Review of Neiman Marcus Fall 2021 Ad Campaign by Photographers Yulia Gorbachenko, Alexander Neumann, Nagi Sakai, & Tom Schirmacher
Neiman Marcus takes flight: marking a triumphant return after an era of financial troubles, the iconic luxury retailer shares an ambitious and multifaceted campaign for Fall 2021.
The campaign imagery was captured by several different photographers: Yulia Gorbachenko, Alexander Neumann, Nagi Sakai, and Tom Schirmacher. In addition to traditional models, the talent for the campaign also includes three of the retailer’s own style advisors, a thoughtful move that connects the campaign imagery and approach to the unique identity and function of the brand itself.
The photographs range across several locations, from the Art Omi sculpture park in upstate New York, where architectural installations create contrasting lines against a clear sky, to an airport runway where a sleek jet provides a unique and powerful set-piece. There are also a few images captured in the studio, as well as some more conceptually unique images that feel harder to pin down, like the woman with an outdoor office or the pair of horses.
The multifarious approach reflects a typical constraint for department store campaigns. Large retailers have many different designers and labels to highlight across a single campaign and have to balance multiple small pools of seed money from partnerships with these brands. Of course, the aesthetic sensibilities of these different creative sources cannot all work together, which tends to make for campaigns that are broken up across several separate visual movements, which can often feel incongruous with each other. This is especially the case here with Neiman Marcus.
While each of the photographers has a strong compositional eye, and the styling team does great work as well, the disparate imagery fails to offer any sort of storytelling or narrative concepts. We can perhaps detect a timely celebration of a return to togetherness and travel (which, with the rise of the delta variant, isn’t actually so timely anymore) in the jetway and outdoorsy photographs, but we have to reach to make this connection, and the imagery is too diffuse to sustain or develop the emotion. As a result, it’s difficult to make an aesthetic or emotional connection with the campaign.
The one image that seems to have some interesting artistic concept behind it, that of the women standing outdoors among office furniture and talking on the phone, feels out of place and confusing with the rest of the more lookbook-like imagery. Similarly, the horses (perhaps inspired by Gucci’s very successful “Of Course A Horse” campaign from last summer) feels like a non sequitur. These are promising ingredients, but that does not at all mean they will make a harmonious dish. Not only are we dealing with too many cooks, but also they seem to have served us too many broths.
In that fashion brands have a single creative director who creates the clothing and can infuse its narrative into their campaigns, they have more of a basis for storytelling and conceptual work. A third-party retailer like Neiman Marcus has to work a bit harder to create a similarly successful campaign. But this could also be seen as a freeing creative possibility: with many different designers, labels, and looks to choose from, the creative team behind a Neiman Marcus campaign has the opportunity to explore diversity and eclecticism – themes and values that feel deeply relevant in storytelling today.
With the right focus and consideration on what kind of stories will connect with a certain audience, there is certainly a way to unite various design sources into a strong, singular narrative. Working with a single creative director or photographer might be a great place to start.
We hope that as Neiman Marcus moves forward with other ambitious campaigns, it can learn from its missteps here and refocus on what kind of stories it wants to tell, and how to make them meaningful.
Photographers | Yulia Gorbachenko, Alexander Neumann, Nagi Sakai, & Tom Schirmacher Models | Dilone, Saskia De Brauw, Abby Champion, Cloud Modi, Liam Kelly, Alexis Chapparo, Ysuanny Brito, Camilla Deterre, Dominique Hollington, Joao Knorr Locations | Art Omi, NY, Pier59 Studios in NYC, Million Air Dallas TX
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