The 10 Most Controversial Ads in Fashion History


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We all know that when it comes to advertising, sex sells — but at what point do we draw the line between art and pornography or tasteful and offensive? The fashion industry has mastered the ability to sell clothing and accessories by using attractive models and sending sexual messages to consumers. If done correctly, these ads can be stylish, liberating and artistic, but one bad move and the whole ad can turn distasteful, sexist and obscene in no time. If you're 18 or older and not at work, check out this list of the 10 most controversial ads in fashion history.

  1. Calvin Klein Jeans

    One of the most memorable and controversial ads in fashion history is the 1980 Calvin Klein Jeans campaign, featuring 15-year-old model Brooke Shields who uttered the famous line, "Nothing comes between me and my Calvins." This suggestive ad was just one of many that helped catapult Klein's career as a top fashion designer.

  2. Tom Ford for Men

    Known as much for his provocative advertising campaigns as he is for his luxury clothing and fragrances, Tom Ford never turns down an opportunity to shock his viewers. Even though most of his ads are racy and overtly sexual, none drew more attention than his 2007 Tom Ford for Men fragrance ad that featured a bottle of cologne tucked in a female model's nether regions.

  3. American Apparel

    American Apparel is known for pushing the limits with racy images and suggestive ads that have received both criticism and praise. American Apparel puts out controversial ads virtually every season, but the one featuring model Lauren Phoenix in lust with her socks caused a great deal of ruckus. The suggestive ad shows a topless Phoenix wearing American Apparel tube socks and headshots of her enjoying them a little too much.

  4. Sisley

    Parisian clothing brand Sisley has a history of using provocative ads that are sure to catch your attention and maybe even make you shield your eyes. One of the Sisley's most controversial ads featured two dazed models pretending to snort a white stringy dress that looks a lot like something else certain models are fans of. The ad reads, "Fashion Junkie."

  5. Jordache

    Although Jordache has faded since its 1970s-1980s heyday, people will never forget the company's controversial jeans ad of half-clothed models dressed in nothing but their jeans. The scandalous campaign helped set Jordache apart from their competitors, and it spawned several other controversial ads, including a television commercial starring a topless woman wearing tight Jordache jeans while riding a horse through the surf.

  6. Gucci

    Gucci is not one to shy away from using risqué advertisements to sell their luxury clothing, accessories and fragrances, but one particular ad campaign managed to trump the others. Gucci took a fashion and publicity risk when it featured a model with her pubic hair shaved into the company's capital letter "G" logo, along with a man crouched between her legs. Although the 2003 ad caused a great deal of ruckus, it was not banned from the UK's Advertising Standards Authority.

  7. Abercrombie & Fitch

    Abercrombie & Fitch has made a business out of selling sex with their semi-nude models and suggestive messages that are geared toward teen and young adult consumers. The Abercrombie & Fitch brand raised a lot of eyebrows and concerns when it started showing shirtless males with washboard abs who couldn't seem to keep their pants on. These racy images became the face of Abercrombie & Fitch and the brand hasn't stopped pushing the boundaries ever since.

  8. Dolce & Gabbana

    Dolce & Gabbana have been known to push the envelope with their revealing ads that often send offensive messages to viewers. One of the most controversial campaigns in fashion history was Dolce & Gabbana's 2007 ad that featured a half-naked man holding down a scantily clad woman while four male models passively look on. The image was criticized for glorifying sexual violence and degrading women. The designer duo's ad was banned in Spain and in their native land of Italy.

  9. Diesel

    Diesel has a reputation of pushing the boundaries with its controversial ads, but the clothing brand really outdid itself when it launched the "Be Stupid" campaign that encourages consumers to take risks by acting stupid. The degrading images of a woman taking a photograph down her bikini bottom while a lion approaches in the background and another exposing her breasts to a security camera offended and breached decency rules in some countries.

  10. Yves Saint Laurent

    Yves Saint Laurent stepped on a lot of toes when it used the controversial image of a naked English model, Sophie Dahl, for the brand's Opium fragrance. The scandalous ad that was turned into a UK billboard was removed because it was too sexually suggestive and was degrading to women. It received extra scrutiny for appearing on poster sites that could be viewed by children.

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