We meet again. Bond is back, and with him a flurry of advertisements starring Daniel Craig’s chiselled physique, seductive snarl, and icy blue gaze. From Omega watches (‘James Bond’s Choice’) to Champagne Bollinger (‘the champagne of James Bond’) and Belvedre Vodka (imaginatively, ‘An excellent choice, Mr Bond’), one only has to flip through the pages of GQ, or even walk down the street, to see the actor Craig – and the fictional character associated with him – endorse product after product.
Of course, when it comes to Bond, there’s a distinct element of British pride, and our nation’s slight infatuation with the cool, slick character to take into account. Bond is beyond our aspirations; playing, one suspects, a large role in the fact that his character can slide out of the most improbable situations with not a sniff from film critics, and waltz, martini in hand, away from allegations from Craig himself that the spy is ‘actually a misogynist’. The large brands using Craig as their poster boy seem perfectly comfortable with extending our desire to emulate Bond to a fixation with Craig; and herein lies the crux of the issue – is celebrity endorsement; be the celebrity existent or invented – good for the fashion industry?
Celebrity culture is rife. The late 1990s and early noughties saw our obsession with the upper echelon of pop society: the beautiful; the wealthy; the talented, soar. Before the launch of celebrity perfumes, handbags and makeup lines, the major fashion houses dominated sales. Now, although undoubtedly less respected, and often, much cheaper, the shelves in department stores are crammed with bottles and jars plastered with the faces of Kardashians, One Direction and Nicki Minaj. It’s true that many of these endorsed products are, in reality, owned by the companies from which we might suspect the singers and reality TV stars to be taking profit – Nicki Minaj’s range, for example, is manufactured by Elizabeth Arden. Inescapable, however, is the fact that by essentially killing two birds with one stone, the production of these commodities, and associated advertising campaigns, transform singers, actors and footballers into conglomerates with fingers in too many pies.
By using a celebrity to endorse anything; be it a bag, a foundation, or a bottle of vodka, the associations and experiences of that celebrity intrinsically become part of the campaign. For many brands, this is only a good thing. Daniel Craig wears an Omega watch? Bond wears an Omega watch. If you buy an Omega watch, the world’s most beautiful women will fall at your feet (and, you know, you might get to shoot a gun). Gwyneth Paltrow wears Boss Ma Vie? Boss Ma Vie must be the elixir of life. Smell like Gwynnie, get Gwynnie’s legs. And so the list goes on. Calvin Klein jeans, the brand that discovered 18-year-old Kate Moss (or certainly boosted her dizzying rise to fame), has recently chucked the real models, opting for David Beckham, Justin Bieber and Kendall Jenner, to name a few. Jenner’s own status as a model-cum-celebrity, ranking her among the likes of Cara Delevinge, Gigi Hadid, and the supers of the early 90s, place her without question in a different league; one obscenely elevated from their modelling peers.
For, as model and actress Isabella Rossellini explains, ‘it’s the celebrity that gives them the longevity. Most models start working less at 30, and then by the time they are 35 it’s over completely.’ Magazine covers; adverts; major campaigns – the celebrities and the models are embroiled in a battle to the death, and the celebrities are winning. Gone are the days when endless legs and a pretty face might land you a contract; can you sing? Can you act? Bookings Model agency concedes ‘It’s all about celebrity culture these days’, echoing a recent Cindy Crawford interview, in which the super model claimed the ‘modelling heyday’ of the 1990s to be ‘over’.
American Vogue editor Anna Wintour was widely criticised for her Kimye cover, with many claiming that by shifting the focus of the magazine from couture to Kardashian, Condé Naste had lost integrity. But Wintour’s ever-savvy approach was unquestionably a reaction to something we all knew anyway – the market has spoken, and the market wants celebs. Now, was that martini shaken, or stirred?