Monday, August 17, 2009

It Bag Unpacked: Looking at a Fall '09 Valentino Ad

This advertisement, shot by Mert & Marcus and currently running in the September issue of British Harper's Bazaar, is extraordinary. I spent so much time looking at it on the page I thought it might be fun to go slightly off-topic and talk about what's beyond the obvious: a beautiful model--Iris Strubegger--selling a bag and a brand image.

First, the model's pose. Seems to me it's a direct lift from the famous (and at the time shockingly predatory) stance of Lisa Taylor in Helmut Newton's photo of 1975.
If anything though, the Valentino photo is even more shocking in what it proposes the bag is.

This model is called "Petale," and it issues from the garden's worth of floral embellishment that Valentino delighted in throughout his career, most evidently in the silk corolla of this gorgeous gown below, from the last collection he officially designed, in 2008.

It's possible (but unlikely) that Valentino was himself inspired by the swirling petals of Georgia O'Keeffe, who was notorious for denying any sexual content in her art.

But of course a flower is the ultimate sexual organ--a truth distilled in the image below by young artist Kimberly Applegate, who specializes in portraits of high-design chairs paired with famous paintings.

In the painting, an O'Keeffe poppy is background to a sleek red modernist throne. Designed by Eero Saarinen in 1948, it's known as the "Womb Chair".

It also happens to be the very chair upon which Iris sits above. Coincidence? Maybe . . . but given all the overtones and undertones playing through this photo, it's difficult not to feel that that expensive tote between her legs has, for some reason, a hypnotic and dangerous power . . .

So that's that. Let's now move on to the service element, which this blog is supposedly all about. Let me tell you I scoured the web for a cool vintage bag resembling the Petale bag, or a maribou romper like Iris more-or-less wears here. No luck! Everything even vaguely similar looked pretty cheesy in comparison, and no wonder--the real things cost a fortune.

But! There is a belt out there in resale land that that does a passable imitation of the one in the photo. Green snakeskin. Lots of allusions there too, but that's for you to mull over . . .

(Helmut Newton: Woman [Lisa Taylor] Examining Man, St. Tropez, 1975; photo of Valentino gown from Valentino: Themes and Variations, 2008; Georgia O'Keeffe, Abstraction White Rose, 1927 (c) Georgia O'Keeffe Museum)


  1. Wow! Wonderful analysis of the photos! I love that bag! Too bad there isn't a more affordable version out there!


    It reminds me of this bag from YSL 2003. Any luck finding one of these.


    OK, I am not the first who noticed the similarity....

  4. Thanks so much for the comments! And now that I know where to look . . .

    have fun!

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