Is fashion trying to fool us with paparazzi campaigns

Is fashion trying to fool us with paparazzi campaigns

by Ollie Cox
6 min

Celebs getting papped is nothing new, but in 2024 fashion brands are back to putting street style visuals front and centre, making a trip down memory lane in the name of marketing. Remember those shots of A$AP Rocky jogging in a full-leather Bottega Veneta tracksuit or Bella Hadid’s Ferragamo SS24 moment? They are all part of the stream of internet-breaking paparazzi campaigns that get lapped up online. 

Recently, Bella Hadid publicly re-entered her street-style era when she was pictured on the streets of New York, making a solid case for the return of Capri pants in a full Ferragmo fit. The look itself was a major monochrome moment, consisting of a cropped-to-perfection Harrington jacket, skinny three-quarter pants—yes, you heard that right—skinny, and leather sandals. It was clean, cool, and looked great on the streets of NYC, showing how Ferragamo’s SS24 offering looked in the wild and continuing the catwalk to papwalk trajectory that has been eaten up on socials.

As well as being a modern-era runway veteran, Hadid is equally loved for her personal style, which shimmies from sportswear to streetwear and high-end with her signature off-duty ease. By including tastemakers with a youthful fanbase like Hadid’s, Creative Director Maximillian Davis is able to appeal to the House’s younger audience. According to GWI., 15% of Gen-Z would prefer to think about the past rather than the future, so by incorporating street-style images into its campaign output, fashion can speak to Gen-Z with nods to nostalgia through paparazzi-style visuals. Hadid boasts more than 60 million Instagram followers, trumping Ferragamo’s 7.4 million, proving a valuable asset for the Maison. When paired with an “off the cuff” yet curated paparazzi campaign, a more authentic relationship between Hadid and Ferragamo is presented through the IG campaign.  

Bella’s Big Apple street-style return for Ferragamo was definitely a moment, but it wasn’t the first time we’d seen the paparazzi card pulled. In December 2023, Bottega Veneta referenced the flash-filled paparazzo heyday in a January campaign, using shots of A$AP Rocky donning pieces from its Pre-Spring 2024 collection. The move placed a real-life relatability into the garments, aligning with Bottega Veneta’s focus on high-quality craftsmanship and functionality, where we could see its versatile bags, leather outerwear, and accessories in action. The juxtaposition of carrying an Intrecciato weave tote bag in one hand and a purple smoothie in the other speaks to a wearability and contrast central to contemporary fashion, where errand runs evening wear can be accessorised with the same product. 

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But Bottega Veneta proved it’s not over paparazzi campaigns with the announcement of its most recent brand ambassador, Jacob Elordi. The Australian actor was announced as the latest face of Bottega Veneta last week. And guess what? Besides a bunny-eared portrait shoot donning a double V-neck pink knit, Bottega Veneta announced the news with a load of paparazzi-style shots of the Saltburn star juggling bags from the Italian label with coffees, smoothies, and various beverages over the years. 

Elordi’s Bottega Veneta ambassadorship makes sense, given that he has starred in a slew of high-ranking movies and TV shows, including Euphoria, HBO’s second most streamed show, and Saltburn, which again racked up numbers online, grossing upwards of $20 million in the U.S./Canada, U.K., Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand markets as of January this year. Eloridi himself gets a fair bit of love online, with videos of the actor reaching more than a million views on TikTok. By making high-profile actors its brand ambassadors, Bottega Veneta can market itself as a product of choice for actors in the public eye. These paparazzi-style celebrity shots present high-profile ambassadors in more relatable and less polished situations, striking a chord with younger consumers as they see products with public figures they trust and align with. 

Beyond stills, celebrity scandals and our fascination with them have spilled over into video campaigns, too. Last year, Poster Girl released its viral Spring 2024 news clip promo, which saw City Girls’ JT, Cindy Kimberly, and Alana Champion get banged up and beef with photographers in a flash-in-face heat of the moment stand off. Quickly doing the rounds on social media, Poster Girl tapped into ‘00s nostalgia of IT girls such as Lindsay Lohan and Naomi Campbell in court, referencing pop culture scandals from a time fondly looked upon by the fashion community. This allowed the brand to present itself authentically by tapping into well-appreciated fashion memories, using modern day IT girls, to offer relevance beyond rose-tinted reflection. 

In the early 2000s, amidst the big belts and bangle mania, paparazzi images showed IT girls carrying the hottest handbags of the time. Just take a look at the Balenciaga Le City bag, or Motorcycle bag as it was known back then. It accompanied Lindsay Lohan, the Kardashian sisters, and the Olsen twins just about anywhere, from workouts to red carpet appearances. Now, Balenciaga has brought back the Le City bag with a campaign that taps into those pre-Instagram paparazzi pictures documenting its celebrity wearers.

Balenciaga ©

Balenciaga’s “Beyond nostalgia” campaign featured Kate Moss, Mona Tougard, Yang Chaoyue, and Juyeon, who, in between studio shots, took the Le City bag on designer dog walks, nodding to its early Twentieth Century virality. These visuals do exactly what they say on the tin, moving Balenciaga beyond nostalgia for the Le City bag by bringing it back into the present moment. This is all while acknowledging the ‘00s  A-listers’ fondness for the fashionable carrier that helped catapult it to the fore of celebrity style. 

The return of street style reflects a wider yearning for nostalgia, helping brands showcase garments and accessories off the runway and in everyday situations. Paparazzi-style shots tap into the frenzied fashion flicks of yesteryear while including campaign stars that speak to the present moment. They feel less predictable and often arrive on our social media feeds unannounced without the noise and perceived structure of fully-fledged campaigns. In turn, this helps brands to further connect to their audience through new methods of communication, where high-profile brand ambassadors promote products in less polished formats in everyday situations. While the paparazzi campaign is nothing new, its relative spontaneity seems to be the secret recipe for social media success. 

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