Valentino’s Creative Director Stands Up To Homophobic Consumers

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.

Image credit: Maison Valentino’s Instagram 

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).

Image credit: Pierpaolo Piccioli’s Instagram

“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.”

Supermodel Naomi Campbell dressed by Piccioli for the 2019 Met Gala/Image credit: Naomi Campbell’s Instagram

Both Piccioli and Gates stand behind the ad campaign and the images are still being featured on Valentino’s social media accounts.

24 thoughts on “Valentino’s Creative Director Stands Up To Homophobic Consumers”

  1. I personally think the expression should have been expressed differently. A man and women posing together with the bag would have been more tasteful. This is not right the movie industry already putting a gay couple on every show. No kid can rwmain innocent they are forced to make the decisions of what they are seeing on these adds.

  2. The model/photographer reminds me of a young Johnny Depp. What I have an issue with is the purse hanging off his feet. Who in God’s name said that was attractive. His feet look dirty, which would immediately turn me off. Now hang the purse on his toes, and I’m not going anywhere near that handbag, YUCK!!

  3. How about we stop sexualizing both men and women to sell a damn freakin’ hand bag? I mean, first it was half naked women being used to sell an overpriced leather item; now it’s gender fluid men taking their place? Why not photograph the damn bag and let it sell itself? I am not opposed to nudity as the human body can be beautiful in all its forms (like coffee table photography books and museums), but why do I have to see a nude or semi-nude person of either gender to advertise a product anyway? Is it necessary? Not to mention, it still promotes body-shaming if you don’t see yourself reflected in the ads. Let’s just do away with human bodies in ads (unless you are advertising clothing). What’s next… a near naked women advertising an iPhone?

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  5. I’m a straight older gentleman with children of a diverse age grouping and I find little to be offended by the image. I am more offened by much of modern women’s wardrobe that works so hard to sexualize them; women’s fashion clothing has become more like something from Heavy Metal in a time where we understand that the way women have been portray in past comics and fantasy is demoralizing. However, I am more concerned by the amount of gender identity issues are being crammed into our faces more and more by modern shows making children confused as to what they should be to ‘fit in.’ My now teenagers thought maybe something was wrong with them for not have more than hetero thought as shows would make them believe that hardly a person out there that is not fluid, bi, or whatever else people identify as. We shouldn’t have to force things for fear of offending no more than we should hide, and we definitely should look at all the over sexualized photography in everday life and be offended at that more than this simple statement. And yes, a purse was developed as a feminine accessory but if a he, she or they wish to accessorize with a purse that’s their deal, ladies not allowed jeans any longer?

    • Bravo! Your work is beautiful. I thought it stunning. Simple, striking, brilliant basic advertising. This guy’s Maverick. Move on people. Free your mind and the rest will follow.

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  7. Good thing that Valentino bags are so unfortunately predictable… Surprised the company is still relevant… Ergo, let it’s “representatives” pontificate to a dwindling audience, who has a myriad of better style choices…

  8. How about the fact that Michael Bailey Gates looks beautiful in this ad campaign?
    As far as who this ad is made for? Seriously in 2021 someone is actually asking that question? it’s made for anyone who chooses to look at this ad and makes the decision to purchase the bag. Since when are bags gender specific? Both men and woman carry bags sweetheart! Get a clue and get it real quick!
    And anyone who feels sick after looking at this ad then go to the doctor because your obviously not well. Has 2020 not taught us anything? The fact that we are having these discussions is more shameful and disturbing then anything else.
    Michael keep on doing you and Pierpaolo keep on creating…Bravo to you both!

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  10. Yes! Too much.. Maybe if it wa published on a specific LBTG magazine …. Give to the dino what kinda of food the dino wants … *but, the picture/model&bag is beautiful

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