Fashion has always been an industry that was inclusive of homosexuality – from designers, fashion editors, make up artists and hairstylists (and a plethora of other essential helping hands).
So when a recent Valentino campaign received major backlash from consumers for an unassuming ad featuring an androgynous male model – designer and creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli and the model (and photographer) at the center of the controversy, Michael Bailey Gates, were both taken aback.
Consumers and fans of the Valentino brand were quick to call out the relevance of the ad campaign and the brands integrity. They felt that the message behind the ad had absolutely nothing to do with the brand and it’s sort of mission statement. According to Out Magazine, one person wrote “That is TOO much”.
“That is TOO much… Are the bags for women or for whom? Who this ad is made for? This looks disgusting, sorry. Images like this should not be even shown to children.”
Another angry brand consumer wrote that they were…
“Sick of this gender confusion crap.”
The image that is at the center of attention features photographer (who happens to also be the featured model) Michael Bailey Gates, posing nude sporting long hair and holding a Valentino bag. There was no heavy make up, no cross dressing or no trans people included in the image – yet it was met with heavy criticism from homophobic internet trolls.
Valentino’s Instagram account featured the ad on their account with the expression “a freedom of expression and an appreciation for the boundlessness of individuality…” – but one consumer took umbrage with that statement.
“Freedom of expression doesn’t mean you need to state the obvious and promote turning men into women. While I like your products, I feel sick looking at a man who wants to be a woman and you [shoving it down] our throats. I like actual women wearing your products, not men who you want to turn into women.”
But standing behind the campaign and behind his brand, Piccioli (who dressed supermodel and fashion icon Naomi Campbell for the 2019 Met Gala), took to his Instagram to address the hate (and the haters).
“My job is to deliver my Vision of beauty according to the time we are living and beauty and whom we consider beautiful, is a reflection of our own values…
We have to stand against and condemn all form of violence, hate, discrimination and racism and I‘m proud to use my voice and my work to do so, now and forever…
Change is possible, no one ever said that it would be easy but I am ready to face difficulties, in the name of freedom, love, tolerance and growth.”
Both Piccioli and Gates stand behind the ad campaign and the images are still being featured on Valentino’s social media accounts.