A powerful man in a suit with a half- or fully-naked woman draped somewhere on him, or around him, has been a stereotype used in ad campaigns for as long as modern advertising has been around. From car ads to perfume ads, this kind of sexism and objectification of female bodies has become so common that we don’t even look twice at a billboard showcasing it.
But this fall, a slight breeze of seemingly refreshing change is stirring up waves in the world of fashion advertising. Those winds are courtesy of clothing brand SUISTUDIO, the newly launched sister-company of longtime men-suits brand Suitsupply. SUISTUDIO states on their website that “we specialize in suits, but we’re not dressing men.” And in their first official ad campaign, this message is visualised in the most literal way: showing powerful-looking women in suits sitting in penthouse apartments, with naked men lying on the floor below them, or strutting around in the background behind them. This campaign has been going viral since it was first launched a month back, and getting praise for highlighting objectification and turning the gender tables on the stereotypical depictions normally used for women in ads.
(photos via suistudio.com)
And as great as this gender swapping is to highlight sexism and to celebrate women in power, and the fact that it’s positioning itself as a suit-company for women only, using #NotDressingMen as a hashtag consistently throughout their social media platforms, it also makes it strikingly and scaringly obvious that sexism only becomes visible when the roles are reversed. Naked women have been a core part of advertising for so long, and so consistently, that most people wouldn’t even ever care to raise an eyebrow if they saw an ad featuring a suited man with a naked woman beside him. In fact, SUSTUDIO’s parent company Suitsupply has been known for creating extremely sexist and degrading advertising campaigns towards women, even though they only make products for men. As recently as 2016, they showed tiny men dangling from giant women’s bikini bras and panties, and standing on their breasts.
SUISTUDIO’s campaign still succeeds in giving attention to issues of sexism and objectification and shows powerful, empowered women instead of men, which is a refreshing and needed change in the world of advertising. But it also proves that even the at-first-glance best and most progressive ads with seemingly feminist messages can have their hidden flaws and contexts. After all, nothing is black and white — not even when it comes to suits.
Top photo from SUISTUDIO
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Amanda Brohman is a 23-year old editorial intern at BUST, a freelance writer, blogger and fashion journalism student at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. She loves everything that glitters, taking long walks in and around her SoHo neighborhood, and drinking Chardonnay on her fire escape at midnight whilst listening to Halsey.