brand having to prove the age of the models.

More recently Calvin Klein has channeled the younger generation through its sexting campaigns.

The adverts, also being displayed on dating platforms such as Tinder, featured copy replicating conversations between potential lovers, such as "Hahah a light threesome never hurt anyone ☺ ☺ ☺”, accompanied by inviting photos of shirtless men and women.

From Tinder to Grindr, only a few weeks ago designer J. Anderson streamed its fashion show exclusively on the gay dating platform for 24 hours. 

This is just an example of how brands are adapting to the younger generations' approach to sex and dating, reaching them where they probably spend most of their online time. 

As J. Anderson himself stated: "We’re reaching seven million people [the number of Grindr users] at one time. Fashion is at the speed it should be; media drives that so we have to keep pace.”

J. Anderson however wasn't the first one in seeing online dating and men and women's sexual habits as potential marketing channels.

Under Creative Director Nicola Formichetti's new lead, Diesel was the first brand to advertise on Grindr.

They have now gone one step further and announced that they will start advertising on PornHub.

"Grindr is the one that all my friends talk about; they’re always on it, and PornHub is the same – we might not talk about it as much, but that’s the one we spend most of our time scrolling through so it just makes sense to advertise on there", states Formichetti.

Tapping into online dating and the sex industry isn't something all brands are going to jump right into any time soon. But sex is becoming less and less of a taboo for the younger generations, and brands should acknowledge that.

When a whole industry is based, in one way or another, on embellishing, highlighting and enriching the way we look, and when a whole generation is thriving off showing off, then the relationship between sex and fashion is only going to get stronger.

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