Fall 2020 Ad Campaign with Irina Shayk & Gary Busey
Superstar music producer Alexander Grant – better known by his moniker Alex da Kid – announces the launch of his fashion label, _by.ALEXANDER.
The London-born producer and songwriter, who now lives and works in Los Angeles, has left his musical fingerprints on many of the biggest bangers of the 2010’s. Collaborating with artists from Eminem and Nicki Minaj to Imagine Dragons, Grant has been incredibly influential on the crossovers and intersections of hip-hop, pop, alternative rock, and dance music that characterized the decade. A scroll through the list of his production credits brings up some serious blasts from the past.
Now, with the founding of his new fashion label, Grant seeks to bring to fashion the same interdisciplinary ethos with which he approaches his music. An album which shares the same name as his first collection, “000 Channel Black,” is dropping later this week. His upcoming exclusive retail store will feature replicas of his living room, where last year he began to design and produce the collection, as well as his media studio. Thus, fans are given a glimpse into the process behind his entire creative world.
The new label and its first collection are celebrated in a campaign which features two wildly different celebrity guest appearances, namely Irina Shayk and Gary Busey. While it makes some interesting choices, the campaign struggles with a lack of unity, and feels confusingly disjointed.
The Irina Shayk side is composed of several brief black-and-white short films and a series of color photographs. In the films, Shayk and Grand pose outside of Grand’s home, while a disembodied voice with a French accent makes cryptic claims about the role of the artist. The photographs, on the other hand, offer a washed-out, disposable-camera organic feel.
There is very little apparent connection between this half of the campaign, and that of Gary Busey. Captured in a studio, the Busey side of things has a completely different set of aesthetics. Clad in an oversized T-shirt and assuming strange poses, he enacts some sort of ritualized performance art. Accompanying photographs highlight his skill as a character actor and give us some of that classic Busey mania, but we really have no way to connect with it artistically or emotionally.
From the beginning, the branding is confused. “_by.ALEXANDER” is difficult as it uses symbols, especially in our impatient world of digital storytelling where names have to be quickly picked out from blocks of text and work in URL’s. Yet the films, already disjointed from their attempted combination of dissonant elements, do not even feature this name. Instead, they opt for a barcode logo and an ostensibly simplified “_BY.Λ” symbol, which we do not even know how to say.
While it is exciting to see a young brand take risks, there is a reason the “less is more” approach to branding is tried and true. With such a maximalist approach already – the lack of formal release schedule, the immediate move into retail space, releasing music, the high-profile celebrities – the label would have greatly benefited from a more straightforward name and a single logo. Consider Gucci or Calvin Klein or Miu Miu, for example: these brands embrace a wide range of products and artistic collaborations, but so much work is done simply by printing the brand’s simple name in a single font every time. It is hard for Alexander to make an impression when we do not even know what it is, or what to call it. With no clear artistic intention, it is hard not to conceive the campaign merely as an ego project.
But the interdisciplinary approach is genuinely exciting, and the exploration of the computer language aesthetic feels interesting and relevant, even though it does end up being incorporated in a way that just increases the feeling of slapped-together confusion. No doubt part of the reason it struggles is Grant’s status as an industry outsider, but this is also the reason he is in a potential position to shake up the industry in a meaningful way. We hope that with more focus, consideration, and intention, the next project from this brand will fulfill its potential and give us something truly special.
_by.ALEXANDER Creative Director | Alexander Grant (aka Alex da Kid) Stylist | Mel Ottenberg Model | Irina Shayk Actor | Gary Busey