Casablanca FW23 “Love Against War” Campaign: once is a mistake, twice is a choice

Casablanca FW23 “Love Against War” Campaign: once is a mistake, twice is a choice

by Ollie Cox
4 min

Casablanca presented its “For The Peace” collection during January’s Paris Fashion Week FW23 showcase. To say that the show was met with a lukewarm reception by critics is an understatement – like the SS23 show before it that featured live horses, it too left people more than disgruntled. 

Guests were greeted by a speech by the brand’s Creative Director, Charaf Tajer, to commence the FW23 show. The overarching theme of said speech was that refugees should be treated as human beings, not numbers, and that it is important to spread this message. This was well-received, and of course totally correct. Yet, somehow, the clothes seen on the runway were far-detached from the message given. 

The 59-look collection looked much more like an opulent cruise, offering designs for the party people in the one per cent. Combined with a warplane covered in flowers taking centre stage, this was enough to leave press and buyers hard-pushed to feel anything other than disappointment.

Now the collection has arrived in a campaign titled “Love Against War,” which was shot in Beirut, Lebanon.

According to the brand’s press release, it is designed to “celebrate the vibrancy and youth in Syria,” a youth who is “not just existing, but living, loving, celebrating.” One campaign image shows a couple, their backs facing towards a military tank… does it beg the question, what is this trying to achieve besides reminding people of the horror of war? Tanks symbolise military power and are a terrifying depiction of the tragedy of conflict. Not opulent fashion. 

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It’s worth taking into account that over 14 million Syrians have been forced to flee their homes for safety, and more than 6.8 million Syrians remain internally displaced in their own country. In 2020, it was confirmed that Syrian government forces had used chemical weapons in an attack on a Syrian town in 2017. These people do not have the privilege to see the beauty while fighting for survival against a violent pillage against their people.

Casablanca’s campaign is supposedly “born from the same powerful story that inspired the collection itself.” This is the same collection that people snubbed. 

The same collection that questioned a brand’s credibility and positioned it, among certain showgoers, as a tone-deaf display. It is a privilege to postulate the best way to tackle and deal with war from a position of safety, and shouldn’t be used to market expensive clothing – ones that are far out of reach for your average Syrian.

Publications quickly pointed out the issues with the collection upon first viewing, with Hypebeast, a platform at the centre of hype culture, criticising the show. 

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Casablanca’s aim of “finding the paradox between love and beauty where there is pain and destruction” has been half achieved, but is a highly-priced Parisian label the one to do it? Consider this, particularly when there is no mention of the profits being donated to help those impacted by the conflict. 

Luxury tracksuits, tailoring in bright colours with well-coiffed models shot in passé-luxury settings, such as on private jets, or with soldiers, appear to go against the intended message of a campaign that strived to tell the “story of ordinary young people risking everything to find joy.”

Compared to other brands, Casablanca’s attempt at activism feels surface-level. Fashion can be (and often is) used as a vehicle for activism and can be very successful in doing so. For example, in 2012, Vivienne Westwood inaugurated the Climate Revolution at the London Paralympics closing ceremony, and was known to rally charities, NGOs and individuals to join forces and take action against disengaged political leaders and big businesses. On the other end of the spectrum, Corteiz’s “Da Great Bolo Exchange” led to £16,000 of jackets being donated to people experiencing homelessness, benefiting those beyond the brand’s immediate fanbase

Casablanca had every opportunity to make changes after its Paris Fashion Week blunder, but has instead decided to continue to push for the same behind-the-times rhetoric. 

Ultimately, it feels like Casablanca wants to make a point, to stand behind something. But it continuously misses the mark. We’re not saying don’t stand up for Syria, but perhaps using clothing and campaigns as grand as this, juxtaposing one’s riches with war-themed backgrounds, isn’t the way to go about it.

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