Well Said! Give Us Back Audrey Hepburn! Second City Style Fashion Blog

One of Second City Style’s contributors, Andra, sent me a link to this article that appeared in yesterday’s Chicago Tribune. I really couldn’t have said it better myself. Thanks Andra!

Steve Johnson

Tribune staff reporter
Published October 12, 2006

When a struggling clothing chain co-opts the image of a classy but deceased actress, somebody must pay. Tribune staff reporter Steve Johnson has some ideas about exactly who that should be.

Dear Gap:

Because this is a reverse ransom note, I don’t feel compelled to make it up out of letters cut from different magazine headlines. I can just come out and say what I want to say, I can use a normal typeface and I can even sign it with my own name.

What I want to say is this: Give her back. Give her back, or else.

For a few weeks now, you’ve been holding Audrey Hepburn hostage to your perceived marketing needs. Pushing something called "the skinny black pant," you’ve used Hepburn’s "bohemian" Parisian nightclub dance from the movie "Funny Face" in a television ad. It’s backed, with what is supposed to be charming dissonance, by AC/DC’s pop-heavy-metal hit "Back in Black," and it wouldn’t surprise me if you were to get irate letters, too, from the AC/DC fans who happen to be literate.

The ad’s suggestion is that Hepburn, who died in 1993, did that dance not to express her creativity and free spirit, as the movie’s plot would have it, but to sell Americans on cluttering their closet with yet another iteration of casual slacks.

This makes one of the classiest actresses Hollywood has seen into the apparel industry equivalent of Ron Popeil.

Give her back.

Like United Airlines grabbing "Rhapsody in Blue," you have no right to purloin something so valuable from the popular culture, even if your lawyers tell you that, in some technical fashion, you do have the right. While it matters, legally, that her son OKd the ad campaign, it doesn’t matter, morally.

Rather than cleverly trading off of a celebrity’s image, you are ham-handedly tarnishing it and, in the process, staining your own. "Come visit the Gap," your new slogan might read, "the store that managed to make Audrey Hepburn look crass."

You metaphorically stuffed Hepburn into your car trunk, I understand, because your stores have lost their cachet among the youth and you needed something to jolt people into paying attention again. What’s wrong with the grand old clothier tradition of an absurdly oversexed catalog, a la Abercrombie & Fitch?

Even if it weren’t so unsettling, the campaign is still off the mark. Audrey Hepburn, a high-fashion icon, has nothing in common with the Gap, whose stores these days look-at least in the men’s department-as if somebody raided the drawers of my college dorm. Miss Hepburn was no schlump.

Also, there’s this: Skinny black pants really only look great on the few women who have the scant proportions of a Hepburn, and even there, only for a few wearings, until they start to fade.

Now, I am not unreasonable. I recognize you probably have a substantial investment in this advertising campaign. To ameliorate your losses, I am prepared to offer you a fair trade.

You give back Audrey Hepburn, removing the "Pants for Sale" sign from around her elegant neck.

We, the American people, will give you back every pair of stonewashed jeans, male capri pants, pre-wrinkled shirts, sherbet-colored khakis and other fashion mistakes you somehow persuaded us to buy.

We’ll even throw in, as a special bonus, all those garments that say "G-A-P" in giant letters because, you know, we turned 25 and realized that only a sucker pays money to advertise someone else’s products for them.

If you’re still not persuaded, Gap, you’ll remember that this letter began with an "or else."

What, you may be wondering, is the "or else"?

It’s this: Give Audrey Hepburn back, or else we’ll all take an honest assessment of our clothing situations, count up all the pairs of chinos and jeans, and realize we don’t ever need to set foot in a Gap again. And if we do, by some terrible coincidence of undone laundry and spontaneous picnicking, suddenly need new chinos, we’ll go to J.Crew instead, even though we strongly suspect there is no actual person named "J.Crew."

To show you agree with these demands, simply put all your Hepburn tapes and images in a big, unmarked box. Leave the box on the north side of the Buckingham Fountain at midnight Tuesday. Restore Audrey Hepburn to her pedestal.

Steve Johnson is the Tribune’s Internet critic.

2 thoughts on “Well Said! Give Us Back Audrey Hepburn! Second City Style Fashion Blog”

  1. Thanks for posting!
    I wrote Steve, the editor, and told him he perfectly articulated why I don’t like the commercial. Audrey wore Givenchy, not Gap!


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