DVF Casts Non-Models In Diverse and Grounded New Ad Campaign

by Alexandra Ilyashov

Diane von Furstenberg is once again eschewing tradition, this time when it comes to her latest ad campaign. The designer will be trickling out her Spring ’18 campaign, photographed by Oliver Hadlee Pearch, monthly. The first images were just unveiled, and the second and third “chapters” roll out in March and April, starring a diverse cast of mostly non-models. This unconventional approach is coupled with a new brand mantra, “In Charge.” Delphine Buchotte, chief marketing and digital officer, decodes the bold new MO.

Why do monthly drops for this ad campaign?
We live in a time of information overload—there are so many things our consumer is exposed to daily. So we basically need to provide consistent, authentic, and attractive content. With our Fall 2017 campaign, we explored a digital-first approach; the main takeaway was that frequent, creative refreshes are essential. Because of the way consumer behavior is evolving, and because of big changes in the fashion industry, we thought it was time we take a little bit more risk and try a new approach.

How do you think customers will react?
At DVF, we say that we put the woman at the center of everything; it’s really the way that the brand is articulated. We’re paying attention to what our consumer is expecting and supplying her with content and product that will stick with her at the right moment, whether that’s a bikini in May, a winter coat in December, and, of course, great dresses all year round. Customers have specific expectations and behavior regarding their own calendars, not a fashion calendar. The DVF woman is in charge of her life, and that concept is important to us. She’s working, she’s celebrating, she’s relaxing with friends and family. When it comes to fashion, we say it has to inspire, and that’s true, but at DVF, the message has to resonate with the customer’s journey and her day-to-day; she has so many things to do, and we want the clothes and the brand to help her go through this journey.

Why did it feel like the right time to really rejigger the campaign rollout?
Every day with my team, I try to put myself in the shoes of our customer. I’m always asking myself, as a real woman—would I find this interesting? Engaging? Emotional? If it speaks to you, resonates with you, if it’s something honest and authentic; it’s the kind of recipe that’s working today. The fashion industry is in a disruptive place right now, with see-now-buy-now and Fashion Week changing, so I think it’s the perfect time to try a different formula. We’re doing a digital-first, social-first campaign, so we’re trying new formats, and mixing in how-to content. If you’re close to your consumers and their expectations, you have an opportunity to use your brand to serve them.

Do you hope other brands will follow suit with this rollout model?
I’ve never considered this; I was working at L’Oréal for the past 15 years, and coming from the beauty field, I know how this type of content can help the woman we want to serve. So this is my main inspiration. Is it going to be a model for other brands? I really don’t know. My first priority is that it’ll be helpful and successful for our customers first; that we can interest and engage them. Then if it’s something that can inspire others in the fashion industry, great!

What do the images reveal?
We wanted to show this woman in different moments of her journey—it could be at work, relaxing with girlfriends, cuddling with her kids. When she’s working, she’s assertive and successful; when she’s at home, she can relax and focus on her little ones, and have a cheerful, shared moment with her family. The DVF woman can be many different women at the same time. In the casting, we have two professional models, alongside real women. For example, Roxane, the woman starring in our February campaign, you actually see her with her real child; she’s a real working woman, with a wonderful family and a great career at the same time. She’s embodying everything and sharing that with us in an authentic way.

How did you come up with the March campaign?
The March story is much more about celebrating; it’s a good moment, having fun, a nice time to go out, be together, and have fun in the city. It’s not only to celebrate with your friends, it’s to celebrate New York as a vibrant city as well. New York is really a city at the center of everything; in the East Village at night, you can feel this vibe.

And what’s on tap for April’s ads?
For me, this one completely embodies the brand mission; it’s cherishing diversity, togetherness, and inclusiveness. Different ages, different demographics; older women, women with children—we tried to show this diversity because we think that DVF is really a brand with purpose. Our purpose is to celebrate freedom, empower women, and inspire confidence.

What compelled you to join DVF last year?
First of all, I’m in love with New York! I used to live in New York with my husband, but we went back to Paris. And in the beginning of 2017, my husband had this opportunity to go back to New York; I was at L’Oréal Paris, and they offered me a role supervising all consumer brands [in Paris]. It would’ve been a great opportunity for me, but at the same time, moving to New York, I just assumed I’d continue to work with L’Oréal. Then, I met Diane [von Furstenberg]. It really changed the curve of my life; I had a very strong connection with her. Coming from L’Oréal Paris, the brand’s [slogan] is “Because I’m worth it”—it’s all about confidence, and I truly embraced female empowerment. When I met Diane and I learned a little more about the DVF brand, I thought it would be such a natural fit for me. During my interviews at the brand, the question I was asked a lot was, “You know about beauty, but you don’t know about fashion—why do you think you’ll succeed in fashion without knowing anything about it?” My answer each time was to say, “You know what, when you’ve been working in beauty for 15 years, you learn a lot about women, and this exact same woman is buying fashion. So we have that common thread: women.”

Has that been true? Has your lengthy beauty career proven valuable?
Mostly, it’s my digital-native culture that’s been most valuable. I was chief digital officer at L’Oréal, and I think that when you’re coming from that background, you’re willing to take risks. It’s a very trial-and-error type of culture. That’s something I have really deep in me, and I’m a natural risk taker. You can only improve if you put yourself at risk
by trying something new—that’s not so natural for luxury fashion brands, because they have to cherish their heritage and assure certain consistencies for the consumer. With that in mind, I guess I shook the house a little bit. When it comes to consumer expectations, you want to surprise them.

What do you have in the pipeline for 2018? Any fun projects on the horizon?
Diane is a mentor for so many women, and the brand’s ambition is to support women in charge everywhere, to give them a voice, and to make this brand a platform for them to connect and share. We are a fashion brand that has become a women brand, so our main ambition is, really, to be a brand that is at the service of women. I think we’ll have a series of events, different kinds of activations to help give voices to unvoiced women; we’ll be celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8. We’re going to have a series of events in New York at our headquarters that are meaningful and are a place for women to connect, learn, and engage in conversation.

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