Too Sexy

How else are you expected to sell lingerie?

Written by EXPRESS FEATURES SERVICE | Published:August 7, 2013 5:43 am

Penelope Cruz’s ad surfaced five days ago. The Spanish and American actress played director for Agent Provocateur,a renowned and expensive British lingerie company whose name says everything about it.

The advert is a sexy little six-minute film that stars actor Miguel Angel Silvestre and model Irina Shayk. Miguel walks into a Spanish mansion and puts on his L’Agent sunglasses that can see through people’s clothes.

The ad is erotic enough to make me blush as I type its story. It has been called ‘creepy’ and ‘perverse’ by assorted websites. Huffington Post asks its readers to vote whether the ad is slinky or sleazy. While the Mirror calls it “the sexiest Agent Provocateur advert ever”.

It is a sexy commercial selling a sexy product made by one of the sexiest women in the world. But exactly how sexy is too sexy?

This is an answer no underwear-maker or advertising guru will be able to answer. Our collective growing intolerance and propensity for political correctness gets in the way. Bans on ads are called for if the model is too thin or too young,for promoting bad body image,for fat-shaming or skinny-shaming,for using fake eyelashes when selling mascara,and the most popular — showing women in an exploitative light.

This is a week of provocative lingerie ads. American company Wacoal’s new commercial for its Mood Bust-up Bra shows an Asian woman with a pastel blue bra peering from her white shirt. In minutes,the girl removes her makeup,wig,shirt and unclasps. She’s actually a young man,and a good-looking one at that. The ad has millions of YouTube hits.

An old image of model and lingerie designer Elle McPherson’s Intimates line has resurfaced. One photo shows a woman’s back as she lies defeated on the floor,wearing black lace undergarments and blue shoes. It reminds of domestic violence and has been called ‘disturbing’ and ‘rapey’.

Lingerie advertising in India has always induced gasps,albeit for reasons of aesthetic dishonour if nothing else. Before foreign companies came in with their push-ups and demi-cups,lingerie ads were painted or pasted on walls alongside railway lines. They were Indian companies selling poorly made all-white bras named ‘Juliet’ or ‘Tulip’. The posters were probably illegal,but there wasn’t a feisty Shiv Sena corporator like Ritu Tawade around (she recently called for a ban on lingerie mannequins stating they encouraged rapes in Mumbai).

No one bothered as the main customer for this essential commodity was a middle class woman,when middle class was not a retail buzzword. The rest of us had our wares delivered from mothers,grandmothers,aunts and grand-aunts who made their annual jaunt to Marks & Spencer at Selfridges. The high-street labels that we have today have candy-coloured polka-dotted adverts out during sale time.

However it’s the male underwear ads that bring on the mirth. Amul Macho’s TV commercial had a woman moaning while she washed her man’s jocks (how’s that for showing women in poor light?). While Bollywood superheroes Shahrukh Khan and Salman Khan beat up goons who tease their girlfriends wearing their Don and Dollar vests (misleading,anyone?). It’s hard to be anything but playful and suggestive when selling lingerie. German company Blush Berlin attempted something new with this winner: their campaign line was ‘Dear Edward Snowden,there’s still a lot to uncover.’

namratanow@gmail.com

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