Louis Vuitton Under His Under Arm

Alex Tarrand

Announced recently on the BBC wire was the remarkable news that Mikhail Gorbachev is now a model for Louis Vuitton luxury handbags. The proceeds from the photo shoots are to go, by his designation, to the charity of his choice. The pictures are captivating but ultimately evoke more questions than consumer draw. The passive viewer looks, then something unique happens: they look again. The viewer loses their apathy to the billboard and regards the obvious question: is this well-meaning old man caught up in a sad state of commercial affairs? A now flaccid political symbol, he sits parked in his worn luxury vehicle as the man who accelerated the collapse of communism from over-extension of his idealistic but ultimately foolish reform policies. This is the man who accelerated the collapse of communism and now he has an attractive overnight bag at his side. A friend of Margret Thatcher, a criticism more than an endorsement to some, he is seated in the ad as a part of the aesthetic of decay.

The phrase “only true beauty is fleeting” refers to the notion that beauty only holds an extraordinary quality because it is slowly created, then dismantled. It peaks in an eclipsing moment and has a despairing and romantic quality both in its rise before, and then denouement following, its perfect moment. In this advertisement, Gorbachev sells the beauty of social collapse. He looks out of the window, wistfully at the Berlin wall, and brings us into his mute reflection. Making us ponder his thoughts, one’s we’ll never know.

Few have lost so much as Gorbachev. Few politicians feel the sting of losing little more than a race. Gorbachev felt the syrup of an era drip through, and from, his fingers. Annie Leibovitz, the photographer for the advertisement, does well to capture the feeling of entropy, including both the Berlin Wall and a collapsed figurehead in a single frame. But will the targeted audience respond to this advertisement? Is there a targeted audience? Does Mikhail have this much visual recognition in the world of contemporary fashion?

If this trend is to continue, then perhaps when we reach Mr. Gorbachev’s age, we will be sold product via stunning visuals of a Bill of Rights against a backdrop of a currency exchange chart, the numbers not ticking in our favor. Perhaps when Gorbachev transitions into interactive online webisodes they can have the Tears for Fears song “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” playing in the background and truly turn international remorse into effective, hip, poli-kitch.

Regardless of the campaign’s overall effectiveness, which is yet to be seen, the ubiquity of its buzz can not be disputed. I’m speaking on it; you’re reading about it. The question remains whether or not the Advertising Executives will themselves, in their setting sun years, be looking back with the same reflective glance Gorbachev gives his once troublesome wall, and wonder if intermingling product with politics may have had more than just a sales spike effect on our increasingly ideal-exhausted world.

Louis Vuitton Under His Under Arm


Joined January 2008

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Gorbachev & Louis Vuitton?

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