Following its debut in stores earlier this month, this week saw the unveiling of the campaign for the M&S autumn 13 womenswear collection.
Since the press preview earlier this year, speculation has been rife about the collection – will it turn around the retailer’s fortunes? Is it better aimed at the M&S woman? Is £600 for a gilet too far off the mark for the high-street store?
More so perhaps than the clothes themselves, the unveiling of the ad campaign really hammers home the new vision for M&S. Whereas on shop rails and mannequins it’s easy for customers and journalists alike to moan about wearability, product-mix and the rest, when it’s officially styled up by the retailer, the vision is harder to debate.
So who is the new collection for? Well, the advert boldly states a broad range of women. There’s Dame Helen Mirren, the most glamorous woman-of-a-certain age Britain has to offer. She sits alongside a fiercely defiant Tracey Emin, who looks as though she’d rather be anywhere else. Next to them, fashion queens Grace Coddington and Karen Elson. So far, so totally not relatable, unless flawless skin and a high-profile are something that unites all women. Singer Ellie Goulding sits up-front, looking a little lost, but bringing the youth market appeal. Then, we have the ‘regular’ women, including author Monica Ali, Nurse of the Year Helen Allen and boxer Nicola Adams. Regular indeed – they’re just like you! Who among us hasn’t been shortlisted for a Booker prize recently, or won an Olympic medal?
It would be too easy to pick apart this advert for its flaws. Does it do a disservice to Helen Allen to place her in the category of ‘regular’ by proxy of sitting next to Darcy Bussell? Yes, she is far from it. Does it do a disservice to older M&S customers to have their ranges demonstrated by ex-model Grace Coddington and Helen Mirren of ‘that red bikini’ fame? Perhaps.
I can’t help but feel that the only difference between the M&S adverts of old, with Twiggy, Myleene Klass and Dannii Minogue is the eye-watering expense it must have cost to recruit the likes of Mirren and Coddington, let alone have it photographed by Annie Lebowitz. It’s all a little too ‘in your face’ and the message is confusing. Some of the women are arguably too high-profile to be believable as M&S spokeswomen. One, at least, is arguably too young for the so-called return to the M&S core customer.
When we first discussed the M&S autumn 13 range, we wondered about the too-much-too-soon aspect of introducing premium price points for some pieces upwards of hundreds of pounds alongside £3 knickers. Radical change on one side, and everything we’re used to on the other. This advert is essentially the premium version of what we’ve already seen from M&S. I’m just not sure that customers will be convinced.